Kashmir: AJK minister warns against politicising Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project

Kashmir: AJK minister warns against politicising Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project

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MUZAFFARABAD: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir government on Thursday made it clear that it would not allow anyone to politicise the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project in and around Muzaffarabad.

The warning came from senior minister Chaudhry Tariq Farooq during a press talk in the wake of a series of protest demonstrations by civil society activists against the environmental issues caused after the commissioning of the 969-megawatt power project, involving diversion of [a major chunk of] Neelum River.

“Agreed, there have been [some] lapses on the part of Wapda regarding mitigation of some serious environmental issues, but the AJK bureaucracy is equally responsible for the omissions due to its failure to realise the situation and ensure timely remedial measures,” Farooq said.

The minister asserted that the AJK government is committed to addressing the issue, but it cannot allow any section of society to intentionally or unintentionally politicise the project to the benefit of the anti-state forces.

“Being the state capital, Muzaffarabad is dear to all of us. The problems it has been facing today need to be settled with mutual agreement, not through agitation,” he added.

He asked people to have faith in their governments and institutions and do not fall prey to any conspiracy, either on purpose or in all innocence.

“Those trying to use environmental damage for some hidden designs should pack up because some of their activities are not only disturbing order but also harming national interest of Pakistan and AJK,” he said.

He noted that AJK people had always sacrificed for the prosperity of Pakistan, which was evident from construction of Mangla dam in Mirpur and NJHP in Muzaffarabad.

Farooq stated that the previous two AJK governments could not take up these issues at appropriate forums, or else the situation would have been different.

According to the senior minister, the AJK Cabinet, in its meeting on Tuesday, unanimously resolved to take action against the officials who failed to play their role in mitigating environmental issues, in spite of regular release of funds by the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda).

“Soon you will see stern action against the culpable officials,” he declared.

Farooq maintained that the AJK bureaucracy was also found deficient in evaluating the proposed Kohala hydro-power project as well, notwithstanding the lessons learnt in the case of Neelum Jhelum project.

The minister apprised the reporters that AJK government has demanded Rs 10 billion from Wapda for effective measures to mitigate the environmental issues.

Responding to a question, Farooq affirmed that the AJK government desires to maintain a working relationship with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led federal government.

The minister also said he was glad to learn that the federal government had constituted a commission to submit report on the aforementioned environmental issues.__Tribune.com

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