A view of the dam, debris channel and spillways at the Karot Hydropower Project in Pakistan. (CHINA DAILY)
Chinese, Pakistani workers partner to help solve power shortage needs
For Urooj Hyat, a senior administration officer for the Karot Hydropower Project, working with local and Chinese employees at a massive dam construction site in northwestern Pakistan is like being part of a big family.
"Since I am with the Chinese company that is on the project, I feel quite comfortable working with them," said Urooj.
Located on the Jhelum River in Rawalpindi and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the Karot Hydropower Project being developed by Karot Power Company, or KPCL, is in full swing after construction was launched in 2016.
Urooj is one of about 3,000 Pakistani engineers, operators, supervisors, laborers and general staff at the site, working alongside about 950 Chinese nationals.
"I was a bit scared when I joined this project four years ago," she said, adding that she was concerned about wearing a scarf or hood at work. But her worries were quickly eased when the Chinese bosses had no problem with her wardrobe choices.
"Now I'm concerned about no longer being able to work with the Chinese when this project is over," said Urooj, adding she enjoys "all the amenities of home" at the worksite, including a gym, a cinema, a library - and great food.
Urooj said what she admires most about the Chinese workers is their professionalism and punctuality. In order to encourage the Pakistani staff to strictly follow the work hours, incentives such as a weekly attendance allowance for the most punctual employees have been introduced.
Urooj said the work environment can be described as "a lifetime experience, an opportunity full of learning".
Faizan Akbar, a civil engineer, agreed, adding: "You won't see the Chinese come to work late, by even a minute, and this is what they expect from the Pakistani workers."
Since Karot is among the major energy projects in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, only those with ample experience can manage it.
"Building a dam is different from other construction projects," said Faizan.
"Here, you cannot predict the next step and you have to constantly upgrade and improve your design."
The project will generate 3.2 billion kW-hours of clean power annually after it is completed, which is equivalent to 10 percent of Pakistan's total hydroelectric power in 2017.
According to Pakistan's electricity and energy sector experts, the Karot Hydropower Project is the first station of its kind being constructed by Chinese enterprises with Chinese techniques and following Chinese standards.
The developer, China Three Gorges South Asia Investment Ltd, or CSAIL, a subsidiary of China Three Gorges Corp, "has rich experience of such work, which is quite reassuring," Faizan said.
Zhang Jun, general manger of the engineering department who has been in Pakistan for five years, said the project is about 50 percent complete and will help resolve the nation's power grid issues while supplying some 5 million people with electricity.
Roughly 55 kilometers southeast of Islamabad, near the villages of Karot in Punjab and Hollar in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the dam across the Jhelum River is expected to measure 95.5 meters high and 460 meters wide.
The reservoir is expected to stretch approximately 27 km upstream, with a capacity of 152 million cubic meters at full supply, 461 meters above sea level.
The surface powerhouse, consisting of four turbines, will be situated approximately 650 meters downstream from the dam crest and 300 meters upstream of the Karot Bridge.
Safe and clean
The project will also include four 316-meter headrace tunnels, a spillway, three 447-meter diversion tunnels and coffer dams upstream and downstream of the main dam.
It is one of the few hydropower projects certified by the International Finance Corp, or IFC.
Aftab Alam, senior manager of environment for the company's social and safety department, said the IFC is a member of the World Bank Group and its certification is a sign the project meets all international standards for a safe work environment.
Alam added that China Three Gorges Corp is taking every step to ensure a safe environment while maintaining the natural beauty, climate, flora and fauna of the area, and quarterly monitoring by third party consultants is being carried out to see if any adverse effect on climate is taking place.
Meanwhile, residents of Karot villages view the project as a blessing and a game-changer for the entire region.
In addition to employing a large number of local residents, the construction company is providing clean drinking water, roads connecting the villages to the main arteries, a health unit and new schools.
Shopkeeper Manzoor Hussain said he never thought to send his daughter to school because the building was in such shoddy shape. But after the project was launched, the school was fully renovated and all his children now attend.
Another local resident, Ilyas, said the project has brought upgrades to a number of facilities, and the Chinese team is "Pakistan's best friend and strategic partner."
Homemaker Safia Bibi said the project's Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives were quite useful for the local population. "My three-year old daughter is now examined and treated at the basic health unit set up by the KPCL and I no longer need to travel a long distance to reach the city for her treatment," she said.
Lu Dongsheng, chief executive officer of KPCL, said Corporate Social Responsibility "means investing in the education, health and infrastructure projects for the livelihood and well-being of the local communities."
Under its CSR and Community Investment Program, the company is implementing projects that include health (medical equipment, construction/upgrading of basic health units), education (scholarships, school upgrades and financial assistance), social welfare (provision of drinking water), environment awareness (tree plantation), biodiversity management and community infrastructure.
Moreover, CSAIL has collaborated with University of The Punjab, Jiangxi University of Science and Technology and the Confucius Institute to enable students from the project's affected areas to gain access to a four-year study program fully funded by CSAIL.
Eighteen local students have won financial support in the CSAIL scholarship program.
Overall, the program aims at offering opportunities for at least 100 students from project-affected families to undertake studies, research and professional development in engineering.
The author is a journalist with The Pakistan Observer and the story is a special contribution to China Daily.