The Hydropower to Empower the Poor: an example from Azad Jammu & Kashmir-(II)

By Mazhar Iqbal Mazhar

720MW Karot Hydropower Project

Karot Hydropower Project (KHP), the first hydroelectricity project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is a $1.7 billion venture.

Karot hydropower station, the first along CPEC, put into commercial operation in Pakistan

Karot Power Company (Pvt) Limited (KPCL) was formed on 31 July 2010.

The company acts as a special purpose vehicle (SPV) and is responsible for executing 720MW Karot Hydropower Project. The ground-breaking was held on January 10, 2016, whereas the construction of the project commenced on 1st December 2016.

With an installed capacity of 7,200 megawatts, it can provide over three billion kilowatt-hours of clean energy each year, supplying electricity to about five million people in the country.

The Layout of the Karot Hydropower Project

As a single power generation task hydropower complex, the project’s structure layout includes a rock fill dam, spillway, powerhouse, diversion tunnels, and headrace tunnels.


The Karot Hydropower Project is located on the Jhelum River near Karot Village 74 km upstream of Mangla Dam.

The Project site is accessible through Islamabad-Kahuta-Kotli Road approximately 29 kilometers from Kahuta village and 80 kilometers from Islamabad.

Location of the Karot Hydropower Project

Karot Hydropower project is located in an area that is administratively under the control of the governments of the province of Punjab and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Figure 6- Aerial View of the construction site of the Karot Hydropower Project


The investment for this project has come from the private sector. The Karot hydropower project is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The project is jointly funded by the International Finance Corporation, China’s Silk Road Fund, Export-Import Bank of China, and China Development Bank.

The main sponsor of the Karot hydropower Project is China Three Gorges South Asia Investment Limited (CSIAL), which is an investment arm of China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG) in South Asia.

The CTG Corporation is a state-owned initiative with $18.3 billion in the capital. The corporation is strategically positioned to become a clean energy conglomerate specializing in large-scaled hydropower plant development and operations.


Mott MacDonald is a UK-based consultancy firm and was appointed as the lenders’ technical, environmental and social advisor.[i] The consultancy firm provided technical support and strategic analysis to the project’s financiers.

They also reviewed the scheme’s design, change orders and variations, and disbursement applications.

The consultancy also assisted with the implementation of environmental and social management plans of the Karot Hydropower Project and advised on compliance with relevant standards and regulatory requirements.

The road distance from Islamabad to Karot Hydropower Dam

Mott MacDonald was also responsible to offer construction monitoring services covering technical, environmental, and social matters.

Mott MacDonald is the technical, environmental, and social advisor of the lenders of the Karot Hydropower Project

The civil works and E & M works were handed over to two separate contractors. The Engineering and Construction Contract was given to the Three Gorges Economy Development Company (TGDC). Whereas, the Equipment Supply Contract was with China Machinery & Electric Company (CMEC).

Aerial View of the site of the Hydropower dam

Health & Safety

From a health and safety point of view, the KPCL achieved remarkable goals including the least number of causalities in the entire hydropower construction sector of Pakistan.

Despite huge structures involving high-risk activities, the project reported no fatal accidents. The project fully complied with the health and safety requirements, environmental and social laws and regulations of Pakistan, CTG’s, CTGI’s HSSE standards, IFC Performance Standards, and good international industry practices.

The Karot Hydropower Project is structurally an asphalt core rock-fill dam of 95.5 m in height.

The powerhouse has an average annual electricity output of 3,206 million kWh, and annual utilization hours of 4,452h.[iii]

It includes a surface powerhouse, four headrace tunnels, diversion tunnels, a spillway, reservoir storage of 164.50 million cubic meters, and an approximately 5km long 500kV transmission interconnection to the national grid.

The dam site controls the drainage area of 26,700km2; having a long-term average runoff of 819m3/s and a long-term average annual runoff of 25.83 billion m3.

The project is a single power generation task hydropower complex, with a reservoir’s Full Water Level (FWL) of 461m, and reservoir storage at FWL of 152 million m3.

The cement used for the construction was produced locally. They tried very hard to control temperature rise, and reduce cracks in the concrete.

The project was built in the private sector under a Build-Own-Operate Transfer (BOOT) basis with an expected concession period of approximately 35 years, which includes the construction period of 5 years and the operation period of 30 years.

Karot Hydropower Project will play a key role in helping address the shortfall in generation capacity by creating a long-term, sustainable power supply.

Karot Power Company Limited will run and maintain the project for 30 years at a tariff of 7.57 cents per unit. At that juncture, it will be transferred to the Punjab government at a notional price of Rs1.00. So the consumers in Pakistan will get cheaper electricity from this eco-friendly project.

The contractors of the Karot project ensured that maximum employment opportunities were offered to local people.

On average, the Karot project hired more than 3300 Pakistani workers.

Out of the total Pakistani workers, 57% were hired from project districts i.e. Rawalpindi in Punjab, Kotli, and Sudhnoti in AJ&K.

This was distributed as 42% from Pakistan and 58% from AJ&K. However, during the month of September 2019 (peak activity) the workforce at Karot was about 4000, and 62% was from project districts.

The labor statistics related to the adjacent areas of the Karot project are given below;

During the land acquisition process, KPCL paid an attractive amount to those families that were affected.

The company also gifted them new plots in nearby and considerably high-value areas. The KPCL also ran financial literacy program to equip the local people with financial acumen on utilization of the compensation amounts.

Additionally, many of them were also offered employment support in terms of preparing applications for the advertised vacancies in the project.

There is no doubt that the Karot Project brought prosperity to the people of the local area as well as people from far-off areas of Punjab and AJ&K.

KPCL also arranged skills training for affected community members at a technical training center in Kahuta.


[i] 2021. Karot hydropower project achieves financial close, Pakistan – Mott MacDonald. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 22 November 2021].

[ii] 2021. Asphalt core rock-fill dam [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 27 November 2021].

[iii] KPCL (2021) Karot Hydropower Project – Salient Features

Project Information, (available online) (accessed 19 November 2021)

[iv] British Hydro Association. 2021b. Hydro Facts- British Hydro Association. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 22 November 2021].

(To be continued)

About the author:

Mazhar Iqbal Mazhar is an educationist, author, and environmentalist. He can be reached at

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