Islamabad: Pakistan's National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra)'s chief, Tauseef Farooqui warned that the tunnel of the Neelum-Jhelum hydroelectricity project might collapse at any time and the consequences could be disastrous.

In reply to queries by senators on Tuesday at a meeting of the upper house's Standing Committee on power, Tauseef Farooqui said the biggest worry was "what will happen if the rest of the tunnel collapses," reported Dawn.

He said electricity consumers were paying Rs 10 billion every month since the tunnel's closure in July.

"If this tunnel remains closed for a year, consumers will suffer a loss of Rs 120 billion," the Nepra chairman told the committee.

Senator Saifullah Abro, who chairs the committee, expressed concern over the state of affairs at the country's key hydroelectric project, asking Farooqui about the progress of rehabilitation work, reported Dawn.

"Work is in progress to repair the damage, but there is no guarantee that the tunnel will not collapse at a later stage," the Nepra chief observed.

Meanwhile, the project's CEO said he was hopeful that restoration work at the tunnel would be completed by June next year, reported Dawn.

He informed the committee that a team of international experts had submitted two preliminary reports after inspecting the tunnel. They have identified eight causes of the tunnel collapse, but no conclusions could be drawn before submission of the final report, Muhammad Irfan said in a statement to the Senate committee.

Irfan said the root cause behind the damage was the pressure exerted by the mountain on the underground tunnel, reported Dawn.

Notably, China had abandoned the repair of the mega 969-megawatt Pakistan's Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project in September.

The Chinese had given the excuses of local protests over the plant and the failure of the Pakistan police to offer credible security, however, China's sudden reversal of the project has created a major rift between Pakistan and China over joint hydropower projects.

According to Islam Khabar, hydropower was established around three years ago worth Rs 508 billion. However, soon the differences between Pakistani and Chinese authorities over joint projects were witnessed on several occasions, according to Pakistani media.

On one hand, Islamabad accused the Chinese of not working properly, the Chinese charged the Pakistani government with not paying the dues on time.

The Chinese complained of regular sporadic attacks on their officials and other staff related to major projects including CPEC. The Pakistani authorities counter the allegations by accusing the Chinese of not following security protocols at the site.

Earlier in June, amid reports of continuous attacks on Chinese nationals in Pakistan, Islamabad announced to beef up the security arrangements in order to safeguard the ongoing multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.