Jan 21 - 27, 2008

The year 2008 will become the third consecutive year when the nation will see intense load shedding and power shortages. The shortfall in supply and demand which averaged 2500MW during the last 2 year has increased to over 3000MW with the beginning of year 2008. As the demand for power will rise further as summer months approach, we should prepare ourselves to bear further load shedding with power shortages rising to about 5000MW by June/July.

Honestly demand that the government should admit that the last 6/7 years were a policy disaster vis-a-vis the energy. Government authorities have all along been claiming that demand has been increasing by about 10% because of rapid economic growth. This is only one side of the story. The government should also admit that it has failed to plan for failure growth.

Nature has been extrorsely kind to this courtly to bless it with tremendous resources to produce more then four times the preset production of about 20,000MW suffice to meet our growing demand by at least 50 years. We have known and researched hydro cites to produce more than 30,000MWs at 1/5 the present thermal power. Coal reserves in there deserts alone are capable to produce more then 40,000MWs of electricity at a much cheaper cost. It is our misfortune that as the result of the flawed polices that we have failed to make use of this huge potential. It is a fact that despite tall claims and rhetoric usually made at the highest level, nothing concrete is visible on the ground to ease the worsening power shortage in the country.

The power policy-2002 announced by the present government with a big fanfare and which was supposed to serve as a better replacement of the 1994 power policy has failed to deliver. No doubt generation of hydro power is a long process, but there has been a dead silence on major dams despite all earlier rhetoric. The work has not yet started even on the Diamir Bhasha dam, which was inaugurated by the President about 15 months back. A blanket hush has also overtaken the government about Kalabagh dam in spite of the President's assertion that misunderstandings and misconception about the reservoir have been removed. The government has been talking of importing electricity and gas but practically there has been no progress on any of the several projects. Similarly, despite huge potential alternative energy, we have been extremely slow in exploiting the potential.

According to experts Pakistan is blessed with immense resources to produce power at affordable cost, which can look after our energy needs for over 100 years. Pakistan has a hydro electricity potential of about 50,000MW while only 6500MW is being utilized at present. We have a potential of producing over 40,000MW of electricity through our high quality coal reserve in Thar Alone. Its use at present is negligible, it is estimated that Pakistan can producer about 50,000 MW through wind a source recently developed to produce energy in the coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan. Nuclear energy is the cheapest source but it is still in a state of infancy in Pakistan. Efforts are on to set up second nuclear energy plant Chashma II of 500MW capacity in Karachi with Chinese held who had built Chashma I about 25 years back.

Currently oil and gas are two of the major components of Pakistan's energy mix contributing more than 84 percent to the total fuel share, while hydro electricity represents 10 percent, coal 4.8 percent and nuclear energy represent 1.2 percent in the total energy production. Pakistan depends mainly on imported oil. Oil prices have been fluctuating briskly in international markets and this in turn impacts domestic prices and ultimately leads to inflation.

The growing water shortage and in its wake extreme decline in the production of hydel electricity has created an alarming situation in Pakistan threatening its future economic growth. We have reached this stage because of the negligence of successive governments during the last 3 decades, which failed to construct new dams and water reservoirs in the country. Adequate energy at an affordable cost is a must to sustain the present level of 7 to 8 percent annual economic growth. Thermal power produced through furnace oil is an immediate remedy but its production cost has almost become unaffordable. Coal fed and the hydel source of energy seems to be only alternative but it is a much longer process. Nuclear energy is the ideal solution but this concept is still in its infancy in Pakistan. Hydel power at almost of the cost compared to thermal power is the only option.

On the other hand Pakistan is on the thrash hold of acute water shortage. According to the World Bank report "Pakistan water economy is running dry" per capita availability of surface water has been gradually dwindling and has come down from 5400 cubic meters in 1951 to only 1000 cubic meters by 2005. This is bound to hit Pakistan's agriculture badly, which is the backbone of countries economy. With utilization of only half of hydro potential through construction of mega dams and water reservoirs, we can ensure adequate water supply to our agriculture for the next 50 years.

With all its good intensions the present government made hectic but futile efforts for almost three years to build up consensus on construction of mega dams specially the Kalabagh. President Musharraf who was in favour of starting with Kalabagh as all the preparatory work relating to the project was complete, however changed his priorities about the construction of big dams on the recommendation of the federal cabinet and in his address to nation on the issue on January 17 last year he announced to start construction on Bhasha and Munda first and defer Kalabagh until the reservation of Sindh and NWFP were addressed. He however, declared that all the 5-mega dams including Kalabagh would be built in the next 20 year to ensure adequate water and electricity supply to the nation at an affordable cost.

Keeping all these factors in mind the government has drawn up a 25-year plan (2005-2030) for increasing energy production in the country. This major energy development plan is accompanied by initial cost estimates, which will be $ 37 billion to $ 40 billion that has to come tin the form of foreign aid or foreign investment. The Energy Development Plan includes the construction of 5 mega Dams including Kalabagh, Bhasha, Akhori and Skurdu. Financing of these dams during the next 15 to 20 years will not be problem as World Bank and Asian Development Bank have already approved their feasibility. The construction of these mega dams and other smaller dams will not only adequately meet our energy requirements, at a comparatively much cheaper cost for the next 3 decades; it would provide much needed water for increasing our agriculture products.

The authorities should focus on plans to provide electricity at the affordable cost. It is not possible through thermal power. It should concentrate on hydel power, coal fired power station, increasing nuclear power and using alternative sources of energy. Recently at an international coal conference held in Islamabad it was highlighted both by Pakistani and international experts that Pakistan could produce huge electricity at a very cheap cost by using its coal deposits. Pakistan has large deposits of coal mainly in Thar, which could produce over 40,000MW of electricity. This should farm a part of long term planning.