LOAD SHEDDING LEAVING DEVASTATING SOCIO-ECONOMIC EFFECTS

KANWAL SALEEM
Nov 03 - 09, 2008

Load shedding across the country has left devastating effects on socio-economic fronts, as on one hand people are taking to streets against power tariff hike, over-billing and unscheduled load-shedding of electricity, while on the other, hundreds of thousands of workers have been rendered jobless due to closure of factories in different parts of the country posing manifold problems.

About 70 per cent of the country's textile industry located in the Punjab is facing mass closure mainly on account of electricity and gas load shedding. Trade bodies across the country have also given two-week deadline to the government for abolition of Rs 40 billion cross-subsidy on gas failing which all the industries and businesses would be closed.

Load-shedding is not only casting negative impact on the national economy, but also pushing the industrialisation towards complete collapse. The ongoing unprecedented load-shedding has rendered over one million workers of the local textile mills, processing and sizing units, hosiery and power loom factories jobless, besides inflicting irreparable financial loss to trade and industry which were running partially. The government needs to take immediate appropriate steps for elimination of load-shedding in the country to save the textile and other industries from total collapse.

NO SHORTCUT SOLUTION

The Former Federal Minister for Water and Power Mr. Tariq Hamid, who is also former Wapda Chairman told PAGE that there is no short cut solution of present electricity crisis and the only option left with the government, at present, is to concentrate on generation of power through oil which is costlier.

He said when he was Chairman Wapda he had apprised the then government about imminent power crisis in the country and called for focus on hydel power generation through construction of dams so as to generate cheaper electricity.

The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) President Mohammad Ali Mian said if the government wanted to give subsidy on gas to fertilizer sector it should not be at the cost of other industry. The government must also continue to provide 40-percent relief that was recently given in the power bill on permanent basis, he added.

He said the government should not accept IMF or the World Bank assistance on hard conditions because such conditionalities have always left negative impact on the Pakistani business environment.

According to him, the government should announce three percent additional incentive for them so that they could be encouraged to increase foreign remittance. Our industry is facing 15-hour load shedding, rising mark up and law and order problems, he added.

Chairman, All Pakistan Textile Mills Association, Punjab Zone, Akbar Sheikh, was critical of the decision of Winter Load Management Committee that decided to allocate 200 mmcfd extra supply of gas to WAPDA power generation.

He said that 600-MW power produced by WAPDA using the extra 200 mmcfd gas diverted from the industry in Punjab would not make any difference to the costing structure of WAPDA that was already producing 12000-MW electricity. On the other hand 200-mmcfd gas could enable the entire APTMA Punjab members to run all their textile units without load shedding during winter. This facility will make all the difference between continuity of operations and closure of the mills, he added.

FUTURE PLANS

Sources in the WAPDA told PAGE that the government is committed to reduce power shortage by taking measures on a war footing and the government even planned to bring in power plants on ships in the sea to reduce power outages. The government would have resolved the crisis if it could immediately buy electricity but the issue is absence of infrastructure, the sources said, adding that the government chalked out a comprehensive roadmap to not only completely end load shedding by December next year, but also meet growing energy-related needs of the country in future.

The roadmap features involvement of Rentals, Independent Power Producers and WAPDA Power Houses to generate maximum electricity to overcome load shedding as well as handle future energy needs. Seven rental plants having capacity to produce 1203 MW would start production from April 2009 while 15 IPPs having combined capacity of 2868 MW would start functioning by 2009. Additionally, 516 MW hydel power stations would also be ready for production by 2010. 81 MW Malakand III has already started production. And PEPCO's two plant of 1000 MW each capacity would come into action within a period of next two years.

According to sources, the existing power system is burdened with high demand, as the generation capacity was not matched with the increasing demand for electricity in the country during the last decade. The government has put a comprehensive programme in the process of implementation under which the rental power stations worth capacity of 1203 MW would be installed from April 2009 to June 2009. Moreover, the hydel stations with the capacity of 516 MW are also under the process of completion. Malakand 3 power station with a capacity of 81 MW of this chain has already been completed while the rest would become functional during years 2009-10.

Sources in Pakistan Electric Power Company told PAGE that present load shedding situation would start to improve from November. A total of 2,380 MW will be added in the system by next year, while another 1,100 MW will be injected into the national grid the following year.

According to analysts, no significant investment has been made in the power sector for the last 15 years. Now the full focus has been shifted on investments in power sector.

According to Quaid-e-Azam Industrial Estate President Mian Nauman Kabir, the acute shortage of electricity and gas may raise the level of unemployment to new heights besides pushing the whole industrial sector against the wall. The ongoing load shedding has badly affected the textile, plastic and food processing sectors, along with all those attached with these sectors, he said.

DECLINE IN EXPORTS

Former chairman Pakistan Readymade Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association Ijaz Khokhar has said that the export of the country has been decreased to 50 percent due to load shedding and insufficient supply of sui gas to the industrial sector.

According to him, there was 40-percent shortfall in the exports because USA and European countries were the major buyers of Pakistani products. Under the prevailing situation of the country and international economic pressure attainment of fixed export target was not possible.

He said that garment industry was the major industry, which was using foreign components, like dyeing chemicals, zippers, machines, spare parts, buttons and lining and the prices of these articles have been increased to 200 percent as compared to previous years. Apart from this, the million meters cloth has also been struck up with dyeing mills due to insufficient gas supply to the mills, he said and added that under this situation no foreign buyer will like to give new export orders to Pakistani exporters and ultimately the national exports would face a serious blow.

SOCIAL IMPACT

Due to long hours load shedding, not only studies of students are badly affected but large number workers who have rendered jobless are facing acute hardships causing many social problems. Those who are jobless are facing starvation and looking for other means to look after their families.

Due to load shedding, proper health facilities are not being extended to ailing people as working in health delivery facilities also come to a halt due to power breakdown. Blood banks and laboratories with no backup support system are exposed to serious deficiencies, which are extremely hazardous to public health. Blood banks could be at high risk to cause transfusion of stale blood as power run refrigerators stop functioning for hours with possibility of stored whole blood and its components being infected, hematologist said.

The Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif had asked the health authorities to provide generators facility in public hospitals and if any mishap is reported he warned strict

action against the delinquents.

RENEWABLE ENERGY

Experts believe that the Punjab irrigation system can be effectively utilised to generate about 400 MW cheap electricity that could be made available within a short span of time. However, immediate attention is not being paid to prioritise exploiting this substantial potential of renewable energy.

As many as 591 potential sites at different river falls, canals and barrages, with medium and low head and high discharge, having a total capacity of more than 5,000 MW, have been identified. Pre-feasibility studies for 35 raw-site projects of cumulative 350 MW capacity have also been conducted. In addition, detailed feasibility reports of another 12 projects of about 50 MW total capacity are available since long.

Although, Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif in his maiden address announced work on such projects, but it appears that still a lot is to be done. It may be mentioned that during the period 1995-1997, the provincial government had issued Letter of Interest to the private sector for setting up power stations at 22 identified sites. However, not a single project could materialise.

For many years the government did not re-launch the programme. Sometime in September 2005, the government formulated a revised power policy. This was, however, formally approved and announced only on 28th July 2006, as Punjab Power Generation Policy 2006. Now again the policy has been amended.

Sources said that the Irrigation and Power Department launched, in September 2006, the first project namely Khokhar hydropower project on Upper Jhelum Canal, for which detailed feasibility study was conducted in August 2005. International tenders for the 3.20-MW project, to be located near Mandi Bahauddin at a total cost of Rs 260 million, were invited on turnkey basis. But no decision was taken on the bids received. After a lapse of almost a year, tenders were re-issued, this time only for turbines and other electromechanical equipment. Again, decision could not be made and tender has recently been scrapped.

Besides, there are 4 projects of cumulative capacity of 13 MW that are ready for take-off. These are 4.80 MW and 1.99 MW both on Lower Bari Doab Canal (Sahiwal district), 4.24 MW on Tail Mainline Upper Chenab Canal (Bambanwala-Sialkot) and 1.90 MW on Upper Gogera Branch (Mannawala-Sheikhupura). Bankable feasibility studies have already been prepared for these projects.

Private sector needs to be invited to develop these solicited projects on Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) basis In addition, there are 35 sites identified as potential projects to develop hydropower stations of 160 MW cumulative capacity, on various canals located in Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Sargodha, DG Khan and Bahawalpur zones. These are classified as raw sites as detailed feasibility studies have not yet been undertaken and are to be conducted by the respective sponsors. There are another 10 projects of cumulative capacity of 125 MW, proposed on various barrages on Chenab, Jhelum, Ravi and Sutlej rivers.