SILENT SPECTATOR OF ENERGY DISASTER

KANWAL SALEEM
Jan 19 - 25, 2009

Current announced and unannounced load shedding in the country has not only halted the industrial production process but also caused social detriment with rendering of hundreds and thousands of workers jobless.

About 70 per cent industry had already closed down their operations due to acute shortage of electricity and gas while the remaining was on the verge of collapse. On one side, the industry is facing massive closure while on the other hand, public anger over power outages have been worsened, as people are taking to streets. What happened in Faisalabad must serve as an eye opener for the government.

The episode of Faisalabad was in fact a replay of public attack on the Multan Electric Supply Company (Mesco) a few months ago. The protestors stormed the Faisalabad Electric Supply Company office. With slight variations, the same happened in several other cities, including Sialkot, Gujranwala, Kasur, Mailsi, and Dera Ghazi Khan, where some of the smaller factories have closed down and the bigger ones announced ending of second shifts due to forced closure of electricity for up to 20 hours a day. It is true that the previous government is to be blamed for the present severe shortages since it added not a single new power generation plant to the national grid, thus causing a huge gap between supply and demand. It failed also to recognise the importance of building small dams wherever possible, getting embroiled instead in big dam controversies.

LCCI SEEKS SMOOTH POWER SUPPLY

The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Mian Muzaffar Ali has warned the government to immediately ensure continuous supply of electricity to save the industry from a total collapse by making payments to Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

According to him, poor management and lack of political will on part of the government were also the major contributors to the ongoing power crisis. Present power and energy crisis could be reduced substantially if the government is sincere in resolving the issue. With industries virtually out of production due to power shortage the industrialists are unable to pay even the salaries of the workers and cannot pay the bank dues as well. He said all hydro-electricity projects should be started and IPPs should be paid their due on time so that they could be able to generate required quantity of electricity.

CALL FOR SETTING UP NEW COAL POWER GENERATION HOUSES

The Punjab province is enriched with coal reserves of 235 million tons, which could help improve energy efficiency and setting up new coal power generation houses. Keeping in view availability of this natural resource of power generation, the government has identified 'raw sites' based on indigenous coal near Sunder Industrial Estate in Lahore and three other cities including Faisalabad, Multan and Sialkot, each having capacity of 50 Mega Watt. Sources in the Punjab Government told PAGE that a coal power project will help produce 200 Mega Watt electricity. These coal reserves are available in four districts namely; Jhelum, Chakwal, Khushab and Mianwali.

Punjab coal has low ash and high sulfur and considered suitable for power generation, therefore, investment in this sector would be implemented on 'Built-Own-Operate' basis or under public-private partnership mode. As many as 7 feasibility studies of the hydropower projects by private sector having accumulative capacity of 123 Mega Watt has also been completed by the Punjab Irrigation and Power Department Punjab Power Development Board (PPDF) has been set-up to provide one window operation facility to promote private sector partnership in power generation in Punjab.

PPDF is playing key role in implementation of power projects up to 50 Mega Watt capacity, assisting private investors in obtaining consents and licenses from various agencies and facilitating the regulatory authority Nepra in determining and approval of tariff for new power projects.

PWC SEEKS DUE ELECTRICITY SHARE TO PUNJAB

The Punjab Water Council (PWC) has asked the government not to deprive the Punjab from its due share of electricity and stop the transfer of 700 MW to Karachi. According to a PWC spokesman, the power crisis is going to worsen with each passing year. Today industrial and agriculture production of the country is also at risk. Punjab produces 80 percent of the agriculture products and also industrial products. The whole production sector of the country is suffering because of the stubborn attitude of others who created hurdles in construction of new reservoirs. Dams are being constructed on our international water rights, while we wasted 7 MAF of crucial river supplies to the sea in the last Kharif and are now suffering from 35 percent of water shortage. Where are the distraction planners of the country who played around with the issue for three decades and have brought the country on the edge of an economic disaster, he questioned.

MORE SEVERE GAS SHORTAGE NEXT WINTER

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources warned of a more severe gas shortage next winter if domestic consumption was not controlled. Sources said that domestic gas demand was on the rise particularly because of room heaters and geysers. An ongoing "gas management drive" which began after supply from the Qadirpur gas field and Thal Block, Kohat could not commence operation because of "several reasons" - included cutting supplies to the textile industry. The gas shortfall in Pakistan has widened to 700 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) and first cargo of imported gas is not expected before October 2011. The gap in supply and demand of country's main fuel, which meets 49 percent of its energy needs, will be bridged through LNG imports from Qatar. In the first phase, 500mmcfd will be imported, hopefully by October 2011.

Total production of natural gas is close to 4000mmcfd and mounting deficit in its supply that has now touched 17.5 percent has made imports imperative, analysts says.

As a part of PIAF's planned series of protests against energy crisis, the industrialists and industrial workers of Kot Lakhpat Industrial Estate staged a 'coffin-carrying' demonstration to press the government for continuous supply of electricity and gas.

The protesters, who were chanting full throat slogans against concerned government authorities, warned of the government of more such protests if continuous supply of electricity was not ensured immediately. The protest demonstration, jointly led by former LCCI President Mian Anjum Nisar, Chairman Lahore Township Industrial Area (LTIA) Babar Mehmood Chaudhry, PIAF Chairman Irfan Qaiser Sheikh, LCCI Senior Vice President Tahir Javaid Malik, LTIA Vice Chairmen Chaudhry Zaheer Bhutta, Wasimud din Chugtai, PIAF Vice Chairman Khawaja Shahzeb Akram and former PIAF Chairman Mian Abuzar Shad was also participated by a large number of industrialists and industrial workers.

Addressing the protesters, former LCCI President Mian Anjum Nisar lamented that due to wrong government policies and mismanaged affairs, the industry had almost collapsed and industrial workers were staging protests. He said had right steps been taken well in time, the situation would have been far better. He feared that IMF loan would multiply in coming days if the industrial wheel remains slow.

The Chairman Lahore Township Industrial Area (LTIA) Babar Mehmood Chaudhry said that sword of unemployment was hanging on the heads of industrial workers in the wake of non-availability of electricity but the government was playing the role of silent spectator. He said that the industrial area which was hub of production, presenting a deserted look as a large number of industrial units had stopped production.

The PIAF Chairman Irfan Qaiser Sheikh said that the economic crisis would further deepen in coming days as industry has failed to fulfill existing export orders what to talk of any new orders. He said that those who were thinking that economy would be back on tracks soon were actually living in fool's paradise as the situation had already gone out of hands and it would need special measures to control the situation. He appealed to the President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif to look into the matter and save hundreds and thousands of industrial workers from going unemployed.