June 14 - 20, 20

Energy shortages have darkened homes, closed down factories and shops, making life difficult and slowing down economic activity. This calls for pragmatic steps by the government to generate cheap power on urgent basis. We lost precious time and to overcome power shortfall, we still have to cover a long journey. Energy is a cycle of economic activities but we are behind the wall due to indifferent approach on important issues.

The need of the hour is to set priorities and move forward in a right direction to tackle the challenges confronted to national economy.

The persistent energy crisis has not only hit hard the national economy but also is causing a lot of problems for the people who are still facing long hours of load shedding. Pakistan faces about a shortfall of a whopping 3,500 MW. To make things worse, the policy makers' inability to deal with the energy crisis has forced many industries all across Pakistan to shut their business down due to the non-availability of electricity.

Keeping in view the prevailing energy situation in the country, the PPP-led government has proposed hefty amount of Rs41,463 million for ongoing hydropower generation projects in Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for the year 2010-11.

An amount of Rs868 million has been proposed for Banjo Hydro Project and Rs800 million for Jonah Hydro Power project in the forthcoming PSDP. Foreign aid components were proposed for the ongoing projects. The government will launch a mega hydel project Daimir Bhasha Dam in the fiscal year 2010-11 which would generate 4500 MW electricity.

Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh in his budget speech said that Diamir Bhasha Dam would also store 6,450 MAF water. He said, "It is gratifying to share that the "resettlement chapter" has been conclusively settled by the government which would now enable us to fast track this project."

According to him, power sector enterprises alone cost the exchequer around Rs180 billion in FY 2009-10 while Railways, PIA, TCP, PASSCO, Steel Mills, NHA and Utility Stores add an additional Rs65 billion.

He said the crisis has arisen because of poor policy choices in the past and underdevelopment of domestic energy sources such as hydel, coal, and natural gas. He said the government has proposed Rs28,423.847 million for 64 ongoing and 22 new water sector projects in Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for the year 2010-11. Out of the total allocations, Rs22,883 million were proposed for ongoing water projects and Rs5,539.851 million for the new projects. An amount of Rs381,431 million was estimated for the ongoing projects, out of which Rs203,332 have been spent so far. Rs2469 million have been proposed for the ongoing raising of Mangla Dam project including resettlement.

Similarly, Rs823 million, Rs2,469 million, Rs2263 and Rs1,810 million have been proposed for Gomal Zam Dam, Extension of Right Bank Outfall Drain from Sehwan to sea, Kachhi Canal (Phase-I) and Rainee Canal (Phase-I) respectively in the PSDP of 2010-11.

An amount of Rs248,238 million have been estimated for new schemes in water sector, out of which Rs5539 million have been proposed in the forthcoming PSDP 2010-11.

The new schemes include construction of 100 dams in Balochistan, Nailing storage dam Jhal Magsi, Pelar Dam (Awarn Balochistan), Nai Gaj Dam Dadu, Bara Dam Kyber Agency, Kurram Tangi Dam, North Waziristan, Makhi Farash Link Canal project (Chotiari Phase-II), construction of eight small/medium dams in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Khanki Barrage.

Rs958 million have been proposed for Nailing storage Dam, Rs800 million for Nai Gaj dam and Rs658 million for Bara Dam while Rs576 million for Kurram Tangi in the financial year 2010-11

According to Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervez Ashraf, power generating capacity would be increased after completion of Mangla Raising Project. The government in this budget had also focused to complete the ongoing projects, he said adding that power houses would be revamped and their numbers would be also increased.

He said that load shedding has reduced after the Energy Conservation Plan adopted after taking into confidence the provincial governments. Through Wing Energy System, Raja Pervez said, we would get hundreds of megawatts at the end of this month.

On the other hand, Pakistan Muslim League Parliamentary Leader Faisal Saleh Hayat said the federal budget for next fiscal year 2010-11 lacks concrete measures to steer country out of prevailing water and power crises. Instead of allocating huge funds for Benazir Income Support Programme and some other projects, he said the government should have allocated maximum funds for energy sector.

According to him, the energy sector is closely linked to poverty and economic sector, so it was essential the government allocates enough funds for the sector. The energy sector brings its effect to bear on all sectors but step was announced in the budget to strengthen it.

Experts are of the view that the policy makers have so far failed to understand one thing. They do talk about establishing dams and setting up nuclear power plants but why do they not understand the importance and benefits of alternate energy sources such as solar, windmill energy etc. These are cheap and quick methods for producing electricity.

Pakistan is a blessed country because solar energy is available in most cities all year round similarly wind energy is readily available in the coastal areas. These energy sources, if tapped can be of great help in reducing the current demand supply gap. According to them, Pakistan's energy sector constitutes mainly of oil, natural gas and HNP power where the contribution is listed as 43 per cent usage of oil, 38 per cent natural gas and 10 per cent of HNP. With a substantial amount of coal in various areas of Pakistan, the country doesn't need to rely on importing heavy amounts of oil from various countries. All it needs to do is explore and attain its benefit from the natural resources it has been gifted from.

Pakistan spends millions of dollars annually over the purchase of oil from the global market. Those millions of dollars it spends purchasing oil for the usage of electricity can be invested elsewhere like the devastating educational sector or even the infrastructure of Pakistan. One must ponder and wonder over how a country that has the 4th largest coal reserves in the world has to face such devastating shortfalls of electricity. All around the world countries like America, the global superpower avails over 50 per cent of its electricity from coal, China focuses on providing energy to its people by extracting over 75 per cent of its energy from coal and even India uses coal to supply 57 per cent of its energy.