A NEW ENERGY PLAN

By the year 2010, we will be facing a shortage of over 5000MW electricity

From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi,
Islamabad

Oct 11 - 17, 2004

The water shortage and in its wake extreme decline in the production of electricity have created an alarming crisis in the country. Nationwide load shedding has become unavoidable. The other day WAPDA on its own had made an announcement about an hour-long nationwide load shedding, but the Federal Minister for Water and Electricity Liaqat Jatoi drew this decision temporarily on the basis that WAPDA cannot take such a step without the permission of the government. The Minister has summoned a meeting of the concerned authorities and officials to devise a new load shedding programme. According to the minister, the present low level of water in the rivers is unparalleled during the last 28 years. According to him the reason for this is less rainfall in the Northern Areas and also less melting of the glaciers. Last year, the water resources were 10 million-acre feet, which this year has declined to five and half million-acre feet.  This acute shortage has also resulted in a crisis in the generation of electricity. The minister warned that if the water situation does not improve, the agriculture sector would be badly affected.

Meanwhile, the Sindh Minister for Water and Electricity has given the disturbing news that during the Rabi season, the province would be facing a 60 percent shortage of water. He disclosed that in order to made up for this shortage; the process of supplying water to wheat harvestors from various canals under the zone system would be commencing from October 1. According to the minister, water supply from Kotri Barrage for rice planting would be closed from October 25. Due to the water crisis, the government is stressing for crops that require irrigation only once so that despite the fall in water, a better produce can be obtained. The provincial minister disclosed that his ministry has submitted proposals for 11 dams in various areas of the province.

It goes to the credit of President General Pervez Musharraf that immediately after assuming power be focused on this important national problem. While making efforts to build a consensus on construction of big dams like Kala Bagh and Bhasha he undertook construction of over a dozen small dams in Azad Kashmir northern areas and the NWFP with a total capacity of 4000MW electricity besides increasing irrigation water supply bringing vast areas under cultivation within 2 to 3 years. Work on Chashma 2 has already started with Chinese help to increase nuclear energy by another 500MW Alternative Energy Development Board (AEBD) has granted permission to a foreign company for installation of 45MW power plant over Karachi on experimental basis through burning the waste of the city.

But all these efforts are not going to meet our future requirement. By the year 2010, we will be facing a shortage of over 5000MW electricity and that could be met by undertaking one of the big dam Kala Bagh or Bhasha immediately and completing it on war footing basis. The construction of Kala Bagh has for no reason, been reduced to an issue involving political polemics. If it has been studied and found suitable both by national and international experts we should not waste any more time to build a consensus. Surprisingly, President Musharraf who had categorically declared that the decision on the construction of Kala  Bagh or Bhasha Dam will be taken by June 2004 while announcing his 50 year water vision last year, has also done nothing while June has also gone.

In the meanwhile, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has directed the Planning Commission to prepare expeditiously a long-term energy plan by December 15. Though coming in the wake of a sudden fall in hydroelectric generation, leading to countrywide load shedding, his initiative need not be taken as prompted by this predicament alone. For, had that been the case, he would have stressed the need of providing prompt relief to the people through some kind of a crash programme, as usually happens during popularly elected regimes. As will be noted from newspaper reports, the Prime Minister has urged the Commission to evolve an energy strategy, encompassing the whole gamut of the country's increasing needs, Some people may be inclined to view it as a tall order, which it certainly is not. For many and varied have been the ways in which the planners and economic managers have continued over the years to grapple with the chronic power crisis and a large volume of data should be at hand for the commission.

The Planning Commission should focus on plans to provide electricity at affordable cost. It is not possible through thermal power. It should concentrate on hydle power, coal fired power station, increasing nuclear power and using alternative sources of energy. Recently at a 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 40,000 mw of electricity. It was pointed out that in the share of coal in overall energy mix during the last 5 decades has declined from 68% in 1948 to 35% in 1958 and only 5% in 2002 against world average of 39% and USA and UK 52% and 58% respectively.

While working on this long-term plan we should not further delay the construction new water storage facilities. Two former Chairman of WAPDA one of whom hails from Frontier have cautioned in very clear cut and explicit words that if the construction of new dams, particularly Kala Bagh is not undertaken urgently, then within the next 10 years the country would be in the grip acute shortage of irrigation water power breakdowns and blackouts.  All preparatory work on Kala Bagh is ready after huge investment its construction should start immediately on war footing basis.