FATE OF HIGH DAMS HANGING IN BALANCE

The government goes for smaller dams

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, 
Islamabad

May 23 - 29, 2005

The Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB) has invited proposals, from foreign and domestic investors interested in developing 7 hydro power plants (ranging from 53 MW to 655 MW) to add approximately 1804 MW of electricity per annum. The locations of these proposed small hydro projects have already been identified in the province of NWFP (5 sites) while remaining two are located in Azad Kashmir.

The decision to go for smaller dams seems to be a natural outcome of the growing demand of power on one hand while status quo prevailing over the much politicized Kalabagh dam on the other hand. The power sector calls for immediate steps matching to the pace of growth demand instead of waiting for an amicable solution on the controversial high dams which are hanging in balance for want of a consensus among all the stake holders.

Though the late is better than never, yet the decision for construction of smaller dams should have been taken much earlier and the sites for such projects identified in the province of Sindh should have been completed at the earliest to pacify hot feelings of the people unleashed by the vested interests for political gains.

Pakistan is blessed with tremendous hydropower potential of more than 40,000 MW of which only 600 MW has been harnessed so far. Out of un-harnessed potential of 34000 MW, three big projects including Kalabagh, Bhasha and Satgrah dams account for over 15000 MW. The remaining 19000 MW can be produced by developing small sites in Kashmir, NWFP and Northern Areas.

The seven sites advertised in the national Press by the PPIB are: Suki Kinari (655 MW), Manshera, NWFP; Karrang (458 MW), Kohistan, NWFP; Madyan (48 MW), Swat, NWFP; Patrind (130 MW), Manshera, NWFP; Sharmai (115 MW), Dir, NWFP; Mahl (245 MW), Bagh Azad Kashmir and Harighal (53 MW), Bagh, Azad Kashmir.

The sponsors will be pre-qualified and ranked based on their submitted proposals. The highest ranked party will be issued letter of interest for carrying out a bankable detailed feasibility study. On successful completion of the feasibility study, the same party would be eligible to develop and construct the project as per the terms and conditions of the policy.

Coal-fired power plants are also being pursued by the government. According to an estimate Thar Coal deposit alone can produce more than 20,000 MW of electricity annually.

The first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for installation of a 1000 MW coal-fired power generation plant was signed at a ceremony held at the Chief Minister House at Karachi last week.

The MoU was signed by the Provincial Minister for Mines and Mineral Development, Irfanullah Khan Marwat, on behalf of the Sindh Coal Development Authority and Chief Executive Officer Shahid Zulfikar of AES OASIS Ltd, a US-based company.

Sindh Chief Minister Dr. Arbab Ghulam Rahim and US Consul General at Karachi, Douglas C. Rohn, were also present during the signing ceremony.

The plant to be set up at a cost of 2 billion dollars and will be completed in a period of four to five years.

Speaking on the occasion, Irfanullah Khan Marwat said, "studies are going on for exploration of coal reserves in Hyderabad, Thatta and Badin districts, and hopefully the people of Sindh will hear a positive news about discovery of huge coal reserves in these areas in the next six months". He described the signing of MoU with the US company, a big leap forward towards exploitation of Thar coal reserves for power generation and culmination of efforts of the Federal and provincial governments towards this end. "In less than 2 weeks more MoUs are going to be signed for installation of coal-fired power generation plants at Sondha and Lakhra, he said, adding, "the government wants these reserves to be used for power generation as well as in industries like cement."

Moreover, a consortium of investors from Norway has offered to set up wind power desalination in coasted areas of Sindh with 100 percent investment. In this regard, a presentation was made at the Governor House on April 14, 2005, by the representative of Universidad De La Laguna, consultant to the project.

The consultant firm has also carried out preliminary feasibility (basic proposal) for wind power integrated desalination plant. The documents comprise technical and financial aspects of the proposed project with provision of 50 percent availability of electric power for sale of KESC and purchase of energy during low-wind velocity or by having self-generated energy source.

The cost of project runs in millions of euros, as envisaged in the basic proposal. However, final cost estimate is yet to be calculated on the basis of two different cost structures, mentioned in the proposal. The economic feasibility of the project considers it profitable. The next step would be to carry out an analysis of sensibility and cost of energy to see that parameters influence more in the profitability of the project.

Preliminary feasibility report shows most critical parameters, and of extreme importance is the annual average speed of wind by its repercussion on the produced energy. "Therefore, it would be appropriate to diminish risks associated to the project and analysis in depth of the resources is carried out, the report adds. It would open new vistas of employment in the province and would pave the way to ease out water crises by utilizing wind power. The worked out approximate figures show that desalinated water would be costing nine paisa per gallon, while the wind energy would be available at Rs3.20 per unit.