AROOJ ASGHAR (arooj.asghar@hotmail.com)
Apr 07 - 13, 2008

Electricity constitutes one of the important elements of infrastructure components and plays a key role in national growth and development. The growing pace of urbanization and industrialization also puts a premium on demand for electricity. According to the Hydrocarbon Development Institute of Pakistan, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, Pakistan's installed capacity of electricity generation is 19,450 Megawatts (MW) where WAPDA's Hydel, WAPDA's Thermal, KESC Thermal, IPP Thermal and Nuclear is contributing 6,499 MW, 4,900MW, 1,756MW, 5,833, 462 MW respectively. Further, Hydel, Gas, Oil, Nuclear and Coal have a share of 33%, 44.1%, 20.2%, 2.7% and 0.1% of total installed capacity respectively. God has blessed Pakistan with a tremendous hydel potential of more than 40,000 MW. However, only 15% of the hydroelectric potential has been harnessed so far. The remaining untapped potential, if properly exploited, can effectively meet Pakistan's ever-increasing demand for electricity in a cost-effective way.

The shortage of energy in Pakistan and the lack of sufficient and reliable power supply is becoming an obstacle in the way of economic growth and development. The country is fortunately endowed with great hydropower potential and since hydropower is a natural renewable source of energy, it is necessary to exploit it to its maximum extent. Therefore, it is useful to look for short gestation projects, proximity to load centers and minimum overall costs. Low head hydropower potential of the existing barrages in the Pakistan irrigation system offer such solution even if the unit cost of electrical energy generated with low head is expensive than with high head.

The Hydel energy is a big source of NWFP, with a number of major hydroelectric power projects; the province has a high contribution in the overall electric power generation for the country. In order to utilize this resource beneficially, SHYDO carried out considerable work on different hydel schemes and has identified hydel potential of more than 6000 MW. SHYDO identified locations in the mountainous areas of NWFP i.e. Districts of Chitral, Dir, Kohistan, Mansehra and Swat.

Vision 2030 projects to increase hydel power potential from the existing capacity of 6,499 MW to 32,660 MW. Various studies about hydro power potential indicate that Pakistan can reasonably produce 40,000 to 45,000 MW of power from this source. However, during the past 40 years or so no major hydro power project could be completed other than Ghazi Barotha. Despite all preliminary spade works and feasibility studies a major dam cum hydro power project like Kalabagh Dam could not be brought out of the hook, due to lack of consensus and disagreement. Similar issues are more or less associated with other major dams in the northern areas. High cost and lack of indigenous expertise are other problems faced by WAPDA. WAPDA has undertaken feasibility studies/ construction work for a number of hydro/thermal power projects under the Vision 2025 Program. Work on Allai Khawr (21 MW), Khan Khawar (72 MW) and Dubair Khawar (130 MW) hydropower projects is in full swing. Implementation of Neelum-Jhelum (969 MW) hydropower project has just started and is in early stage of project development. Feasibility studies of a number of the hydropower projects are also underway including Bunji (5,400 MW) and Kohala (600 MW). After the completion of the planned projects the installed capacity is expected to increase to 42,000 MW.

PPIB has issued number of LOI to Independent Power Producer (IPP) for the development and operation of hydro power plant. Once the first project reaches financial closure, many more will pave the way for influx of further investment, domestic as well as foreign, in power projects based on indigenous and renewable resources. It is said that both previous and present governments are keen to induct private sector in the hydropower sub-sector to enhance the power generation capacity in the country, mainly for the reasons of generating and supplying cheap electricity. The main issue is not whether the governments are keen or not, the real issue is how they cooperate and facilitate the investor. Here it doesn't mean that government accommodate investors out of the way or bypass rules, polices and procedures. PPIB has also issued seven raw sites for private sector on which private investors are preparing feasibility studies. Large-scale hydro already contributes significant share of the national power supply. At present, economic factors are in favor of hydroelectric power generation the world over because of ever-increasing furnace oil prices, environmental impacts of coal and depleting natural gas reserves the world over, Pakistan being no exception.

Pakistan will have a shortfall of 11 million tons of major food grains by 2010 and 16 million tons by 2020. This food grain deficit will increase to 28 million tons by 2025. This reflects the grave situation that the country will face unless a policy decision on the construction of new dams is taken, purely on technical and economical rather than on political grounds. It is a tragedy that none of the previous governments took any decision to build new major dam/reservoir after the construction of Tarbela reservoir in 1976. On the other hand, the original storage capacity of 15.24 maf of Mangala Dam(5.34), Chashma Barrage (0.5 maf) and Tarbela Reservoir(9.40MAF) has declined by 4.68 maf by 2003 due to sedimentation and may further decrease by six maf by 2010.

The flow of River Indus and its tributaries constitute the main source of surface water for the country. According to the Indus Water Treaty, the flow of three eastern rivers namely Beas, Sutlej and Ravi was conceded to India, while Pakistan is mostly dependent on three western rivers - Indus (including Kabul), Jhelum and Chenab. The decision though more favorable to India was agreed by General Ayub Khan. The completion by India of Wuller ,Bagliar and Krishanganga , Uri-11Pakal Dul and Burser projects on western rivers of Indus, Jhelum and Chenab to which Pakistan has the exclusive right according to the 1960 Indus Basin Treaty, will create serious water shortage. It will also enable India to divert water of western rivers as it already did once and created problems for Pakistan. Moreover, India can release water from eastern rivers during high floods, thus damaging crops in adjoining the areas along the eastern rivers in Pakistan's Punjab. It is argued by the various parties in NWPP that construction of Kalabagh Dam will flood Noshera and lot of fertile areas will be waterlogged, besides displacing a large number of people. It is interesting that General Ayub Khan decided to build Tarbela Reservoir in Haripur and adjoining areas in NWFP instead of Kalabagh Dam in spite of the fact that there was not that much opposition at that time to build it. Moreover, the initial loan taken from the World Bank for the construction of Kalabagh was diverted for the construction of Tarbela Reservoir. Thousands of people were displaced and vast area was covered by Tarbela Reservoir and water-logging. But none of the political parties of NWFP raised any objection at that time as they are making now, because royalty for hydropower of this reservoir was to be made to NWFP. Punjab did not oppose these twin decisions of General Ayub Khan but also provided land to most of the people displaced due to the construction of Tarbela. Again, these political parties are agitating against the construction of Kalabagh Dam, because it will cover lot of land of NWFP and displace thousands of people of the province. But they agree for the construction of Bhasha and other dams in Northern areas, despite the fact that Kalabagh Dam will cover 2900 acres and displace nearly 42,000 people of NWFP, while the rest be built in much bigger area and people displaced will be from Punjab. Bhasha Dam will cover 32,000 acres and displace 24,000 people, Akhori Dam will cover 59,200 acres and displace 50,000 people. Similarly, Skardu-Katzara Dam highly recommended by the technical committee on water resources as the best option, may cover 90,000 acres and displace nearly 160,000 people. Besides, these dams are situated in seismic areas with greater chance of damage as compared to Kalabagh. The politicians should learn a lesson from an earthquake of October 8, 2005 followed by over 1563 seismic of different Richter scales. Besides construction of Bhasha Dam will not only be more expensive and cover good chunk of Karakaram Highway creating problems of having alternate logistic links with China essential for the country's defense and trade. The fear of Nowshera being drowned if Kalabagh Dam is to be build, has already been dealt with technically by reducing the height of Kalabagh dam by 10 feet. Construction of Munda Dam simultaneously on River Swat will further remove the risk of flooding Nowshera. Again, Charsada and Mardan are over 50 feet higher than the height of the Kalabagh Dam. As a result, these areas will not be affected by seepage. Other reason for agreeing to Bhasha and other dams over Kalabagh Dam is that Punjab will not be able to get link canals from any one of the other dams built upstream. In spite of the fact that power generation of 3600-MW of Kalabagh would have no logistic problem and would be much cheaper for the consumers as compared to that generated at Bhasha due to logistic problems of longer distance and higher cost of installation of power turbines, NWFP insists on the construction of Bhasha Dam. It appears that the main reason is that it will enable the province to claim royalty as the power turbines will be located in the province. Here again the issue is not which province is getting benefit more or which is getting less but the real issue is how much Pakistan is getting benefit which ironically we all have ignored.


Hydro power stations cost more to build than coal, oil, or natural gas burning plants but once they are built, the energy to run them is free, while thermal generation plants have to buy their fuel. This makes hydro plants inflation- proof while the cost of fuel for the other plants increases. Hydro plants also last longer. Moreover, project like small hydro plants can be built quickly, and will provide electricity long before large hydro plant or most kinds of fuel-burning generators. It is important to note that small hydro projects are labor-intensive and well suited to operate by local people. While the initial cost of the plant can be quite high but a good part may compensate from on-site construction, which can provide jobs and training to local residents. The high cost of small hydro development is often accompanied by other beneficial developments such as irrigation, water supply sanitation, and fish farming. The associated social benefits of jobs, training, community co-operation, opportunities for small manufacturing development etc., can be highly beneficial. Hence establishment of small hydel power stations in current political and economic environment is highly recommended.