POWER SHORTAGE PROBLEM IN BALOCHISTAN
June 09 - 15, 2008
Balochistan is the largest and least developed province of Pakistan. It has no sound industrial base; hence there is no significant consumption of electricity for industrial purpose in the province. The power consumption is largely for domestic purpose. Being the least populous province, Balochistan consumes the least power, as compared to other provinces of the country. According to one estimate, the province's total power needs does not go beyond 1500 mega watts, and the coastal areas get electricity from Iran. On the other hand, Karachi city needs 2500 mega watt of power to continue its industrial, commercial and social life in a normal way.
IRAN'S ROLE IN MANAGING POWER REQUIREMENTS
Mekran coastal areas have largely been dependent on Iran for electricity requirements. Iran is already supplying electricity through its 132KV line to Mekran, whose requirement is estimated at 17.5MW. The Pasni powerhouse, with a generating capacity of 40 megawatts, could not meet the power requirements of entire coastal region, as its generators incurred faults. Four years back, the Quetta Electric Supply Company (QESCO) constructed the power transmission lines in Mekran at a cost of Rs138 million and finally connected it with Iranian grid system. It saved around Rs700 million that it had previously been spending to operate the gas turbine for power generation. Iran is yet to play the key role in managing the power requirements of the emerging mega port city at Gwadar in coastal Balochistan.
Presently, 35MW power is being imported from Iran through Mand interconnection on 132 KV, Tuftan 2MW on 20KV and Mashkehl 2MW on 20KV. The state-run Tavanir, an Iranian power company under an agreement signed last February with Pakistan, will provide100-megawatt power for Gwadar port city through a 170-km long 220 KV double circuit transmission line between 220 KV Polan sub station at Iran side and 220 KV Gwadar sub-station. Under the accord, a 100-km long line will be constructed in Pakistan and remaining 70 km in Iran. The power supply to Gwadar port will start from January next year. The project will cost US$86 million, out of which US$26 million will be borne by the company.
As a part of government's long-term power strategy, a grid station is under construction in Gwadar. Moreover, 132 KV transmission line from Pasni/Turbat is being extended to Gwadar at a cost of Rs360 million. Eventually, Gwadar will be linked to the national grid as soon as the demand grows for power consumption. The Oman government had given a grant of $100 million to be paid in five years, out of which, electricity generators for the Gwadar port have already arrived.
LOAD SHEDDING IN QUETTA
Provincial capital Quetta is currently witnessing 8 to 10-hour long electricity load shedding daily. On the other hand, the unannounced electricity load shedding QESCO in some areas of Quetta city has made the lives of citizens more difficult in summer. The frequent power outage has become a normal practice affecting the students and the business activity in the city. As the hot days are becoming hotter, the people are engaged in making alternate arrangements for electricity. Presently, the demand of small power generators has increased and resultantly their prices have gone up. Presently, the Chinese-made generator of 800 watt capacity is available at Rs.4000. The 8000 watt generator is used by general masses to meet their household power needs. The price of 1800 watt generator is also steadily rising and it is currently being sold at a price of Rs.15000. These petrol-run generators are not affordable for low-income groups of people, as the oil prices are also steadily going up in the international market. The only option left for the poor of the province is to endure the pangs of summer without electricity.
LOAD SHEDDING IN RURAL BALOCHISTAN
Frequent electricity load shedding in rural Balochistan is affecting the farming community and the agriculture, which is the mainstay for over 75 percent of the local population. According to one estimate, about 229824 hectares of area in the province is irrigated by tub-wells, which have become non-functional due to the frequent load shedding by QESCO. The local farmers have also been complaining against the fluctuation in voltage, which is inflicting additional losses to farmers. The power shortage causes non-availability of water for the crops. The tube wells do not operate fully and efficiently for power shortage and fluctuation in voltage also causes fault in their operations Water scarcity destroyed many orchards in the northern Balochistan during last five-year period. Last year, electricity load shedding destroyed many crops fruit crops in the province. This time again, the food and fruit crops are facing potential threat from the continual power shortage.
TACKLING THE POWER SHORTAGE
The power shortage should be tackled through efficient power management, both under long-term and short-term programs. The QESCO needs to take immediate measures to tackle the load shedding problems in urban and rural areas of the province. It should reduce the transmission losses from the grid and eliminate unscheduled load shedding.
The government authorities should also take notice of the steady rise in the prices of the small generators in the local market. As the entire country is facing a power shortage and people are looking for other arrangements in hot summer days, some local businessmen are poised to exploit the prevailing situation. The Wapda's decision to withdraw subsidy on electricity to local farmers for use of tube-wells should be reviewed and the government should continue the flat rates for supply of electricity to the growers for agricultural purposes.
In view of the acute power shortage, the new water management techniques need to be introduced for maximizing the irrigation efficiency in the province. Trickle irrigation system should be adopted to deal with the water shortage problem in rural areas. The lining of water distribution network is direly needed to minimize conveyance losses. Similarly, hill torrents in the province bring a substantial quantity of flash floods, which can be harnessed, for the beneficial use. A comprehensive energy plan needs to be brought forth for managing the power requirement of the future industrial and commercial estates in the Gwadar port city from indigenous resources. The plan should identify the options other than the import of power from neighboring Iran.