Apr 06 - 12, 2009

Pakistan has been able to lure private sector investment in thermal power projects but not much success has been achieved in hydroelectric projects. WAPDA and other concerned still believe that the private sector is incapable of undertaking such projects. Some independent experts believe that whenever there is a discussion about dam, only mega projects are talked about and least attention is paid to smaller projects. Unless the private sector gets the experience of managing the small units, it would never feel comfortable in building big hydroelectric projects.

Some experts are f the opinion that often people consider dams and hydroelectric projects one and the same, which creates some confusion. In realty, hydropower generation may not require construction of any water storage facility at all. Electricity could be generated from water falling from a height capable of running turbines. As against this hydel generation is an ancillary facility at a dam mainly constructed to store water for its regulated discharge throughout the year. The best examples of these two different infrastructures are Tarbella and Ghazi Brotha facilities.

At Tarbella water reservoir has been constructed which also has added facility of power generation, whereas at Ghazi Brotha water coming from Tarbella is passed through a man-made channel and then dropped from a height to run turbines. This also helps in understanding what sort of displacement of people is involved in both types of projects. In a dam, a huge water storage facility has to be created, which often require displacement of people and acquiring their lands etc. As against this installing turbines at sites having potential to generate hydroelectric may not result in displacement of people.

Over the years, WAPDA and its offshoots have undertaken extensive studies regarding construction of such facilities. Now the time has come to realize the dream by forming public-private partnership. WAPDA already enjoys such partnership in case of KAPCO, where a private sector strategic investor, which also has the operation and maintenance contract, owns 36% percent shares of the company. Similar arrangements can also be made for smaller hydroelectric projects. The beauty of such projects is that these can be constructed at very low capital expenditures, power generation will be close to point of consumption, and transmission and distribution losses will be very low.

According to the details made public at PPIB website an aggregate capacity of nearly 6,600MW hydel generation is already operating in the country, whereas more than 1720MW is being established under public sector and about 912MW in the private sector. However, the only regrettable point is that no facility has been created and/or being created in Sindh and Balochistan provinces.

The details also show that the projects with feasibility studies having above 50MW capacity have an aggregate capacity of 4,700MW out of which more than 3,700MW will be created in Punjab. Another 340MW facilities comprising of units of less than 50MW are being considered but out of this 143MW capacity will be created in the NWFP province and 49.5MW in Sindh.

Since feasibility studies have been carried out for nearly 5,000MW, the prevailing shortage demands expeditious work on these sites. It is true that neither the government nor the public sector has the funds to undertake these projects. The efforts should be made to acquire financing through international financial institutions like World Bank, Asian Development Bank, International Finance Corporation, Islamic Development Bank or through Sukuk issues (Shariah compliant sovereign bonds).

It is believed that smaller projects may not be very economical but a trade off as to be made. Seeking financing and execution of mega facilities require longer gestation period but the problem demands immediate solution. Therefore, smaller projects should be completed on fast track and those projects, which do not require construction of reservoirs, should be given priority.

The details also show that various raw sites have been identified and pre-feasibility reports have been prepared for anther aggregate capacity of 4,500MW. The government should immediately solicit expression of interest from the private sector for construction of hydel facilities at these sites.

The history shows that many of the groups having vested interest become opponents of various hydel projects and plead that it would cause displacement of people, affect ecology of the area and that while the damage would be caused to a specific area the ultimate beneficiary would be the residents of some other area. This sort of argument arise only because enough homework is not done before announcing the construction of a project and also because the history shows that affectees of Mangla and Terbella dams have not been paid the compensation as yet.

However, it must be realized that crying on split milk just cannot help in overcoming the growing electricity shortage and also making it affordable for the consumers. As we have now elected governments at district, provincial and federal levels and also the senate these are best forum for the resolution of all sorts of disputes, including construction of smaller hydel projects.

NWFP 3767.2 635 84 58 143 13584 426
Punjab 1698 96 Nil 3720 32.17 Nil 349.65
AJK 1036.1 973.8 828.7 420 48.2 1152 177
Northern Areas 93.732 18 Nil 505 71.5 10905 814
Sindh Nil Nil Nil Nil 49.5 80 48.55
Balochistan Nil Nil Nil Nil 0.5 Nil Nil
Total 6595.032 1722.8 912.7 4703 344.87 25721 1815.2
Source: PPIB