'ELECTRICITY UNAVAILABILITY MAY RESULT IN FOOD SHORTAGE'

KANWAL SALEEM
Feb 02 - 08, 2009

In the wake of prevalent power crisis, electricity consumers all over the country are still facing long hours of load shedding ranging from 8 to 10 hours daily that has crippled civic life as well as industry, trade, agriculture and commerce. If the present power crisis persists, the country may face acute food shortage next year.

IPPS REMAIN UNDER-UTILIZED

Sources claimed that the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) were either not working at their full capacity or stopped their operation. The IPPs had taken this step due to non-payment of circular debt. If the IPPs work at their full capacity, there would be no load shedding in the country, rather power would be in surplus. The IPPs remain under-utilized because of financial constraints and lack of required fuel storage reserves.

Hydel power plants are only solution to electricity crisis, according to former Chairman Wapda, Engineer Shamsulmulk. There is no electricity shortage in the country and the present electricity crisis is the result of non-payment to the Independent Power Producers. He said the solution of power crisis lies in building hydel power plants and big dams such as Kalabagh and Bhasha because the electricity produced by hydel power plants was cheaper than thermal power. He said that Kalabagh Dam has the capacity of generating power which otherwise can be generated by 750 small dams. The Almighty Allah has blessed Pakistan with sufficient water resources and there is need to properly manage these resources, he added.

According to IEP President Engineer Aftab Islam Agha, if the present power crisis persists, the country may face acute food shortage next year because neither we have river water nor are we getting underground water due to non-pumping arrangements in the absence of electricity. The power crisis has affected the manufacturing sector and reduced its growth, which resulted in decline in the collection of revenue also. Agha further said that the construction of Kalabagh Dam is not a political matter, nor is it a regional or provincial matter. It is purely a technical matter of national importance and needs to be left to the engineers, rather than political whims. The ongoing power crisis and deteriorating border security situations are adversely affecting our industrial production. Since the start of power crisis, a large number of workforce has been axed in garments, stitching, knitwear, hosiery and other textile-related units, which are labour-intensive, the industry sources said.

POWER DEFICIT REACHES TO 2,000 MW

According to the reports, power deficit in the national network has reached to 2,000 MW on January 29. However, the supply-demand gap was projected to reduce power shortfall during the current month of February with improvement in production of IPPs.

PEPCO FACILITATING INDUSTRY

Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) Director General Mr. Tahir Basharat Cheema told PAGE that textile industry has been given relief so that industry may not suffer. He said that there would be only 4-hour load shedding for textile industry while the SME sector will have to face load shedding for 6-8 hours. The industry requiring continuous power supply has already been exempted while it is voluntarily reducing up to 25% during peak hours, he added.

He further said that tube wells are also being provided electricity to maximum hours for the benefit of farmers. He added that the ongoing spell of load shedding is due to demand-supply gap and annual canal closure.

According to Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance Shaukat Tarin, the government would increase the power tariff before June this year. Under the agreement with International Monitory Fund (IMF), the government was bound to eliminate subsidy on electricity and there would be a nominal increase in the electricity prices, as the price of furnace oil in international market had dropped. It may be mentioned that National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) had allowed increase of 62 percent in electricity rates in November last year but the government passed on only about 18 percent to the consumers.

According to the Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the government would pay back half of the circular debt of total Rs 400 billion it owes to the IPPs within few days while the rest would be paid by June this year. The government has resolved the matter through dialogue with the IPPs and half of their circular debt would be paid within few days.

FOREIGN COS SHOWING INTEREST IN POWER PROJECTS

Sources in Wapda said that power is the basic prerequisite for development and the government is exploring all avenues to increase power generation in the country with local and foreign investment. The Ministry of Investment is focusing on enhancing investment in alternative sources of energy to bridge the power gap and to promote development in the country. A number of foreign companies are showing interest in setting up power projects in the country, the sources added.

A British company has planned a Mines Mouth Power Plant at Block 6 of Thar Coal to generate 300-megawatt electricity by 2012, sources said. Initially, the firm, M/s Oracle Coal Fields PLC will invest $400 million for generation of 300-megawatts. The power generating capacity will be enhanced up to 1200 megawatts in the second phase, the sources added.

Highlighting the problems confronted to textile sector due to current power crisis, a leading textile industrialist, Mian Faraz Alam told PAGE that textile is the most important sector of the economy and government must take immediate steps to overcome all the crises on an emergency basis. Textile exports during the first half of the current financial year declined by 1.74 percent when compared to the corresponding period of the last year.

Textile exports during July-December (2008-09) were recorded at $ 5.13 billion as against exports of $5.22 billion registered during July-December (2007-08). Export of raw cotton witnessed decrease of 7.94 percent during December 2008 as against November 2008.

According to FBS figures, during the month of December exports of raw cotton stood at $11.7 million. During the month under review, Pakistan exported cotton yarn of $77.7 million, cotton cloth $77.7 million, cotton carded or combed $0.17 million, yarn other than cotton yarn $2 million and knitwear $124 million.

Similarly exports of bed wear during the month of December were recorded at $122 million, towels $ 42 million, tents, canvas and tarpulin $4.7 million, readymade garments $107.2 million, art, silk and synthetic textile $42 million, made up articles $37 million and other textile materials $ 19.3 million.