Jan 24 - 30, 2011

Of all the persons, the present Chairman of Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) has warned the government that, besides power shortage despite rising cost, Pakistan would soon be water starved country.

He rightly advised the government to focus on construction of dams on war-footings to control both the constant rise in the electricity tariff and growing water shortage threatening the agriculture sector.

Addressing a delegation of PAF Air War College, in his office last month, Wapda chief said that had we built Bhasha and Munda dams the flood water in last summer could have been stored instead of causing huge damage and rendering over 20 million people homeless. Besides, we could have stored enough water badly needed for the coming Rabi crop. It would have also ensured enough power supply at a much cheaper cost. He avoided mentioning Kalabagh, the most important dam for understandable reason of not annoying the present ruling class, which appears hostile to the idea for no cogent reason

An old former Chairman, an eminent expert of international repute in hydropower production who developed the idea of Kalabagh and remained its General Manager of this project in mid eighties, Shams-ul-Malik, in a latest press interview, has said that there is one solution of Pakistan's energy crises and scarcity of irrigation water and that is construction of dams like Kalabagh, Bhasha etc. While the present government has declared Kalabagh dam as a controversial issue Mr. Shams, a Pakhtun and a resident of Charsadda, asserts that the only option to solve the problems related to power and water crises is the construction of water dams. Specially, the Kalabagh has a bigger size water reservoir. Explaining the reasons for ever-increasing power tariff, he said that every year about 92 billion kilowatt -hours of electricity is generated in Pakistan with an average cost per unit. This could be reduced to Rs3 per unit if the KBD is constructed.

At present, the energy mix consists of 32 per cent hydel, 32 per cent gas-based generation and 32 per cent oil-based energy production and only four per cent is generated from other sources such as nuclear and coal. Hydropower is generated at Rs1.2 per unit, gas at Rs5.46 per unit, oil at Rs12.4 per unit and remaining four per cent is produced at a cost of Rs5.30 per unit. So, as per this arrangement the average price for electricity to distribution companies stands at Rs6 per unit.

Energy mix about 10 years back was 65 per cent hydel and 35 per cent was produced from other sources and so the energy cost was affordable. He held the political leadership responsible for creating hurdles in the KBD project. Otherwise, KBD should have been built in the 90's and Bhasha dam should have been completed by now as per original plan of Wapda, he stressed saying that the initial work on KBD was completed in 1988 and presented for approval.

It is a f act that Pakistan today is suffering because of the criminal neglect of the successive governments-both civilian and military-during the last 25 years .The growing shortage of power supply combined with constant rise in electricity tariff into a grave national crises threatening its basic economic structure.

Nature has been most kind to Pakistan in providing cities for storage of water and producing hydropower at a much cheaper cost. We have known and researched five hydro sites where big dams could be built to produce substantial electricity at about one fifth of IPPs or rental power besides storage of water to meet irrigation requirements and protecting the country and the people from devastation of floods.

Under the circumstances, construction of dames appears most vital for saving our economy from total collapse. The government is repeatedly advised by the experts to start construction of dams without any further loss of time and try to make up the precious time already lost because of our criminal neglect.