June 11 - 17, 20

The worst load shedding in Pakistan's history has not only made the life of the people miserable, but also adversely affected the industrial, agriculture and export sectors causing a huge loss to the national economy.

As many as 700 industrial units have shut down in the province of Punjab due to load shedding, resulting in a daily loss of Rs500 million. There are also reports of transfer of industrial projects in other parts of the world.

Punjab has faced a setback of approximately Rs400 billion in one year due to load shedding, while hundreds of thousands of workers have been left jobless. Poverty and unemployment are obvious outcomes while common person is reeling under hunger and starvation.

Pakistan imports petrol and diesel worth $10 billion every year. Ironically, no attention has been paid to generate energy from bagasse despite the fact that 72 sugar mills are operating in the country.

The provinces were given the right to generate electricity under the 18th Amendment, but reportedly hurdles are being created in the projects of power generation, as neither sovereign guarantee is issued nor finance from banks is being given.

Despite this difficult situation, the Punjab government has allocated huge budgetary allocations in its budget 2012-13 to power generation.

According to Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, the government will work out new power generation projects in collaboration with the private sector. He said the federal government did not approve Punjab government's project for generation of energy from bagasse - the fibrous matter that remains after sugarcane or sorghum stalks are crushed to extract their juice. He said, "The corrupt and inefficient government has not taken a single step for the power generation and it is creating hurdles in the way of Punjab government's projects."

He said the industries and the people of Punjab were being targeted through making it to face more load shedding than the other provinces. "It is because of the outages that industries have been closed down and labourers are becoming jobless," he said, adding that Rs400 billion losses had been caused to Punjab due to unjust load shedding of electricity during one year.

He said that participation of Punjab chief minister, Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, in the protests against load shedding and his setting up of a tent office at Minar-e-Pakistan was meant to express solidarity with the public bearing brunt of the power outages.

He said people are distressed due to load shedding of gas and electricity, which has caused serious loss to agriculture and industrial sectors besides making the common person depressed.

In order to cope up with this problem, provincial government has decided to evolve a comprehensive energy roadmap for meeting domestic and agricultural requirements through solar energy and biomass in cities and villages of the province. The projects of solar energy and biomass through private sector will be encouraged in the next budget so that domestic requirements of the people could be fulfilled.

The Punjab chief minister said the energy experts should pay special attention to the development of the technology and equipment of solar energy in accordance with the local requirements so that the common person could meet his energy needs at an affordable cost.

He said that research and development should be promoted in energy sector for this purpose. He said that solar energy techniques should also be included in the World Bank's drip and sprinkle irrigation project of five years costing Rs32 billion for the benefit of small farmers.

Mr. Sharif said that biomass project is closer to the traditional rural culture and is also simple in its nature which will specially facilitate the farmers. He further said that Punjab province is lucky as solar irradiation in south Punjab has been estimated at 5.6 kilowatts per square meter due to which solar energy projects will be extremely successful. He said that provincial government has ensured supply of free electricity in model villages through provision of solar energy equipment. He said that it is a revolutionary step, which has specially benefited the flood-affected persons. Similarly, he said solar energy equipment is also operating successfully in Cholistan. He said that the highest standard technology of solar energy would be introduced in the province.

The chief minister said that the country would not have been facing darkness had the federal government promoted solar energy projects. He directed that work on solar energy projects be expedited. A foreign energy expert, Farhat Ali, said that federal government's solar energy equipments are lying in cartons. He also stressed the need for benefiting from the facility of carbon credit.