Lopsided energy policy

The successive government from 1973 starting from Bhutto era till date has deliberately ignored to chalk out a compressive and affordable energy policy. Construction of big and small dams along with hydro power stations was not built merely for such political reasons that ran counter to the national interest. The country was pushed to grave water and power crisis. Adhoc energy strategies base on thermal generation driven by personal monetary interest were implemented which made the energy input very expensive which badly hit the productivity in agriculture and manufacturing sectors of the economy. But the government is still to build the thermal power plants ignoring generation cost and health hazards these plants will create for the poor people which are considered scrums in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Addressing the ground breaking ceremony of coal based 1263 MW thermal power plan in Haveli Bhadarshah area of Jhang district, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, claimed that the government had successfully accomplished the mission of load-shedding free Pakistan rather it had launched the projects to suffice the country’s power needs till 2030. He said currently there was no load-shedding in the country except in the areas where the cases of power theft are being reported. The claim of load-shedding free Pakistan is debatable. There was no load-shedding in cities last year during winter because the demand for power dropped by 7000 mega watts. Same is the case during the current winter. They can claims of load-shedding free Pakistan only if there is no load-shedding during summers because in winters the power consumption goes down drastically.

The pertinent question is as to why the government is not interested to construct small and big hydropower stations and opt for the ones which will use the imported coal rather than coal reserves in KP, Baluchistan and Sindh. This is because of the shady deals in the award of international contracts for thermal power generation. These plants of obsolete Chinese technology will pollute the air in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh causing fatal diseases like Asthma, Emphysema and Cancer due to toxic levels of smog. Moreover, like furnace oil and diesel, the price of coal may also go up and add to the chronic problem of circular debt in the long run. After the Paris agreement of Climate Change, most of the countries are now gradually closing the diesel and coal fired power plants. Even Germany, whose thermal power plants use sophisticated technology, with built-in antipollution devices like Carbon dioxide Scrubble, is closing coal based power plants. But the government is frantically helping China to dump its health hazardous thermal power plants, having no Carbon dioxide Scrubble, on our soil to bring down the number of death as result of pollution caused by the coal fired power plants.

The water crisis is also looming large because of the animosity of the political elite towards the construction of big dams on Rivers Indus. The construction of multi-dimensional Kalabagh dam has been abandoned forever.  Diyamir Basha dam project has hit a snag because of the irrational financing conditionality of China and its construction may not be started in the near future. Construction work of Monda Dam on River Swat and Kurram Tangi may also not be started according to laid down schedule. Former minister of water and power Khwaja Asif cautioned about likely water crisis and turning of fertile lands of Punjab and Sindh into desert but he could not persuade his emperor Nawaz Sharif to temporally forgo the motorway  projects and give priority to the construction of big and small dams. Almost all countries of the world have given priority to the environment friendly and renewable energy generation projects like hydropower stations and wind mills. Power generation from these sources is inexpensive and fairly affordable for domestic, industrial and commercial consumers. The construction of small and big dams will also bring green revolution because agriculture is the main stay of economy as we very proudly claim. Let us hope that our rulers will get vision and foresight to work out a useful water and power policy and national interest will reign supreme in their decision making.