Energy Crisis
By Qanbar Ali Khan

Nov. 30, 2008

Pakistan has an overwhelming population of over one seventy million, coupled with a stagnating economy. It is in a severe energy crisis, getting worse with time. Pakistan has to import sixty five percent of its total petroleum requirements, and the electricity generated by such an expensive commodity is unaffordable by the common man. Gas prices for vehicles have risen rapidly in the past few months, which have outraged the public who simply canít afford traveling any longer. Pakistan was once rich in gas reserves, but excessive use of this fuel has made it scarce. Pakistan is now planning to import its gas from Central Asia. Even though Pakistan has huge coal reserves, the quality of it is below par for electricity generation. Sixty percent of Pakistanís power stations run on these fuels, and most of these power stations are not at their full capacity due to expensive fuel. Energy theft is common in Pakistan, and authorities have no control over it. The electricity that is generated is distributed unfairly, as most of it is used in urban cities, and rural areas, where seventy percent of the population lives, are without electricity. The new government has stopped giving subsidies to the power stations, and the authorities are failing to meet the demand of electricity, and five to six hours of load shedding (when there is no power) is common every day. Karachi, an urban centre, has witnessed up to ten hours of power shortages, and industrial cities like Faisalabad have faced power outages of up to eighteen hours, and it may further escalate unless the government gets a grip over the energy crisis.

The energy crisis can be blamed on the faltered government policies, corruption, lack of administrative skills and disunity among the provinces. Several thermal power projects, including the five hundred mega watts power house at Chicuki Maliyan, have been abandoned. There has been an ongoing talk about building the Kalabagh Dam for ages, yet the authorities have not managed to even inaugurate the project. Recently the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant was shut down, and the president of WAPDA, the major electricity supplying authority in Pakistan, resigned amid the energy crisis, and WAPDA is still running without proper administration. The provinces are interested in their own benefit, which is the main reason why intensive drilling for oil has not taken place in Balochistan (a province in upper Pakistan), and neither have dams been built in the NWFP, because the locals fear that the other provinces would deny them their rightful share.

Preference is given to thermal power stations over hydro electric, solar and wind power stations. Thermal power stations, although cheap to build, require fossil fuels which Pakistan has to import at high rates. Pakistan is blessed with steep mountains with rushing rivers, and these provide a perfect location for a huge dam. A couple of these will solve Pakistanís energy crisis immediately. The Tarbela and Mangla Dam, built in the sixties, still provide a major share of Pakistanís electricity. Windmills and solar power station can provide electricity for small areas, especially in Balochistan and coastal areas, and these can be used to solve electricity problems in distant rural areas. Pakistanís government should also invest in Balochistan, as this province is rich in petroleum and gas reserves, and it may be the key to solving the energy crisis in Pakistan.

Souce: Pakistan Times

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