Who is responsible for energy crisis?
On Saturday, addressing inauguration ceremony of the 40 megawatts (MW) coal-fired power project at Sitara Chemical Industries Ltd (SCIL) Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif said: “Previous governments must be asked to account for energy and economic crises that dragged the country into darkness and made it lose the distinctive status of best economy in South Asia.” But he forgot that during the last 35 years, he was twice prime minister of Pakistan, and completed three years in the office after 2013 elections; hence he is equally responsible for the energy crisis. One would not agree with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when he said that “in 1999 Pakistan was the top economy in South Asia; but in 2013 we stood in the last,” as Asian Tigers had already emerged at the time. Anyhow, before 2013 elections, Shahbaz Sharif had vowed to end load shedding within six months.
Nawaz Sharif however was a little more conscious and said that it would take two years to end energy crisis. But now PML-N stalwarts say that load shedding would end in 2018. Before 2013 elections, Sartaj Aziz had written an article in national daily, in which he outlined the underlying causes of the energy crisis and blamed the the PPP’s energy policy for having brought about a decisive shift in the Pakistan energy mix. He added that “in 1994, out of the total installed capacity of 11,000 MW, 60 percent came from hydro electricity and only 40 percent from thermal capacity. In the next few years, this mix was reversed from 60:40 to 30:70 in favour of thermal capacity based on imported fuel.” The problem is that no large reservoir has been constructed during the last 35 years including PML-N governments.
If large reservoirs like Diamer-Bhasha are not constructed on war-footing, other parts of Pakistan could be affected by the drought. It is criminal negligence on the part of our successive governments that they have not been able to build any major reservoir after Mangla and Tarbela whose storage capacity is shrinking due to silt each passing day. The main argument against Kalabagh dam is that it will result in disharmony among the provinces. But how could we ignore the reality that our four provinces are desperately calling for sufficient water to cultivate their lands and are suspicious of each other on the distribution of water? Isn’t it causing harm to intra-provincial harmony? We have reached a situation where not one or two but a series of dams can save our lands from turning into deserts. How disturbing it would be for our farmers to see their lands uncultivated due to water shortage?
It has to be mentioned that 40-42 million acre feet water of Indus River goes waste in the sea annually, simply because we have no major dam to save this water. India on the other hand has plans to construct 60 dams on Pakistani rivers. There is a perception that this is being done under well thought-out strategy to render Pakistan’s link-canal system redundant, destroy agriculture of Pakistan, which is its mainstay and turn Pakistan into a desert. Will the politicians on both sides of political divide rise to the occasion and expedite the construction of dams to avert the disaster? Otherwise, not only Punjab but Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa also are likely to suffer. Pakistan indeed needs large reservoirs to meet growing needs of the farmers, and also to produce sufficient electricity to keep the wheels of industry moving.