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An inconvenient truth: ‘Pakistan still has a long way to go with regard to green energy’

Green energy is pricier in Pakistan than it is in other countries and the components required for it are being imported. Experts gathered on Tuesday at a World Environment Day seminar organised by the Institute of Business Mangement in which they discussed this issue as well as environmental problems faced by Pakistan.

Wind energy costs more in Pakistan than other countries. In fact, it is nearly twice as expensive as it is in India. Akthar Ali, a former research fellow of the Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, believes this could be because of exploitation rather than market forces. “The price was fair in 2007 as well as 2008, when it rose to 12 cents per kilowatt-hour as a result of the impact of the global market. But after 2010, it went up to 15 or 16 cents. Who benefits from this? A certain private organisation benefits from this and I won’t elaborate any further,” he said. Ali has also written a book titled Issues in Energy Policy and advises governments and the private sector on energy issues. He said that uncompetitive pricing is one of the major reasons that green energy is so expensive in Pakistan.

An audience member alleged that wind and solar energy is not an authentic source of green energy in Pakistan in the first place since all the capital required for it is being imported and their transportation uses a lot of fuel. He added that “unless there is research on green energy and manufacturing of components within the country, Pakistan will become the graveyard of imported solar panels.”

The chief guest, former Karachi nazim Mustafa Kamal, pointed to the Lyari Expressway success story. “Not a single inch of development has taken place on the Lyari Expressway since the current government was elected to power,” he said. Kamal added that only about five to eight per cent of it remains uncompleted.

He said that a lack of pre-emptive planning in Karachi leads to the constant environmental problems. Kamal said that during his tenure as nazim, 1.3 million trees had been planted but now the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation is chopping them down. “Some trees are cut because the KMC feels that they are hiding the advertisements on billboards,” he said.

Environmental Impact Assessments are a legal requirement for any urban development and ensure that any construction is environmentally friendly. Dr Moinudinn Khan said that in Karachi, these assessments are conducted haphazardly while “the owner sleeps and the consultant makes a great presentation.”

Dr Akhlaq Ahmed said that Pakistan needs to focus more on the agriculture sector and modernise it in lieu of the Rio Earth Summit. “The only countries that will be able to survive climate change will be the ones that produce food,” he said.

Dr Javed Ansari felt that the environmental crisis is a product of capitalism. This is because it leads to an increase in per capita consumption, which is a primary cause of the depletion of natural resources. Dr Ansari added that unless we stop envisioning man’s raison d’être as the pursuit of accumulating capital, the environmental crisis cannot be broken.

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