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Widening power and gas shortfalls

THE energy crisis is deepening as winter sets in. It threatens to redouble the problems of the government, already faced with the enormous task of rehabilitating millions of flood-affected people, curbing terrorism and reviving a fragile economy.

Owing to frequent disruptions of electricity and gas supply to both domestic and commercial consumers, the government is facing a tremendous pressure from both the public and industry demanding stoppage of frequent blackouts.

Power and gas disruptions closed industries for 100 days in the past 12 months that caused a loss of $4 billion to the economy. Pakistan`s industrial sector will soon render thousands of workers unemployed if it dies an unnatural death owing to improper supply of gas and electricity.

The government adopted short-term steps cutting electricity consumption, two days off, turning off lights and cool machines in government offices, closure of shopping centres by 8pm and partial diversion of gas from industries to power-generating companies to overcome energy crisis.

Although through these measures the government disturbed the social life of the people and left the industrial sector moribund, it still could not achieve the desired goal.

Power cuts also courted violent protests across the country when the government resorted to unscheduled loadsheddings that stretched to 20 hours a day in rural areas and weighed on urban areas.

Owing to the absence of a clear strategy to improve the energy sector, the government has dealt a serious blow to the people by increasing power tariff for domestic consumers by 94.9 per cent, for commercial consumers by 67.6 per cent and for industrial sector by 77 per cent.

These with a latest increase of 13.33 per cent in other taxes applicable as GST by putting the IMF`s terms and condition into effect. No doubt this move will work well for long-term economic growth if it does not provoke public anger.

In winter, gas demand grows by 8.5 per cent annually, even as consumer and businesses will suffer from shortfall of around one billion cubic feet which cripples the lives of people and retards the output of industrial sector.

According to the document of the ministry of water and power, the electricity demand in the country is expected to go up by about eight per cent annually, which would be 36000 MW by 2015.

Despite having the 4th largest coal reserves, Pakistan has to face such devastating electricity shortfalls. Electricity consumption outpaces production that can be met by producing electricity from a mixture of alternative resources coal, wind, solar and nuclear energy.

Countries having coal reserves produce more than 50 per cent of their electricity; unfortunately Pakistan does not use five per cent of its coal for energy purpose!

Irregularities in rental/independent power plants, connivance of Wapda employees in electricity theft and lack of awareness among people for economical use of electricity and gas are the factors contributing to energy and gas shortfalls.

The deteriorating law and order situation across the country has also been a major hurdle in attracting foreign investments in the energy sector, compelling the government to think importing expensive gas from Iran and Tajikistan. Long-term stringent policies, with a rigorous campaign regarding creating awareness in the light of Energy Conservation Bill 2009, are essential for bridging up the yawning gap of electricity and gas shortfalls to avoid further weakness of economy.



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