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Energy policy fraught with nonstarters

The energy policy that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is going to announce after his visit to Beijing should not be based on import of electricity from India and Tajikistan. It should rather be based on import of gas and more import of electricity from Iran with maximum focus on exploitation of indigenous resources – including water, wind, biogas and coal.

India is an energy deficient country and there is a huge electricity crisis in many states of India. Therefore, it is not a sane decision to import electricity from a country which is facing more power crisis than Pakistan. The project to import electricity of 500 to 1,000 megawatts from eastern Punjab in India will not prove sustainable.

Likewise, Pakistan is keen to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) and some petroleum products from India – which is again not a wise decision since India is not a LNG producing country. It imports LNG through its port city of Mumbai to cater to its own energy needs and in case of import from India’s Punjab, the cost of transportation from Mumbai to Punjab and then to Lahore would increase the LNG prices manifold, so the authorities in Pakistan should develop its own project to import LNG at war footing basis.

No doubt, Pakistan and India should have cordial relations as neighboring countries, but the dependence on India for energy is not a rational decision particularly when both the states have strained ties on Kashmir, Siachen, and Balochistan’s insurgency attributed to India.

And, on top of that India has carved out a plan to generate hydropower on our rivers. It has already built hydel plants on Pakistani rivers. Under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960, India is allowed to build hydropower projects on the run-of-the-river to cater to electricity needs of the areas. But, unfortunately India is not doing this. Rather it is planning to generate 32,000 MW of electricity on Pakistan’s rivers for its national energy needs – which is a flagrant violation of the Indus Waters Treaty.

Now, a question arises as to whether it is appropriate to import the electricity from a country that is going to produce energy from our resources. With the completion of its mega plan to generate 32,000 MW, India would find itself in a better position to regulate water flows in Pakistan’s rivers.

Instead of taking India to task for this, the government of Pakistan acted oddly to announce sending Khawaja Asif to India to explore avenues on import of electricity and petroleum products.

We need to emphasis on the doable projects to import gas and electricity from Iran. Currently, Pakistan is importing electricity from Iran to cater to the needs of some areas of Balochistan, which are adjacent to Iranian borders.

During the last government, the project to import 1,000 MW of electricity from Iran was initiated and this project is doable and mentioned in the proposed energy policy. This project can be materialised in next two to three years. Iran is rich in gas and produces electricity on gas. The import from this neighbouring country sounds tenable.

But, unfortunately in the much-trumpeted energy policy there is no mention of Iran-Pakistan gas project. Notably, this project can be completed by 2015 and can inject 750 million cubic feet gas to one billion cubic feet gas per day into Pakistan’s system, which can generate 5,000 MW of electricity at 25 percent cost less than one incurred on furnace oil-generated energy. Besides, the project to import electricity from Tajikistan under CASA 1000 MW is also not a sane decision because of the country’s location after the war-torn Afghanistan.

After the withdrawal of Nato forces, the stability in Afghanistan will be a mission impossible. Secondly, the import of electricity from Tajikistan will serve the purpose of India, which is currently fighting a legal battle with Pakistan on Kishanganga hydropower project.

India can argue in the International Court of Justice that Pakistan is importing electricity from Tajikistan – which is an upper riparian country and involved in making a dam without the willingness of the lower riparian country, endangering the agrarian economy of Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan is the lower riparian country as Pakistan is. So, we should be very careful on importing of electricity from Tajikistan. This is unfortunate that advisor water and energy Dr Musadik who is alien to the power sector is involved in carving out the power policy, which is fraught with irrational projects.

Dr Musadik, professionally a pharmacist/chemist – after taking over charge as minister during the interim government – consulted a group of eminent energy experts led by Shamsul Mulk, chairman of Wapda, vice chancellors of engineering universities, engineers, and former secretaries water and power. The purpose of the group was to help the government to overcome energy crisis in shortest possible time.

The group also proposed some vital but doable solutions but the minister who later became advisor used his skill of pharmacy and utterly failed to incorporate recommendations.

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