By Zain M Khan
The United Nations Environment Programme’s Green Economy Initiative is a sustainable development model. It envisions the transition to a green economy as a pathway to low-carbon, climate-resilient development through greater economic opportunities and improvements in human well-being and social equity. It emphasises on transition to a green economy by providing opportunities for developing countries to find global markets with low environmental impact. Broadly, six economic sectors are considered to have a high export potential for developing countries in transition to a green economy. These are: agriculture, fisheries, forests, manufacturing, renewable energy, and tourism. Within these are diverse export markets for goods and services, including green food and beverages, consumer and industrial products and services, energy and tourism. Sustainable green trade opportunities in industries are created by using energy-efficient and closed-cycle manufacturing approaches to production methods in industries. In 2010, the global organic market increased to $59 billion and is forecasted to reach $96.5 billion in 2014. Almost 80 percent organic products originate in developing countries, but 97 percent of their consumption is in developed countries, creating substantial export opportunities for developing countries. High-value organic products fetch high price premiums that ensure higher incomes for farmers. Developing countries higher on the technology curve are already exporting renewable energy equipments, such as solar panels and wind turbines.
However, this set of new opportunities is not without supply-side constraints. For a country like Pakistan, these cover weak domestic trade infrastructure and non-tariff-barriers, unilateral border adjustment regimes and a crisscross of international environmental, climate change agreements.
In Pakistan, we need to evolve a comprehensive defensive-cum-offensive green trade strategy. To start with, we need to identify export opportunities associated with the transition to a green economy through a comprehensive study identifying export opportunities and obstacles to a green economy. The path to a successful transition hinges upon the capacity to innovate. Several countries have identified constraints to spur innovation. Rising political and economic costs of fossil fuels spurred the US to exploit shale gas by developing the fracking technology, while the Japanese industry successfully invented energy-efficient technologies in 1980s.
Pakistan has both offensive and defensive trade and policy interests. The first defensive interest relates to concerns that a green economy transition could cause our export industries to experience declining demand or competitiveness challenges. To address this, we need technical assistance in developing our own environmental regulations, standards, labelling and certification processes. Protection from other countries’ unilateral measures, such as border carbon adjustments is required. Due to subsidies and domestic support mechanisms used by developed countries, which are our export markets, our green exports cannot compete with theirs. We also need technology transfer to promote green exports and liberalisation of environmental goods and services. Last but not the least, help in trade promotion and export financing is of significance.
In agriculture, we have a defensive interest in averting further downsliding from negative ecological impacts on conventional agriculture production. Our offensive interest is in promoting green exports in which we have competitive advantage, such as textiles, organic farming, spices, etc. In fisheries, our defensive interest is protection against intensive fishing practices, supported by large-scale subsidisation by our export markets that make our fish exports uncompetitive.
In manufacturing, our defensive interest is in our ability to withstand protectionism by other countries, while our offensive interest is enhancing our ability to export renewable energy products, forest products, chemicals, handicrafts, textiles, clothing and footwear, mining, etc.
In renewable energy, we can export renewable energy equipment and especially their inputs, not only for exports but also for the more important purpose for energy security in the context of renewable energy.
Other capacity measures include development and harmonisation of standards and labelling, and certification procedures. There is a great need for technology transfer for rapid technology diffusion for low carbon development. We can leverage the OECD-WTO aid for trade pool of funds for green commodity production of energy products and components for export. This would have to be complemented by prudent financial and technical assistance measures. An example may be cited of green trade financing initiative in Korea where the EXIM Bank plans to develop a Green Pioneer Programme that provides $20 billion annually until 2020 to 200 selected green enterprises in the field of renewable energy. Fiscal instruments can include subsidies for renewable energy technologies to help these technologies compete with fossil fuels and imported energy products.
The writer for the UN Environmental
Shortage of gas needs to be tackled as early as possible to save CNG sector
By Dr Noor Fatima
What is next for Gas industry? Development of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) infrastructure has a history of proven success in many Western and Asian countries. The current market conditions in Pakistan indicate that there exists potential for renewed and expanded need for CNG infrastructure, policies and plan.
The CNG industry has an important role to play to give energy sector security in the face of rising oil prices and the current economic downturn in the country. Today North America, Asia, and Europe are great natural gas market.
The increasing market is also cause of political tensions between suppliers, who exert their resources as a political tool, and consumers, who worry about the cost and security of this supply. This market has more distortion as natural gas is unlike oil, which is traded at the same price everywhere. The CNG is competing with natural gas usage in electricity generation and industrial use. If a product or company gets more expensive or exploitative the other always drives it out of the marketplace, which is what happened in the Pakistan energy market. This might come true for the CNG market also as they have increased their margin too high. Economists usually frame the question of equity or distribution within the context of a trade-off with efficiency or growth.
Presently, in addition to electricity the CNG sector is posing a great challenge to the government. The doctrine of privatisation is based on the belief that private sector will perform more efficiently than public sector and it was pursued by the IMF and the World Bank in 1990s for Pakistan mainly for power sector. In Pakistan, the outcome of privatisation policies has not been very popular. The beneficiaries of privatisation policies are not general public, but elites in business and power corridors. So many failures leave us with a basic question that should we believe in market economics?
Pakistan tops the countries that use the CNG as an alternate fuel for vehicles. Argentina and Brazil are the two other countries with the largest fleets of CNG vehicles. Many private investors also came up for investment in the sector and Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) was also established for the regulation between the CNG investors and the consumers. According to the Competition Commission of Pakistan, over 2.5 million vehicles were converted to the CNG which means 35% of the total vehicles are running on CNG. Since the tariff of the CNG was fixed half than the petrol prices, till last year, therefore it attracted many investors with an investment of over 800 million dollar.
The gap between demand and supply of the gas led to a severe crisis. Pakistan’s total gas consumption is eight billion cubic feet per day (bcfd), whereas total production is only four bcfd — shortfall of 50 percent.
The CNG dealers are pressuring the government to increase the per kilogramme price of the gas. It is, however, very strange that the state-run Pakistan State Oil’s chain of retail CNG stations have also stopped supply of gas to consumers. The Petroleum Ministry seems to be either helpless or, for that matter, supporting the crisis in the interest of the two per cent elites of this country.
Despite attractive investment in the sector, the question is what brought this catastrophic situation that shook the whole sector. Whether it was myopic decision of the government in 2004/05 to allow the CNG as an alternate fuel or was it policy implementation failures.
One of the problems, for sure, was the issuance of licenses without a planning of demand and supply. The gas pipelines installed in 1970s for the domestic users have now been linked to the petrol stations and CNG stations, affecting the efficient supply of gas. Shortage of gas needs to be tackled as early as possible, otherwise the oil consumption will increase, causing pollution and huge burden on national exchequer.
According to sources in the SNGPL, the current annual production of CNG is increasing by 7% against growth in demand of nearly 40%. This shows that the annual shortfall of CNG is more than 400%. Likewise, the total output of gas pipeline companies in the country is around about 2,000 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd), while consumption is 2,800mmcfd.
The Author is presently working as Chairperson of International Relations & Politics of International Islamic University
Hundreds of vehicles queuing up along roads and inching towards Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) filling stations is a common sight these days across the country. These frustrated CNG consumers seem caught in a quagmire — as most of the CNG stations are closed in protest against the government’s demand to heavily increase the CNG price and the Supreme Court’s direction to cut the profit rate.
The 1992 CNG policy, introduced by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, initially focused on alternative gas usage for vehicles to control environmental damages. With the increase in petrol price, the demand for CNG started increasing — people started switching their vehicles to CNG kits and CNG filling stations mushroomed all over the country.
Studies suggest Pakistan has become the largest user of CNG in the world, overtaking Iran, Argentina and Brazil in the number of vehicles using gas as fuel. The significant cost savings also prompted the public and private transport sector to switch from petrol and, in some cases, diesel to CNG, according to the Economic Survey 2010-11. With more than 3.5 million vehicles running on CNG (21 per cent of the total vehicles), Pakistan was way ahead of India that had a little over a million vehicles converted to CNG, 730,000 in Italy, and 450,000 in China, the report reads.
The country also holds the record for the most number of CNG stations. Around 3,395 CNG stations are currently operating in the country. Among these stations, 2150 are in Punjab, 600 in Sindh, 550 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 19 in Balochistan, according to the All Pakistan CNG Association.
Pakistan started experiencing gas shortfall in 2007, which worsened in the following years, forcing the government to put an end to the CNG industry, the value of which is estimated at more than Rs15 trillion.
More than three-fourth of all Pakistani car owners (77 per cent) claim that they use CNG as fuel and 81 per cent of them claim that they are facing problems with regard to its supply, states a recent public survey conducted by Gilani Research Foundation-Gallup, Pakistan.
Gas consumption by the CNG sector is rapidly growing in the country and if the current trend continues, the CNG consumption of gas would be 27 per cent of the local gas supply in less than five years, says a report of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources.
According to details, in 2005-06, the CNG consumed 107mmcfd of gas and in 2010-11, 310mmcfd, which is a growth of 23.8 per cent, making it the fastest growing sector of gas consumption in Pakistan. “If the government does not take measures to cap the CNG demand, it is expected that the consumption of gas would reach 900mmcfd by 2015-16, which would be 27 per cent of the local gas supply,” officials warned.
According to the Energy Year Book, the CNG consumption increased at the rate of 24 per cent since 2005-06 to 2010-11, the highest increase witnessed in any sector. With gas production facing a decline, this growth is at the expense of other value-added sectors like fertilisers, the general industry and the power sector.
The recent talks between All Pakistan CNG Association (APCNGA) and the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) and the Association of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Dealers have failed to develop consensus on the CNG price. “We are holding talks to resolve the issue but it seems the government wants to make this cheap product very expensive for public, despite the fact that this sector consumes a few percentage of the total used gas,” says Ghayas Paracha, President of APCNGA.
In total, there are 3,330 fuelling stations in Pakistan that make up about 18 per cent of all CNG fuelling stations in the world. Pakistan has the highest number of CNG filling stations, according to reports.
The current CNG price is 57.62 rupees per kg without tax, while the association claims that they are paying the highest tax against it as compared to the gas given to industry, Independent Power Producers and fertiliser plants. This sector, the association says, consumes only 6.9 per cent of the total consumption of the gas which is around 4300 mmcfd. As many as 789 mmcfd of gas goes waste in line losses, while the government has also announced to add another 800 mmcfd gas in the usage by 2013. On the other side, this sector pays as many as Rs10.38 billion General Sales Tax and Rs1.66 billion direct income tax per annum.
The government studies suggest that the total demand for gas would be 6,354 mmcfd by FY2016, while its supply would be only 3,333 mmcfd.
“As one of the key tax payer sector, it is surprising for us that this cheap source of gas is planned to be kept away from public’s reach just to get more and more revenue,” the president of the association says.
“We demand the government hold an open and transparent debate to review the CNG policy so that people should know truth about this sector,” he demands, adding, “Just to tax this sector and increase the price for getting easy money is not good for the industry and the consumers.”
Dr Asim Hussain, Advisor to Prime Minister on Petroleum and Natural Resources, has recently declared that CNG stations would be phased out owing to shortage of gas in the country. “We can provide CNG to public transport but can’t make it available for luxury vehicles,” he said.
The federal cabinet met in Islamabad last Wednesday to discuss the issue but remained undecided about phasing out the CNG. The summary had proposed the Petroleum Ministry stern measures to discourage the excessive consumption of CNG. The summary proposed the use of CNG to be restricted only to public transport — rickshaws, taxis, wagons and buses etc. The summary further proposed to fix the price of CNG at 80 per cent and eventually converting all CNG stations to LPG.
From a water abundant country at the time of Independence in 1947, Pakistan has become almost a water scarce country for want of building any major water reservoir after the construction of the Mangla Dam. Against 5,600 cubic meters of water per person in 1947, the availability of water per person had reduced to 1,100 cubic meters per head by 2009 and it might have further reduced over the last three years.
According to international water standards, countries having water reservoirs below 1,100 cubic meters water per person are considered among the chronic water shortage states. Pakistan’s thirst for water, a vital resource for people’s health, livelihood and economic development, has been constantly rising due to population growth, increase in industrial activity, over-exploitation, climate change and failure of successive governments to augment water resources by building more reservoirs.
The scarcity of water and electricity has impeded the sustained growth of the country’s agriculture and industry. But, unfortunately, some quarters in the country spare no effort in making even technically feasible mega-water conservation projects controversial, on one count or the other. Instead of considering such vital issues on merit and building consensus to tackle them, unfortunately, leaders and political parties of various hues remain engaged in settling scores, while successive governments have been compromising on projects of national importance for petty political gains. Whether it is Kalabagh dam, motorway, apportionment of water, royalty on electricity production or on exploitation of other natural resources like gas and oil, these have always stirred controversy among the federating units.
Taking advantage of political wrangling in Pakistan, India remains engaged in efforts to building scores of hydropower projects on rivers flowing into Pakistan despite her assurances, under the Indus Basin Treaty, not to interfere with the Pakistani rivers. Given the situation, India’s tacit role in making economically feasible hydropower projects in Pakistan controversial cannot be ruled out.
Historically speaking, under the Indus Basin Treaty, the World Bank had agreed to finance the construction of Mangla and Kalabagh dams aimed at compensating Pakistan for the loss of waters of its eastern rivers. President General Ayub Khan advised his team to fudge the estimates so that the country could build a third dam with World Bank funds.
Meanwhile, Kalabagh dam became controversial due to inability of the authorities to create awakening about its spin-off benefits and support for this project. Unfortunately, over the years the stand of the smaller provinces on this issue has become more rigid. Since water is crucial for human sustenance and also for industrial growth, economic prosperity and production of electricity economically, patriotism demands that all hydropower projects be taken-up purely on merit and technical grounds.
The Indus Basin Treaty was signed in 1960, after World Bank’s intervention, following rising of tensions between India and Pakistan after New Delhi stemmed the flow of Indus tributaries to Pakistan on April 1, 1948. Under the Indus Water Treaty, India has rights to waters of rivers Sutlej, Ravi and Beas (Eastern rivers) while Pakistan to the waters of rivers Indus, Chenab and Jhelum (Western rivers) as a lower riparian. Pakistan had accepted the treaty at the stake of its very survival and assurances from India that it would not interfere with the waters of Western rivers, but India never honoured its promises. New Delhi started tempering with Pakistani rivers, at a massive scale, beginning 1980s.
It goes without saying that the availability of fresh water is essential for mankind’s sustenance, progress and prosperity. But, this vital and life-sustaining resource is becoming a scarce commodity, raising apprehensions of friction, tension and conflict amongst communities inhabiting the globe. Although earth’s surface is largely covered with water, but only three per cent is freshwater, which is available to the global community for meeting its entire needs — household, industrial, irrigation for food production, etc. Even the UN Environmental Agency’s (UNEA) warning about a looming water crisis in South Asia have not been able to create consensus in Pakistan about building reservoirs of crucial importance, like Kalabagh dam.
Despite the scarcity of water resource, even the available freshwater supply is under stress due to the drying-up of river basins, burgeoning human population, increased urbanisation, climatic change and detrimental policy choices. While Pakistan has been able to utilise only 13 per cent of its hydel resources during the last 65 years, some countries make optimum use of these resources. For example, USA has developed 497 per cent storage capacity of the annual flow of river Colorado, Egypt 281 per cent on river Nile and India 35 per cent on Sutlej and Beas Basin. Meanwhile, fearing scarcity of water, many nations remain engaged in building mega water reservoirs. China is building 95 major dams with a height of 200 feet or more, Turkey 51, Iran 48, Japan 40 and India 10.
Naturally, Pakistan’s inability to harness its water resources surprised many a visiting dignitaries. During a visit to Pakistan in 1998, President Suleman Demirel of Turkey was flown over river Indus to show him the Karakoram mountain range. In his book “Glimpses into the corridors of power,” the then Minister for Water and Power, Gohar Ayub Khan, writes: En-route, Demirel asked one of his ministers to look out of the window and tell him what he could see. The minister replied: “I see vast barren mountains.” The President asked him to have a better look, but the minister gave him the same answer. The president looked out and said, “Look at river Indus, it is untapped power for Pakistan.”
Even during good old days when per capita availability of fresh water was sufficient, water sharing often raised tensions and caused conflict between neighbouring communities. Prudence demands that all vital issues, like Kalabagh dam, should be considered on merit and merit alone. But, unfortunately, the Kalabagh dam issue has been politicised by the vested interests, whose politics thrive on opposition to the dam irrespective of its viability and utility for the country.
The fact remains that politics of some political parties/factions thrive on their opposition to the Kalabagh dam. Unfortunately, these circles do not want to listen to any arguments, like after reducing its height there’s no danger of sinking of Nowshera district. Even the Punjab government’s surety that it will not use water more than its share has not helped in the softening of their stance. How unfortunate? No one considered the long-term benefits of the dam, which can produce 4500 MWs of cheap electricity and irrigate 800,000 acres barren land, including in Bannu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. But, the fault primarily lies with the successive governments which failed to build consensus on this vital issue.
While nature has blessed Pakistan with enough hydro resources to meet its growing needs for electricity and irrigation over the next 15 years, these resources have so far largely remained untapped for one reason or the other. Resultantly, water scarcity has emerged as one of the main hurdles to increasing the food production. Experts feel that if more water reservoirs are not built, the present shortage of 40 million acre feet (MAF) of water would increase to 100 MAF by the year 2013 and to 150 MAF by 2025. The water scenario becomes more critical, especially when the storage capacity of the existing water reservoirs has depleted by some 30 per cent due to silt/slush.
Pakistan uses about 50 per cent of the 140 MAF of its available run-off water, i.e. water that falls on the country and is collected in rivers, lakes and streams, in a normal year. It draws about 70 MAF from underground springs and natural reservoirs. Of the 210 MAF water, some 100 MAF is consumed for irrigating 40 million acres of land, while some 40 MAF reach the Indus delta. Over 36 MAF of water, which escapes to the sea, can be controlled and utilised for irrigation and generation of pollution-free hydropower.
Hydropower is comparatively more economical to thermal energy. If it is used on a wider scale it can provide tariff relief to the consumers, involve Pakistani manpower in the planning, designing and manufacturing of machinery besides accelerating the pace of economic development in the country in general and the remote rural areas in particular. Currently, WAPDA generates about 35 per cent hydropower and 65 per cent thermal power. Being costly, the latter source of power has landed the fuel supplying and the electricity generating companies in a chronic trap of circular debt.
Alauddin Masood is a freelance columnist based at Islamabad.
Pakistan is presently facing a major problem with respect to power crisis. But this can be managed by exploiting our indigenous resources, i.e. natural resources like solar, wind, hydro and involving our energetic public. The solution would be long-lasting and sustainable because it will be based on our own resources unlike the power and gas supplies from other regional countries, such as from Central Asia or Iran.
The major component of Pakistan`s power demand is satisfied by fossil fuel, much of which is imported and therefore, by definition, is insecure. Therefore, in order to secure its energy, Pakistan must limit its use of fossil fuels to those it can produce within its boundaries, satisfy the balance of its consumption by either minimising its total demand, or maximising its generation from renewables, or both.
While global warming is the top reason to reduce or eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels, there are three other distinct reasons why we need to do that. Firstly, there is the fact that fossil fuels will run out, and therefore we will have to get our energy from elsewhere at some stage, although there are various estimates as to when this might be.
Secondly, Pakistan has significantly less fossil fuel within its boundaries than it consumes, and most of what it has got is coal. Therefore, Pakistan is compelled to import large quantities of fossil fuel. This situation is sustainable so long as other countries wish to sell us their fossil fuels. The fact that they can refuse to sell it to us means that Pakistan has an insecure supply of energy.
And thirdly, if Pakistan switches from fossil fuel imports to renewables, the balance of payments will be improved, and jobs will be created. This makes it a strong economic argument for going green.
Pakistan is ideally located in a tropical region and most of the area receives year-round strong solar irradiance (approximately 800 W/m2). If we cannot find ways to exploit it, it may be our unwillingness or incompetence. Present-day technology has made it possible for us to quite efficiently (at about 30 per cent) convert this sunshine into electricity, to power most of our appliances.
Given the fact that Pakistan`s economy—mainly based on agriculture—is being highly affected by the present energy crisis, immediate measures must be taken to address the issue. Directly coupled DC water pumps with solar panels have been very successful and economical for irrigation purpose. A small-scale solar water-pump, for instance, would discharge about 100,000 litres from a depth of about 100 feet on a typical day in Pakistan. This is a far better choice, when compared with diesel generators or even with grid power, which is not available in many areas anyway.
Pakistan can quickly overcome the present shortfall of about five GW of power if people go for microgeneration from renewable energy (RE) resources. This would engage common people in contributing towards a national cause of power shortage and a global cause of reducing carbon emission and therefore the change in weather patterns. Throughout the world, the microgeneration from RE resources has been encouraged in the masses, and various governments have introduced incentive legislation, including feed-in tariff (FiT) or net-metering. Broadly, the FiT has to take care of the energy payments to the power producers. In many advanced countries, this was not for the power shortage but was meant for replacing fossil-fuel power with green energy. However, for countries like Pakistan it can serve both purposes.
One important limiting factor in the case of all forms of renewable energy options (solar, wind, hydro and biofuels) is the requirement of large area for the deployment of their generators as compared with fossil-fuel powered generators. Fortunately, in Pakistan, while this may be a limiting factor in the cities, it creates no issues for most of non-urban Pakistan.
Another drawback in RE power is the fact that wind and solar resources are intermittent and non-dispatchable. So there should be a grid in place to integrate the generation as well as the power consumption, i.e., for demand and supply. The energy storage is also a setback and is still quite costly and inefficient for batteries to be used for the purpose.
However, hydropower can be used to store energy, which is very useful when significant wind or solar power is being exploited. Any energy strategy should, therefore, aim to maximise generation from this resource. In Pakistan, hydropower could be used in the night time while solar power during the day. The new plans would ideally be of run-of-river type, which do not need reservoirs and dams and all the associated ills.
The conservation measures both at the supply and demand could lead to a sustainable solution, regardless of the type of power generation. On the supply front, heat loss, transmission and distribution losses, including theft, should be reduced. The demand front includes the use of energy-efficient appliances as well as conserving energy at peak hours.
On one hand, Pakistan has enormous hydro, coal, solar, wind and natural gas potential, while on the other, the country faces a never-ending power crisis. The Thar coal reserves, which according to some estimates amount to 175 billion tonnes, are one of the world’s largest lignite coal deposits. Lignite coal, despite being low-quality coal, still accounts for a significant portion of global power production. For example, more than 50 percent electricity in Greece, around 25 percent electricity in Germany and 20 percent electricity in Australia is produced through lignite coal. The significance of lignite coal in the world power production proves that direct burning of lignite in power plants is quite feasible, something that Pakistan needs to look into with careful deliberations.
The other obvious choice is using lignite reserves via gasification. This can be done either underground or in gasifier refineries after mining. The gas obtained after gasification can be used to generate electricity. Conversion of this gas into other fuels and chemicals are also economically viable options.
Although there are numerous pathways to the utilisation of lignite coal, it is unfortunate to see none of these being utilised in Pakistan. This state of affairs has been existing since the discovery of the reserves more than twenty years ago. What are the contributing factors? Well, first is the rather obvious: the bureaucratic establishment’s lethargy coupled with the political leadership’s callous attitude that coexist with strong lobbies supporting oil and coal imports. And second is the lack of sufficiently available qualified and trained specialists.
This paucity of experts has been and would continue to be a major impediment in the adequate utilisation of Thar coal reserves. The development of an adequate pool of experts and scientists is one of the core issues that needs to be addressed in order to expedite the utilisation of Thar coal reserves. Human resource needs to be developed on a war footing. Additionally, experts need to be recruited in all areas related to the effective utilisation of Thar coal reserves.
Allocating the entire human resource development to one technology or output is also not a healthy choice. A team of experts is needed to ascertain the best options for the reserves and then identify a couple of them as the top priority. Underground coal gasification (UCG), coal gasification and coal mining for power generation seem to be the obvious top choices.
Once the core areas are identified, the immediate step should obviously be creating a pool of Ph.D. and Post-Doctorates in these areas. The fastest way to achieve this would be through sponsored studies, both in national universities and abroad. These scholars would then become the forerunners in setting up the industry based on Thar coal. This is to be followed by establishing a centre of excellence in coal utilisation. A top ranking university would be the ideal place for the said purpose. In addition, new subjects dealing with this area need to be introduced in some of the national universities. Similarly, this should be linked with a simultaneous introduction of the subjects in polytechnic institutes as well as vocational training institutes to develop a commensurate technologist and skilled workforce. As the Post-Doctorates would be able to return back within a year, their research and expertise would be ideally utilised in the centre of excellence and university courses.
Other than obtaining the required educational and research background, the team members selected for work on the Thar coal reserves would need relevant training and practical exposure. This requires site visits and on-site training. For example, for UCG the team members would need to visit to the world’s only operational industrial UCG facility at Angren (Uzbekistan). Partnering with international players in the area of UCG is another option. Similarly, the team of experts working towards direct coal burning would need to visit Germany, Greece and Australia, which produce a major portion of their national energy mix through lignite coal. For coal gasification in gasifier refineries, visits to South Africa would be needed, as the country is the world leader in coal gasification.
The other aspect needing urgent attention is the creation of a team of experts that looks at the national interest for utilising Thar coal reserves. At this point, the experts being trained using national resources would need to go beyond their call of duty and help establish a society based on Thar coal reserves. The society’s main aim would be to further the interests of the Thar coal in favour of the national interest. The society would need to regularly arrange an annual conference that further promotes the utilisation of Thar coal reserves in an optimal manner and for the country’s better interest.
A website needs to be created, which should be solely dedicated to the Thar coal project. It should have all the details, studies and project team members’ data. This would have a multitude of benefits. Firstly, it would ensure transparency and freedom of information. Secondly, it would help in creating public awareness, increasing public interest and public support. Lastly, it would encourage coal-related research in the country. The proposed society would be ideally suited for the task.
While working towards the creation of experts and skilled workforce, the policymakers also need to take into account the related industries that would mushroom because of the Thar coal deposits, such as new power plants. Thus, it would be important to also take into account those mushrooming industries and factor in their demand, both in terms of human and financial resources. This would then help in the development of an ideal human capital to help maximise the benefits of Thar’s vast coal deposits.
Pakistan is in a dire need to free itself from the clutches of the power crisis. Thar coal deposits present themselves as one of the best approaches for this. But, for the last twenty years no progress has been made to this end. This can be partly blamed on the scarcity of national experts in this area. Thus, it is proposed that the policymakers work towards developing team experts on a priority basis. Only then can we truly hope to live the dream of utilising Thar coal deposits for stepping out of the darkness of power outages.
The writer is a Ph.D. candidate. firstname.lastname@example.org