Sunday, May 13, 2012
Electricity Mayhem in Pakistan
May 13, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
Summer’s scorching heat and acute power shortage have both peaked in Pakistan. People are frantically running helter-skelter as if the doomsday was at hand. The hapless country is awash with panicked and frenzied citizens driven out of their suffocating dwellings to protest and vent their outrage about the deepening calamity. It is unthinkable to live in a modern age without fuel and modest comforts that come from electricity.
Almost half of country’s power generation capacity is drastically dwindled. Of late it is estimated to be at 7200 MG. If electric power remains intact, the water could reach the reservoirs, the overhead water tanks and then to the consumers. With the steep shortfall of electricity, the water scarcity too has assumed monstrous proportions.
The taps in most of the urban houses have gone dry. As such there is no water to take shower, to cook a meal, prepare breakfast for the school going children and working members of the family. The cloths and the linen cannot be washed and the toilets remain unclean.
Those who exude their optimism in the glorious future of Pakistan as a modern welfare state with robust economy and well entrenched democratic system are either in the habit of wishful thinking, suffer from flawed vision or deliberately paint a rosy picture. If from the functioning of the state institutions to the availability of basic utilities is in tatters, only a myopic person could afford the luxury of day- dreaming of stable, ensured and prosperous destiny for Pakistan.
The rental power units that were hired by the incumbent government have been miserably non -starters from the beginning. Most of contractors of these white elephants units, pocketed huge amount of money in advance and then went into a cozy slumber. They did not bother to produce power for which they were heftily paid. They failed to provide even a modicum of relief to the load-shedding stricken people of Pakistan.
The three nuclear power plants produce 2 per cent of the whole generation of the electric power. The rest is produced from the fossil fuels (65 %), hydroelectric (33 %) and from coal (03%).In several preceding decades, no new big dam has been commissioned or constructed to beef up the power generation. The two main dams namely Tarbela and Tarbela, Ghazi Brotha hydel project and other small dams produce 6500 MW electricity.
Pakistan’s total installed capacity is around 20000 MW. According to a widely circulate report, “while the peak need is Pakistan suffers from a massive electricity shortage, electricity generation has shrunk by up to 50% in recent years due to an overreliance on Fossil Fuel”.
In Pakistan the peak demand is 20584 MW, while the power produced is nearly 15000 MW. But for the past two years, the shortage has further soared because of the low generation from the water dams and negligible or insufficient output from the Rental power plants and IPPs (independent power producers)
According to available statistics, the household sector is the largest consumer of electricity accounting for 44.2 per cent of total electricity consumption, industries 31.1 per cent, agriculture 14.3 per cent, government sector 7.4 per cent, commercial 5.5 per cent and street light 0.7 per cent.
The power shortage is causing crippling impact on daily life of the citizens, on industry, agriculture and overall economy. With the total or partial closure of markets, business centers and industrial units, the unemployment has increased by leaps and bounds. The unemployment has led to poverty, gloom, and plummeting standards of daily life.
There are 14 rental power plants (RPPs) mobilized to generate 1500MW in order to partially offset the overall power shortage. In addition there are 27 IPPs to add 5305 MW to national grid by 2012. Had the RPPs and IPPs played a fair game and fulfilled their mandate, Pakistan would have been saved from the colossal power outrage that it is now experiencing. The induction of RPPs into Pakistan power grid carries a pathetic story and stigma of huge kickbacks and grafts by a former minister of power and other chips of the same block.
The illustrious scientist of Pakistan, a true patriot and Chairman of the Governing Board of Thar Coal Project, Dr Samar Mubarikmand has said that in Pakistan as much as 50000 MW electricity could be generated per day through Thar Coal reserves. Pakistan is blessed with coal deposits at Thar, Sindh, that are estimated to be one of the largest in the world.
Dr Samar has made use of a technology called “underground gasification technology” for converting coal into gas without mining or quarrying. If his claim is valid then not only Pakistan can be self sufficient in electricity generation and consumption but also be able to export it.
But there was stunning and flat refutation of Dr Samar’s claim from the member Planning Commission Shahid Sattar who declared that the Thar coal power generation project was impracticable. Shahid Sattar said in an International Conference in Islamabad, that while the project of power generation out of gasification was impracticable, actual power generation was possible only by coal-mining.
Expressing his apprehensions about the claims of Dr Samar, the member maintained that the project of 10 MW could not be carried on any further. Reinforcing his stance, he said that a similar gasification project being run in Australia is likely to be closed.
Now these are diametrically contradictory points of view on generation of electricity in Pakistan. As to who is right and who is not, cannot be ascertained by a layman. In the meantime Dr. Samar on Sunday said that four more coal wells had been set on fire and as a result gas production from these would begin from next week.
While talking exclusively to Geo News, he brushed aside reports of the project being a failure as invalid and wrong. He disclosed that "A flame will be lit from gas as emission begins from these wells towards the end of this month”.
In the wake of this load-shedding cataclysm, President Zardari has called for an emergency meeting of experts and government functionaries to deliberate upon the chaotic electricity shortage in Pakistan and to find ways and means to stem this appalling situation that has turned the life of the citizens into a nightmare and hellish.
Understandably, he was alarmed by the ultimatum of Chaudhry Shujjat, the chief of PMLQ to the effect that if the government fails to arrest the worsening power outrage, his party would part company with the PPP government. One would watch apprehensively and with folded hands as to what miracle or panacea would be hurled to alleviate the woes of the tormented population in a short span of time when it was not done for years. Visibly there is no hope for an immediate silver lining.