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The Nation

Published Date: Dec 21, 2012

Country will plunge into serious crisis if action not taken

If
action was not taken now the economy would face serious consequences plunging
the country into a crisis of untold dimensions, warned experts at a conference
on water and energy.

They
also warned against the challenges to the federation in addition to conflict
with India on water sharing issue. The experts were addressing at a conference
organised by Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI): Water and Energy
Security in Pakistan: The Way Forward here on Thursday.

Three
experts of water and energy were invited to highlight various dimensions of the
issues related to water and energy security in Pakistan. Sustainable
Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad Deputy Executive Director Dr
Vaqar Ahmed speaking on ‘Political Economy of Energy Sector Reforms in Pakistan’,
said that primary energy consumption had grown by 80 percent and poor system of
policy framework had further worsened the situation.

He
said that cost of not taking action now would be huge and badly affect the
economy as we can see in the already sour relations between the Supreme Court,
regulation authorities and the government. He also highlighted that
mismanagement of energy management had been creating tensions between the
provinces and Islamabad. He said that energy governance was the most crucial
aspect which included independence of governing boards, induction of
professional management, strengthening of regulatory bodies’ oversight and
appropriate legislative changes to allow deregulation.

In
addition to that, energy pricing was another aspect, which included phasing out
subsidies, rationale for pricing like producer and consumer pricing, economic
basis for all sectoral pricing and full cost recovery of service provided.
Highlighting the long-term solutions, he said that energy crisis could be dealt
with by developing national consensus on hydro and coal sources (dams and Thar
coal), multi-buyer and multi-seller private sector energy market, insulating
gas sector from security threats, incentivise oil exploration (removal of
subsidies on other sources) and vision and capacity for renewable.

He
also lamented the fact that there was not a single consumer specialist in
Pakistan while on the other hand, India had 76 specialists. Lack of demand side
accountability and project-specific legal/institutional arrangements were other
important areas he mentioned. He also emphasised on joint techno-economic
evaluation of opportunities and determination of pre-requisites and also to
seek advice and support from multilateral institutions particularly in drawing
experiences from the Southern Africa Power Pool, Nordel/Nord Pool and
electricity trade in Europe. However, he concluded that poor governance and
absence of practical and dynamic policy framework pertaining to energy sector
were the main hurdles and reasons for the current chaotic energy situation in
Pakistan. In the last, he also suggested that there should be only one ministry
for the energy sector so that things could be aligned under one authority.
Also, large-scale theft of electricity was being done by the ‘big fishes’.

Researcher
Dr Shaheen Akhtar spoke on the relationship between climate change and Indus
Basin (IB). She argued that both climatic change and IB were interlinked. She
also highlighted that no scientific study had been done on the IB. She said
that Pakistan needed to follow a holistic water resource management strategy to
deal with internal and trans-boundary water issues. She said that IWRM is
basically a technical treaty. Pakistan was a single basin country and its
dependence on external water resources was 76 percent while India’s 34 percent.
She explained that rising water demand in India and Pakistan was causing
trans-boundary issues as well as internal conflicts.

She
said that Pakistan must address its domestic water resource management as huge
amount of water was consumed in agricultural sector of Pakistan and over
pumping and inefficient irrigation techniques had led to sharply declining
groundwater levels, loss of wetlands and stalinisation of agricultural lands.
She said that climate did not recognise geography. Both India and Pakistan
needed to cooperate in install monitoring and poor forecasting capabilities for
the glacial regions and catchment areas of the upper Indus basin to meet the
challenge – the challenge of climate change. The melting of the
Hindu-Kush-Karakoram-Himalaya glaciers would have serious consequences for the
Indus basin. She concluded that climate change was a major threat for the whole
world and the key gaps in the knowledge of the Indus Basin should be researched
and made public.

IPRI
Researcher Mustansar H Billah said that among traditional renewable like
nuclear and hydro, Pakistan should focus on hydroelectricity generation. Though
nuclear potential should not be completely abandoned but it would require high
standard of security for energy production. Similarly, Pakistan should not
attach high hopes to coal for power generation due to its poor quality. Though,
a scientist from audiences said that coal would be the cheaper and affordable
source and it could be imported to meet the power crisis.

Billah
said that we could benefit from technological advancements in the renewable
energy like solar and wind. As India, China and European countries were getting
benefitted from these sources. Similarly, Pakistan should step up its efforts
to accord with Iran on Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline in
order to meet the challenge of energy shortage.

One
of the participants commented, ‘problem lies within us’, that is poor
governance and incompatible framework of strategy to chalk out plan to include
all stakeholders in the process of energy generation and consumption.