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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Dec 21, 2012

For water and energy security, measures need to be taken now

It is crucial, now more than ever, that steps are taken
for water and energy security in Pakistan, else the consequences will be
severe.

Experts
stated this at a conference on “Water and Energy Security in Pakistan: The Way
Forward” organized by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) on
Thursday, said a press release issued by the institute.

Sustainable
Development Policy Institute (SDPI) Deputy Executive Director Dr Vaqar Ahmed
said that poor governance and absence of practical and dynamic policy framework
pertaining to the energy sector are the major reasons for the chaotic energy
situation in Pakistan.

He
said while primary energy consumption in the country has grown by 80 per cent,
the situation has worsened due to the government’s poor policy framework. He
said mismanagement in the energy sector has created a rift between the
provinces and the centre, adding that if action is not taken now, the economy
will not be able to withstand the fallout.

Ahmed
said energy governance is crucial at this time and to accomplish that governing
boards need to be allowed to work independently, regulatory bodies’ oversight
strengthened and appropriate legislative changes taken to allow deregulation.

He
said that energy pricing was another aspect that needs consideration,
suggesting that subsidies in the sector should be phased out and prices should
be determined on an economic basis.

He
also lamented that there was not a single consumer specialist in Pakistan,
while in India there are 76 such specialists. Lack of demand-side
accountability and project-specific legal/institutional arrangements were other
important considerations, he said.

Highlighting
long-term solutions, Ahmed said that energy crisis can be dealt with by
developing a national consensus on hydro and coal sources, establishing a
multi-buyer and multi-seller private sector energy market, insulating the gas
sector from security threats and increasing the capacity for renewable energy.

Ahmed
emphasized on joint techno-economic evaluation of opportunities and
determination of prerequisites to improve the energy situation in the country.
He suggested seeking support from multilateral institutions, particularly the
Southern Africa Power Pool and Nordel, and electricity trade in Europe.

He
suggested that hat there should be only one ministry for the energy sector so
that things could be aligned under one authority. He added that the large-scale
theft of electricity was being done by “the big fish.”

A
researcher, Dr Shaheen Akhtar, said Pakistan needed to follow a holistic water
resource management strategy to deal with internal and trans-boundary water
issues.

She
said that Pakistan is a single basin country and its dependence on external
water resources was 76 per cent, while that of India is 34 per cent, adding
that rising water demand in the two countries are creating trans-boundary
issues as well as internal conflicts.

Akhtar
said Pakistan must manage its domestic water resources, as a huge amount of
water is consumed by its agricultural sector. She said that inefficient
irrigation techniques have led to a sharp decline in groundwater level and as a
result various wetlands have been wiped out.

The
researcher stressed that both India and Pakistan need to work together to
monitor and forecast weather changes in the glacial region and the catchments of
the upper Indus basin to meet the challenge.

Melting
of the Hindu Kush-Karakoram-Himalaya (HKH) glaciers would have serious
consequences for the Indus basin, warned Akhtar. She maintained that climate
change is a major global threat and key gaps in the knowledge base of the Indus
basin should be researched and made public.

IPRI
Researcher Mustansar H Billah, called for shifting focus to renewable energy
sources. He said though the potential of nuclear energy should not be
abandoned, it would require high standard of security to ensure energy
production. Moreover, he said Pakistan should not attach high hopes to coal for
power generation due to its poor quality. He suggested that focus should be on
hydropower.

Though
a scientist from the audience pointed out that using coal for electricity
generation is cheaper as it is an affordable source and can also be imported,
Billah insisted that Pakistan can benefit from technological advancements in
renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, as is India, China and
European countries.

He
said that Pakistan should step up its efforts to accord with Iran on TAPI gas
pipeline in order to meet the challenge of energy shortage.

One
of the participants commented, “Problem lies within us,” saying that poor
governance and incompatible strategy framework that fails to include all
stakeholders in the process of energy generation and consumption.