Load shedding

In South Asia on 25. April 2010 at 21:43

It doesn’t matter if the glass is half full or empty, in a case where there is shortage of water. Likewise applies to the energy shortage in Pakistan. With the growing demand and neglecting by rulers since 1977, the state is suffering one of the worst power crises in its entire history. Last week’s energy summit where government officials argued for energy conservations have sparked directives in order to reduce the use of energy.

Therefore it is a ban on neon lights in bazaars and market areas, weddings included. And those of us who know sub continental culture right; lighting is a must on weddings. Further on industry and markets have to close two days a week and after 8 am every day. The traders unions have answered with defying the directive and lighting even more.

No wonder they defy the orders, but government seems not to understand it. They now want to implement police order on this case. Restricting traders during their peak hour where customers have time to buy goods is simply stupidity. The cost on the economy already because of load shedding is huge, now limiting traders in their best time is a big blow for local businesses. In a country where unemployed often can end up being radicals it is not preferable to let business go under.

But let there be no confusion. If the public do not cooperate, the energy crisis will not end. Pakistan reduced those classified as poor from 33% to 23% during the Musharraf decade. This new emerging middle class, with the old one and the higher classes can now afford refrigerators, water heating devises and air conditioners. There is no doubt that the electronic business in Pakistan has done great during the last decade. In addition the rural areas of Pakistan got electric supply which increased the total number of consumers. With such devices and new consumers the energy consumption has sky rocketing and breached the amount of energy available.

With a grid system from the 70s and lack of control on energy theft and unawareness on energy conservation the population is using energy without knowing the consequences. A citizen of Gujrat does not care if rural people get connected to the grid. All he cares of is energy for his home and business. This applies for the high class as well, including politicians. The same leaders who speaks conservation do steal energy for their mills and use many multiple times energy than the average Pakistani for their bungalows and villas.

A several decade long political fight for a water dam for hydro power ended during the last years of Musharrafs rule with burying the project for good. The dam were controversial as Punjab province would benefit while Sindh province would pay with less water flow from Indus river because of its status as lower riparian. Most political parties and provinces would agree on smaller dams on several rivers across the nation and on the Indus so the impact on the nature is not so huge. But these projects will use between 15-20 years to be completed if launched today. Present energy deficit will not be met as of today.

Pakistan’s energy source is 65% fossil fuel, 33% hydro power and 2% nuclear power. With such reliance on fossil fuel and limited hydro power, nuclear power is a alternative for many decision takers. A proposed pipeline from Iran, thru Pakistan to India known as IPI pipeline was in 2009 quashed as USA gave India a deal on civilian nuclear power. Pakistan missing such attention decided to go further with the pipeline for its own consumption. President Obama promised to help in construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal in addition to supply energy from Tajikistan in north. With the impatience from the Pakistani public the leaders although cannot wait for such a project to launch as the Iranian pipeline is already constructed from its refineries and to the borders of Pakistan. With international pressure for sanctions on Iran, the world community is risking instability in Pakistan, a nation thorn apart already from ethnic and religious violence in addition to Taliban insurgencies. A light in the tunnel is India’s decision for trilateral talks with Pakistan and Iran in May month on the pipelines future.

It is hard for the Pakistani administration to make people to understand American goodwill in form of 7,5 billion dollars for the development of Taliban hit areas. On the other hand, the public has been made fools by the present government on its assuming of power in 2008. The federal minister of water and power has since assuming the post promised every sixth month to meet the energy deficit. Public has lost its interest in false unrealistic problems. It does not help when the government plans to rent mobile power plants, which are out of date and to unacceptable high rates for the public. Another focus is on coal power plants, which are not attractive due to environmental pollution, but Pakistanis do not care for the environment as of today.

No wonder it’s all going down the drain. A public either too egoistic to think of power conservation, or to poor to keep their shops closed one additional day a week. And with a leadership to blind to see the real social problems and with rumors of power theft and unnecessary use of power in government buildings, the noble plan to conserve power will flop if not USA accepts the IPI pipeline, the leadership makes more efficient plans to educate the public on power conservation and that the directive on energy saving hit those who fall over the average consumption.

A major reason for the people welcoming General Pervez Musharraf to power in a bloodless coup in October 1999 was the recurring load shedding during former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s reign. It is not preferred to invite another general or to open the Pandora’s Box in a country of 180 million people.

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