Changing Climatic Conditions and the Electricity Crisis in Pakistan
During the last few decades Pakistan has undergone many climate changes due to global warming. Before the disastrous 2010 flood, Pakistan had suffered from higher than average temperatures which led to a lowering of the water level in rivers. The main reason for the rise in temperature and adverse climate conditions is global warming. The factors responsible for global warming are: deforestation, damage to the ozone layer by the emission of greenhouse gases – CO2, and methane released from landfills and agriculture especially from the digestive systems of grazing cattle, fossil fuels used for cars, nitrous oxide from fertilizers, gases used for refrigeration and industrial processes and gases released by natural gas and oil-fired power stations. The combined impact of these factors creates a heightened effect on the mountainous areas causing glaciers to melt which resulted in the 2010 floods in Pakistan. Prime Minster Gillani, aware of the government’s failure to take action, also remarked that if the Kala Bagh dam had been built, the flow of water in northern Pakistan could have been controlled. If the dam had been built, not only the destruction wrought by flooding could have been averted but the water massed behind the dam could have been used to generate hydroelectric power to alleviate the current energy crisis.
If we take an overview of what have been the government’s policies, we will see that it has proven incapable of finalizing the construction of three major dams: the Kala Bagh, Bhasha, and Skardu dams. The main reasons for the delay in building the Kala Bagh and Bhasha dams are political bickering and a lack of consensus between provincial governments. The Diamir Bhasha dam, Skardu dam and Kala Bagh dam have all been objected to by local political parties on the grounds that they are located at high altitude. With the seismic sensitive nature of the terrain, an earthquake like the one in October 2005 could cause immense damage to their provinces by bringing nearby areas under water causing devastating floods in the whole country. Fears also abound that this could lead to the destruction not only of Pakistan itself but of the whole South Asian region. However, this dispute has been exposed as totally fallacious as shown by the recent meeting with Prime Minister Gillani where a consensus was reached for the construction of Bhasha dam whereas the issue of the Kala Bagh dam still remains open and the Skardu dam has only reached the proposal stage due to geological and political issues.
If we estimate the potential of these three controversial dams, we see that the Skardu dam alone can produce 15000 MW electricity, the Kala Bagh dam 3600 MW, and the Bhasha 4500 MW. Furthermore, according to a GTZ report, Pakistan has enough resources to generate approximately 40000 MW of hydroelectricity along its major rivers and tributaries. There is also the proposal that if turbines were installed every 15 miles along the rivers, they would generate a vast amount of electricity. For this purpose, the northern areas of Pakistan are the most feasible: Skardu has 3 lakes: lake Satpara, lake Upper Kachura, and lake Lower Kachura. It also has the rivers Khaplu, Shewok, and Shigar that flow into the river Indus. Moreover, if the proposal for the construction of small dams in every province is implemented, it will be able to contain the flood water and also support agriculture in these areas.
Pakistan’s current energy deficit is in the order of 3000-4000 MW. Having estimated the potential of large and small dams, it is clear that Pakistan is not only capable of meeting its own energy requirements but can also contribute to solving the global shortfall in electricity.
In order to address these problems, Pakistan needs to do effective policy planning and implementation. To this end, the following steps should be considered:
- The government should start reforestation at the highest level to control global warming effects. It should eliminate the timber mafia, apply reforestation strategies, and start awareness programs among the people to safeguard trees in the cities and forests. Reforestation is the only way to reduce the negative effects of gases and also helps to clear the atmosphere of pollution. Meanwhile, the construction of “mini dams” will ensure the containment of flood water. Government should also install turbines on the rivers to reduce the current electricity deficit.
- The lack of funding is another very serious problem hindering construction of dams. In order to overcome this, the international community should help Pakistan in such development projects on humanitarian grounds. Pakistan should also take loans from the World Bank and ensure fair distribution of funding until completion of these projects. Subsequently, a returns policy should be devised from the revenues on these projects so that they do not become a burden on the people of Pakistan.
- Since the government of Pakistan is not financially capable of initiating and supporting electricity production through the wind power sector, it should devise policies to involve and support private sector companies and NGOs in establishing such units.
- The coastal belt of Pakistan has the potential to produce 346000 MW of electricity through wind as indicated by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) USA in collaboration with USAID. The Gharo-Keti Bandar corridor alone has the potential to produce 50000 MW. With such huge potential at hand, the government of Pakistan should also consider the wind sector for electricity production.
- After reaching a level of self-sufficiency through the development of hydroelectric plants, the government of Pakistan should also move its policies towards development of alternative clean and environmentally friendly energy through wind mills, solar panels, and micro-hydel (small hydro) projects for the next steps involving global transmission of electricity.
Tags: CLIMATE CHANGE, crisis, Electricity, hydroelectric, pakistan