By: Israruddin Israr
Absence of an effective power policy for power generation in Gilgit-Baltistan is the main hurdle in the way of power generation in the region. The oft-repeated argument is that there is a potential of producing around 52000 Mega Watts electricity in Gilgit-Baltistan. The so-called power policy of GB adopted by power department GB and sanctioned by Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northren Areas (KANA division) in 2007 is nothing more than a presentation of 15 pages which does not fulfill the requirements of a policy paper. The so-called power policy for GB even does not contain the basic information about method of growth, supply, city limits, domestic and commercial consumers, demarcation of supply areas, sources of power generation, power control cell, etc.
Mr. Javed Ahmed an expert of power sector, now a day associated with a project of WAPDA in Kohistan, declared it a non-professional piece of work, which is not acceptable as a policy for the experts of related profession. He further added that “a power policy paper should contain the identification of needs, growth, supply procedure, potential, resources and required laws and its implementation on the subject. It also needs sound professional skills to draft a policy paper. That kind of policy would provide road-map for drastic changes in the relevant filed”.
An energy / power policy can be defined as “Energy/power policy is the manner in which a given entity (often Governmental) has decided to address issues of energy development and growth including power generation, distribution, and its consumption. The attributes of power policy may include special legislation, national and international treaties, incentives to domestic and outsider investors, and guide lines for energy conservation, taxation and other public policy techniques”.
The policy drafted and adopted by officials of Water and Power Department GB is not clear in its idea regarding potential and required resources for the power generation, distribution and consumption in GB. A comparative study of energy policies of Norway, Italy, China and other countries, which are self-sufficient in energy sector, shows the importance of energy policy. It is the power policy of Norway which helped the country to generate more than 150 thousand Mega Watts electricity. The main source of Norway’s income is electricity that has enabled it to be welfare and developed state in the world.
Brazil has the same story. It faced power crises in 1980s. Realizing the importance of policy, the country formulated its policy and overcome energy crises. Now Brazil is one of the bigger exporters of the electricity in the world. Unfortunately, Gilgit-Baltistan has a potential which has not been realized due to nonprofessional mind and unskilled hands. The Water and Power Department of GB has been working for last four decades. Despite this it even does not has the capacity to draft a comprehensive energy policy. This is the lack of professionalism which has made natural resources of the region useless for the people of region. The popular quotation for such circumstances is always quoted like this “A man sitting on the deposit of gold becomes unconscious due to hunger”.
The 1.5 million population of GB having lot of potential in the field of power generation are now facing scarcity of electricity. Gilgit city faces 20 hours load shedding of electricity in winter and 8 hours in summer, although the generation capacity of hydro power projects becomes double in summer. Apart from the scarcity of power, the whole population of GB has no means of employment except jobs in government organization. There is no industry and trade in the region. That is why the whole population depends on government for provision of jobs.
The reason of dependency on public sector for employment is that the private sector has no existence in GB and outsider investors are reluctant to invest in the region due to shortage of power. According to the prescribed law pertaining to energy sector in Pakistan, the provincial governments have authority to initiate power projects of up to 50 Mega Watts, while project above 50 Mega Watts the federal Government is entitled to launch it. GB and AJK are not constitutional parts of Pakistan therefore it’s considered these both regions are exempted from the limitations of launching fifty Mega Watts’s projects of electricity. In the history of Gilgit Baltistan Water and Power Department, it has constructed and run the biggest project of 18 Megawatts in Naltar valley near Gilgit city. That was constructed by a Chinese firm as a contractor in 2009. Initially its capacity of power generation was 18 Megawatts, but after the departure of the Chinese firm it has lost its capacity. Now its capacity has been reduced to 6 Megawatts due to handling of unskilled hands of power department of GB.
According to the figures of water and power department GB, in winter the power department GB supplies 8 Mega Watts electricity to Gilgit city. Out of it 2.5 Mega Watts electricity is being stolen with illegal connections or supplied to VIPs through special lines. In summer the total supply for Gilgit city increased to 21 Mega Watts while the total need of city is 35 Mega Watts. Currently the total production of electricity in GB in winter is 48 Mega Watts; in summer its 78 Mega Watts. Total capacity of generation of 106 power Houses installed in GB is 96 Mega Watts. While the poor billing section of power department annually collects only 80 million in district Gilgit and 190 million rupees from all the seven districts of whole GB out of total 500 million rupees estimated revenue. In the current fiscal year the department has received 400 million from finance department of GB. The figures tell the story of mismanagement in the department. Even a lay man can imagine that if the professionalism is ensured in the billing section of power department, the department can rapidly enhance its capacity in terms of professionalism and power generation because whenever the question is raised in front of concerned authorities of Power Department GB, they simply have an excuse of shortage of funds. They even do not collect their own revenue which is more than allocated fund from the Government for the power sector in GB.
Federal Government has two mega projects of power in future in GB e.g. Bonji tunnel and Diamer Basha Dam. The total generation of both projects is 12 thousand Mega Watts. Some other projects of power are expected to be initiated by WAPDA in GB in near future. The total demand of electricity in GB is only 250 Mega Watts, which can be fulfilled by four new projects of hydro power below 50 Mega Watts. Like the WAPDA has constructed three High Head Hydro Power (HHP) projects in same manners in Kohistan district of KPK namely Khankhawar, Alai and Dubair nallah that cost 35 billion and producing 330 Mega Watts.
The other issue of power sector in GB is lack of its connectivity with national grid which cost millions of dollars. If the federal Government just focuses on the transmission line to connect GB with national grid that will attract the Independent Power producers (IPPs) in future. Now there is no market to sell power. That is why IPPs have no attraction in the region in the field of power generation. If the area attracts the IPPs ultimately the GB would be able to produce 52000 Mega Watts electricity, which is the main potential of region. To overcome the shortcoming of power department and it’s none professionalism, an independent power board is needed to establish. Engineers should be on filed work instead of holding the executive’s post as it is considered a bad practice in the world.
An Islamabad based NGO “Sustainable Solutions (Pvt) limited (SSPL)” has recently initiated a project of citizen’s voice funded by USAID, which has its focus on the communities’ participation in policy making and ensuring the effective coordination between service providers and consumers. This is the first experience for the local communities of GB to gain the information about power sector and its miserable condition. The studies on the subject have also unveiled the role of mafias in the sector who create the artificial shortage of power to full fill their vested interests.
The ultimate solution of above mentioned issues is to lay down an effective power policy for GB. It will identify the need of area, potential, resources for power generation and the possibilities of investment on the sector. But the proposed policy should not be a presentation of 15 pages which was adopted in 2007 by the power department GB, it should be comprehensive policy paper developed by internationally recognized professionals of relevant filed. It should have two portions: one for mega projects and the other for small projects. So that both portions would collectively be able to harness the total 52000 Mega Watts potential of power generation in GB, which can be surplus after fulfilling the needs of GB and Pakistan. An effective power policy for GB can change the future of GB by bringing prosperity.
The writer is a GB based senior journalist and columnist. Email: email@example.com