By Syeda Shehirbano Akhtar
Photo: Umair Javaid, Image source — IG: umairjv
Energy is a dilemma, as it holds to be a part of both; the sustainability and the risk factor to increasing instability. The entire world in the recent past has been affected by an energy shortfall. To make matters worse, we are, with every passing day, becoming more dependent on electricity and power. Pakistan has been also struck badly.
Energy availability and accessibility is the key regulator for crafting sustainable modern societies. To meet the elevated demand of energy utilization in the domestic and industrial sector; where on one hand is serving as a halt in the progress of developing countries like Pakistan. On the other has not spared the economic regulators like USA, UK, China, and Russia from worrying about finding the cleaner alternatives to get through with the threat of scarcity of energy in near future. The exemplary drift shift from agricultural to the industrial economy has led to the formation of compact urbanized setups that resulted into tremendous increase in energy demand. Fossil fuels have been addressing this energy demand since prehistoric times.
International Energy Association in 2002 quoted that statistically 80% of the world’s primary energy requirement is being met by the various forms of fossil fuels. Minister of Climate Change, Mr. Muhammad Yusuf Shaikh, draws attention to environment being the pubic responsibility by saying: “Prosper Cities needs to be more responsive to environment”. The Paris Agreement urges the countries for making rigorous efforts to ensure the reduction of global warming below 2 degree Celsius (preferably adherence to maintain it below 1.5 degree Celsius.)
According to World Bank, 58.7% of the population of Pakistan has access to electricity. That leaves 41% of a population of 210 million without the provision of electricity. Consequently, there’s regular load shedding owing to a shortfall of 5000–6000 MW which adversely affects the industry and consequently GDP. Another issue is that the environmental conditions are hazardous, especially in the metropolises.
World Bank report also noted that, “Pakistan’s urban air pollution is among the most severe in the world and it engenders significant damages to human health and the economy”.
What’s even worse is, despite having excellent potential Pakistan is not taking full advantage of it. For instance, the coastline of Sindh provides an excellent installation location for a wind farm. The major part of Pakistan enjoys ample sunlight both in terms of quality and quantity. In fact, availability of the enough natural resources to Pakistan makes it capable of exporting the surplus. With having such potential and not tapping it, makes Pakistan among those nations which are not only being unjust to their self, but also being unjust to the entire region.
Although nuclear energy and renewable clean energy playing their contribution by 13.5% and 6.5% respectively. Over 200 years, fossil fuel has evolved through the process of transition from wood and coal to liquid oil fuel and eventually to the gaseous fuel i.e. hydrogen to meet the burden of global energy need increasing by 20 folds per capita for a 6-fold rise in the total population. On the bigger picture, the trending of excessive use of fossil fuels to cater the energy needs is drastically disrupting the balance of natural ecosystem of the Earth resulting in extreme climatic conditions.
The major implications of fossil fuel usage to the environment include enhanced Green House Effect resulting in Global Warming. Human activities such as deforestation, emission of greenhouse gases, enhanced environmental pollution and use of lead fuels have resulted in deterioration of protective mechanism of Earth leading to climatic changes. Subsequently, 160,000 people die per year due to weather extremes and the number is expected to double by the year 2020 as reported by World Health Organization (WHO).
The SDG report states that for each 1 degree Celsius of temperature increase, the grain yields decline by about 5%. Pakistan being the agricultural country has been facing a halt on its road to progress due to food shortage, poverty alleviation, health deterioration and social evil uplift.
Additionally, contributing factors are droughts, crop burn, floods and warmer tropical land areas causing increased epidemics such as malaria, acute respiratory infections (ARI), and diarrhea added up by malnutrition, stunting, and wasting. From the holistic perspective, burning of fossil fuel has drastic health implications from primary level i.e. household, neighborhood to secondary i.e. regional/community level to tertiary level i.e. global climatic impact. Fossil fuel reserves are depleting to exhaustion and thus current strategies are not enough to cope with the energy burden in future.
Developed countries will shift the trend to the utilization of nuclear energy. Nonrenewable energy and nuclear constructs both lie near with imparting adverse effects on the quantity and quality of life, balance of the ecology and disrupting the biodiversity consequently creating a compromised version of the natural and man-made environment.
Although we have known for a long while, it is the time to practically inculcate the theoretic ideas of how amazing green energy is into practical field. There’s limitless potential; infinite energy at relatively negligible cost and negligible atmosphere damage. There’s a dire need to research, manufacture and implement modern, greener forms of energy and wave goodbye to the inefficient, environment unfriendly sources of power. There’s also a dire need to provide off-grid solutions to those living in far off areas. Also, the automobile industry is taking baby steps towards EVs. Since crude oil and its derivatives will soon run out, the auto industry must start looking into alternatives.
The non-traditional renewable forms of energy (wind, solar, hydrogen cell), in theory, are promising. They are kinder to the environment, lower running costs and infinite but each one of them needs polishing. For consideration, over the course of the last 10 years, the cost of solar power has dropped 60%. This ample amount of uninterrupted solar energy can be used to make steam with the excessive amount of running water in canals and river beds extended over Pakistan. The strategic application can be done by directing the solar rays with the reflectors/mirrors at one point towards the water channels and use the amplified reflected energy to convert water in to steam. This steam in turn will run turbines and could serve as a useful source for generating the electricity.
National Assembly, just a few days earlier the anticipated ratification of Paris Agreement, keenly emphasized on establishing the transparent national authority to ensure strengthening of resource mobilization and mitigation of climatic change adverse impacts nationally and thus contributing in global cause.
Pakistan’s commitment aims to reduce the 2030 estimated GHG emission projections by 20% with the support from international grants and reducing the economical wastage of USD 40 billion as per the reports submitted by the Pakistan’s Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement 2015.
UNDP, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Climate Change along with the Federal and Provincial stake holders have been working on formation of promising framework for clean energy provision in Pakistan. Ministry of Climate Change is currently playing a significant role for Green Revolution through its ongoing projects like Establishment of Geomatics Centre for Climate Change and Sustainable Development Green Pakistan Program – Revival of Forestry Resources in Pakistan, Sustainable Land Management Program to Combat Desertification in Pakistan. The new initiatives in line are Construction of Boundary Wall of Zoo Cum Botanical Garden, Islamabad, Green Pakistan Program – Strengthening Zoological Survey of Pakistan undertaking immediate inventory of endangered wildlife species and habitats across Pakistan.
It is an established fact that Pakistan has problems related to energy. On the other hand, it is also known that Pakistan has promising potential to make situation better by adopting means of renewable energy. For instance, the developed world is performing breakthroughs in the areas of renewable energy. However, Pakistan is lacking way behind. What’s required is for engineers to come up with feasible and efficient solutions tuned specifically for the conditions of Pakistan.
Pakistan has a huge workforce, but a failing industry. No power equates to no industry which further equates to a poor economy so in order to help this country get back on its feet, getting the industry going is a must. Thus, this is call of the hour that we get socially aware of our surrounding and recognize our unmet needs as felt needs and felt needs as demands.
Summarizing, it’s an understood fact of economics, that industry is the backbone of a country’s economy. Solar is expensive, the wind is difficult to install/maintain and hydrogen cells being difficult to store. It’s a long way from perfection but engineers and scientists all over the world are improving on it.