Perenial Power Crisis in Hunza: Govt’s Failures and the Way Forward

By Engr. Abid Tashi

The Water and Power Department, since the last three to four decades, has miserably failed to fulfill the power demands of Hunza. Currently, its supply capacity is less than 30% of the total demand. Despite of the potential of generating surplus energy from the hydro resources Hunza already has, the failure of such a sort cannot be easily ignored or overlooked.

In an era of technology, IT and modernization of almost all aspects of life, the power crisis of this sort is a very serious issue. It hinders every sector of the society and badly hits the region’s development potential. You cannot think of education, medical services, business, telecom, IT and any other services without adequate energy.

The first step towards the solution is to accept the failure of power department by all stakeholders, including the government. It should also be accepted that the Department in its current shape does not have the capacity to solve the issue anytime in the near or far future.

If we accept these basic realities, then we have to think about an alternative plan that can help in resolving this issue. We must also ensure that the alternate plan is sustainable, environment friendly, economical and backing the long-term interest of common people of Hunza.

The best option, which I think can cover all the goals stated above, can be to form an enterprise or a corporate entity that has public share, investors share, business stakeholders share and governments share. That entity should overtake already existing infrastructure of the government. The entity should open doors of opportunity of investment to general public, existing businesses, entrepreneurs and the business societies. In this way a huge financial resource can be created to improve the power development and capacity by installation of new power houses.

The solution of this big problem also exists within our society. In Hunza we already have great examples of community-based initiatives that have set examples and have transformed our society. Community based conservation in many parts of Hunza, particularly in Gojal, are quoted as example everywhere. Similarly, community-based organizations have transformed the market for small and medium businesses. Community based agriculture development programs through AKRSP are known to the world.  Community based mining initiatives are relatively new and their success or failure will be evident in the near future. Due to the community’s capacity to undertake such massive reforms, we must resort to a community-based initiative to address the power crisis also.

Additionally, the government should also pool in funds and bank loans can also be added to finance to further help the initiative.

The enterprise should own and operate the power sector in Hunza. It should decide the issues related to tariffs etc. in coordination with a public representative body and collect bills to ensure the sustainability of the system, ensure progressive expansion of the capacity and also keep in view the peoples capacity.

In this way a community owned power sector can be created and it can set an example all across GB.

Recently the government of GB has hired a private firm to provide thermal energy to the power department, generated by burning furnace oil, which is detrimental for the regin’s fragile environment.

It is a matter of shame that despite of a huge potential for generating clean and cheap energy in the region, the government is opting to buy energy from furnace oil which is not just disastrous for the environment, but also costs much more.

According to an interview the Chief Engineer W&P Department says that the government would provide subsidy in the bill. Its understandable that the amount paid by the government to subsidize the bills would be huge and the money will come from public funds, at the cost of spendings on health, development and education. Thus, the private companies are getting rich while the locals suffer the environmental consequences, and the impact of budget cuts.

The government’s plans to handover the power sector to only private investors can be disastrous as these companies would get control of the water resources and create a monopoly in tariffs and use our own resources to loot our own people. Therefore, we must think about alternative plans and create community owned power houses that can fulfill public needs and also give investment opportunity for everyone otherwise merely relying on Government would not solve and problem.

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