Thu. Feb 9th, 2023

Energy Crisis and Economic Vulnerability in Gilgit-Baltistan

 By Muhammad Panah

Gilgit-Baltisan is a highly mountainous area covered with glaciers and lofty peaks. Winters, thus, are very cold. Historically, the locals have spent most of their spring and summer time to gather stuff and get ready for the long winters. One of the biggest issues of the region is heating of the homes during harsh winters. Firewood and shrubs have been the go-to resources of the locals for centuries, leaving a major impact of the region’s enviornment due to cutting of trees.

For the last several decades the federal and provincial govt and the local communities have been trying to plant trees to control the damage, but due to lack of access to alternate forms of energy, the impact of all these efforts is minimal.

Many locals believe that several coal mines are deposited in different parts of the region, but communities do not hhave the financial and human resources to explore them and the govt doesn’t appear to be interested in providing cleaner and environment-frienldy energy resources to the locals. The electricity being produced is highly insufficient. Locals are facing over 20 hours of loadshedding. They do not have any option other than burning trees to stay warm, and alive!

The Gilgit-Baltistan government needs to take serious action to overcome energy crisis in the region on priority basis. Here are few alternatives ways to overcome the biggest fuel issue in the areas!

  1. Study the impact of energy criss on the region’s environment and economy
  2. Explore other means, including coal mining in the region to
  3. Complete all the hydro-electricity project(s) which pending construction for several years
  4. Start new hydro-electric project at larger level.
  5.  Small hydroelectricity units can install in the bank of the rivers to maximize energy deficiency from the remote areas.
  6. In the short term, GB government can import coal from China on a subsidized price to fulfil fuel deficiency in the region.  

Failing to understand and address the energy crisis in Gilgit-Baltistan will continue to fuel social unrest and cause losses amounting to billions of rupees per month as people are unable to run businesses. Already economically vulnerbale due to lack of opportunities, the locals are forced to spend tens of thousands of rupees to keep their houses warm, despite of the region’s massive hydro-power potential. This economic pressure leaves little resources for health, education and recreation, making the communities even more vulnerable and exposed to harm.

The energy crisis of Gilgit-Baltistan is real and it is worsening with each passing year, due to increase in demand partly pushed by the government’s emphasis on promoting tourism and construction of hotels and other commercial centers in the region.

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