Take the energy sector. Fuelled by a cocktail of US dollars and big business’s traditional soft spot for the ‘stability’ of dictatorship, economic growth went through the roof for a few heady years. Never mind that it was top-heavy and did not benefit the people. Be that as it may, rapid growth coupled with a burgeoning population was bound to increase energy use exponentially. Common sense demanded that urgent steps be taken to boost generation capacity. Did that happen? No. The result: an energy shortfall that has all but crippled the country in recent years.
After months of inaction, however, the new administration’s ‘don’t blame us’ mantra starting ringing hollow and the demand for remedial measures became louder. It now seems that the government is finally looking forward at least where the energy sector is concerned. But the pace of work is hardly commensurate with the task at hand. Action is needed on a war footing but what we are getting instead is a recce here and a training drill there. Time is running out. As the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of Pakistan pointed out in its budget proposals, the energy crunch must be addressed on a priority basis.
Pakistan’s vast wind power and coal potential needs be tapped at the earliest and with optimal effect. It is estimated by ICMAP that just three run-of-the-river projects can generate as much as 4,000 megawatts. The actual figure if all prospective sites are taken into account is probably higher. Energy derived from biomass also holds great promise in a country where agriculture drives the economy. Solar power is another option but unfortunately the technology is not commercially viable yet though it could be in a few years.
In the interim — for such projects will take time even if work commences today — thermal power capacity will have to be enhanced and a concerted effort made to conserve energy. The government must take the lead by using energy-saver bulbs in all state-run buildings, and...