During a Saarc Conference, speakers pointed out that Pakistan’s Thar coal reserves were sufficient to cater to the region’s need for electricity for 100 years, which overall was facing a shortage of 60000 MW of energy. However, while South Asia is hard pressed for energy, Pakistan has reached a stage where power supply has become a question of survival. Initial estimates indicate that the Thar reserves have greater potential for generating electricity than the Middle East oil reserves. According to Dr Samar Mubarakmand they can last up to 500 years, giving round-the-clock supply of electricity. Sufficient electricity would reduce tariffs, check inflation and generate revenues through exports.

However, as with most of such ventures, the project has run into some serious delays. Dr Mubarak’s hasty assurance that the project will become operational by 2013 had raised hopes of a new era of prosperity for Pakistan. Sadly, lack of interest and failure to arrange sufficient funding have further delayed its timely commencement. Reports that engineers and scientists at the helm of the Thar coal project differ with respect to the mining process are also a cause for concern. Pakistan required intensive capital investment in the project and trained human resource to successfully extract the maximum benefit from it. Dream selling is no longer enough and Dr Mubarakmand's dedication to providing quick answers is unfortunately not, in itself, a solution to the problems we face.

Essentially, dormant resources need to be made active and opportunities to generate electricity must be capitalised upon, given the uncontrollable expansion in our population figures. Such expensive and technically sophisticated projects - including unnecessarily politicised ones, such as Kalabagh Dam - are indeed the undeniable need of the future, for which planning must begin now. For the immediate short term, however, Pakistan's circular debt and its resolution can end the energy shortfall - if we could just get our act together.