Owing to its unmatched merits associated with hydropower generation over the other modes of power production, such as being efficient, economical, cheap, affordable, safe, sustainable, cost effective, reliable, clean, green (no emissions of Green House Gases – GHGs) and above all having attainability of carbon credits from UN, Water is duly considered next to oil in its power generating potential. In this backdrop, the State of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) stands abundantly blessed and endowed with one of nature’s riches, water that is pulsating in its four rivers Jhelum (the most voluminous river of AJK), Neelum, Poonch and Kunhar in addition to numerous perennial nullahs, streams and brooks stretched along the territories of AJK.

114.4 MW of hydro electricity being generated in AJK (Mangla power station 1000 MW, New Bong Escape 84 MW and Jagran-1 30.4 MW) is in the system through the national grid. Whereas her own demand in peak summer season is 350 MW. 17 macro hydropower projects mostly on run-of-river mode and a few on run-of-nullah mode of cumulative generation capacity 7566MW are in different phases of development and will offer a wayout of crippling power outages when they become operational. It is, indeed, heartening to know that apart from macro hydropower projects, currently as much as 53 MW of electricity generated through 15 micro, mini and small hydropower stations is in the system and projects ranging from 50 KW (0.05 MW) to 49.5 MW are effectively in various implementation stages, from bankable feasibility studies to advance level of construction and further to commissioning mode. Macro hydropower projects will grow into a bumper harvest and the explored micro-hydropower potential is an early harvest. The water energy nexus in Azad Kashmir justifiably seems to go a long way towards bringing the share of hydro-power generation in the complicated total energy mix of Pakistan to about 50% from the current 33%.

The power players in the development of micro hydropower potential in AJK include the AJK Power Development Organisation (AJKPDO) responsible for public sector micro, mini, small and medium hydropower projects, and AJK Private Power Cell (AJKPPC) to develop private sector hydro projects up to 50MW.

As of now fourteen micro/medium hydropower projects of cumulative capacity of 52MW stand completed and are online. Five micro hydropower projects of total capacity 7.8 MW shall be operational before or by 30th June 2017. Ten micro/mini hydro projects of 147.5 MW capacity are in the pipeline under the AJK Annual Development Programme (AJK-ADP) and are believed to be completed between 2017 and 2019. To add to this, five projects of installed capacity of 132.8 MW are awaiting funding and feasibility studies of 19 projects of cumulative capacity 52.23 MW have been completed.

The Private Power Cell (PPC) of the government of AJK is the one window facilitator on behalf of the government of Azad Kashmir and encourages the participation of private investors in the hydelpower generation sector. It is currently handling and facilitating the development of 25 micro/small/medium hydel projects in the private sector of cumulative capacity of 404.59 MW on build-own-operate-transfer (Boot) basis. Upon completion of 30 years contract period, the projects would stand transferred to Azad Kashmir government under the existing power policy and would remain in operation for another 20 years. During 30 years of operation, the government of AJK will receive Rs.0.42/kwh as water use charges from the operators.

21 micro/small/medium hydel projects of name-plate capacity 236.89 MW are currently subject to codal formalities such as land acquisition and compensation to affectees, obtaining environmental NOC from AJK EPA, tariff determination/negotiation, power purchase agreement, grid interconnection study, financial closure etc etc before entering into construction phase.

The grand total micro hydro power projects is about 100, with the cumulative generation capacity of 1033 MW.

The endeavors of government of AJK for harnessing 1033MW of electricity from its 100 micro to medium hydropower projects is the way forward for a better, progressive economy of Azad Kashmir as these shall be instrumental in socio-economic uplift of the remote areas besides generating employment opportunities for the local population.

Azad Kashmir is known as trailblazer in the filed of micro hydropower generation. The concerned quarters of AJK are worthy of praise and acclaim for their immense contribution, determination and resolve, for using each molecule of water for generation of hydropower. Explored micro hydropower projects of AJK, as a matter of fact, play a prudent role of in environmental conservation for Pakistan where 22 MAF of water escapes to the sea annually, unutilised below Kotri Barrage. The watch dogs of water issues of Pakistan claim that loss of 1 MAF of water is equivalent to a loss to the economy worth $1 billion.

These micro projects are a wake-up call to the relevant player in Pakistan to read the writing on the wall and start building water reservoirs on war footing, not only to mitigate raging floods but also for agriculture use and generation of low cost electricity.

The AJK government is suggested to further explore yet untapped micro hydro potential and map all potential sites for hydelpower plants. The Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir who himself took the helm of the hydro electricity department is urged to ensure the completion of ongoing projects by the deadline. Project developers should adhere to the timeline and projects should not be inordinately delayed.

In spite of being a hub of hydropower, generating and dispatching electricity to national grid more than three times of its own requirements, Azad Kashmir is severely suffering from frequent electricity outages. The high-ups in the Ministry of Water and Power should not stay silent about the sufferings of the people.

Notwithstanding the fact that hydropower projects are, time and capital intensive, take a pretty long gestation period, and face difficult logistics during construction phase, yet in a country like ours where the population is growing in a geometric progression and resources increasing in a slower arithmetic progression, the solution of the protracted energy crisis lies in fast tracking hydropower generation.