LAHORE - Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Tuesday urged the government to ensure provision of inexpensive energy to industrial sector.

LCCI President Malik Tahir Javaid said that at present, high energy prices were a major concern for the industrial sector which was facing various internal and external challenges. Pakistan's below-mark ranking in ease of doing business was indicating that how many obstacles were being faced by the industry, he said and added, "Pakistan is ranked 147 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business. The rank of Pakistan deteriorated to 147 in 2017 from 144 in 2016.

"New Zealand, Singapore, Denmark, South Korea, Hong Kong, USA, UK, Norway, Georgia and Sweden are leading from front in ease of doing business index while Pakistan is even lagging behind the countries like Mozambique, Grenada, Mali and Nigeria."

Malik Tahir Javaid said that energy was the major raw resource for the manufacturing sector and its high prices were one of the biggest reasons for country's deteriorating ranking in ease of doing business. He mentioned that worldwide around 20 percent of electricity was being generated through hydropower, while Norway and New Zealand were producing 99 percent and 75 percent respectively of their electricity with hydel resources.

The LCCI President said that investment by government in energy sector would give huge benefits to the country in many counts therefore immediate action should be taken in this regard and investment should be promoted in hydel power projects as it was the cheapest source of energy.

He said that investment in hydel projects for power generation would drastically reduce the economic miseries of the country. For example, he said, cheap hydropower would reduce the cost of doing business, enhance manufacturing activities, get rid of energy crisis, besides ensuring availability of water for agriculture sector.

Malik Tahir drew the government's attention towards Kalabagh Dam and said that perhaps Pakistan was the only country in the world where important water and power projects were being opposed that was unfortunate. He said that perceptions against Kalabagh Dam were totally wrong and actually were a move to safeguard the interests of the enemies of Pakistan. He said that Kalabagh

Dam would be equally beneficial for all provinces. Actually delay in construction of Kalabagh Dam is the one and only reason of water shortage in Sindh and other parts of the country, he opined.

He mentioned that water supply to Sindh was averaged 36.6 million acre feet annually before construction of Mangla and Terbala dams and this supply was enhanced to 40.30 million acre feet after building of these dams. He said that Kalabagh Dam will also supply over four million acre feet additional water to Sindh.

The LCCI President said that water crisis would hit country's agriculture sector hard due to lack of sufficient water storage facilities while water storage capacity in Terbela and Mangla Dams had also reduced, therefore, Kalabagh Dam was a must for the country. "It would be better if anti-KBD elements play role for early construction of this mega project instead of fueling the controversy otherwise our future generations would suffer," Malik added. He said that Kalabagh Dam was inevitable for the progress and prosperity of the country as it would produce power at an average cost of Rs 2/kwh.

 This cheap power would annually displace costly power worth approximately Rs 300 billion with consequential savings of costly oil imports.

Senior Vice President Khawaja Khawar Rashid and Vice President Zeshan Khalil said that studies had indicated that pumping water for potential cultivable land would cost farmers Rs 5000 per acre per year while canal water after construction of Kalabagh Dam would cost only Rs 400 per acre per year. They said that additional water would also be available for Sindh in all seasons, asserting that all the stakeholders should show some greater maturity on the issue of Kalabagh. It was high time to brush aside all undue stands to save the country from darkness, they added.