One of the two meanings of the North American English word ‘Hydro’ is water, or relating to water such as hydroelectricity, hydropower and hydroelectric plants. Azad Jammu & Kashmir, is blessed with abundant natural resources of water and minerals. It is a land with scenic valleys, lush green hills, snow covered mountains, beautiful landscapes and thick forests, witnessing maximum rainfall per annum. It has four rivers, numerous perennial tributaries, brooks, streams and immense touristic sites. Three rivers Neelum, Jhelum and Poonch flow from Indian held Kashmir to Azad Kashmir, whereas fourth river Kunhar flows from KPK to Muzaffarabad. This is the shortest river whose length may not be more than 30 km in the territory of Azad Kashmir, yet a hydropower plant is under construction on it. It is heartening to know that 20 macro hydropower projects of cumulative power generation capacity of 7566 MW are in different phases of implementation on these four rivers. There is only one storage dam in Azad Kashmir i.e. Mangla dam and electricity is its by-product like that of Tarbela dam. All other macro hydel projects are on run-of-river (R-o-R) mode except 53 MW Hari Ghail HPP which is on run-of-nullah mode.

The energy mix of Pakistan is a complicated one in the world. The input to the national grid consist of 10 to 11 different modes of generation of electricity.

Hydel power is produced both from macro and micro hydel power plants. Major produces of thermal power are IPPs and GENCOs.

They use natural gas, residual furnace oil (RFO), high speed diesel, coal or bagasse as fuel. Wind and solar are renewable energy resources, where nuclear energy and imported electricity from Iran are also part of energy mix. Some captive power plants utilize bagasse for generation of electricity whereas biogas is consumed for power generation in off grid areas under community led arrangements.

The percentage share of different modes of power generation in the electricity basket includes: Thermal 65%, Hydel (macro and micro ) 31% and Nuclear 4%.

Nearly 48% of the total power generated is in the private sector, where the Private Power Infrastructure Board (PPIB), which is one window facilitator on behalf of the government of Pakistan, encourages the participation of private investors in the power generation sector.

The merit order of power generation is Hydel, Gas, Nuclear, RFO, Coal and HS Diesel (expensive yet operative as the last option).

The cumulative generation capacity of 20 macro hydel power projects on the cascade of our four rivers is around 8680 MW.

Out of this 1114 MW from Mangla, New Bong Escape and Jagran-I are already on line. Therefore net projected hydel power capacity stands at 7566 MW. Azad Kashmir is hub of hydropower potential. The identified macro hydro projects which are in different stages of development from desk-study to construction phase when start commercial operations in next one to six years would provide not only cheap, clean and green energy but would ensure carbon credits as well. The solution of persistent energy crisis of Pakistan lies in the paradigm shift in the energy mix of Pakistan where hydel energy must be seen stunningly dominating all other modes of power generation.

The Azad Kashmir’s river water is not only making downstream land fertile but is also source of producing electricity to make Pakistan prosper.

The Government of Pakistan is called upon to determine water use charges (WUC), net hydel profit and royalty of hydel power projects in Azad Kashmir region at par with KPK’s hydel projects to ensure level-playing field for AJK where Mangla, New Bong Escape and Jagran-I are already operational and connected to national grid and many others such as giant Neelum-Jhelum, Karot and Gulpur HPP are in construction phase. There is an opposite expression in English for this situation- “what is good for the gander should also be good for the goose”.