ISLAMABAD - The government on Thursday announced that despite a delay in hydroelectric projects the country would have zero loadshedding by March 2018.

Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali told the National Assembly during question-hour session that the delay in completion of the Neelum Jehlum hydro project will have no impact on government’s plans as 3600 megawatts (MW) electricity would be added to the national grid through liquefied natural gas (LNG)-based power projects.

“Many projects including LNG-based project and Tarbela Extension-4 are under way, and by March 2018, we would generate 8000MW to 10000MW of electricity and there would be zero load-shedding,” the minister said.

Answering a question, he said that past governments did not initiate power generation projects timely which resulted in an escalation of costs.

Giving details of the total power demand and supply, Ali said that on October 1, the total power generation was 13,595MW against a demand of 20,213MW. He said that the total shortfall on October 1 was 6,618MW.

He further said that with the fall in demand, the shortfall gradually decreased during the month and on October 15, the demand was 11,624MW against a demand of 15,909MW with a shortfall of 4,284MW

He said by October 31 the total generation was 10,045MW while the demand stood at 13,500MW.

Answering a question, Ali said that Munda Dam on Swat River was in the study phase and construction work on the project will start next year and it will take six to seven years to complete the project.

The minister pointed out that on completion, the Munda Dam will generate 800MW of electricity.

Answering a question, Ali said that the construction work on Dasu Dam will start at the beginning of next year and its first phase will be completed in 2022.

He said that a loan agreement of $588.4 million along with partial credit guarantee of $460 million has already been signed between the government of Pakistan, the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) and the World Bank.

While talking about the Diamer-Bhasha Dam, the minister said that of 37,419 acres of land required for the project, 28,247 acres have been acquired. He said the government was providing funds for land acquisition under the Public Sector Development Programme.

He expressed the hope that construction work on the project will also start next year. He said that the dam will produce 4500MW of electricity with a water storage capacity of 6.4 million acre-feet.

His statement that three to four hours load shedding was being observed in the country attracted strong criticism from opposition benches.

The opposition lawmakers said that ground realities were different from the government claims and most areas were witnessing long hours of blackouts.

Ali admitted that long spells of blackouts were being carried out in some parts but said it was in areas where power theft was high and where the majority did not pay electricity bills, which led to strong resentment from parliamentarians belonging to Sindh. Ali said that electricity theft and non-recoveries were high in Sindh and even the Sindh government has to pay Rs70 billion dues electricity under electricity head.

When the argument became heated, the acting speaker directed the standing committee on water and power to look into the matter and submit its report to the house.