Generally, there are two types of natural energy resources: renewable and non-renewable. When it comes to the exploitation of resources, we are a nation of contradictions: we have the habit of being profligate on non-renewable resources such as water, natural gas and oil but we are very parsimonious on exploiting renewable energy resources such as wind and solar energy.

This summer, we experienced great floods. There are two ways of looking at this situation. Water is nature’s bounty, which if harnessed properly would result in prosperity. But the fact remains that we do not have dams, and certainly not large ones, to store extra water during the monsoons. It is that excess water due to the absence of dams that results in floods causing loss of life, property, crops, livestock etc. Further, this flood water is lost to sea without being utilised and we end up looking towards Mother Nature for future rains, which might or might not happen during the coming monsoons.

Farming is another sector where water is abused with impunity. Drip irrigation is being practised all over the world successfully, but we are still weighing the option at the official level while there are private instances where local farmers have used drip mechanism to work miracles on their lands. In cities, there is an indiscriminate use of water for washing vehicles, houses etc. In developed countries, even water used in toilets is conserved, but sanitary appliances used in our country are hard on the pocket and weak on conserving water resource.

Similarly, through short-sighted policies, we have depleted our natural gas reserves. First, gas appliances generally used in our country are inefficient and have failed to embrace the recent technological advances. They are generally no more than 30-40 percent efficient; meaning the rest of resource goes waste. Gas is a cheap and clear fuel compared to imported oil. The supply of uninterrupted gas to the industry ensures that industry is operational twenty four hours in a day, which goes on to generate employment. However, the decision to provide CNG to vehicles broke industries and the common consumer’s back. Presently, most small and medium industry which employs a major portion workforce is idle, thus resulting in increased unemployment and social unrest. Also, natural gas should have had been provided to people in the mountainous region as an alternative to wood burning. This would have helped at least to slow down the process of deforestation and soil erosion in these high lands.

Another non-renewable resource is land, especially agricultural land. Existing fertile land all over the country is being urbanised through sprawling housing schemes and golf courses while no effort is being made to bring new land into cultivation. Also, no effort is being made to stop increasing desertification in our country. The scarcity of water, increasing desertification and deforestation, and the reduced availability of arable land poses an existential threat which we as a nation are not realising.

On the other hand, our country is amply gifted with sunshine all year round, and there are many regions where wind energy could be fruitfully harnessed. Although there are plans afoot to harness these renewable resources, we have still to see any tangible results. The renewable energy sector is in its infancy and the government should devise long term policies addressing questions such as what the costs of maintaining the parks are, and the transfer of technology.

In short, policies must be developed and implemented to conserve and efficiently exploit our natural resources- of which there are many. The government should support industries to adopt and assimilate latest cost effective and efficient technologies. Similarly, policies for exploiting renewable energy resources should be formulated in a holistic manner. For example, wind farms are suitable around coastal areas, thus to prevent transmission losses and cut costs, electricity from these farms may be provided to local cities. It will also not create alienation and a sense of deprivation in the local population. Finally, at the national level, efforts are afoot for higher education, but these efforts should be focused and aligned to national needs, and the national budget spent on higher education should be measured against goals at the national, provincial and regional level.

The writer is an engineer and research scholar