LAHORE - Senator Ishaq Dar has said that the resolution of ongoing energy crisis lies in launching short and long-term projects simultaneously because acute energy shortage would ultimately lead to food shortages.

The Senator was speaking at Private Sector Energy Roundtable, arranged by the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry at Royal Palm on Saturday. Ishaq Dar said that the present and the past planners committed mistakes by ignoring this important sector but instead of pondering on past follies, we should focus on energy generation.

The Senator said that as many as 500 textile units closed down their operations due to energy shortage. He said that the lack of political will aggravated the energy situation and around 5000MW of the electricity could easily be secured by giving attention to this issue.

A permanent solution to the country’s energy crisis is direly needed, the Senator said.

Former Finance Minister Dr Salman Shah said deregulation of power sector is a must to solve the energy issue. He quoted the example of telecom sector which is giving huge revenue to the government. He said that single buyer model should be changed now as it has failed to ensure cheaper electricity to the consumers. He said Kalabagh Dam (KBD) is the only short-term option to overcome the energy crisis and revive the country’s stagnant economy.

He said KBD was a feasible project and it could be constructed in just four years to produce 4,000 megawatts of electricity at a rate of just Rs 1.5 per unit. In his opening address, LCCI President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh said that energy crisis is disrupting economic and social activities throughout the country and particularly in the Punjab. The situation is causing business closures and unemployment. Incomes, profitability and competitiveness are eroding and energy insecurity is growing. The irony is that all this is happening in a potentially energy rich country.

Former WAPDA Chairman Tariq Hameed said that small projects of up to 500MW would not resolve the power crisis. There is a need to initiate projects that give quantum jump to the power generation. This aim could be achieved by exploiting the hydro electric potential of country. In this regard detailed studies of Kalabagh Dam (3600 MW), Bhasha Dam (4600 MW, Dasu (3000 MW) Bonji (7000 MW) have already been prepared by WAPDA.

He said that in order to ensure sustained supplies in future, the government should at least start two mega hydro electric projects immediately. Electricity requirement in the country is increasing by 8% per annum while during the past four years we have not been able to even plug the shortage that already exists. The supply and demand gap is increasing every passing year.

Chairman Independent Power Producer Advisory Council Abdullah Yousaf expressed concern over the ever increasing circular debt which is now touching Rs. 365 billion and is increasing at the rate of Rs 1 billion per day. He said that the outstanding dues of PEPCO are Rs 350 billion. And this makes the point that circular debt is a governance issue.

Abdullah Yousaf said that 2500MW could be brought back into the system immediately by paying dues to the IPPs.

Suleman Najeeb Khan said that Pakistan is abdicating its water rights to India while the bureaucrats are wrongly interpreting the Indus Water Treaty. He cited the example of Neelum-Jehlum Project which gives Pakistan full rights over its waters once it had shown its intention to build the project in 1990.

Munwar Baseer said that energy situation could be tackled by giving full responsibility and charge to competent and honest professionals as politicians are driven by their own self fulfilling motives and agendas.