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Achieving energy security

Opinion

June 1, 2020

In the modern era of industrialization, energy security is considered the lifeblood of economies. It is about development, sustainability of the development process and enhanced standards of life.

No country in the world can conceive of economic progress and prosperity and the accompanying clout that it gets in managing international affairs without achieving energy security.

Consequently, all the countries aspiring to join the club of developed nations put a lot of emphasis on energy security. Even already industrialized nations lay great emphasis on developing new sources of energy to cater for their future needs. Developed nations like Pakistan for sure need to achieve energy security for transformation from an agricultural entity to an industrialized nation.

Unfortunately, the greater reliance on fossil fuels to produce energy has created formidable challenges for all of humanity in the form of global warming and consequential climate change which is considered to be the biggest existential threat to the dwellers of the Planet Earth. It is estimated that 80 percent of global energy needs are met from fossil fuels.

As against it, renewable energy sources produce little or no global warming emissions. The other advantage of renewable energy sources is their perennial availability as against exhaustible sources of fossil fuels. Yet another appreciable advantage is that the energy produced from them is much cheaper than the one generated through fossil fuels. Ever since global warming and climate change have become the focus of the developing as well as developed nations, the emphasis has rightly shifted to meeting energy needs from renewable energy sources.

In the backdrop of the foregoing realities, it is indeed a matter of great satisfaction that after remaining in limbo for nearly two decades, hopes for the construction of the much needed Diamer-Basha Dam have been rekindled with the award of the contract for civil and electro-mechanical works to a joint venture firm of Power China and the Frontier Works Organization (FWO). The agreement worth Rs442 billion stipulates the construction of the diversion system, main dam and an Access Bridge.

The dam will also produce 4,500 to 4,800 megawatts of electricity. It will store an extra 10 cubic kilometres of water that would be used for irrigation and drinking. The dam is also likely to extend the life of the Tarbela Dam by 35 years. Another likely advantage of this dam is its potential to control flood damage by the Indus downstream during high floods.

For an energy starved country like Pakistan, which has to spend huge amounts on the import of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas required for production of electricity, the significance of changing the energy mix through renewable resources can hardly be overemphasized. Pakistan is also one of the seven worst affected countries by climate change and global warming triggered by the release into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases which trap heat contributing to global warming.

According to reliable sources, the current energy mix of Pakistan is formed of 64 percent fossil fuels, 27 percent hydropower and nine percent other renewable sources and nuclear power. While Pakistan has strong potential for producing renewable energy, it is still far behind much of the world in developing these sources. It is a matter of great regret that a crucial project like the Kalabagh Dam fell victim to regional politics and the country was deprived of the opportunity to develop a renewable source of energy which could have gone a long way in meeting the energy needs of the country and saving it from the energy crisis that we have been facing for quite some time.

The construction and early completion of the Diamer-Basha dam will surely change the energy mix of the country and accrue multiple benefits to its economy besides leading to an appreciable cut in the import bill. The country needs to focus more vigorously on the development of all the existing potential for producing energy from renewable resources in the future to meet its burgeoning energy needs and also to minimize the impact of climate change. The renewable energy sources include solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, geothermal energy and biomass energy.

The idea for the construction of the Diamer-Basha dam floated by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 1998 could not be translated into reality due to a variety of reasons including withdrawal of support by the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank after objections raised by India which claimed that the dam was being built in a disputed territory. India has also made covert and overt efforts to sabotage CPEC and even lodged a protest with China in that regard. It has again protested to China on its participation in the construction of the Diamer-Basha dam, a claim firmly dismissed by the Chinese.

The credit for its revival and for going ahead with its construction without doubt goes to the PTI government, particularly Prime Minister Imran Khan – who in view of the importance of the project found an alternative avenue to raise the required finances and asked Wapda to have it launched without further delay. It is hoped that the project will be completed within the stipulated time.

The writer is a freelancecontributor.

Email: [email protected]