En­ergy cri­sis in Balochis­tan

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Ayaz Ahmed Email: ayazahmed6666@gmail.com — The write is free­lance colum­nist based in Karachi.

EN­ERGY is the most im­por­tant need of a sovereign coun­try in the con­tem­po­rary world. But, min­er­als rich Balochis­tan and its much-touted deep port city and up­com­ing re­gional trade hub, Gwadar, are plagued by per­pet­ual en­ergy cri­sis ow­ing to the scarcity of clean, ef­fi­cient, af­ford­able and in­dige­nous en­ergy. Ac­cord­ing to avail­able me­dia re­ports, due to the acute gap be­tween de­mand and sup­ply, some in­te­rior dis­tricts in the province are fac­ing up to 22 hours of load shed­ding. The pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal, Quetta, is be­set with 12-hour-long out­ages. Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal lead­ers and jour­nal­ists, Gwadar city is also plagued by 14 to 16 hours of sched­uled load­shed­ding. Some­times, Gwadar re­mains with­out elec­tric­ity for three to four days due to tech­ni­cal faults, tor­ren­tial rains or mil­i­tants’ at­tacks on the long trans­mis­sion line.

As per avail­able data, to­tal elec­tric­ity de­mand of Balochis­tan is around 1,650 megawatt (MW). How­ever, the elec­tric grid net­work in the province has the ca­pac­ity to trans­mit only up to 650MW of elec­tric­ity. On ac­count of line losses, theft, diver­sion of power to other prov­inces and un­chal­lenge­able dom­i­nance of other prov­inces on the Min­istry of Power and Wa­ter, Balochis­tan does not ac­quire the stip­u­lated amount of power.

In­trigu­ingly, the power pro­duced by Balochis­tan is suf­fi­cient enough to pro­vide elec­tric­ity to the whole province. But much of this elec­tric­ity goes to the na­tional grid and is pro­vided to the rest of the coun­try. Over 2,200 MW of elec­tric­ity is pro­duced in Balochis­tan by the four power plants but the province gets only 400 MW. The rest of the elec­tric­ity pro­duced in Balochis­tan is supplied to the na­tional elec­tric grid, which is a great in­jus­tice.

De­spite be­ing Balochis­tan’s port city, Gwadar is also be­set with un­bear­able load-shed­ding. Cur­rently, Gwadar city is re­ceiv­ing 14MW from the 70MW com­ing through a 400km trans­mis­sion line from Pishin in Iran‘s Sis­tan-Balochis­tan province bor­der­ing Mand, Balochis­tan. The trans­mis­sion line goes from Pishin to Mand, Tur­bat, Pasni, Pan­jgur and then Gwadar. But, Gwadar is still fac­ing 14 to 16 hours of planned load shed­ding. When­ever trans­mis­sion lines, fuses, poles, trans­form­ers, in­su­la­tors and guy wire get dis­or­der, the lo­cal peo­ple col­lect money and get them re­paired.

Quetta Elec­tric Sup­ply Com­pany’s (QESCO) work­ers al­ways com­plain about the lack of re­sources to re­pair in­ter­mit­tent faults oc­cur in the sys­tem. If the would-tobe mega city is bereft of an ad­e­quate sup­ply of power, what would be the con­di­tion of other dis­tricts across the province? It is a pity that Iran has not been paid for pro­vid­ing power since 2011. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port from a pri­vate TV chan­nel, pay­ments for the im­port of elec­tric­ity have not been made to Iran since 2011. Such delay of pay­ment does not bode well be­cause Iran is in­tent on sup­ply­ing more elec­tric­ity to Balochis­tan.

The pro­vin­cial govern­ment has also ut­terly failed to crack down on mas­sive theft of 75 MW of power. Many a con­sumer in Gwadar and its sub­urbs has in­stalled il­le­gal con­nec­tions in com­plicit with QESCO em­ploy­ees. Peo­ple in the pe­riph­ery of Gwadar city are fac­ing over­billing, and, there­fore, a large num­ber of them have left pay­ing elec­tric bills. Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal coun­cil­lors and jour­nal­ists, QESCO em­ploy­ees do not read me­tres and send Rs.2500 bill to all con­sumers. Those who have just one room and one bulb are forced to pay Rs.2500 per month. Is this not the in­com­pe­tence and fail­ure of QESCO in terms of its pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity? Power scarci­ties are due to some lin­ger­ing is­sues which Balochis­tan has been grap­pled with since the 1970s. The province has never seen a com­pe­tent lead­er­ship ca­pa­ble of pri­ori­tis­ing the en­ergy cri­sis with se­ri­ous­ness. More­over, the coun­try’s re­liance on ex­pen­sive oil rather than re­new­able sources is fur­ther ex­ac­er­bat­ing this cri­sis. Fur­ther­more, due to out­dated and in­ef­fi­cient trans­mis­sion lines and theft, around 20 per­cent power goes in vain in the province. Some ex­perts also at­tribute the lack of en­ergy con­ser­va­tion a ma­jor fac­tor be­hind the lin­ger­ing short­age of power.

This is an op­por­tune time for Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, the Chief Min­is­ter of Balochis­tan, to take up the mat­ter of power cri­sis on an emer­gency ba­sis, and di­rect the rel­e­vant author­ity to re­solve the en­trenched is­sue of en­ergy short­ages as soon as pos­si­ble. The province in gen­eral and Gwadar in par­tic­u­lar are at a cross­roads of de­vel­op­ment and pros­per­ity, so lethargy and lax­ity should be shunned for the at­tain­ment of core in­ter­ests of Balochis­tan.

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