Overcoming energy Crisis top most Priority: Abid Sher Ali

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State Minister for Water and Power Talks To DNA & Centreline

By Waheed Hussain
Provision of affordable energy on regular basis was the fundamental priority of the present government. Energy was the engine of economic growth, that’s why PML (N) presented a comprehensive and achievable energy policy within the first two months in power. The government took serious measures and the result was that there was tremendous reduction in the electricity load-shedding throughout the country. These views were expressed by the Minister of State for Water and Power Chudhary Abid Sher Ali in an exclusive interview with the Centreline and Diplomatic News Agency. Here are excerpts from his interview.

Q: How did the government succeed in overcoming electricity load-shedding?

As you know that when we came into power the circular debt had crossed Rs. 500 billion, as a result various power plants operating on the furnace oil were shut down reducing the power generation to negligible level. There was huge gap between the demand and supply of the power on daily basis affecting industry, commercial and domestic consumers. The demand of the country was 16500 MW while the generation could not cross 8000 MW. The biggest challenge in front of the government was to pay money to the GENCOs at a time when the national exchequer did not have much financial resources. However, under the leadership of the Prime Minister of Pakistan Muhammad Nawaz Sherif financial managers of the country arranged amount of Rs. 480 billion and rapidly enhanced the generation from 8000 to 13500 MW. The increase has benefited the masses.

Q. There were serious issues of mismanagement, losses at various levels and corruption in the power sector, how your ministry would be able to handle those giants?

In fact most of government institutions have been destroyed because of massive corruption, nepotism, mismanagement and incompetence. The power sector has been victim of all those ills including the technical issues. The electricity losses starting from the plants up to the end consumer have caused great financial burden, we have to pay for those units which we don’t utilize. The plants inefficiencies, transmission and line losses, and theft have been the biggest challenge for the government to tackle. The ministry is gathering the data of all the power generation companies’ efficiencies and transmission management. Similarly the government has launched the drive against the electricity thieves. These measures would bring positive change; however, it was a time consuming and regular exercise which would be continued in the future without interruption.

Q. The corrupt WAPDA officials were being protected by the influential people; how would you resist that interference?

The days of influential people have gone those officials who would not protect the interest of the institution and nation would be removed from their respective offices. Only clean and good reputed officials would survive in the present government. There were clear instructions being issued to all the officials directly or indirectly involved with the ministry and its attached departments that they have to follow the rules. In the past most of the government officials protected the interests of the powerful people and looted the country now we don’t need such dirty people on our team. The senior or the junior officials all of them would be evaluated on the basis of their efficiency, honesty and commitment to their profession. The bad eggs have no place in this government at all.

Q. There were many public sectors institutions and provincial governments who have to pay their dues to WAPDA how they would be recovered?

Yes many public and private sectors have to pay billions of rupees to the government. The government was seriously working on the recovery issue. We were introducing prepaid billing policy to address the problem permanently.

Q. What were the on-going and future hydropower projects?

The Ministry of Water and Power was implementing a comprehensive strategy including short, medium and long-term hydropower projects. Under the short term policy, construction of on-going projects was being completed on the top most priority basis. Under the medium term the government has planned to add 12851 MW hydel electricity, within 5 to 7 years. These projects include: 106 MW Golen Gol, 969 MW Neelum Jhelum, 1410 Tarbela 4th extension, 500 MW Tarbela 5th extension, 122 MW Keyal Khwar, 83 MW Kurram Tangi, 2160 MW Dasu phase-1, 496 MW Lower Spat Dah, 665 MW Lower Palas Valley, 740 MW Mohmand (Formerly known as Munda) Dam, 2800 MW Pattan, 2800 MW Thakot Hydropower project.

Another 14970 MW hydel power project would be completed in 7 to 10 years time. These projects include: 2160 MW Dasu Phase-2, 4500 MW Diamer Basha Dam, 7100 MW Bunji, 600 MW Akhori, 310 MW Rehabilitation of Mangla Power Station and 300 MW Rehabilitation of Warsak Hydel Power Station.

In addition of all those small and mega projects the country will get electricity from the other projects as well. From Mangla Dam uprising project 120 MW while 17 MW from Gomal Zam electricity has also being added to the national transmission grid to benefit the masses of the respective areas as well as the entire country. The Gomal Zam Dam would also irrigate 2 hundred thousand acres of land in Waziristan and D.I.Khan. Naturally it would help to create economic opportunities for the terrorist-hit population of the country. The Satpara Dam and its powerhouses have been completed and would soon be inaugurated. It would generate 17 MW electricity and irrigate 15436 acres of land as well. The work on 130 MW Duber Khwar and 22 MW Jabban Hydropower projects has been expedited; both projects would be operational next month.

Q  How the non-availability of transmission line for the Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project would be addressed?

This was the major negligence of the previous government that it didn’t address the main issue of transmission line without which the power could not be transported to the national grid. However, our government has awarded transmission line project for its completion.

Q. How much money has been allocated for the Diamer Basha Dam Project in the current financial year and when the project would be completed?

The government has allocated 17 billion rupees for the project in the current budget and the project would be completed in the 10 years time.

Q. What were the other means of generating power to meet the present and future requirements?

The government was working on the various alternative energy projects including solar and wind. The major coal based energy project would be established at Gaddani. Around 6600 MW Pakistan Power Park at Gaddani in Baluchistan would help to meet country’s energy requirements.

Q. Your government has very ambitious power plans but they need billions of dollars from where the money would come?

Yes the present economic and financial resources of the country do not allow to allocate hundreds of billions of rupees for these projects, however, because of the government credibility and transparency all the major international financial institutions and individual countries were showing their deep willingness to provide funds. Recently the Saudi Development Fund and the US Aid have agreed to provide 150 million dollars for the Neelum Jhelum Project which was an indication that foreign investors and donors were willing for the investment in power sector in Pakistan.

The writer is TV anchor and Consulting Editor of Centreline and DNA. He can be at Waheed.h35@gmail.com