From consumption to conservation, now or never | By Bushra Bashir


From consumption to conservation, now or never

AS the nation was getting ready for a new work week, a cataclysmic power failure of the national energy transmission (NET) hit the country.

Most parts of the country remained without electricity for almost twenty two hours, bringing everything to a standstill. This power failure has been the eighth in the last nine years and second in the last three months.

Surely, there are critical weaknesses in the NET system which needs to be addressed on an urgent basis. Besides, successive governments have also failed to increase the power generation capacity proportionate to the growth in population leading to an inherent shortfall. Does the whole responsibility lie with the governments only? Or we, as responsible citizens, also owe something to this country and the earth as well?

Let us recall the 1973 OPEC oil crisis i.e. the turning off oil taps to Europe and the US. The Americans and the Europeans had to stand in queues for hours to fill their car tanks. Their governments had to introduce fast and austere measures to keep the economy going.

Daylight saving was introduced to reduce the need for energy. National speed limit had to be reduced to just 55miles/hours. Not only the governments of these countries had to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy; the people of those countries also had to change their habits.

All had to switch themselves from consumption to conservation. Their economies survived because everyone adapted to this new phenomenon. The overall thinking of the whole society changed. All this did not happen overnight. Scientists, Environmentalists, social activists and even the common citizens, all played their respective roles, keeping their personal biases and loyalties aside for the coming generation’s future.

The OPEC oil crisis is most relevant for Pakistan today because it reminds us to revisit our energy use and efficiency. It reminds us how people of a country become a nation and change their behavior for the sake of their children’s future. That oil crisis led to changes in behaviour with state sponsorship. Therefore, the most impressive media campaign will not work unless the huge government set up adopts austerity measures itself.

Moreover, the state must examine other sources of energy, for which Pakistan has great potential. A country where the sun shines all around the year for solar power, a country which is blessed with vast windy areas for wind power generation, should not plunge into darkness. The state must ease the installation of solar panels and provide incentives for people to switch on that. On the other hand, all citizens, with their political affiliations aside, have to switch from consumption to conservation.

We are indebted to Mother Nature to conserve resources we are blessed with. Be it water, electricity, gas or petrol with a spirit to save not only for the sake of money but for the sake of this environment as well.

The shopkeepers, traders, industrialists and retailers all have to switch to daylight saving. This will not only save energy but will give them more time to spend with their families. In Pakistan, fathers sleep while children are at school and return when children are getting ready for their bed, depriving them of their quality time.

Pakistan is also faced with acute water shortage. Depletion of this resource is reducing our ability to grow enough food for the growing population. Conservation of water is direly needed to save our future generations from hunger and disease. Over the years, we have not been able to bring a consensus on Kalabagh dam so we have to switch to smaller people friendly dams to avoid colossal displacement of population. People displaced due to the October 2005 earthquake have hardly made it to their homes.
—The writer is a public policy practitioner and has special interest in social development.