IN the modern era of industrialization energy security is considered the life blood of the economies. It is about development, sustainability of 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 the 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 the already industrialized nations lay great emphasis on developing new sources of energy to cater for their future needs. The developed nations for sure owe it to the availability of adequate energy to meet the need of their expanding industrial bases. Unfortunately the greater reliance on the fossil fuels to produce energy has created formidable challenges for the entire humanity in the form of global warming and climate change which is considered to be the biggest existentialist threat to the dwellers of the earth planet. It is estimated that 80% of global energy needs are met from the fossil fuels. As against it the renewable energy sources produce little or no global warming emissions. The other advantage of the renewable energy sources is their perennial availability as against the 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 the global warming and climate change issue have become the focus of the developing as well as the developed nations, the emphasis has rightly shifted to meeting energy needs from the renewable energy sources.
For the 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 the climate change and global warming triggered by the release into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other green house gases which trap heat contributing to global warming 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 Rs 442 billion stipulates the construction of the diversion system, main dam, access bridge and a 21 MW Tanji Hydropower project. The dam is likely to produce 4,500 to 4,800 megawatts of electricity through hydropower generation. 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.
According to reliable sources the current energy mix of Pakistan is formed of 64% fossil fuels, 27% hydropower and 9% 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 Kala Bagh Dam fell victim to regional politics and the country was deprived of the opportunity to develop renewable sources 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 Diamer-Bhash 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 the 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-Bhasha 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 Diamer-Bhash Dam, a claim firmly dismissed by the latter. The credit for revival and 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 required finances and asked WAPDA to have
it launched without further delay. It is hoped that the project would be completed within the stipulated time.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.