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Pakistan pursues power-generating projects
The country is looking to end its decade-long energy crisis, build up the economy and create jobs for its citizens by investing in its energy sector.
By Imdad Hussain
ISLAMABAD – The Pakistani government has initiated construction on numerous dams and other power-generating projects to address the country's energy crisis and create job opportunities, officials and analysts say.
Pakistan is at least 5,000MW short of what it is needs to support the country this summer, the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) reported. On one day in May, the national power grid generated 9,200MW, 7,000MW short of demand, UPI reported.
The acute energy crisis has taken its toll on industry, agriculture and the job market, costing millions of Pakistanis their jobs over the past 10 years, according to economists.
"The energy crisis has reduced GDP growth by 2.5-3% [per year], and it directly affects the 2.5m new job seekers who enter the market every year," Dr. Ashfaq Hassan, an economist, told Central Asia Online, adding that millions of Pakistanis lost their jobs because of the crisis in the last decade.
Pakistani energy potential
It is not a matter of lacking energy resources, but rather it is a matter of properly tapping into Pakistani potential, Hassan said.
The country has large potential for economic growth and employment if exploited carefully, he said.
Pakistan in a few years could overcome the energy crisis and massive unemployment, and the GDP growth would be higher if load shedding vanished, economist A. H. Nayyar said.
The country's power potential is 59,208MW for hydropower; 100,000MW for coal; 7,500MW for wind; 2,000MW for solar; and 25,031MW for thermal, WAPDA spokeswoman Farhat Jabeen told Central Asia Online.
Projects boost energy production
The energy crisis seems to be worsening day by day, but the power generation projects are now increasing hope and the country's future is not as dark as it once seemed.
Several stakeholders are involved and the authorities are trying hard to contain the power shortage and load shedding in Pakistan, Jabeen said.
Construction is progressing on 17 small- to medium-size dams and other power-generating projects, and some of them should be ready within a few months, she said.
More than 400MW will be added to the national grid this month, and another 4,000MW in the next five years, she added.
Three dams are nearing completion and two others are scheduled to be finished in 2015, official records reveal.
Improving job market and alternative energy
Besides helping to ease the energy crisis, the projects will boost employment.
The dam projects, for example, have directly employed 19,200 workers in the past five years, the WAPDA dams director said.
The energy development sector has provided more than 100,000 jobs in various projects over the past eight years, official records reveal.
Energy development projects are already denting the unemployment rate. There are also expectations that the increased employment will trickle down to industry and agriculture.
Development activities like those in the energy sector always have a positive effect on other areas of the economy, Nayyar said, noting more job opportunities will come to cement and other industries.
Alternative energy plans on tap, too
The government is not only encouraging the dams as energy sources but also promoting solar, wind, nuclear and other means. It initiated projects in this direction as well.
The Alternative Energy Development Board initiated wind, solar and other projects that will add 500MW to the national grid within two years, Chief Executive Arif Alauddin told Central Asia Online.
But the potential for such projects is much greater as these sectors are attracting huge investment, he said.