Factors behind delay
THE water and power ministry has blamed the “reluctance” of international lenders like Asian Development Bank in providing funds for delays in the launch and completion of different hydropower projects in the country. But does the statement of the ministry’s high-ups before the Senate Standing Committee represent the true situation? While officials blamed foreign lenders for not financing mega hydropower projects, the Americans were committing $200m for the Bhasha dam. Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh has also rejected reports that ADB wasn’t interested in the project. He told the media in Washington the same day that both ADB and the US would finance the preliminary work on the multi-billion dollar project to be completed in Gilgit-Baltistan in eight to 10 years. So the much sought-after foreign assistance for hydropower projects is likely to start flowing in even if it was slow in finding its way to Pakistan until now.
However, the delay in foreign assistance is not the only factor responsible for the lack of development of the country’s vast water resources for cheap hydropower generation. Lack of political will, bureaucratic inefficiencies and mismanagement are other important factors keeping the country from improving its unsustainable energy mix. Pakistan is estimated to have a massive generation potential of at least 50,000MW electricity from micro to mega projects against the existing hydropower capacity of 6,500MW. According to Wapda, the authority could complete projects with a generation capacity of 20,000MW by 2020 if funds are provided without interruption. It says many smaller projects could be completed over the next few years if the National Transmission and Despatch Company released the outstanding electricity arrears of Rs80bn to Wapda. It could be a good start on hydropower generation for mitigating growing power shortages. At the same time the government could take a few steps to ensure transparency in the implementation of plans and prevent bureaucratic lethargy from further delaying under-construction projects to avoid cost overruns and inordinate delays in completion. We have to prove that we are serious about developing our hydropower sector if we want to rope in international lenders. Complaining about them will not get us anywhere.