The Summer Torment

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Iftekhar A Khan

The PTI government’s performance in nearly four years remained dismal, as they say, nothing to write home about.

The Prime Minister recently warned that load-shedding will increase in the month of July. Already, when brains melt due to high temperatures and power outages add to public miseries, PM’s forecast about power outages is nothing less than a bombshell. When people meet, their first comment usually is, “It’s very hot this year.” In fact, it’s hot every year. The blame for failing to provide the basic utility, electricity, to the people goes to every government in the past and present.
The problem of power shortage is not new; it has been haunting us for a long time. Various governments in the past, instead of building mega dams for hydropower, decided in favour of projects that would provide energy to the people at high rates and in the process the decision-makers would line their pockets. The most viable hydropower project, the Kalabagh Dam, could not materialise due to the objection of a handful Sindhi nationalists and ANP, which is a minority party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Thus, the most suitable project of national interest to produce cheap electricity for the public was a victim of the parochial interests of minorities.
Decisions of high magnitude are difficult to make for the politicians but Generals Zia and Musharraf could have built the Kalabagh Dam. If Gen Zia could change the constitution to prolong his rule and Musharraf abrogate the constitution twice, either of them could have built the KBD in greater national interest. Zia however was better placed to undertake the gigantic product. Even Musharraf could have decided to build the dam during his initial years when he was all powerful.
On various Head Works where waterfalls exist, power could be generated by installing turbines. Imran Niazi claimed that hundreds of dams were built in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during his party’s rule. Sad that so many dams were built but the nation remained clueless about the so-called achievement. Will Khan ask any of his party stalwarts to issue a list of the dams built and their locations to make the people wise?
The Diamer-Bhasha dam is the one that the public cannot forget because the former CJP Saqib Nisar took the responsibility of its construction. So enthusiastic he was about the project that he wanted to supervise its progress by pitching a tent on the site of construction. He collected billions as the Dam Fund. Imagine Saqib Nisar living in a tent and humming rhymes!
Let’s talk about a country that was once our part – Bangladesh. It produces 25,000 MW of electricity that covers the needs of 100% of its population. Nawaz Sharif in his tenure had managed to produce enough electricity to end load-shedding. Later the PTI blamed him for producing excess electricity to pocket commission from the private parties. On the other hand, the PTI did precious little to increase the power capacity.
The PTI chief only delivered angry speeches accusing his political rivals. His government performance in nearly four years remained dismal, as they say nothing to write home about. The LNG to produce power could have been arranged during the PTI rule. But the PTI government involved itself in trivial issues instead of securing the deal to import LNG in time and at affordable rates. Had this decision been taken in time, the power shortage would have been much less today.
The present government has made the right decision to control the timings of the shopping centres. If shopping malls could be closed at 7pm in developed countries, why not here. It’s just that we are accustomed to a wasteful culture that includes both the traders as well as the customers. However, the government is suggested to change Sunday as a closed day for commercial activities in the shopping centres. Instead, some other day, Tuesday or Friday, could be announced as the closed day. Since the idea is to save energy, appointing any day other than Sunday would serve the same purpose.
To meet the rising demand of electricity, the government may consider generating electricity by windmills where suited and by installing solar systems. We have bright sun mostly throughout the year. Also, the government should make it mandatory for all upscale housing societies to make it a rule that every house will have its own solar system. Those who can afford to buy plots in expensive residential societies, DHAs, Bahria Town and others, could easily include the cost of solar systems for their trendy houses. It’s a shame however that people of a nuclear state face eighteen hours of load-shedding. The situation in rural areas is more appalling.

The writer is a Lahore-based columnist and can be reached at pinecity@gmail.com