Pakistan’s current power crisis is almost a direct manifestation of its circular debt issue. The issue itself owes its existence mainly to the country’s dependence on thermal electricity generation rather than hydropower solutions. Currently, only 33% of Pakistan’s power comes from Hydro-electric resources, despite the fact that Pakistan is an agrarian economy. Dams here can serve the dual purpose of power generation and water reservation.
According to a 2010 report by WAPDA, The Hydropower potential in Pakistan is over 100,000 MW out of which 55,000 MW have already been identified. Instead of moving towards greater hydropower resources, the share of hydropower has been halved in the last 20 years which stands at almost 6500 MW. In contrast, India had built over 4000 large and small dams by 2000. China on the other hand has more than 80,000 dams of different sizes and has a hydropower generation capacity of more than 170 Giga-watts. There certainly is great potential and room in Pakistan too for hydropower generation which must be tapped if the power crisis in the country is to be curtailed.
Two large dams, Kalabagh and Diamer-Bhasha, have been cited in various researches as panacea to the current electricity crisis. Diamer-Bhasha, which is expected to be completed in 2018, will have a potential of 4500 MW Electricity production. The project is located on River Indus on the boundary of Gilgit-Baltistan and KPK. And although the project has already been inaugurated, its location being a disputed area might create future issues for the government.
Kalabagh dam, which was also proposed on river Indus, was going to have a power capacity of 3600 MW. The plan however lies scrapped at the moment, owing to various political issues. Of the two, Diamer-Bhasha appears to be the better option as it would involve minimum human displacement and is politically viable.
Another Hydropower project taken up by the government is Neelum-Jhelum which is expected to be completed in 2016 and will add 969MW to the national grid. The government however needs to step up its pace in implementation of the projects it has earmarked for the future. These projects which are still in the feasibility stage include Bunji (7,100MW), Dasau (4,320MW), Thakot, Patan & Yulbo (2,800MW each), Skurdo (1,600MW), Tungus (2,200MW) and Kohala (1,100MW).
B/m data gives a fair idea of Pakistan’s hydropower potential (All data from WAPDA report in 2010).
River-wise Hydro-Power Potential
Hydro-Power projects which can be undertaken by the government
The data and statistics clearly show a need and potential for hydropower generation capacity of the country. The onus however is on the government, political parties and policy makers to step up to the challenge and provide a much needed relief to the energy starved nation.
Immad Alam is a Research Writer at Vision21