Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Jerry's Take: Bringing about a Change - Jarrar Shah

Pakistan has been in the grips of a severe heat wave. This always happens this time of the year. All of us are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first monsoon rains. This year has been more difficult than usual because of the excessive load shedding (power outages). Here are some interesting facts about the electricity situation in the country. The total capacity of electricity in this country is 19,754MW (economic survey of Pakistan 2008-2009). the current production of electricity in this country is roughly 11,000MW. The demand in this country given the atrocious weather conditions is at its yearly peak which is 15,000 MW. Do the math folks. Should this equation result in load shedding? We are utilising 55% of our total installed capacity of power generation. so whats going on here? in a nutshell, poor governance. The government is not paying the utility companies who cant pay the producers who in turn cant pay the oil and gas companies. Our energy sector is trapped in circular debt. Here's the kicker. In the next two years roughly 10,000MW are going to be coming online in our energy grid. that's good news right? Well ill leave that judgement up to you. the overwhelming majority of power producing units coming up are going to be thermal based i.e running on gas or oil. We already aren't being able to pay our existing thermal units so how are we going to pay these new companies. Well one thing the government could do and is doing is increase the bills it sends us. Once that's done how our industries will compete globally is something beyond me. The effect on domestic inflation wont be nice either. Also what would happen if international oil prices start rocketing towards the $150/barrel mark? Another thing that could happen is that due to the shutting down of various industrial units our consumption could come down so we wont have to run all those expensive thermal units. What would happen to all those jobless youth is something we will worry about when we cross that bridge or i guess in our case not worry at all. Why?

Lately there's been some noise about the water issue. This issue is only going to get worse with time. Our capacity to store water on the Indus is limited and our population growth is not. We have politicised the issue of dams to the detriment of us all. The much awaited monsoon season is all set to hit us. The bulk of that rainfall will be wasted. Why? Because we don't have any dam downstream of Tarbela dam to catch and store that rain water. A lot of the snow that melts each year cant be stored because we only have Tarbela dam on the Indus and no dam upstream of it. We talk incessantly of being an agrarian economy yet over the past so many decades we have made the topic of dams politically taboo in this country. Why?

Apart from the obvious benefits of storing water when its in excess during the summers and monsoon, building dams will also generate thousands of jobs for unskilled workers during construction and later on during construction of new canals etc. The most obvious benefit that will be derived though is on the energy front. We will be providing our consumers and our industry alike with the cheapest source of renewable energy thus leading to massive industrialisation and job creation in this country. We have the capacity to generate 55,000MW of cheap electricity from the river Indus but unfortunately we are not the least bit interested in pursuing this option. Why?

Politics as usual can not go on in this country anymore. Our challenges are too huge and our people have been taken for granted for far too long for this to continue. We must individually and collectively start doing our part in bringing about a change.

One such group of individuals have made a collective called Pakistan Rising that intends to play a part no matter how small in bringing about this change. This group of individuals came together a couple of months back after reports of the Taliban extremists entering Buner. They helped organize a letter campaign and protest rally against extremism in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi. They are also facilitating 400 IDP families at three locations in NWFP and 60 IDP families in Lahore. They have raised and distributed goods worth Rs3.5million in one month for these IDP families. In addition they have held two further protests and vigils one of which was done simultaneously in Lahore and Islamabad with the Lahore event being held at the site of the suicide bombing of the rescue 15 building 3 days after the bombing. Pakistan Rising has also created an awareness campaign in Lahore regarding the menace of extremism and about the need for unity amongst Pakistanis. They need your help though. They need volunteers, members and financial contribution. These are all people who care passionately about this country and have decided to do their part. The plan of Pakistan Rising is simple. They want to create awareness amongst the people of Pakistan so that people can mobilise effectively to pressurize the government of the day. They want to promote unity amongst the provinces and peoples of this land. They want all of you to join them in this endeavor. If others are doing the same thing already then collaboration and coordination would be something that could be done.
For greater details on how to contribute please check out their facebook page or go to
the website is still being polished and updated but it should be up and running within a weeks time. Im also a full fledged member of this collective, so if someone needs information from me id be only too happy to oblige.

Pakistan Hamesha Zindabad.

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