Persistent power outages have been a permanent feature of life in Pakistan for the best part of a decade. While it has led to a multitude of problems for households and businesses alike, this problem has also resulted in a burgeoning of creative solutions to solve our power woes. Though the majority continues to rely on more traditional means, solar power has found enthusiasts in the most unlikely of places. It has been shunned in the past due to the initial expense necessary for purchase and installation of panels. However, regardless of this, we can now see panels being installed often in the poorest communities of the country simply because they are not served by Wapda, as recently reported in a story about a slum in Islamabad.
The government has been slower to catch on to the full potential of the alternative energy movement but Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) has decided to lead the way. The K-P minister for education has announced a developmental initiative, which could potentially benefit thousands of schoolchildren. Solar panels have been installed in over 400 schools across the province and there are plans to expand the initiative to other institutions in the future. In the face of Pakistan’s abysmal performance on developmental indicators, this is welcome. Our children deserve to have a place to study in which their main concern is learning, not wiping sweat from their brow. A comfortable classroom should be a basic facility provided to all schoolchildren and not reserved for those whose parents can afford the exorbitant fees demanded by private institutions. This is indeed a laudable step taken by the K-P government. Alternative sources of energy have become important internationally, as the world comes to grips with the realities of global warming and the impending shortage of fossil fuels in coming decades. Our governments need to exhibit foresight when dealing with the energy crisis Pakistan is currently facing, and which is likely to worsen, given our growing needs. The sooner solar panels become a fixture rather than a novelty, the better.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2016.
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