Leaders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan will gather in Tajikistan on May 12 to launch development of the much-awaited Central Asia South Asia (Casa) 1,000 power supply project called “peace line”, a move that will lead to regional integration.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Tajikistan Ambassador Sherali S Jononov also announced the start of direct flights to Pakistan in order to enhance people-to-people contacts and trade between the two countries.
Premier to visit Tajikistan for CASA-1000 project in May
Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have been working for a long time on reaching electricity supply arrangements and the establishment of a Central Asia-South Asia regional electricity market.
Initially, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will export 1,000 to 1,300 megawatts of electricity to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan will consume a major share of exports whereas Afghanistan will receive around 300MW.
According to the ambassador, Tajikistan has received confirmation from the Foreign Office of Pakistan that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will attend the launching ceremony of the power import project, which would take place in a city near Dushanbe.
“Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev will also be present on the occasion,” he said, adding it would be a peace line project that would connect neighbours in the South and Central Asia regions.
Jononov said the project would be completed in two years at a cost of $1.2 billion. Pakistan will get clean hydroelectric power at cheaper rates that will ease energy shortages in the country. The project will also lead to closer economic relations among these countries.
CASA-1000: Tajikistan to export 1,000MW hydel electricity
The ambassador said Tajikistan was rich in hydel resources as it had more than 1,000 rivers and lakes. All legal, technical and financial matters have been settled before launch of the project.
Speaking about security fears in Afghanistan, he said Afghanistan was a sovereign country and had given sovereign guarantees to protect the power transmission line that would pass through it. “We have maintained two transmission lines from Tajikistan to Afghanistan for the last 17 years with no security issues.”
He said Tajikistan had offered investment opportunities to investors of Pakistan and these could be facilitated by enhancing air links.
The ambassador stressed that Tajikistan’s energy sector had been showing sustainable growth for the last 15 years. Apart from big plants, there are 20 medium and 40 small hydroelectric power stations in remote mountainous areas, with capacity ranging from 5 kilowatts to 1,500 kilowatts.
In Pakistan, the rate of firm energy is 13.2 US cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and the rate of non-firm energy is 9.2 cents. The power generation cost in Afghanistan is estimated to be at least 6 cents per kWh. Pakistan is importing electricity for Gwadar at 10 cents per unit.
Pakistan could turn into a transit trade hub
The Casa power project will not only ease electricity shortages in Pakistan but will also replace fuel-based electricity in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It will establish Kabul as a viable transit nation and offer electricity to other countries during the off-peak season.
Jononov announced the launch of direct flights between Pakistan and Tajikistan and termed it a big achievement to enhance trade and people-to-people contacts.
It will also lead to enhancing educational, cultural and business cooperation between the two nations.
Tajikistan’s Somon Air representative Nadeem Z Cheema said first flight would depart from Lahore to Dushanbe on May 6. There will be two flights a week. “In the second phase, we will start flights from Islamabad and Karachi,” he said.
Each flight would have cargo capacity for four to five tons, meaning traders will be able to export 20 tons of cargo every month.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2016.
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