Considering the existential nature of the water and power problems faced by Pakistan — problems that can only escalate if not managed effectively — it has taken far too long to get to grips with them. Once again it is the apex court that has kick-started a process in which it would not normally be involved — with dams not being under the judicial purview in normal times — and the government has now ordered the immediate construction of the Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams with work to start in the current fiscal.
It ought not to have needed a strategically-aimed judicial boot to move things along. The news came in a briefing by the Water and Power Development Authority to Prime Minister Mulk, and it was illuminating in other respects — there are several projects at the ‘ready for construction’ point, including the 1,410MW Tarbela 5th Extension, the 2,160MW-Stage II of Dasu, the 7,100MW Bunji and the Stage II of multipurpose Kurram Tangi Dam. These are very significant power and water resources that have seemingly been idling along in the slow lane for whatever reason and which if urgent work was carried out could be working in (relatively) short order.
As things stand the country is bedevilled by power outages of varying duration giving the lie to the outgoing government’s claim to have brought power cuts to an end. It is painfully obvious that this is not so, and whatever additional power is being generated is being put into a system that has suffered years of neglect and underinvestment, and promptly trips to save damage every time additional load is placed on it. Simply increasing generation and storage capacity is going to take the country nowhere unless there is a parallel development of the system of distribution — to say nothing of the rampant and largely unchecked theft of power which needs a ruthless hand on the brakes. Pakistan does not have to have an energy or water crisis, and the fact that it does is rooted in planning and development failures decades old. It is fixable. Whether there is the political will or capacity to do so is quite another matter.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2018.