Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Monday it was high time Pakistan and the US strengthen their bilateral relations, as he hailed the bilateral cooperation in the refurbishment project of Units 5 and 6 of the Mangla Dam Hydroelectric Power Plant.
Addressing the inauguration ceremony of the project, the prime minister stressed that Pakistan was in dire need of generating cheap electricity because the country’s energy import bill had reached exorbitantly high level of $27 billion.
Shehbaz expressed his gratitude for the assistance provided by the United States Assistance for International Development (USAID) for the refurbishment of the plant, saying that the USAID assistance was “a wonderful example of cooperation” between Pakistan and the United States.
“The cooperation in this project is an example of good relations between Pakistan and America,” the prime minister told the ceremony. “Now is the time for Pakistan and America to further strengthen their bilateral relations,” he added.
He expressed satisfaction over the interest shown by the US in carrying out an extension programme of the Tarbela dam. “The 75-years-old friendship and bilateral relationship between Pakistan and the US has further strengthened at the trade and investment levels.”
Shehbaz said that Pakistan was tackling the challenges in the energy sector. “We can no longer afford to generate electricity from expensive sources. Pakistan needs cheap electricity and steps have been taken in this regard,” he added. “Pakistan is working on generating electricity from water, wind and other sources.”
The prime minister said that the past government did not use the alternative energy resources, instead they kept on importing oil therefore, oil cartels were imposing arbitrary terms. “The time has come to give a shut-up call to the oil importing cartels,” he added.
While the country was able to generate 10,000 megawatts of electricity from solar energy, Shehbaz asked the question why this capacity was not raised to 60,000 megawatts. “Who were the elements which prevented us from working on hydropower, wind power and solar power projects?”
“Had due attention been paid to the construction of dams, Pakistan today could have been saved from a huge losses,” he pointed out. However, he stressed that crying would not help rather there was need to work day and night. “Development does not come from slogans but by actions.”
In the wake of floods in the country, Shehbaz mentioned that dams were crucial to mitigate the effects of climate change. “We fought our case on the global platform in Sharm el-Sheikh. We are not asking for charity but we want justice from the world on the issue of climate change.”
Speaking at the event, US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Bloom said that this project was an example of the best relations between Pakistan and the US. “Pakistan faced the worst floods, therefore, everyone has to help Pakistan for the rehabilitation work,” Bloom said.
Blome added that the US was also assisting in increasing the generation capacity of the Tarbela and Gomal Zam dams. “Maintenance and upgrades of dams are of critical importance in the wake of climate change. The Pak-US green alliance will prove beneficial for the energy and agriculture sectors of Pakistan,” he added.
The General Electric Hydro France Project Director and the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Chairman also spoke at the ceremony. Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir Sardar Tanveer Ilyas, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Tariq Fatemi also attended the event.
The refurbishment project is completed with the valuable grant of $150 million by USAID, €90 million financial support from the Development Agency of France and another pledge of €65 million and $178 million [Rs20 billion] contribution from the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) from its own resources.
(WITH INPUT FROM APP)
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