To its credit, the government of the time has taken the first step to resolve one of the most pressing issues facing the nation today: dangerously depleting energy sources and generation. The Energy Summit held in Islamabad on April 19 and 20 brought together stake-holders from the federal and provincial governments, as well as experts and technocrats. A much needed debate was held, and recommendations for short, medium and long-term measures were made.
Primary amongst these are conservation measures which require the reduction of up to 50 per cent of electric lighting in the president and prime minister’s secretariats and all government offices. The use of airconditioners by authorised officers is to be regulated. Billboards and neon signs are not to be supplied with power, commercial decorative lights are to be prohibited, industries must practice a staggered weekly holiday, markets must be shut at sunset, marriage halls can only hold weddings for three hours, and government departments must only function for five days a week.
Such measures can save at least 1,500 megawatts per day, enabling crippled industries to limp back to health, allowing farmers to irrigate their crops, encouraging students to get off the streets and back to their books. Essential goals, these. What remains to be seen is their acceptance and the implementation of policies resulting from them. Are we prepared to discipline ourselves for the collective good? Are we a nation that has grown wild like untended weeds, capable of reigning in personal comfort for shared benefits?
Have we even defined ourselves as a single nation with an inextricably linked future? Are we ready to explore new avenues for the generation of energy from industrial waste such as sugar-cane pulp? Are we tapping into the vast coal reserves buried beneath the Thar? In the long-term we are looking at the production of 30,000 megawatts of energy produced from indigenous coal and 25,000 megawatts generated by hydropower. Are we looking at the fact that our glaciers are melting rapidly, that the Indus is no longer the Lion River, that along with a cut in demand we need to change the entire paradigm in which we see development? For the fisher-folk of Sheikh Kherio Bhandari, it doesn’t matter that marriage halls shall have fewer hours of feasts for the already over-fed.
For the woman delivering her eleventh child in Khaplu, it does not matter whether the neo-Mughal edifice of the prime minister’s secretariat is well lit or not. For the landless peasant in Awaran it does not matter whether or not ministers switch on their air-conditioners at 11 am. And for the children of Chilas, it is irrelevant if markets close at sunset. For in most of the country, the tunnel is dark, and the journey long, and there are many miles to go before we sleep. CONCLUDED