Govt committed to overcoming energy crisis: Abid

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THE NATION, MIRPUR (AJK), 12th SEPTEMBER 2013:-
Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali said on Wednesday that the federal government was working dedicatedly to overcome energy shortages in the country.
He said that Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was taking personal interest in the matter. He said that the prime minister’s instructions were clear that no delay would be allowed in execution of power projects, adding that he wanted the work of months to be performed within days.
He expressed these views while talking to media men during his visit of site of Mangla Dam Project in Mirpur. Sher Ali said that the National Power Policy 2013 was a consensual document, which was formulated in consultation with the federating units and other stakeholders, adding that objectives outlined in the Policy spelled out a roadmap for making Pakistan self-sufficient in the power generation.
He said that the PML-N’s government believed in actions not words. He said that the Ministry of Water and Power through Wapda was working on the construction of a number of mega, medium and small-sized, run of the river dams such as Diamir Basha, Dassu, Neelum-Jehlum and Nandipur which would not only help generate low-cost and environmental friendly electricity but also store additional water for agricultural purposes as well.
He said that the country’s power sector was in a shambles as a result of policy neglect of the previous government. He further underlined the need of bringing about drastic reforms to revive the sector. He said that due to transmission and distribution infrastructure being obsolete and outdated, the attendant losses were about 25-30 percent coupled with electricity theft, which caused a loss of billions of rupees to the national exchequer annually. He said that if we overcame system’s inefficiency and improved its management, around 1400 MW of power could be saved from wastage.
The minister of state said that the energy mix was heavily tilted in favour of costly thermal power. He said that the government was focusing more on hydropower production to generate low-cost electricity. He said that the Ministry of Water and Power through Wapda was working on a number of hydropower projects, which were at various phases of completion. The simultaneous work on so many projects, he maintained, was unprecedented in the country’s history, adding that upon completion, these projects would add thousands of megawatt of affordable power to the national grid.
He said that as against the world practice of using coal for 40 percent of overall power generation, the government was producing major chunk of electricity from Tharmal-power plants. He added that this explained why power tariff was so high and shortfall between demand and supply so wide. He said that Pakistan Power Park at Gaddani in Balochistan would produce coal-powered 6600 MW from ten plants.
He assured the Mangla dam affectees that the government would fulfill all their justified demands as per agreement reached at the time of their displacement. He said that Rs. 52 billion had already been distributed among the affectees in addition to distribution of plots and payment of additional rents. He said that Mangla Dam raising was a project of huge significance and the optimum filling of reservoir up to 1239.10 feet on September 11 was historic event, which would result in benefit of billions of rupees to national economy.
He said that he would personally look into affairs of the affectees and visit the dam every month. To a question regarding construction of Kala Bagh Dam, the Minister of State said that formation of national consensus was a pre-requisite for this. To another question about the government’s plan of importing electricity from India , he said that the government would take decisions in larger national interest on the basis of mutual respect and equality. He said that Pakistan wanted to establish friendly relations with all its nighbours. He also inaugurated New Mirpur City Hospital set up by Wapda.
“After recent raising of the dam, the reservoir would have maximum water storage capacity of over 7,400,000 acre feet as a result of raising of the water to the optimum highest level of 1,242 feet,” Wapda Chairman Syed Raghib Shah told the minister at a briefing held at Wapda Rest House Mangla. However, the minister hoped broad-based positive results of Mangla Dam raising project.
In his detailed briefing to the minister, the chairman said that after the successful completion of the Mangla Dam Raising Project, it has become the largest water storage facility in the country. With increase in the dam’s height by 30 feet, now water could be stored in the reservoir up to 1,242 feet against the previous conservation level of 1,202 feet above mean sea level. Resultantly, he said, the live storage capacity of the raised Mangla Dam has increased to 7.4 MAF from 4.51 MAF. Given the current weather forecast, the prospects for filling of Mangla reservoir to its maximum conservation level are bright, he said.
He informed the minister that Mangla Dam water storage in its lake has increased to the maximum level of 7.4 million acre feet by surpassing 6.58 MAF, which is the maximum live storage capacity of Tarbela Dam that used to be the biggest water reservoir till August 24, 2013.
He pointed out that as water level in Mangla Dam raised to the level of over 1239.30 feet on Wednesday against the dead level of 1,040 feet following the ongoing  inflow of Jhelum river water in the dam, it may reach to the highest level of 1,242 feet as and when required within next three to four days.
After the raised Mangla Dam filled to its maximum conservation level, 2.88 MAF of additional water will be available for the agriculture and about 12 percent increase in generation of low-cost hydel electricity from the Mangla power house bearing the current power generation capacity of 1,000 megawatt. Thus, it would be in a position to generate about 1,125 MW of the hydel power.
He pointed out that water in the Mangla lake crossed 1,239.30  feet level on Wednesday  meaning thereby, 2.896 MAF additional water is available in the reservoir as of Sunday. In addition to managing the current floods, benefits worth billions of rupees in agriculture and power sector will also be accrued through utilisation of the additional water.
He also elaborated the construction of emergency spillway, small dams at the main reservoir’s  pockets of Sukhiyaan and Jarri Kass, as well as dykes and link roads to facilitate the local population of the areas which remained safe following being located at the above maximum level of water in the reservoir.
Divisional Commissioner Raja Amjad Pervez Alis Khan, Wapda General Manager and director of Mangla Dam Raising Project Ghulam Sarwar Memon, DIG Police Mirpur division Tahir Mahmood Qureshi and DC Guftar Hussain, Resident Engineer Malik Manzoor Husssain were present. The divisional commissioner informed the minister that peaceful evacuation of the affectees of Mangla has been completed. He said that the AJK government is fully committed to ensuring the complete dignified rehabilitation of over 60 thousand people displaced following raising of the dam.
The commissioner pointed out that a new Mirpur Garden city and four small mega towns one each in Siakh, Dadayal, Chakswari and Islamgarh areas located on the periphery of Mangla lake have already been constructed for housing the affected families with all latest basic civil amenities of life.  Raising of water level in the dam with the additional water in the raised Mangla Dam this year reflected Pakistan government’s resolve to conservation and optimal utilisation of the water resource for agro-based economy.

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