PM Sharif wants cheap power generation as energy import bill hits $27bn

Tuesday, Dec 06, 2022

MANGLA: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Monday Pakistan was in dire need of generating cheap electricity as the energy import bill exorbitantly touched $27 billion.

He was addressing the inaugural ceremony of the refurbishment project of units 5 and 6 of the Mangla Dam Hydroelectric Power Plant, carried out with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

PM Sharif said Pakistan, which was already facing immense challenges of economic stability, could not bear heavy costs of energy import bills and thus needed to utilise alternative sources of electricity production.

He regretted that in 75 years, both democratic and military rulers were responsible for not building sufficient dams to meet the energy needs.“Had the water reservoirs built on time, the country’s energy import bill would not have swelled to $27 billion,” he said, pointing out that “powerful lobbies and cartels” did not let materialise the construction of dams and launch of solar power projects.

In the wake of recent flash floods in the country, he added, dams were also crucial to mitigate the effects of climate change. The Prime Minister termed the assistance of USAID for the refurbishment of the units of Mangla Dam a “wonderful example of cooperation” between Pakistan and the United States.

He lauded the valuable grant of $150 million by USAID along with the financial support by the Development Agency of France amounting to 90 million euros, besides another pledge of 65 million euros. Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) also contributed $178 million from its own resources, he said.

He expressed satisfaction over the interest of the US to carry out an extension programme of the country’s largest Tarbela Dam.PM Sharif further said the 75-year-old friendship and bilateral relationship between Pakistan and the US had further strengthened at the levels of trade and investment.

Speaking on the occasion, US Ambassador Donald Blome said the Mangla Dam was a great symbol of US-Pakistan cooperation, adding the US was also assisting Wapda in increasing the power generation capacity of Tarbela and Gomal Zam dams.

He said maintenance and upgrades of dams were of critical importance in the wake of climate change and expressed the hope that the green alliance between the two countries would prove beneficial for the energy and agriculture sectors of Pakistan.

The project director of General Electric Hydro France said despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, the suspended projects of refurbishment were carried out effectively. He mentioned that six more units of Mangla Dam would also be refurbished in the future.

Chairman Wapda Lt Gen (retd) Sajjad Ghani said the refurbishment of the units of Mangla Dam was in line with the keen interest of the federal government to provide clean, green and cheap energy to the people of the country.

He said Wapda had not only initiated new hydropower projects, but also rehabilitating and upgrading its existing hydel power stations, including Mangla, to maximise the ratio of environment-friendly and low-cost hydel electricity in the national grid.

Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Sardar Tanveer Ilyas, Special Assistant to PM Tariq Fatemi, Secretary Water and Power Division Hassan Nisar, and senior officials were present on the occasion.

PM Sharif also visited the refurbished units of the dam, where he was given a detailed briefing about the project.