Balochistan’s total power demand approximately stands at 1200 megawatts, which is less than half of the requirement of Karachi. It is because of the fact that the province has no sound industrial base; hence there is no significant consumption of electricity for industrial purpose in the province. The power consumption is largely for domestic purpose. Being the least populous province, it consumes the least power, as compared to other provinces of the country. The province’s coastal areas are getting electricity from neighboring country, Iran.
Power shortage in the province has not only severely affected the domestic consumers but it has also hit the farming, small businesses and ship-breaking activities at Gadani, the province’s biggest ship-breaking industry. The longer span of power outages is playing havoc with the industry, which is already reeling from the increase in the average prices of ships in the international market.
In rural Balochistan, the local farming community has been facing difficult times due to electricity load shedding, which is not only affecting the farmers and their families but also adversely affecting the agriculture, which is the mainstay for over 75 percent of the local population. According to one estimate, about 229,824 hectares of area in the province is irrigated by tub-wells, which have become non-functional due to the frequent load shedding by Quetta Electricity Supply Company (QESCO).
The local farmers have also been complaining against the fluctuation in voltage, which is inflicting additional losses to farmers. The power shortage causes non-availability of water for the crops. The province provides ideal agro-climatic conditions for growing variety of quality fruits in bulk.
In the last six years, electricity load shedding destroyed many crops, especially the fruit crops in the province. The rate of evaporation during summer also increases and the fruit orchards take more time and more water to saturate. The tube wells do not operate fully and efficiently for power shortage and fluctuation in voltage also causes fault in their operations.
Water scarcity destroyed many orchards in the northern Balochistan during last five-year period. Fruits are major source of income in areas where water is scarce. Expansion in fruit area is generally constrained by water availability. Similarly, many farmers in Balochistan had given up the idea of growing onion and potato for lack of water. The power load shedding for hours had made the water shortage acute during last three years. Onion is grown in Quetta, Mastung, Kalat, Khuzdar, Naseerabad, Qila Saifullah, Kharan, Chaghi and other districts. The power shortage has not only destroyed this crop but also discouraged farmers to invest their time, energy and money to get a good yield.
The frequent power outage is affecting the businesses and commercial activity in Quetta.
Small traders and shopkeepers are losing business due to long electricity load shedding during working hours. The domestic consumers are looking for alternate arrangements for electricity like small generators. Prices of small generators have also gone up with the rise in demand.
The QESCO needs to take immediate measures to manage the load shedding problem in urban and rural areas of the province. It should reduce the transmission losses from the grid and eliminate unscheduled load shedding. The decision to withdraw subsidy on electricity to local farmers for use of tube wells should be reviewed and the government should continue the flat rates for supply of electricity to the growers for agricultural purposes.
In view of the acute power shortage, the new water management techniques need to be introduced for maximizing the irrigation efficiency in the province. Trickle irrigation system should be adopted to deal with the water shortage problem in rural areas. The lining of water distribution network is direly needed to minimize conveyance losses. Similarly, hill torrents in the province bring a substantial quantity of flash floods, which can be harnessed, for the beneficial use.
Law and order problem has also worsened the power crisis in the province. The government should take concrete steps to secure public installations in the restive province where power pylons of main transmission line are frequently blown up by the militants. As a result of such acts of sabotage, the supply of electricity to many areas of the province is suspended due to destruction of the towers.
Power import from Iran
The southwestern coastal areas of Balochistan have largely been dependent on Iran for electricity requirements. Islamabad has been importing 39MW of electricity from Iran for Gwadar and border areas of Balochistan province.
Presently, 35MW power is being imported from Iran through Mand interconnection on 132 KV, Tuftan 2MW on 20KV and Mashkehl 2MW on 20KV.
Iran has a key role in managing the power requirements of the country’s emerging mega port city at Gwadar in Balochistan. The work on a 100MW import project for Gwadar is underway. In February 2007, Islamabad signed an agreement with Iranian company Tavanir under, which Pakistan will buy 100-megawatt power from Iran for Gwadar port.
Under the deal, Iran will supply100-megawatt power to Gwadar port through a 170-km long 220 KV double circuit transmission line between 220 KV Polan sub station at Iran side and 220 KV Gwadar sub-station. A 100-km long line will be constructed in Pakistan and remaining 70 km in Iran.
The total cost of the project has been estimated at $86 million, out of which $26 million will be borne by M/s Tavanir, whereas the remaining $60 million will be borne by Pakistan.
Under former government of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani , the two countries agreed to expedite the import of 1000MW power project and decided to hold experts level meetings every two months. Under the deal, a 700-km long transmission line will be constructed at an estimated cost of $600 million in five years. The work will start on the power import project and the tariff for the project would be negotiated after completion of the feasibility studies.
Pakistan has completed its feasibility study for the project, while the Iranian company, Mushanir, is working on the project. The Iran has, however, shown reluctance to provide electricity to Pakistan at cheaper rates as the imported electricity will be for the national grid.
Some analysts strongly believe that long-term and short-term solution of Pakistan’s chronic energy shortages lies in importing energy resources from Iran whether it is electricity import or gas import through a pipeline. They urge the government to look to Iran for tiding over the energy crisis.