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Power crisis: hydroelectric dams

June 03, 2013

IN the letter, ‘Conserving electricity’ (May 28), the writer has suggested, in addition to conserving energy, some other measures like solar energy to fill in the gap between production and consumption. A good piece of advice but the culture of extravagance stands in the way of conservation.

The writer has ignored the potential of mega hydroelectric dams saying that it would take a long time and more finances. It is common knowledge that a mega dam is built to produce cheap energy, which is not entirely correct.

The primary purpose of a hydroelectric dam is to store water that is available only in abundance for 70 days in a year to serve our agricultural needs, while wind or solar energy and coal do not produce water at all.

In the craze to meet power shortage we invested $2 billion to install 10 million UPS units and $800 million worth batteries to go with them. The Kalabagh Dam, which was ready for tenders in 1985 and would have been completed by 1993, could have produced 3,600 MW of power and stored 6.1 MAF of water to boost our agriculture but this was not to be due to politicians’ dithering, while India has built scores of dams on our western rivers.

We have, meanwhile, wasted four decades in not building a single mega hydroelectric dam while suggesting gimmicks like wind and solar power whose initial cost is prohibitive.

Recently, Rs10 billion has been released to generate 50 MW of wind energy. This has little worth.

The solar energy, at present is limited to petrol pumps and some small industrial units, while the initial cost for a house in the DHA is about Rs0.5 million which cannot be met by all the people.

Examples of a solar experimental plane are irrelevant for us which have still not passed through dark ages of 12 to 14 hours of loadshedding in a day. The sad story of IPPs and RPPs is before us as a NAB inquiry case that includes former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.

As they say first thing first, a bullet train can wait till our students can get electricity at home and fuel for preparing breakfast before school and a guarantee to reach school safely as has been negated by the loss of 16 innocent children on their way to school in a rickety van.

DR M. BHATTI Lahore