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Pakistan looks for aid with power shortage

Updated: 2013-08-08 08:01
By Zhang Yunbi ( China Daily)

I was trapped in a lift for the first time in my life during a blackout in Islamabad, which, even though it is the capital of Pakistan, is not immune to the continuing nationwide power shortage.

Thanks to a backup generator in my hotel, the emergency telephone was working.

"Can you hear me sir? May I help you sir?" the operator asked me in an anxious tone. Luckily, a few seconds later the lift started working again and I finally reached the ground floor.

Pakistan looks for aid with power shortage
Similar blackouts took place throughout my tour of the country. During a visit to the Government College University in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab, the Pakistani faculty members appeared to be indifferent when the power went off.

"We are totally used to the blackouts," said Islam Ullah Khan, chairman of the chemistry department at the university.

He said that a number of solar power panels were installed in his province, and part of them were made in China. He said he believed China could do more to help Pakistan eliminate the blackouts.

On Aug 1, Punjab signed an agreement with a Chinese company to establish a solar-power plant with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts, local newspaper Business Recorder reported.

To deal with the nightmare of frequent power failures, local businesses have purchased their own generators to ensure their daily operations. Most hotels, shopping malls and schools have also installed power generators, and statistics provided by the Pakistani government show that China is the largest provider of such products.

In the first quarter of the 2012-13 fiscal year, Pakistan imported generators worth $254 million, a increase of 34.5 percent compared with the same period last year.

China accounts for 70 percent of the market share due to cost-effective products and a large variety of choices that meet different demands, local media commented.

The serious shortage of electricity can be partly explained by low prices and a debt-ridden electricity sector, said Wen Fude, vice-president of the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies.

Meanwhile, power theft is rampant in the country, and the Pakistani government is planning to crack down on some industrialists who refuse to pay their electricity bills, Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported.

"The power crisis in the country is having a huge impact on social stability and economic development," Wen warned.

Pakistan expects Chinese businesses to invest more in coal mines and dams - traditional areas of cooperation. China, in the meantime, can also tap into the huge potential of new energy, according to Wang Xu, a researcher in South Asia studies at Peking University.

"Chinese companies can utilize the abundant wind power and solar power resources in Pakistan to help it relieve the energy shortage pressures," Wang said.

Agha Nadeem, federal secretary of Pakistan's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, said Pakistan definitely supports the development of solar power technologies.

"We are working to provide more kinds of incentives for Chinese investors," he said, adding that if Chinese companies are going to invest in such sectors, they can go to the Pakistani embassy in China for further information.

"There must be some experiences, principles and technical support that the Chinese government can provide to help Pakistan handle the problems," Nadeem said.

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