Our government has miserably failed to deliver even the basic amenities of life to its citizens. Whether it is health, education, security or provision of energy, the state lacks the efficiency to provide people access to these services. As a result, people start casting doubt on its credibility and try to resolve the core issues prevailing in the society through the best available alternatives.
Pakistan ranks among the lowest on the Human Development Index, translating into the fact that the government has been unable to deliver due to one reason or another. To counter this lack of available services, people resort to private entities for education, health, energy and others. When one system turns out bad, a vacuum is left to be filled up by another ‘parallel’.
In today’s world, power plays an important role in economic and social development. Energy is life. A report revealed that approximately 1.2 billion people have no access to electricity. In this scenario, it is a blessing to have power in one form or another for the people of Pakistan.
One of Pakistan’s provinces, Sindh, is known for its extremely hot climate where the sun shines all year round. Rural areas of the province have found ways to derive maximum benefits from the sun by trapping its heat to convert it into energy.
Solar power is a relatively new source of energy in Pakistan.
Communities in Sindh have remained without electricity for decades, though there are power grids set up in almost every part of the province, huge poles resemble skeletons that deliver no electricity to the area.
Multiple reasons could be outlined here to explain the absence of power, but corruption in the electricity supply department remains the core reason that has coerced the shopkeepers, farmers, landowners and factory owners to shift to solar energy.
Rural areas of Pakistan are sparsely populated and it is very challenging and time-consuming for the government to provide thermal or hydro-power to the consumers through the grid. Thereby, solar panels provide a handy source of energy to the locals.
Solar panels require frequent dusting and have long-lasting batteries which require replacement after five to six years.
Keeping these power woes in view, the trend of harnessing the power from conventional sources has tilted towards alternative one. The villages lying in the centre of Sindh have been relying on solar panels for the last five to six years.
While travelling from Karachi to Sukkur enchanting sight of panels installed in the fields will give rise to the feeling of entering into a science laboratory or technology park.
More than 5000 villages are surrounding Tehsil Moro and their main sustenance is agriculture. People use electric tube wells to extract groundwater but the main reason that compelled the local populace to choose solar was frequent power cuts and maladministration of Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA).
Why local people chose solar energy?
Resorting to solar energy was not the first choice of the local populace. Before it, people used diesel operated generators that were used for both household and commercial purposes. However, that became quite expensive in the wake of rising petrol prices and resulted in sound pollution too.
Crop grower of village Imamabad Sarfraz Ahmed unveiled the perpetual disregard of WAPDA officials, “superintendent and linemen wrest money from the consumers to connect them to the grid.”
He said that the absence of electricity makes water retrieval through tube wells impossible. To ensure a continuous supply of power people have started using solar panels that cost around Rs40,000-Rs50,000 per household.
Where does the electricity go in summer months?
As the summer sets in, the consumption of electricity surmounts and the power is directed towards urban centres in the province.
“WAPDA officials cut the supply of electricity to villages and transmit it to small-scale industries, mills and large machinery operators,” Amir Raza Korejo, a resident of Murad Korejo village, complained.
“Villagers have to fend for themselves. They are forced to buy solar panels to provide energy to their fields and homes,” he explained.
Another farmer from the village Puran, Muhammad Waryal Joyo, has installed eight solar panels on his house’s roof catering to personal use.
“Power remains suspended throughout the day despite hefty amount being paid to the lineman besides paying the regular bill. It becomes terrible to live amidst scorching heat. Solar panels make us feel independent,” he stated.
Who steals electricity?
Asif Sardar, a farmer, said: “WAPDA officials have under the table deals with rich landlords who steal electricity from the grid and run tube wells, while the burden of the bill falls on the poor farmers and other consumers.”
He further revealed that though solar was not such a powerful energy source to run tube wells or other domestic appliances compared to thermal or hydel power, the continuous nuisance of WAPDA officials has forced the locals to shift.
“For farmers, it is a clean and corruption-free source of electricity,” he explained.
WAPDA officials are notorious for their corrupt activities. On one hand, line superintendents and other agents get hefty monthly ‘bribes’ to supply continuous power to influential people, businessmen and factories, while on the other they blackmail rural dwellers against deduction bill. Thus, they collect hush money from both ends.
One of the villagers in Teshi Kandiaro, on condition of anonymity, said he was a teacher and lived in a two-bedroom house with three fans, three bulbs, and a water machine, but for the last five years, WAPDA has been sending him exorbitant bills amounting to hundreds of thousands of rupees.
He said he got an electric connection 30 years back and if the total bill from that period was calculated, it would never be equal to the amount of the bill that WAPDA sent him.
Why do people refuse to pay taxes?
Taxes are paid by citizens against the basic services provided by the state. The state loses its credibility to collect taxes from its citizens when it fails to provide amenities promised under the constitution.
It is quite understandable that Pakistan faces a severe energy crisis and cannot afford to build new hydro and thermal power plants. Amidst this backdrop, it is necessary to tilt our energy priorities towards cheap, environment-friendly and sustainable sources.
The developed nations have already started investing in clean energy which does not rely on hydrocarbons. It is cost-effective, whereby consumers are charged nominally.
In Pakistan, people are willing to pay to the WAPDA officials to get uninterrupted power supply instead of paying to the government. Corruption has plagued the entire system in place, enabling tax fraud and electricity theft.
Moreover, checks need to be placed on the use of solar energy. The rich use it to extract unlimited groundwater leaving poor farmers hard-pressed.
Taxation on solar power usage could replenish the vacuum created by renewable energy consumption. Tax deficits resulting from switching from fossil-fuel energy to alternate sources could be overcome through this.
All government and private offices, institutions, universities, colleges, hospitals and mosques should be shifted to solar power while the conventional source of energy should be fixed for commercial or residential purposes only.
This is possible because these facilities require less energy compared to industrial units and can, therefore, be easily made self-sufficient through solar panels.
Pakistan has tremendous potential in solar power generation, individually as well as industrially. We should harness this potential to overcome our energy woes and supplement economic growth.