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Pakistan's Karot Hydropower Station to fulfill green dreams
By Alamgir Hashmi  ·  2023-03-16  ·   Source: The Daily Mail, Pakistan

Chinese President Xi Jinping first stated "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets (also translated as 'green is gold')" in 2005 when he served as Secretary of the Communist Party of China Zhejiang Provincial Committee. It has been mentioned by Xi many times both inside and outside China to attach importance to environment protection and green development. This philosophy for green development is fast changing China into an environment friendly country directly bringing positive change to the life style and health of not only the Chinese people but also contributing to the preservation of the Earth's climate thereby contributing to the welfare of the world. 

Karot hydro electricity project in Pakistan is in line with this green vision and Pakistan's own commitment to environmentally friendly and sustainable development. Upholding the green development concept of benefiting the local, this project has won unanimous recognition from IFC, consultants of bank consortiums, local community residents and the Pakistan Government. Eco-civilization should be included as a principle for development strategy. Green development should be highlighted in the country's development guidelines. 

Karot Hydropower Station is the first large-scale hydropower project invested and developed under China's Belt and Road Initiative, and the first hydropower investment project under the framework of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It is also noteworthy that Karot Hydropower Station is the first hydropower project in Pakistan fully adopting Chinese standards and technologies. Started in 2015, it has finally gone into operation generating environment-friendly and cheap electricity and promoting green development in Pakistan. 

A good ecological environment is the fairest public product and the most accessible welfare for the people. Karot is another shining example of the Unique All Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership between the two Iron Brothers. On April 20, 2015, during his visit to Pakistan, Chinese President Xi witnessed the ground breaking ceremony of the Station and now the project is another shining example of strong relations between Pakistan and China.  

Invested by the China Three Gorges Corporation, the Karot hydropower project is located in Punjab Province and is the fourth level of the five cascade hydropower stations planned for the Jhelum River. China Gezhouba Group Co. LTD undertook the construction of the dam, spillway, metal structure and equipment installation of the hydropower station. The project once fully operational will play a positive role by producing 720-megawatt of clean energy and in turn boosting the economy of the country. 

Karot Hydropower Station is the fifth largest hydropower Station in Pakistan, generating annually over 3.2 billion kWh of clean energy and satisfying the power demand of more than two million households. Therefore, it has greatly enhancd the power supply in Pakistan. Besides, the project is expected to reduce CO2 emission by 3.5 million tons per year, increasing the proportion of clean energy and optimizing energy mix in Pakistan. Karot Hydropower Station is designed and constructed in accordance with advanced Chinese hydropower technical standards, and managed in line with sustainable development performance standards of International Finance Corporation (IFC). Moreover, a series of management plans have been formulated for promoting social and environmental management, community investment, resettlement action, stakeholder management, biodiversity management, etc. 

The construction of the project has driven the development of relevant local industries and boosted economic growth. During its implementation, Karot Hydropower Station created approximately 5,000 direct local employment opportunities and gained significant tax revenue for the local government. Besides, the construction, the contractor has carried out in-depth cooperation with the local government to fulfill their social corporate responsibility, including projects for improving people's livelihood, scholarship programs to support local students for further education in China, and inviting Pakistani hydropower experts to China for field visits, exchanges and joint studies. Karot hydropower project implementation and cooperation thus produced a large number of leading engineers, managers and professional technical teams for the future, upgraded Pakistan's power sector and supporting industries, and promoted international recognition of China's hydropower technologies, standards and concepts.  

In view of the climate change challenges faced by Pakistan, it is important to shift focus from fossil fuels to clean energy. The priority now being accorded by Pakistan to the construction of hydro power plants is a step in the right direction and in line with our environmental policy and SGD goals and international commitments. Green development is not an empty idea, it's backed by political will and commitment to safeguarding our environment for future generations by focusing on ecological development and green cities. This ecological revolution can only be achieved if we use our water sources to their best potential 

Hydroelectric power development has suffered in Pakistan due to protracted controversy on the construction of dams in certain areas, the most prominent being the Kalabagh Dam on which national consensus could not be developed. Pakistan is faced with huge energy crises negatively affecting the socio-economic growth of the country. It is unfortunate that despite being blessed with tremendous water resources and aptly called the land of five rivers, Pakistan has been unable to extract full advance of this natural bounty. The power mix in Pakistan is a blend of renewable and non-renewable energy sources, however, among them hydro is the most valuable with the greatest potential. 

Hydroelectricity has far more advantages then other sources of energy and are ideal for both developed developing countries like Pakistan. Karot hydroelectricity plant is therefore an important addition to the number of hydroelectricity projects already operating in Pakistan. 

Energy is the basic need of society and plays a significant role in socio-economic progress. Pakistan is facing an energy crisis mainly due to insufficient additions of electricity in the power system. Rapid industrialization, population growth, and a high rate of urbanization represent some of the contributing factors to the energy dilemma. The energy crisis has affected the country's gross domestic product, paralyzed production, and caused the social life of citizens to suffer. 

The energy shortage has also contributed to unemployment due to the closure of factories. Now, the energy crisis has become a national security issue in Pakistan With the full operationalization of the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) the demand for affordable energy will only increase. Pakistan depends on imported and local fossil fuels to fulfill its energy demands, which consume a significant portion of the country's financial resources and is a huge burden on the economy. 

Fossil fuels are the primary source of power generation in Pakistan. Apart from becoming expensive and unaffordable, fossil fuels are also responsible for environmental pollution and disturbing the balance of the ecosystem. According to energy experts, in addition to the emission of CO2, fossil fuels based power plants also produce noise, vibration, heat, and release sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter. The presence of CO2 in the atmosphere causes global warming, while NOx depletes the ozone layer. SO2 causes damage to materials and vegetation, produces acid rain and harms human health, and may cause impaired visibility. Air pollution results not only in high cases of breathing related problems but can also be a leading cause of death. It is therefore not only prudent but absolutely necessary to turn to renewable sources of energy including hydro power. 

Pakistan has not fully harnessed the capacity of its vast hydropower potential for electricity generation. In view of the potential benefits, Pakistan should focus its attention on hydropower sector to explore new resource and gauge the potential of existing ones to meet its energy needs. Hydropower can provide an economical, renewable, clean, and secure source of energy for the country. With new advanced technology and excellent standards used in the construction of the Karot hydropower project, the path for the further development of hydropower has been cleared.  

The author is a seasoned diplomat and a former ambassador of Pakistan to China 

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