CASA-1000: Another PML-N govt milestone
Courtesy: S Rahman
Undeterred by any-justified or unjustified-difficulty coming in the way, Nawaz Sharif government has made it a point to continue taking forward steps in the direction of strengthening the country economically.
It is rather a package of empowerment that Nawaz government is pursuing in all earnest and this package is not only confined to improvement of living standards or economic uplift. It is, instead, a range of activities that are being pursued vigorously at global level to meet deficiencies whatever including the energy deficiency.
The recent visit of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif to Tajikistan was a part of this series of empowerment schemes. During this visit the ground-breaking ceremony of CASA-1000 Power Project was performed. CASA stands for Central Asia and South Asia and 1,000 stand for 1,000 megawatt/MW of power.
The ceremony was aimed at consolidating the steps already taken under the banner of CASA-1000 which would provide one thousand megawatt electricity to Pakistan.
Actually, Nawaz Sharif government is fully committed to taking the country completely out of darkness by the year 2018 and for this purpose, the set goal is to generate more than 30,000 megawatts of electricity through diversified means by that time. A number of projects have already been launched with the collaboration of China,
Qatar and United States (that of General Electric) that include, among others, Sahiwal, Balloki, Bahawalpur, Port Qasim, Qadirpur power plants.
And the aim is to produce energy mix so that the consumers should be provided electricity at comparatively affordable prices.
Those who have had the opportunity of attending Prime Minister’s programmes on inauguration of energy projects, say that PM Nawaz Sharif takes personal interest even in minutest details of the projects and is very particular about monitoring different implementation phases of the ongoing projects. Throughout these monitoring visits, the prime minister usually gives specific directions on meeting the time deadlines and on ensuring cost efficiency.
Energy experts and economists have high hopes about this project and they opine that inauguration of CASA Project is very good news for the region since, after many years of conception of this project, Pakistan’s present government is entering into the implementation phase. The project will also enhance economic integration and bring prosperity in the region.
Unfortunately, previous governments have not been paying attention to such a valuable project i.e CASA Project. But, the present government of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has expedited this project in full swing and has taken concrete steps towards making this project a reality and towards its speedy completion.
It is, therefore, said in this context that the groundbreaking ceremony of CASA-1000 is a great achievement of the present government of Pakistan which has also embarked on enhancing regional connectivity besides overcoming the energy demand and shortages. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and road projects with Afghanistan are two projects worth the name, what to talk of other projects in the area of development and connectivity.
It may be recalled that during December last, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also attended the Turkmenistan- Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) gas pipeline groundbreaking ceremony in southeastern Turkmenistan.
This project is also vital to Pakistan’s ever-growing energy needs. According to details, Tapi pipeline is expected to be operational by 2019 which will be yet another fulfillment of the promise made in 2013’s election manifesto of PML-N: “High priority to importing gas through pipelines.”
According to experts, Central Asia and South Asia (CASA-1000) is a project that is designed to transmit 1300MW of surplus electricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyz Republic through Afghanistan (300MW) to Pakistan (1000-MW). MoU among four governments was initially signed on November 16, 2007 at Kabul. The estimated cost of the CASA-1000 project is 1,170 million dollars.
The initial plan is to transmit power in the range of 1,000 to 1,300MW from the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The major share of the exported energy will be consumed by Pakistan while approximately 300MW will be used by Afghanistan.
As for the background of the project, an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) was signed in August 2008 to govern and resolve issues critical to the implementation of the project. The project was to be funded by the World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Islamic Development Bank (IDB). In 2009, however, ADB withdrew citing the challenging security situation in Afghanistan as a reason.
But Pakistan and Afghanistan have together worked out a workable strategy to cope with problems, if any in laying of the planned transmission line in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Additionally, on October 11, 2014, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed on a transit fee, and during meetings in November/December 2014 and February 2015 a master agreement as well as power purchase agreement were prepared.
It has been agreed that Pakistan will obtain electricity at US $9.35 per kilowatt through CASA-1000 during the initial 15 years, whereas this price includes a transit fee of US $1.25 per kilowatt owed by Pakistan to Afghanistan.
Afghanistan first demanded a transit fee of US $2.5 per kilowatt but made concessions as it does not view CASA-1000 from a purely economic angle, but also as an opportunity to improve regional relations and to build confidence among the participating countries and private corporations, hoping that this will have a positive impact on other projects.
And, as per the experts, CASA-1,000 is technically feasible and economically worthwhile. Even in dry years a sufficient surplus of Kyrgyz and Tajik electricity is almost certainly guaranteed during summer. And the comparatively low production costs of electricity in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan coupled with the already high and increasing Pakistani demand are a powerful economic incentive.
Moreover, the CASA-1000 project is the first of its kind that will link Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in the electricity grid, build a functioning, efficient electricity system across Central Asia and South Asia and enhance growth prospects across both regions by removing power shortages.