Karot First hydropower project under CPEC
“Lucid Waters and Lush Mountains are invaluable assets” stated President Xi Jinping in 2005 when he was the Party chief of Zhejiang province. It has been mentioned by Xi many times, both inside and outside China, to attach importance to environmental protection and green development.
This philosophy for green development is fast changing China into an environment-friendly country directly bringing positive change to the lifestyle 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 in and developed under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and the first hydropower investment project under the framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It is also noteworthy that Karot Hydropower Station is the first hydropower project in Pakistan fully adopt Chinese standards and technologies. Starting 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 20 April 2015, during his visit to Pakistan, Chinese President Xi Jinping witnessed the groundbreaking 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 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 enhanced 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 the sustainable development performance standards of the 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 hydropower 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 than other sources of energy and is ideal for both developed and developing countries like Pakistan. Karot hydroelectricity plant is therefore an important addition to the number of hydroelectricity projects already operating in Pakistan. Some of the major benefits of hydropower produced by projects like the Karot hydropower project are;
- Hydroelectricity uses the energy of running water, without reducing its quantity, to produce electricity. Therefore, all hydroelectric developments, of small or large size, whether the run of the river or of accumulated storage, fit the concept of renewable energy.
- Hydroelectricity makes it feasible to utilize other renewable sources. Hydroelectric power plants with accumulation reservoirs offer incomparable operational flexibility since they can immediately respond to fluctuations in the demand for electricity. The flexibility and storage capacity of hydroelectric power plants make them more efficient and economical in supporting the use of intermittent sources of renewable energy, such as solar energy or Aeolian energy.
- Hydroelectricity promotes guaranteed energy and price stability. River water is a domestic resource that, contrary to fuel or natural gas, is not subject to market fluctuations. In addition to this, it is the only large renewable source of electricity and its cost-benefit ratio, efficiency, flexibility, and reliability assist in optimizing the use of thermal power plants.
- Hydroelectricity contributes to the storage of drinking water. Hydroelectric power plant reservoirs collect rainwater, which can then be used for consumption or for irrigation. In storing water, they protect the water tables against depletion and reduce our vulnerability to floods and droughts.
- Hydroelectricity increases the stability and reliability of electricity systems. The operation of electricity systems depends on rapid and flexible generation sources to meet peak demands, maintain the system voltage levels, and quickly re-establish supply after a blackout. Energy generated by hydroelectric installations can be injected into the electricity system faster than that of any other energy source.
- The capacity of hydroelectric systems to reach maximum production from zero in a rapid and foreseeable manner makes them exceptionally appropriate for addressing alterations in consumption and providing ancillary services to the electricity system, thus maintaining the balance between the electricity supply and demand.
- Hydroelectricity helps fight climate change. The hydroelectric life cycle produces very small amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG). In emitting less GHG than power plants driven by gas, coal, or oil, hydroelectricity can help retard global warming.
- Hydroelectricity improves the air we breathe. Hydroelectric power plants don’t release pollutants into the air. They very frequently substitute the generation from fossil fuels, thus reducing acid rain and smog. In addition to this, hydroelectric developments don’t generate toxic by-products.
- Hydroelectricity offers a significant contribution to development. Hydroelectric installations bring electricity, highways, industry, and commerce to communities, thus developing the economy, expanding access to health and education, and improving the quality of life.
- Hydroelectricity is a technology that has been known and proven for more than a century. Its impacts are well understood and manageable through measures for mitigating and compensating for the damages. It offers vast potential and is available where development is most necessary.
- Hydroelectricity means clean and cheap energy for today and for tomorrow. With an average lifetime of 50 to 100 years, hydroelectric developments are long-term investments that can benefit various generations. They can be easily upgraded to incorporate more recent technologies and have very low operating and maintenance costs.
- Hydroelectricity is a fundamental instrument for sustainable development. Hydroelectric enterprises that are developed and operated in a manner that is economically viable, environmentally sensible, and socially responsible represent the best concept of sustainable development.
- There are a growing number of jobs available in hydropower, including manufacturing, utilities, professional and business services, construction, trade and transportation, energy systems, water management, environmental science, welding, machinery, and other services. Hydropower creates jobs in rural locations and boosts local economies.
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 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 fuel-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 hydropower.
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 the hydropower sector to explore new resources 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 the former Ambassador of Pakistan to China, European Union, Belgium, Luxembourg and Ireland. An advisor at Kestral Trading.