Pakistan’s resource-rich southwestern Balochistan province whose Gwadar Port serves as gateway to the $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor has announced an ambitious plan to install 30,000 solar-powered tube wells all over the province by replacing existing conventional tube wells which are consuming 900 megawatts.
The federal and provincial governments on Thursday agreed to undertake feasibility studies in the next one month in a bid to clear the path for their installation.
The switch to clean and renewable energy would ensure uninterrupted power supply at affordable prices to agriculturists and would help increase crop productivity.
“This step will bring an off-grid solution to far flung areas of Balochistan in the near future,”said Federal Minister for Power Division Sardar Awais Ahmed Khan Leghari according to a local media report.
“Electricity theft from these (conventional) tube wells will (also) come to a halt,” the minister added.
An official told local daily paper Dawn that cheap operations of solar tube wells could however have negative effect on ground water table due to over-exploitation as the province was already water-stressed, but added that agricultural requirements were also a key factor.
Balochistan has the highest solar radiation coverage in Pakistan. Several companies from Canada and Kuwait announced their interest last year in installing solar plants in the province.
Presently the economy of Balochistan is largely based upon production of natural gas, coal and other minerals including rare-earth. The province which has a vast shoreline along the Arabian Sea has a GDP of US$11 billion but it’s expected to over-run other provinces GDPs once the CPEC meandering through it all the way to China and Central Asia becomes operational as early as 2022.
According to some experts, the CPEC trade through Balochistan could range anywhere between US$500 to US$750 billion. On Thursday, the Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa said there would be enhanced focus on socio-economic development effort in Balochistan.
The COAS made these remarks while presiding over the 205th Corps Commanders Conference held at General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi, said a statement issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR).