Climate Change and Renewable Energy – Reflections on the Third Journalist Exposure Visit to Micro Hydro Power Projects in Chitral

Pakistan is facing a severe energy crisis. Most of the rural areas of Pakistan are not connected to the national grid because of the geographical distance and the scattered population. In absence of the required energy supply, the socio-economic life of people is disrupted and they are forced to use alternative means of producing energy such as tree cutting for fire-wood, use of kerosene, cattle dung and crop residue. These alternative means are a threat to the environment especially in the wake of climate change

Considering the energy crises, lack of grid connectivity and environmental risks, renewable installations present a viable answer. The Micro Hydro Power Projects (MHPs) are an option where water flow is used to run the turbines. Its viability is based on the following factors; it is an off grid solution, it provides clean (less Green House Gas emissions) energy; it doesn’t harm/damage the water resource as water used for hydro power generation is directed back to the river and is reusable. The production cost of hydro projects is low as water is used as fuel.

The northern areas of Pakistan have fast flowing rivers. Making use of this resource, in 1990s a local organization called “Agha Khan Rural support Program (AKRSP)” setup community based MHPs on self help basis. These MHPs have successfully provided the communities with cheap and affordable energy source. It has contributed in reduction of deforestation in Chitral which was primarily due to use of firewood for domestic energy needs.

The successful running of these MHPs has been observed and up scaled by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Pakhtunkhwa Energy Development Organization (PEDO) in collaboration with AKRSP has announced installation of 55 MHP at various sites in district Chitral. Project sites are locations near or in villages where the national/local electricity grid is not present and there is availability of hydro resource.

The project aims to produce energy from 30 KW to 800 KW. The energy produced by these power plants will provide electricity to households and the commercial and public institutions such as government offices, police station, and public schools. The long term aim of these projects is to improve the socio-economic situation of the local population of the remote mountain communities of northern Pakistan, by adding value to agriculture, forestry products and tourism.

On 27th April 2016, in the framework of the project titled, “Journalist on Resource Equity and Climate Change”, , Heinrich Boell Stiftung, Pakistan took 7 journalists from print and electronic media to Chitral Micro Hydel Power (MHP) Plants. The purpose of this site visit was to build capacity of the journalists on the subject of climate change and renewable energy. The visit enabled the journalists to observe and view renewable energy projects. The group was first oriented about the importance of renewable energy projects and climate mitigation. Later both completed and under construction MHPs around Garam Chashma and various sites in Chitral (Izh Village, Shogore etc.). The media representatives were given a chance to interact with the community responsible for maintenance of the MHP plants and the technical staff responsible for the installations. They were able to interact on issues ranging from the installed capacity of the power plant and its actual production and maintenance of the plant’s infrastructure.

The impressions of the visit are reflected in the following articles and reports prepared by the participating journalists.

Earthly matters: A bright future  By Rina Saeed Khan (DAWN NEWS)

Chitral Ka Safar   By Fareed Raees Daily Nai Baat