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The Energy Sector, Competition and Security in the Eastern Mediterranean

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Recently, and particularly in 2019–2020, scholars have been increasingly focusing on the Eastern Mediterranean owing to its importance for global transport routes and its growing energy potential. The energy sources in the Levant basin raise the legitimate question: which approach will prevail? Shall we see cooperation in conflict resolution and in promoting collective security, based on joint building and development of the fields, or shall we see competition destined to exacerbate a situation already fraught with conflicts?

Development of the Fields and Plans for Transporting Resources to Global Markets

The Eastern Mediterranean sub-region is at the juncture of Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, which both makes it hostage to old overlapping conflicts and opens up certain opportunities. It is important to remember that gas reserves in the Mediterranean shelf discovered in the XXI century total over 3.8 trillion cubic meters. The key fields are Zohr off the coast of Egypt, Tamar and Leviathan off the coast of Israel, and Aphrodite off the coast of Cyprus, etc. Additionally, the so- called Block 9 is in a part of the field disputed by Lebanon. We can suppose there are large gas reserves off the Syrian coast, as well. By 2020, development had already been launched on several fields but, on the whole, both this process and its implementation are proceeding in fits and starts since matters have to be approved and agreed between unstable governments and oil companies, and also between states themselves, in the absence of demarcated maritime borders.

For decades, most states of the Levant Basin have imported gas and oil. The Egypt-Israel collaboration in the energy sector exhibits a curious dynamic. Currently, these two states have made the greatest progress in developing gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean. In 2015, Italy’s Eni discovered the gigantic Zohr field in Egypt, a major Arab state, which allowed Cairo to break the vicious circle of its dependence on imports and to cover its own demand for gas. Egypt now produces about 311 million cubic meters of gas and 700,000 barrels of oil daily (from the deposits in the Western Desert adjacent to Libya). However, in January 2020, gas production also started on Leviathan, the largest field in the Levant Basin located on Israel’s stretch of the shelf, and this marked the start of deliveries of Leviathan-produced gas to Egypt. Noble Energy, which develops Leviathan, contracted to deliver gas to Egypt back in 2018. Noble Energy purchased 10% of Eastern Mediterranean Gas Company, which owns the gas pipeline running from Ashkelon in Israel to El-Arish in Egypt (about 90 km). Even though Egypt has no particular need for gas imports, it is striving to create a gas hub. Egypt is planning to receive gas from neighbouring states, liquefy it at the Egyptian LNG plant (Idku LNG with a capacity of 7.2 m. tonnes a year), and sell it on global markets, sending it by tanker to Europe or Asia.

Egypt’s interests have taken this turn since it has had fewer problems developing and selling its own natural gas, while the situation is somewhat more complicated for Israel. Development of the Tamar and Leviathan gas fields has slowed down owing to the technically challenging gas production process, the high market price of the gas (which makes it difficult to find buyers), and domestic political and regional instability stemming from maritime border demarcation issues.

To settle matters related to the above-mentioned Block 9, Israel engaged in talks with Lebanon on demarcating the maritime border, a historic event in the two states’ bilateral relations. Lebanese officials made every effort to emphasize that these talks were purely technical. International companies are certainly interested in the success of these negotiations; the Total- Eni-Novatek consortium has signed a contract for exploration in Block 9. Despite claims that their talks are exclusively technical, both Israel and Lebanon need these negotiations. For Israel, they will mark another success in gaining regional recognition of its rights while, should development of the gas fields prove successful, they will afford Lebanon a special opportunity to attract additional investment. The gas produced could come in handy for both domestic consumption and exports, which together would constitute an important boost to the crisis- stricken Lebanese economy.

Transporting the gas to Europe demanded that Cyprus be involved. This once again raised the predictable issue of Cyprus and prompted a response from Turkey (which we believe to be somewhat belated). In the course of time, Israel succeeded in securing the support of Egypt, Greece and Cyprus. The latter two states need to be involved for two reasons: the Aphrodite deposit was discovered off the coast of Cyprus and there is also the matter of transporting the Levantine natural gas to Europe. This question has produced the principal frictions concerning the Eastern Mediterranean. The plans to build a pipeline to Europe have not been implemented yet; however, on 2 January 2020, Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed a treaty to construct the 1,900-kilometre EastMed gas pipeline. This question is claimed to be of interest to both Europe and the U.S. as mitigating the risks of dependence on Russian gas (see below for further details). Construction of the gas pipeline with a capacity of 10 billion cubic metres a year is expected to take approximately seven years.

Revitalisation of Ankara’s foreign policy and regional competition in the Eastern Mediterranean While other states in the Eastern Mediterranean (Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, Greece and, to some extent, Lebanon) have attempted to form alliances around the energy sector and gas exports, Turkey has remained on the sidelines. Nevertheless, both the regional reconfiguration and the domestic perturbations that affected Turkey in 2016 after the attempted military coup resulted in Ankara taking more active political steps and shaping its own policy in the Eastern Mediterranean. Before 2016, Turkey strove to apply the “strategic depth” concept formulated in the 2000s by the state’s Foreign Minister and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Following his resignation in May 2016, and particularly after the attempted military coup, Ankara began to steer a course toward developing a new strategy and becoming actively involved in its neighbours’ affairs.

As a result, Turkey began to drift away from the “strategic depth” concept and toward a policy that is more independent of its traditional partners and also favours tactically advantageous cooperation and going back to using “hard power” … Back in 2006, Turkish Admiral Cem Gürdeniz introduced the “Blue Homeland” (Mavi Vatan) doctrine as part of Turkey’s maritime strategy; Gürdeniz is considered to be one of the principal architects of Turkey’s current policy in the Mediterranean and of the ideology of demarcating the borders with Libya.

The agreements Turkey and the Libyan government concluded in late 2019 resulted from a bilateral Ankara-Tripoli arrangement achieved with complete disregard for other actors and for the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea. Since Turkey is not a signatory to that Convention, Ankara believes it had the right to shape its own bilateral relations, which also implies larger sea spaces for Turkey. Sooner or later, this approach by Turkey will inevitably come up against growing discontent on the part of other states. In this respect, much depends on whether Turkey will make concessions and cut a deal to retain some benefits, or whether it will risk escalating tensions, sanctions and serious economic problems. Turkey’s revitalised policy is reaching its limits. In fact, this policy, pursued as part of Turkey’s “Blue Homeland” doctrine, stems from Ankara’s own missed opportunities. We can expect Turkey’s revitalised policy in the “post-Ottoman” space to peak in late 2020 in the face of the discontent of other actors. It is now crucially important for Turkey to reach a regional consensus with the other states of the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Eastern Mediterranean sub-region has laid bare rifts in adjacent regions: Europe and the Middle East. As far the European dimension is concerned, we are observing a rapprochement between Italy and Turkey while France is building up its military presence in the sub-region and countering Turkey’s objectives. As far as the Middle East is concerned, strife and regional competition are building up between Qatar and Turkey on the one hand, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Egypt on the other. The establishment of relations between the UAE and Israel might also entail additional risks for Eastern Mediterranean stability, since the two states’ interests are currently rather convergent and contrary to Ankara’s ambitions in the sub-region. Both Israel and the UAE have a high degree of confidence in Washington and their lobbying potential there. This could deliver a powerful blow to U.S.-Turkey relations, already severely tested in connection with the Syrian Kurds and Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish preacher accused of instigating the 2016 attempted military coup in Turkey.

In these circumstances, the rift within NATO takes on a different hue. So far, truly dangerous developments between France and Turkey, locked in a conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean, have been prevented by NATO having “arbitrators” in the U.S. and Germany. Nevertheless, it appears that joint efforts by NATO’s key members and Russia could create opportunities to develop mechanisms for preventing the situation from deteriorating further and tensions from escalating.

Old resolved conflicts in the sub-region overlap with both revived and new problems. For instance, provided local actors adopt an appropriate approach and external actors focus their attention on the sub-region, the energy sector could form the basis for a future regional security architecture; currently, however, these matters are only exacerbating the regional predicament. As they overlap with the traditional Israeli-Palestinian, Greek-Turkish and Cyprus questions, these developments are encouraging escalation and further competition.

The Global Dimension: The U.S. and Russia in the Eastern Mediterranean

A competitive foundation for international relations is currently solidifying in the Eastern Mediterranean. There are no expectations of a cooperative approach, since one party or another will always have greater ambitions and will attempt to implement exclusion policies. Russia and the U.S. are the key external actors interested in the region’s stability, so it would be expedient for them to work out joint crisis-prevention solutions.

For the U.S., Israel’s security and an Israeli-Palestine settlement, as well as support for NATO’s infrastructure and bodies, remain the key issues in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The latter is particularly important for Americans because they view the Eastern Mediterranean as NATO’s naval gateway to the Black Sea. This approach by the U.S. is destructive for other actors globally and for those directly involved in security issues in the Eastern Mediterranean. Given the serious risks and the fact that the situation could get out of hand, the U.S. have therefore been prompted to recognise, at least at expert level, the need to work on technical deconfliction measures in this part of the world. This requires finding a way to untangle the Cyprus, Libya and Syria questions.

As for Russia’s policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, we should recall Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov visited Damascus and Cyprus in 2020. Mr. Lavrov emphasised that escalation was inadmissible and called for peaceful resolution of the contradictions through dialogue. Bilateral and multilateral dialogue, UN mechanisms, and international law should bring the parties to de-escalate tensions. Russia’s Foreign Minister also said Moscow was ready to act as a mediator should it be necessary. Russia is particularly concerned about the Syrian and Libyan part of the Eastern Mediterranean since Russia has maintained a military presence in Syria since 2015. By 2020, the world had seen the violence in the Syrian crisis abating but, in 2019–2020, both Lebanon and Syria’s economic situation deteriorated steadily and man-made disasters and large-scale wildfires occurred. People’s lives and the overall humanitarian situation were badly affected by the political elites’ inability to settle the crises and by European and American sanctions. Syria and Lebanon’s markets and currencies fell when the U.S. Congress adopted the so-called Caesar Act, a set of sanctions against Syria, and individual sanctions against Lebanon. Moscow, Washington and Damascus need to launch a serious political dialogue (not only at the level of the secret services) concerning the situation surrounding Lebanon and Syria. Further deterioration is fraught with new risks, especially for the neighbours of the two countries.

With no “honest broker” available in the Eastern Mediterranean, the risks of new regional clashes and problems increase. Some states practice a “bloc-based” approach to developing the fields and transporting gas; there are long- standing conflicts (the Cyprus question, the Palestinian question); there are no diplomatic contacts between individual regional actors (for instance, between Turkey and Egypt, between Turkey and Syria); all these factors exacerbate mistrust and undermine regional security. The Eastern Mediterranean states are committed to resolving economic interaction issues through dialogue provided there are one or more independent actors capable of taking various interests into account and finding solutions. Such a development would create an avenue for building confidence and could even result in collective security elements. (The European Coal and Steel Community played a role in the emergence of the OSCE, so a gas community in the Eastern Mediterranean could advance sub-regional integration and security). Given the U.S.’ interest in the region and the role it plays there, this issue could be put on the Russia-U.S. bilateral agenda with a view to achieving the most secure, acceptable and inclusive result.

First published in RIAC and ISPI Joint Report “After the Storm: Post-Pandemic Trends in the Southern Mediterranean”.

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China, biomarine energy and its players

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In the future, China and Europe will compete and cooperate in the field of ocean energy and green hydrogen energy production. This is why this aspect is crucial in building a bridge of cooperation and friendship between China and Europe.

Wave energy in China is generally low and accounts for only one seventh of wave energy in Europe. Fujian Smart Energy Technology Co., Ltd. has a new patented technology that can increase wave energy in the operating area by over 10 times, causing negligible changes to the environment. It is an environmentally friendly technology that does not affect the free movement of marine life, and can increase wave power generation by over 100 MW. It is certainly innovative, ingenious and daring. It will require strong support from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The “National Independent Contributions” are non-binding national plans outlining climate actions, including climate-related targets, policies and measures that governments intend to implement in response to climate change and as a contribution to achieving the global goals set out in the Paris Agreement of December 12, 2015.

In these projects China has proposed that carbon dioxide emissions should peak around 2030, striving – as a stakeholder – to achieve this target as soon as possible. In 2030, carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP will be reduced by 60-65% compared to 2005 and primary energy consumption will focus on non-fossil energy.

The percentage has reached about 20% and the volume of forest stock has increased by about 4.5 billion cubic metres compared to 2005. Support for this project may enable China to reach this target earlier.

Shenzhen (a sub-provincial centre of the People’s Republic of China belonging to the Guangdong Province) is positioned as a global oceanic central city. China plans to initiate wave hydrogen production projects in Shenzhen and establish headquarters there.

In this regard, the European Union will invest 470 billion euros in clean energy over the next 25 years, with a focus on the hydrogen energy sector. The European Union has already launched its Hydrogen Energy Strategy in summer 2020. By the end of 2024, the European Union will build a batch of renewable hydrogen electrolysis equipment with a single capacity of 100 megawatts and annual production across Europe will exceed one million tonnes.

The aim is to promote this technology in Europe and later in the world through the Belt and Road Initiative, i.e. the New Silk Road called for by President Xi Jinping. There are plans to build one hundred 600-MW wave power plants and one hundred wave hydrogen production projects with an annual output of 100,000 tonnes over the next 15 years.

China’s Roadmap 2.0 for Energy Saving Technology and New Energy Vehicles foresees that by the end of 2035 the number of fuel cell vehicles will amount to one million and the demand for hydrogen will reach two million tonnes. The International World Group’s 600-MW wave power project will produce 103,000 tonnes of green hydrogen per year.

The project can meet China’s hydrogen demand until 2035 and will provide energy from green and renewable hydrogen.

The China Hydrogen Energy Industry Development Report 2020 forecasts that, by the end of 2050, hydrogen energy will account for 10 per cent of final energy consumption, the number of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be 30 million and hydrogen demand will be equal to 60 million tonnes.

The International World Group’s project can provide a steady flow of green hydrogen energy for 30 million vehicles. The related Sino-European Strategic Cooperation Agreement for Ocean Energy Development has a first and a second phase. The first will see the establishment of a global ocean energy technology research and development centre and then a Sino-European ocean energy technology research and development centre in Shenzhen.

At the same time, the ocean energy technology will be focused on its generation: from wave motion, from tidal power without dams, from offshore wind systems and also from offshore solar energy.

The cost of producing hydrogen from non-fresh seawater is lower than the cost of producing hydrogen from oceans and pertains to an advanced technology.

Zhisheng Energy currently holds invention patents for 100-MW wave power generation, as well as for environmentally friendly tidal power generation, and 10-MW wind power generation.

On the afternoon of April 16, President Xi Jinping held a video-conference-in Beijing with French President Macron and German Chancellor Merkel. The leaders of the three countries held an in-depth exchange of views on cooperation for tackling climate change, China-EU relations, anti-epidemic cooperation and major international and regional issues.

President Xi Jinping stated that China would strive to achieve peak carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. This means that China, as the largest developing country on the planet, will complete the world’s highest carbon intensity reduction in a shorter timeframe than any third party. This stands in contrast to other powers that in Presidential candidates’ election speeches promise respect for the environment, but in fact do nothing more than confirm old energy production systems.

The President said China decided to accept the Kigali Amendment of October 15, 2016 to the Montreal Protocol of August 26, 1987 to strengthen the control of greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide such as HFCs (refrigerant gases containing hydrofluorocarbons).

He argued that responding to climate change should be the common cause of all mankind and should not be a bargaining chip for geopolitics, a target to attack other countries or an excuse to erect trade barriers.

During the video-conference the President also said China would adhere to the principles of equity, common responsibilities and responsibilities differentiated by the respective capabilities, as well as promote the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of June 4, 1992 and the Paris Agreement and actively carry out South-South cooperation on climate change.

He added he hoped that developed economies would lead by example in reducing emissions and take the lead in meeting their climate financial commitments, so as to provide adequate technical and capacity-building support to developing countries to tackle these epoch-making energy changes.

A few words are now appropriate about Xi Jingping’s most important collaborator on environmental issues: Ministers Lu Hao and Huang Runqiu.

The Minister of Natural Resources, Lu Hao (born in 1967), was the youngest provincial Governor in China, ruling Heilongjiang Province (population: 38,312,224 inhabitants in 2010) from 2013 to 2018. Lu Hao also served as First Secretary of the Communist Youth League and vice-mayor of Beijing. At the age of 20, he was elected Head of the University Students’ Union, becoming the first student union President, elected by popular vote since the Cultural Revolution. He holds a degree in Economics and Business from Peking University.

Lu Hao became Head of the Zhongguancun Administrative Office in 1999, thus beginning his career in the Public Administration. The area is known as China’s Silicon Valley, rich in technology start-ups.

He also served ex officio as President of the China Youth University for Political Sciences. Prior to Lu Hao, several political heavyweights, including former party leaders Hu Yaobang and Hu Jintao, as well as Premier Li Keqiang, had served in that position.

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East Mediterranean Gas Forum and Turkish expansion

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Image source: Greek Environment and Energy Ministry

The East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) is a unique regional organization in the eastern Mediterranean region. The establishment of the organization was announced when Turkey was seeking to expand in the Mediterranean region, as well as some eastern Mediterranean countries, such as Libya. Libya’s national security is an integral part of Egypt’s national security. In 2020, President Al-Sisi stated that: “Sirte and al-Jafra are a red line.” It is worth noting that Egypt has played an essential role in achieving a ceasefire in Libya. Egypt does not seek to interfere in Libya’s internal affairs but seeks to preserve its national security. Egypt supports the negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations and calls on all the disputing parties in Libya to negotiate and end the dispute in Libya in order to restore Libya’s stability and security. Turkish expansion in the Mediterranean causes concern to both Cyprus and Greece, as Turkey is drilling for gas near the Greek island of Crete, which has led to an escalation of tension between Turkey, Cyprus, and Greece. That led to the international community’s intervention to support Greece against the Turkish expansion, France pledged military aid to Greece, and Germany called on all parties to calm the conflict over gas in the Mediterranean. Turkey began the exploration process in 2019, and Turkey sees that it has many natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean and seeks to exploit it. However, there is still a problem of demarcating borders between Turkey and some eastern Mediterranean countries, which made the exploration process illegal. The demarcation of the borders between Libya and Turkey has led to the intensity of the conflict between Turkey and Greece. It is possible to say that Turkey did so in response to establishing the East Mediterranean Forum.

The East Mediterranean Forum is a regional organization, which includes six countries: Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Jordan, Italy, and Israel. Its headquarters are located in Cairo, the capital of Egypt. The East Mediterranean Gas Forum organization was a forum. This forum was co-founded by Egypt, Jordan, Greece, Cyprus, Palestine, and Israel. The international community welcomed the idea of the forum. France requested to join the forum, and the United States of America attended the forum meeting as an international observer. Although Palestine is one of the founders of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum in 2019, it didn’t sign the protocol of the organization. Palestinian News and Information Agency reported that Palestine did not participate in the signing ceremony. And as a co-founding country of the forum, it will not retreat from the membership of any international organization that affirms its national and sovereign rights. The transformation of the Gas Forum into an international organization is an important and historic step in the region. It allows the countries of the region to cooperate in the eastern Mediterranean region. It’s worth mentioning that the eastern Mediterranean region includes nine countries, Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Libya, Turkey, and Israel. And now only four countries from eastern Mediterranean region joined the organization.

The forum is an economic and political organization, which its primary goal is the economic exploitation of natural gas and the interest in strengthening cooperation and developing dialogue between the states of the organization; in addition to that, the organization works to protect the wealth of its members in the eastern Mediterranean region against Turkish expansion and it also puts an end to Turkey’s illegal drilling activities in the region. As we can see, the organization attempts to reshape the balance of power in the region. Although the clear objectives of the organization, there are many challenges face it, including challenges related to the organization as an institution, such as the mechanisms of the institution, decision-making, conflict resolution, and protection of the region’s gas wealth. In addition to that, border problems between some organization members and other countries, such as the problem of borders between Palestine and Israel and the dispute over the demarcation of the maritime borders between Lebanon and Israel.

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Pakistan’s water-and-energy crisis

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The Indus Water Treaty talks between India and Pakistan had been in limbo since India abrogated special status  (Article 370) of the occupied Kashmir and usurped  hereditary rights(Article 35-A) of its permanent citizens. Following peace on the line of control, the two countries, water commissioners of the two countries held a meeting in March 2021 (though supposed to be held in 2019) to resolve outstanding issues. The main focus was on Pakistan’s objections to design of Indian hydropower projects on the Chenab River. India is building the 1,000 MW Pakal Dul Hydro Electric Project on river Marusudar, a tributary of the Chenab. The project is located in Kishtwar district of Jammu & Kashmir. The second project, Lower Kalnai, is being developed on the Chenab River.

The meeting was delayed because of India’s pugnacious attitude (surgical strikes, cartographic aggression on Kashmir, etc.).

The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-sharing treaty between India and Pakistan, facilitated by the World Bank, to use the water available in the Indus River and its tributaries. The treaty allocated the waters of the western rivers that are the Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab to Pakistan and those of the eastern rivers, namely the Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej, to India. According to provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty, all the waters of the Eastern Rivers (Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi), amounting to around 33 million acre feet (MAF) annually, is allocated to India for unrestricted use and the waters of the Western rivers (Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab) amounting to around 135 MAF annually largely to Pakistan. Under the treaty, India has been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through run-of-the-river projects on the western rivers, subject to specific criteria for design and operation.

The treaty also envisaged funding and building of dams, link canals, barrages, and tube wells like the Tarbela Dam on the Indus River and the Mangla Dam on the Jhelum River.

Since time immemorial, the Indus-river system has been used for irrigation in undivided India. However modern irrigation- engineering work was initiated dating 1850s during the British rule. The treaty was necessitated by partition of India into the dominions of India and Pakistan in 1947.

The fruition of the treaty is attributed to David Lilienthal, former head of both the Tennessee Valley Authority and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

After six years of talks, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistani President Mohammad Ayub Khan signed the Indus Waters Treaty in September 1960. The Indus-water treaty required the creation of a Permanent Indus Commission, with a commissioner from each country, to resolve e any difference of opinion on architecture, design, and other aspects of the dams that the two countries may build on the allocated rivers. Aside from bellicose statements to scrap the treaty, the Indus treaty remained intact though the two countries fought many wars.

In 2017, India completed the building of the Kishanganga dam in occupied Kashmir and continued work on the Ratle hydroelectric power station on the Chenab River despite Pakistan’s objections.

In post-Ayub era, Pakistan was not able to make progress on making new dams particularly the Kalabagh Dam. The construction of the dam was delayed owing to frivolous objections raised by the three provinces that are Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Instead of trying to evolve consensus on the vital water projects, Pakistan’s politicians remained engrossed in pettifoggery or machinations to pull down whichever government happened to be in power. 

Necessity of the Kalabagh Dam

This project was approved by the Technical Committee on Water Resources during 2003-2005. However, the feasibility report has not been implemented for over 15 years.  Now three of the four provinces (excluding the Punjab) are at daggers drawn over it. The fact however remains that the inter-provincial committee was composed of eight technical experts, two from each province.

The Committee also looked into all aspects including the effect of dilution of seawater with fresh water, seawater intrusion into the groundwater, riverine irrigation, and forests fisheries (Pala fish, shrimp, kharif and rabi cultivation), besides growth of Mangrove forests. The project had already been  approved by the World Bank Indus Special Study Group in its report titled Development of Water and Power Resources of Pakistan: A Sectoral Analysis (1967). The estimated cost, then, was US$6.12 billion, over six years from 1977 to 1982.

After commissioning of Tarbela Dam in 1976, the dam could have been built in six years by 1982. The cost per unit of 12 billion units, the KBD hydel electricity was Rs1.5 as compared to Rs16.5 per unit from thermal sources.

The dam was to serve as a receptacle to store monsoon flows of the upper reaches of the mighty Indus.

Our power shortage then was 4000-5000 MW. The estimated cost of constructing the dam was US$6.12 billion, over six years from 1977 to 1982. After commissioning of Tarbela Dam in 1976, the dam could have been built in six years by 1982. The cost per unit of 12 billion units the hydel electricity was Rs.1.5 as compared to Rs. 16.5 per unit from thermal sources. We are losing Rs. 180 billion per year due to ten time costlier production (12billion xRs.15 billion). Add to it loss of US$ 6.12 billion per annum from due to the superfluous flow of 30 million Acre Feet at of water from Kotri Barrage into the Arabian Sea (one MAF valued at US$1-1.5 billion).

Our water resources reserves have not risen pari passu with growth in population, 32.4 million in 1948 to 154.6 million in 2005, and 207.8 million in 2017. In  kharif season, rivers flow at 84 percent while only 40 percent during the rabi season. The present water storage capacity in Pakistan is hardly 11.77million acres per feet (MAF) that is about only eight percent of the annual flow.

Factors of water crisis

Three provincial assemblies resolved against building the KBD. A politician alleged the dam would convert Sind into a desert. Apprehensions against the dam could be allayed by reviewing Water Apportionment Accord (as directed by Lahore High Court also vide its Order dated November 29, 2012, case no. WP 8777). No justification to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Losses due to delay

The losses due to the delays in the project have soared up to Rs180 billion a year due to its 10-time costlier construction (1990 estimate).  Added to it is the loss of $6.12 billion per annum due to superfluous flow of 30 million acre feet of water from Kotri Barrage into the Arabian Sea. In mangrove season, rivers flow at 84 per cent while only at 40 per cent during Rabi season. The present water storage capacity in Pakistan is hardly 11.77MAF that is only about eight per cent of the annual flow.

Legislative assemblies of three of our provinces, barring the Punjab province, have been bitterly opposing construction of the Kala Bagh Dam. Are they justified? To answer the question we have to look into various aspects of the construction of the dam, particularly feasibility and repercussions of constructing the dam. After enactment of the Eighteenth amendment, building of dams is now a provincial subject. The fact however remains that water security is more a national subject than a provincial one.

Debate about pros and cons

 The construction of Kalabagh dam is predicted to supply over 4 million acre-feet additional water to Sindh. While explaining benefits of Kalabagh Dam, WAPDA engineer Shamsul Mulk stated that China would be generating around 30,000 megawatts of electricity from dams. “Even India has more than 4,000 dams,” he said. “We lose billions due to the non-construction of dams.”

Concluding remarks

The opposition to the Kalabagh Dam is whimsical rooted in political rhetoric. According to the United Nations’ forecast, water scarcity would be Pakistan’s greatest problem in current century.

The country has been in the grip of a severe energy crisis for several years. No one even talks about Kalabagh Dam. Towards the end of the 1980s, Pakistan met 70 percent of its energy needs from hydel (hydroelectric) power and 30 percent from thermal energy. By 2012-13, Pakistan became dependent on thermal energy generated from costly furnace oil and diesel by up to 44 percent, with the remaining 56 percent being generated from other, mainly thermal, sources. This change had a cascading effect on prices and the consumers’ bills skyrocketed.

Hydel energy remains largely neglected, despite its low production cost. Many public sector electricity generation plants have outlived their utility. Without cheaper electricity, circular debt will continue to mount. Circular debt, accumulated in the power sector, is a handy excuse for the energy crisis. This debt piles up when downstream customers fail to pay their bills to upstream suppliers (or producers) in time. Who are the defaulters? They include not only ordinary citizens, but also the provinces, the public sector, influential corporations and powerful individuals (including political tycoons). To continue supplying power, the thermal producer has to borrow (and later pay interest charges and repay the contracted loan) and find alternative financial sources, unless the government makes the bounteous payment. The solution is simple: power distribution companies should promptly pay their dues to the generation companies.

However, circular debt is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many other factors blighting the energy scenario. The government needs to evolve a policy in which the power sector is prioritized.

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