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Facing an energy crisis, the government has announced radical steps — including shortening wedding receptions.
Even in its recent plan, the government has remained vague about its long-term strategy except to say that it would look at its vast coal reserves, hydroelectric power, nuclear energy and alternative sources.
“We are not deliberately holding back electricity from our people,” said Raja Pervez Ashraf, the minister for water and power. “We need to have some patience.”
The problem is, time is running out. The ministry itself estimates that demand for electricity grows 8 percent a year and will reach 36,000MW — close to twice the country’s current capacity — in 2015 and 114,000MW by 2030.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, an opposition party chaired by the former national cricket team captain Imran Khan, sharply criticized the government’s plan, which it called a “quixotic scheme” that would do little to solve the country’s energy quagmire.
“The whole formula is based around conserving available electricity and no sound plan has been unveiled about generation of additional power,” PTI said in a statement. “Once again the hapless masses shall bear the brunt of this impracticable formula of energy conservation.”
At least when it comes to energy conservation, the government has been thorough.
Neon signs, electronic billboards, illuminations and “unnecessary” lights are banned. A second weekly holiday has been added for the public sector, and government offices may not use air conditioners before 11 a.m. All shops, except bakeries and pharmacies, may not stay open after 8 p.m., and every other streetlight will be switched off. Wedding parties, which tend to be elaborate celebrations here, will be kept under three hours.
One who is satisfied with the government’s strategy is Kashif Shabbir, the president of the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The city near the capital has been hit particularly hard by load-shedding with up to 18 hours of power cuts every day.
Shabbir acknowledged that the plan unveiled only addresses the short-term situation and that much remains to be done to secure adequate energy capacity, but he said this is a good first step toward solving the crisis.
“I’m being optimistic about this,” he said. “This is the only way forward.”