The trans-regional gas pipeline between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, known as TAPI and billed as fate changing project for the regional countries, finally seems to have taken off with the groundbreaking ceremony last week, jointly performed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimohamedow and the Indian Vice President Muhammad Hamid Ansari, near the city of Mary in Turkmenistan.
This project was conceived in 1995 by Western Multinational Oil Companies who were working in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in the beginning of 1990s, in view of Russian refusal to allow them the use of the pipeline network in these countries which it controlled. These companies needed an independent export route avoiding both Iran and Russia. The project to be funded by the Asian Development Bank was launched on 15 March 1995 when Pakistan and Turkmenistan signed an inaugural memorandum for the pipeline. On April 2008 Pakistan, Afghanistan and India signed a framework agreement to buy natural gas from Turkmenistan.
The 1814 Km long pipeline likely to become functional by 2019, purports to carry 27 billion cubic meters of gas annually to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India with a potential to enhance the capacity to 33 billion cubic meters. Pakistan will receive 1325 mmfcd of gas per day. The Pipeline estimated to be built at a cost of US$ 10 billion will pass through Heart, Qandhar in Afghanistan and then Balochistan and Multan before entering Indian Punjab. The issue of payment of transit fee to Afghanistan by both Pakistan and India and India to Pakistan has already been settled. TAPI is not only a transit initiative connecting energy-rich Central Asia with energy-starved South Asia but also a flagship undertaking that would usher in a new era of transformation in the lives of millions of nearly 1.5 billion people. It is also a symbol of shared prosperity and socio-economic development.
This venture unfortunately has been a hostage to the situation in Afghanistan for such a long time. However it now has been made possible through perseverance, patience and collective efforts of all the stakeholders. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is an ardent supporter of regional connectivity and this project would prove to be a pivot of the success of this initiative. Its completion would create economic interdependence among the states of Central Asia and South Asia, particularly the beneficiaries of the pipeline which eventually might lead to political integration of the region and resolution of disputes that have bedeviled relations among them. Presidents of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and vice President of India speaking on the occasion rightly termed the initiation of the project as a win-win situation for all. It is hoped that in view of the resolve of the stakeholders to make the implementation a sure success and the steps proposed in the Heart of Asia Conference congenial conditions would be created in Afghanistan not only for the construction of the pipeline but also to the end of the conflict in that country which was essential for peace, security, tranquility and progress in the region which it badly needed, particularly Afghanistan.
Pakistan currently is in the grip of a debilitating energy crisis that has not only adversely affected the industrial sector but also caused inconvenience to millions of house-holds in addition to threatening huge investments in the CNG sector. Therefore implementation of TAPI was very crucial for Pakistan to reverse the trend. The Prime Minister was right on money to say that TAPI was of great significant for Pakistan and a vital component of the efforts of his government to mitigate the crisis through import of natural gas and electricity. It would perhaps not be an exaggeration to say that the implementation of the project has become a reality due to the persistent efforts of the present Pakistan government who ever since its installation has given top priority to surmounting the energy crisis.
The energy crisis in the country was a result of the inability and criminal negligence of the previous governments to initiate new power producing units in view of the burgeoning demand for electricity with the result that the gap between supply and demand reached 7000 MWs the PML-N government was installed in 2013. During the last two and half years the government, honestly speaking, has shown remarkable commitment and initiative in tiding over energy deficit. It has added 2100 MW of electricity to the system; has taken steps to import LNG from Qatar; initiated steps to import 1100 MW of electricity from Iran; made strenuous efforts to implement CASA-1000 that would facilitate import of 1000 MW electricity from Central Asia. It was also undertaking measures for the import of another 500 MW from India. Currently discussions are also going on between the government of Turkmenistan and Pakistan regarding import of good quality LNG from the former on affordable rates.
The biggest initiative to end the energy crisis has been launched under CPEC. Top priority is being given to early harvest projects for producing 10,600 MW of electricity which are likely to come on stream between 2017-18. Plans are also on the anvil to produce another14000 MW electricity after the completion of these projects. The government energy policy focuses on changing the energy mix.
Currently the share of hydel power in the total energy mix is hardly 30%. The government aims to boost this share to 70% by building large and small dams and also switching to renewable energy resources and other cheaper alternatives such as coal. This switch over would considerably reduce the price of the electricity per unit and the house hold consumers as well as the industrial concerns would get electricity on cheaper rates.
In view of the foregoing facts and the efforts launched by the government it is not hard to draw the inference that by 2018 the country would not only have surmounted the energy crisis but would be well on its way to future energy security, so vital to ensure sustainable development process in the country and to ensure house hold comfort on perennial basis.