LAHORE - The rice millers and exporters, appreciating the Lahore High Court’s decision on Kalabagh Dam, has termed it inevitable owing to acute shortage of energy, fast depleting irrigation water resources and frequent occurrence of floods.

Acute electricity and gas shortage has not only crippled trade and industry but also brought widespread unemployment and poverty, they observed. They said the LHC verdict had given a new lease of life to the people suffering because of multiple problems including unavailability of electricity.

Pakistani rice exporters have now become uncompetitive mainly due to energy crisis and lack of research in the region, which has increased exports, while Pakistan’s ratio of rice export is on decline constantly, observed REAP vice chairman Samee Ullah Chaudhary. He said the country registered a reduction of 49 per cent in basmati rice and 7 per cent in non-basmati rice during this fiscal year (July-Nov) as compared to the same period last year.

Presently, industry is without gas and electricity, forcing the millers to operate on diesel, which escalates cost of production and renders the exporters uncompetitive in the world, he stated. He maintained that hydel power generation is the only hope that overcomes energy problem, as it is the surety of sufficient cheaper electricity. He said that electricity generation through thermal sources is estimated to cost almost Rs16 per unit whereas the same can be produced at Rs2.5 to Rs3 through hydel.

Only because of the government’s silence is the country suffering an annual loss of Rs 132 billion, he said and added that the amount could be saved by initiating the project.

He said that the losses of recent floods in Pakistan, which were estimated to be more than $45 billion could have been reduced if big dams and water reservoirs were in place. “There is an urgent need of bringing down the input costs for the agricultural sector as high prices are discouraging the use of fertilizers, pesticides and quality seeds in optimal quantity, negatively impacting per acre yield.” he said.

Water was major input for the agriculture sector but only 50 per cent of river water reached the farm gate through canals, of which 15 per cent is lost on field due to outdated irrigation practices, he said.

He said that there was lack of confidence amongst the provinces on KBD, which should be restored to take up such decisions.