Nawaz Sharif’s electoral manifesto promised economic revival and end of the energy crisis. Now that he is backed into a corner by PTI he is aiming to end the energy crisis with one fell swoop. The Chinese government was happy to oblige and the PM returned from Beijing with $42 billion worth of investment focused on the energy sector. Yet, promised prosperity should not blind us to the hidden dents in the proposed plans. Even as the projects steam ahead at full-speed, we are left wondering, what exactly are we buying from the Chinese?

Firstly, it seems that many of the projects involve technology that hasn’t been tested before. The two new reactors in Karachi of the ACP-1000 design have only existed on paper, while the Quaid-e-Azam solar power plant, at 900 MW, is going to be three times the size of the largest power plant in existence. The technical feasibility and safety ramifications of such experimental designs need to be thoroughly sounded out before construction begins. Secondly, it seems that the haste in getting these projects up and running is skirting quite a few laws and procedural checks. Construction of the Karachi nuclear plant project has been halted until an Environment Impact Assessment report is made public. Even without the report, the logic of building a large nuclear plant 30 km from one of the world’s largest cities is hard to fathom. Chernobyl, Fukishima and the Three Mile Island incident should be enough to convince the government that accidents happen, and a nuclear plant so close to such a large population can be devastating. Similarly, the Gadani coal-fired power plant has massive ramifications for marine life and air pollution around Karachi. Furthermore, the award of the solar plant’s contact to the Chinese Zoenergy was made without competitive bidding in contravention to established laws.

The energy crisis is an exigent issue, but by skirting established checks, the government could be creating an issue of far greater magnitude in the future.