KP to directly procure wheat next year

Direct wheat procurement from growers
By Tahir Ali

Dawn, Nov 21, 2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/11/21/direct-wheat-procurement-from-growers.html

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has announced that it will directly purchase wheat from growers this year instead of buying the grain from other sources. And the provincial food department’s procurement drive will be financed by the Bank of Khyber.

The direct procurement is expected to save around Rs6,000 per ton and could help cut provincial government’s expenditure by Rs2.5 billion in the procurement target of 0.4 million tons.

While acknowledging the sharp rise in cost of production, the Agriculture Planning Institute (API) has recommended a wheat support price of Rs11.50 per 40kg for the coming season.

This recommendation has been forwarded to the federal cabinet for approval. But approval of provincial chief ministers would also be needed for the price raise as the ministry of food and agriculture stands devolved after the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

Whether the chief ministers would approve the proposal or not is yet to be learnt, because of its impact on urban consumers.

As the elections due in t one and a half years, the government may find itself in a fix to take an early decision. It wants to please the growers by increasing the wheat support price but also knows that the increase would fuel food inflation and may result in public backlash. This explains the delay in taking the decision on the issue.

The high prices of farm inputs have raised the cost of production. The API, keeping this fact in mind, has also stressed the government to withdraw taxes and duties on agricultural inputs.

Small growers have been complaining of negligence and malpractices in the procurement system. “Officials purchase of the commodity from middlemen but the growers have numerous complaints. The procurement centres discourage and compel growers to approach their agents,” a farmer complained.

“Because of delays in assessing the crop, that expose the produce to thieves and vagaries of weather (as it is mostly kept lying in the open at procurement centres), and frequent wrong assessment and rejection of their wheat quality/variety, farmers usually prefer to sell their produce to private buyers for quick deal at four to five per cent lower rates,” he said.

The middlemen, who usually work as cartel, often reduce demand that results in price crash.

In the past, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa has never been able to achieve its wheat procurement target owing to shortage of finances, wheat procurement centres, storage facilities and extensive role of the middlemen in the process. The procurement system needs to be revamped.

“The government should enter into pre-sowing wheat purchase deals with farmers. It should announce the list of wheat procurement centres and increase the number of such centres. Interests of small growers should be safeguarded during the procurement of the crop, especially of those from the floods/militancy hit areas,” says a farmer.

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 Original text of the article

New wheat support price and the new procurement system

By Tahir Ali

With the advent of the wheat-sowing season in the country, farmers are demanding an increase in the wheat support price but the question is should it be increased and if yes to what extent, or should the old support price remain unchanged in the coming year?

Farmers argue that cost of production has swelled in the wake of rising cost of agriculture inputs on account of growing energy prices, eradication of subsidies and imposition of general sales tax.

Though an suitable raise in official wheat price is their right, it needs to be remembered that any exorbitant increase, like the one in 2008, when the wheat price was raised from Rs625 to Rs950 per 40kg all at once, would make life miserable for the majority population, hit hard by floods and terrorism-hit slump on one side and the rising inflation and poverty on the other.

The agriculture planning institute (API), the former agriculture pricing commission, while acknowledging the sharp rise in the cost of production, has recommended a wheat support price of Rs1150 Per 40kg for the coming season.

This recommendation has been sent to the federal cabinet for approval. But approval of the provincial chief ministers would also be required for to raise the support price as the ministry of food and agriculture and federal committee on agriculture, which would initiate and complete the process, stand devolved after the 18th constitutional amendment.

The question is: Will the provincial governments give their consent to the suggestion, thereby directing the public wrath towards themselves and totally absolving the federal government of any blame? Whether the chief ministers would approve of the suggestion or reject it, it is yet not clear as yet.

Whatever decision the government wants will have to be taken soon as it will directly impact the wheat acreage and eventually the food security situation in the country in the coming year.

But with elections due in less than two years, the government finds itself in a fix: it wants to please farmers by raising the wheat support price but also knows that the raise would increase food inflation and public unrest, which could provide further fuel to the anti-government campaign. It explains the delay in taking a decision on the issue.

It is writing on the wall that the government would raise the price eventually as it can’t displease the powerful landlords- PPP’s traditional strength- who are to massively benefit from the move and because the poor have no organised and powerful lobby to thwart the attempt and safeguard their interests in the power corridors.

Constituency-based politics, experts argue, has forced the government not to take any decision that could annoy the feudal class where a majority of the government elite come from.

Higher wheat support price in general benefits the big farmers at the cost of higher food inflation, higher interest rate, lower investment in other sectors and lower growth, they argue.

Pakistan is the only country in the world to have subjected agriculture inputs to general sales tax, which increases cost of production, believed to have climbed by about 200 per cent in recent years, and brought commission agents and dealers under sales tax which eventually mean high prices for consumers. The API has also stressed the government to withdraw taxes and duties on agricultural inputs.

Annual average wheat production in the country is 24 million tons. It means farmers pocketed around Rs98 billion additionally each year during the last three years from wheat alone if even half that produce was sold by them. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa farmers grow one million ton wheat each year. By this analysis, the farmers here have earned around Rs10bn in this head annually.

Hundreds of billions of rupees have been transferred to the rural economy on account of hike in major crops during the last three years. This is a big amount and the state of life of millions of farmers should have improved but the opposite is the case.

Big landlords, constituting only 10-12 per cent of all farmers, might have benefited but smaller and poor farmers, forming over 85 per cent of the farmers, usually fail to take advantage from the raised price as they have no resources and contacts in the right quarters to carry and sell their outputs at the procurement centres.

Small farmers have been complaining of negligence and malpractices in the procurement system. “Officials purchase the commodity from middlemen but numerous defects are pointed out when small growers approach the procurement centres; they are discouraged and compelled to approach the agents,” a farmer complained.

“For delays in assessing the crop, which exposes the produce to thieves and vagaries of weather as it mostly lies in the open at the procurement centres, and frequent wrong assessment and rejection of their wheat output, farmers usually prefer to sell their produce to private buyers for easy and swift deal though on four to five per cent lower rates,” he said.

In the wake of lacklustre procurement campaign, the agriculture commission mafia that usually work as cartel reduce demand, resulting in price crash and the poor farmers either have to sell it at lower prices or consume it themselves.

Ironically the agriculture department has no role in the procurement of wheat and the work is performed by the food department in all provinces which obviously neither has neither direct connections nor sufficient information on the farmers.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has announced it would directly purchase wheat from growers this year rather than from other sources.

The Bank of Khyber has agreed to finance the procurement drive by the provincial food department for this year.

Lesser direct procurement exert great financial burden on provincial exchequer on purchase and transportation from other provinces.

Direct procurement saves around Rs 6000 per ton and could help save KP around Rs2.5bn if the procurement target of 0.4 million tons is reached and over Rs20bn if it procures all of its 3.5mn tons requirements from the open market.

In the past, KP has never been able to achieve its wheat procurement target for shortage of finances, wheat procurement centres and storage facilities and extensive role of the middlemen in the process.

The procurement system needs to be revamped.

 “The government should enter into pre-sowing wheat purchase contracts with farmers. It should announce the list of wheat procurement centres and increase the procurement centres. Interests of small growers should be safeguarded during the procurement, especially those from the floods/militancy hit areas,” he added.

Tapping the Solar Energy potential

Solar solution
Instead of investing heavily in the oil-run power plants, the government should explore the abundant solar energy potential for power generation
By Tahir Ali
http://jang.com.pk/thenews/nov2011-weekly/nos-20-11-2011/pol1.htm#1

Though Pakistan is beset with an acute energy crunch, it has failed to exploit the huge hydel power resources as well as the abundant solar energy potential for the power generation purposes for years.

The resourceful but unfortunate country receives high levels of solar radiation — approximately 1000 watts per square meter for most parts of the year. Global solar energy potential is estimated at 800 million megawatt while Pakistan has, according to an estimate, about 100,000MW solar energy potential, as it is the 6th luckiest country in the world where sunrays are available extending up to 16 hours in summer.

But Arif Allauddin, the chief executive officer of the Alternately Energy Development Board (AEDB), recently said that 2.9 million MW of electricity could be produced by utilising solar energy alone in the country.

The AEDB has signed several solar energy MoUs or contracts with different agencies for widespread use of off-grid solar technologies in Pakistan through public and private sector and for dissemination of solar energy and setting up local solar manufacturing facilities. But, the country is still far from exploiting the sun power for producing electricity that could run its factories and create millions of jobs in the country.

Instead of exploring the solar potential, the country has opted to invest heavily in the oil-run power plants, which has burdened the national exchequer with a huge oil import bill, exposed the people to exorbitant power tariff increases and still left the power producers with a circular debt of hundreds of billions of rupees during the last few years.

A project launched by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2003 in the Indian state of Karnataka, facilitated over 18,000 applications for loans for solar panels over three years. UNEP recruited two popular banks to take part in the project as part of their ‘priority sector lending’ obligation and it subsidised the loans to help decrease the interest rate. The project has been extended to other Indian states of Gujarat, Kerala and Maharashtra, and the UNEP plans to initiate similar projects in Algeria, China, Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco and Tunisia, but Pakistan is not included in the list.

While the World Bank and Asian Development Bank are allocating funds for solar technologies, the local banks do not come forward to support the sector. Non-seriousness of authorities can be judged from the fact that AEDB has yet to issue the new updated alternate energy policy. The present policy was drafted in December 2006. The draft of the new energy policy, which has been sent to the Council of Common Interest for approval, intends to help boost the growth of the domestic renewable industry by 2014. It, among other things, aims to facilitate establishment of a domestic alternate renewable energy manufacturing base in the country and promote research on the technology in the country.

Solar energy, one of the best alternate energy sources, lessens pollution, reduces global warming and does not harm the ecosystem. Besides, it is abundant in supply and it has no maintenance and operation expenses as solar cells and panels don’t require fuel (gas and oil etc) which are getting costlier by the day. It is also convenient in places not covered by traditional grids and village electrification through solar energy has already been on the agenda of the AEDB, but there are several problems.

Solar energy generation technology is deemed costly and unaffordable for one person, but is considered within the reach when combined investment is made by a few families or the process is supported by the government and international bodies. High cost of solar system, public unawareness and banks’ reluctance to lend to investors is further hurting potential projects and keeping the technologies from dissemination.

Failure to establish local solar energy manufacturing units in the country has also made it comparatively costlier. And several government companies — AEDB, Pakistan Council for Renewable Technologies, the AEC, etc — dealing with the sector and the lengthy process of approval of solar energy projects also inhibit investors.

The fact that solar energy system can be installed with one time investment and then there is no maintenance or operating expenses, those who can afford it are coming towards the technology in great numbers.

According to a report, the country’s first on-grid solar electricity system, 180 KW each, is being built at Pakistan Engineering Council and the Planning Commission with financial help from Japan. It will not only fulfil their requirements but the surplus electricity will be sold to the Islamabad Electric Supply Company.

President Asif Ali Zardari had recently asked the concerned bodies to shift Presidency to solar power on the pattern of Planning Commission and Pakistan Engineering Council. He had also ordered that one town be converted to solar energy each year, all new development schemes should have solar streetlights and solar cookers, heat pumps, water heaters and water pumps be encouraged.

According to a report in the Guardian recently, Greece plans to sell its sun to Germany which plans to develop about 20,000 hectares of solar power parks there for exporting renewable energy to Germany. And Greece, facing a default after it secured £97 billion in rescue funds, hopes solar energy can help it out of its debt crisis.

Germany is the global leader in solar energy, but it has a lot less sun than Greece. After Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, the German government has decided to close its nuclear reactors by 2022.

Hit worst by the ever increasing loadshedding and power tariff, many people in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are turning towards solar energy and the sales of solar panels are going up enormously in the province, and particularly in the federally and provincially administered tribal areas, where there is less pollution and high intensity sunrays that can produce more energy.

“People are turning to solar technology as loadshedding, costliness of power and the rising maintenance and operation expenditures of generators have left them with no other option,” says Wakeel Ahmad, a Peshawar-based dealer of solar technology. “Solar lamps have been installed near Peshawar bus stand and these are likely to be installed on streets and roads in the city very soon.”

“Solar technology is sold in watts at Rs250 per watt with 20 years warranty. A normal household with daily consumption of 1000watt would thus have to spend Rs250,000. The family could also buy a solar panel only at Rs40,000 to charge its electricity based un-interrupted power supply systems to use the power later in their homes,” Ahmad adds.

Nazir Ahmad, a Swabi-based dealer, says hundreds of solar energy systems are sold in the area. A Wapda official in Dir, wishing not to be named, says people in difficult terrain of the district have installed even imported solar systems which has brought revolution in their lives and agriculture.

Over a million tube-wells in Pakistan are eating up billions in power subsidy and consuming an estimated 1000-1500MW of power, straining the weak national grid.

According to Nazir Ahmad, a solar tube-well with 20 years guarantee can be bought for Rs0.9 million which pumps water non-stop from sunrise to sunset for irrigation. Solar pumps could fulfil the daily water requirements of small to medium size fish farms and communities as well.

“The government must provide incentives such as tax holidays, grants to the selected villages, some resource risk coverage, competitive tariff for solar energy and guaranteed purchase agreements from producers,” says the dealer. .

Fertilizer shortage and costliness

Fertilizer shortage
By Tahir Ali

Dawn November 7, 2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/11/07/fertiliser-shortage.html

FERTILISER ordered by growers in remote areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa often does not reach its destination and is off-loaded in closer vicinity to cater to the demand of farms located nearer to the supply depots.

“For instance, a consignment of fertilizer booked by Buner farmers does not reach its buyers and is unloaded in a supply depot somewhere in Mardan and sold off there. While fertilizer companies are believed not to be directly involved in this practice, the dealers are, especially in case of supplies to far-off northern areas of KP, FATA and and Gilgit Baltistan. The issue, despite its serious implications on agriculture and consequently on growers and crop yield, still remains unattended,” says a farmer.

“Fertilizer companies favour financially stable dealers who can invest heavily in the business. Those who are rich and have strong connections can get as many licences for different places as desired by them. They can create artificial shortage anytime, anywhere to increase prices and earn a lot of money within no time,” said a dealer.

“Fertilizers have an impact of around 30 per cent on yield and quality of crops and their inadequate use affects quality and per acre crop yield. In case of shortage, fake fertilizers are sold at cheaper rates which reduce crop yield,” says farmer Israr Khan.

The total consumption of urea and DAP in the province is 250,000 and 150, 000 metric tons for Rabi and 180,000 and 150,000 metric tons for Kharif respectively.

The prices of DAP per bag during the last two years have jumped from Rs2,600 to Rs4,300 and that of urea from Rs1,400 to over Rs2,300. It works out to an annual additional burden of around Rs12 billion on the KP farmers for DAP alone.

According to Haji Naimat Shah, another farmer, the increase in prices of fertilizer is getting out of growers’ reach. “If the government does not withdraw general sales tax and open more stores in all the 986 union councils in the province, food grain output would be severely hit.”

“The agriculture department, despite being authorized under the Fertilizer Act, has failed to check market manipulation, and the sale of fake and spurious varieties.

“Provincial quotas and provincial supply bodies need to be revived. The agriculture department should devise a strong monitoring system and subsidies should be given directly to farmers rather than to fertilizer companies as they do not pass it on to growers,” he demanded.

The private sector handles about 90 per cent of urea and 100 per cent of DAP, Khan said.

The profits of the fertilizer companies is ballooning, year by year, because of the rapid increase in fertilizer prices with no effort to improve plant productivity and efficiency. The industry gets heavily subsidized gas used by it when compared to international energy prices.

Deregulation and self-sufficiency, it was believed, would bring down prices of the commodity but the opposite is the case.

Imperfect competition and profiteering create an environment where benefits accrue to only a few, but costs are borne by all.

According to an official of the KP ministry of agriculture, the department conducts routine and monthly surprise visits. The offenders are arrested and tried in court of law, they are convicted and their licences are blacklisted, but the offence still continues. The province has only two big depots of the National Fertilizer Marketing Limited. More such stores are needed to be opened in the province to protect farmers against fertilizer mafia, he said.

In June 2003, the NFML had 211 urea dealers in KP but the number has shrunk to 22 only, the federal minister for industries told the Senate last year. There is no dealer in the tribal belt.

Small farmers getting little bank credit

Small farmers denied access to bank credit

By Tahir Ali

October 31, 2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/10/31/small-farmers-denied-access-to-bank-credit.html

SMALL farmers have very limited access to agriculture credit in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The worst-hit are the growers in the far-flung hilly and tribal areas.

They continue to rely on informal sector for their needs for credit that keeps them in a vicious debt-cycle and poverty trap.

The province accounts for only around four per cent of national agriculture credit disbursement. Whereas only six per cent of farmers in the province have access to agriculture credit against 21 per cent for the country.

Various easy credit schemes, support price mechanism and subsidy regimes in the past were designed for small and medium size farmers, but only big landlords ended up as its beneficiaries.

Small farmers got a raw deal in the existing 2005 agriculture policy as they could not provide collaterals for loans. Long credit approval and disbursement process, high mark-up and fewer lending branches are responsible for low agriculture credit in KP.

“The formalities for any agriculture loan require lengthy documentation that take around two to four months to complete,” said a bank manager when asked on the process of lending farm loans.

He suggested that small farmers should be given loans on personal guarantees. Group-based credit schemes are being followed by small banks but need to be taken up by main banks to improve credit disbursement ratio. Crop as well as life insurance is the best way to minimise the risk of farming community against losses and of banks against non-repayment.

Shahid Khan, a Mardan-based farmer, held banks responsible for low level of agriculture credit in the province.

“The banks avoid lending to farmers for fear of default. Much has been said about one-window operation but no bank has as yet come out with a fast track mechanism for credit disbursement. The banks must simplify their agriculture loaning system. Mobile credit officers should reach farmers at their doorsteps for credit delivery,” he said.

Last year, the government had promised Rs1 billion seed money for easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers from bank but only Rs200 million was released. This year too, only Rs400 million was expected.

A borrower can avail a maximum unsecured financing up to Rs500,000 from banks as per prudential regulations. Also, under the revolving credit scheme, banks provide finance for farming on the basis of revolving limits for a period of three years with one-time documentation.

Borrowers are required to clear the entire amount of loan (including markup) in the agreed time. Agricultural credit under the scheme can be availed against personal surety but it is seldom allowed.

Under agricultural passbook system, banks are bound to allocate 70 per cent of their loans to subsistence farmers.

Globally, various innovative lending techniques like group based lending (the Grameen model), self-help groups (Indian model), solidarity group (Latin America model), community based organisation (also called village banking) have been successfully applied, which have made lending affordable and easily accessible to small farmers, helping them to improve farm productivity.

In group-based lending, small groups of farmers are formed by lenders involving 5-10 members having identical needs.

Collateral is generally not required and a joint liability agreement/undertaking takes its place wherein each member takes the responsibility of the outstanding debt of all group members. In case of any change in the group, a fresh guarantee is signed by the members.

A group coordinator acts as a facilitator of the group and agent of the bank. The bank ensures that group coordinator is executing the assigned tasks as prescribed like liaison with members, arrangement of meetings, etc. and if need be replace him, with consensus, in case he fails to deliver.

Group members ensure that the bank receives timely repayments from the borrowers. If a borrower dies, liability lies with the remaining group members. However, life insurance could safeguard the interests of both the borrowers and lenders.

Eligibility criteria for borrowers are: not more than 12.5 acres land (tenant or lessee) or 40 sheep, computerised national identity card, residence in the village and membership in the village organisation. The minimum credit limit is Rs20,000 and maximum Rs200,000.

Farm loans are repayable as per production cycle of crops. For non-crop activities like livestock farming, repayment period is three to five years.

 

Solar technology on the rise in Pakistan

Rise in sale of solar panels

President Zardari recently asked the concerned bodies to shift Presidency to solar power on the pattern of Planning Commission and Pakistan Engineering Council. – File photo

While the huge hydro-power potential of the country still remains unutilised, quite a few people hit by loadshedding and power tariff hikes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are turning towards solar energy.

Facilitated by high intensity sun-rays in the tribal belt, the sales of solar panels are going up. Wakeel Ahmad, a Peshawar-based dealer of solar panel, said people are turning to this technology as load-shedding/cost of power and the rising expenses on generators have left them with no option but to adopt solar technology. Nazir Ahmad, a dealer of solar energy equipment in Swabi, claimed that scores of solar energy panels are being sold in the area.

“Solar lamps have been installed near Peshawar bus stand with plans to install them on roads and streets in the city soon. Individuals are also coming up in great numbers to buy these panels,” he said.

“Solar panel is sold at Rs250 per watt with 20 years warranty. A normal household with daily consumption of 1000 watt would thus have to spend Rs250,000. The family could also buy a solar panel for Rs40,000 to charge the electricity-based uninterrupted power supply systems to use the power later in their homes,” he added.

A Wapda official in Dir said people in this difficult terrain have installed imported solar panels which have revolutionised their lives as well as agriculture. Over a million tube-wells in the country are using 1000-1500MW of power, straining the weak national grid, consuming over billions of rupees in power subsidy.

According to Ahmad, a solar tube-well with 20 years warranty could be installed by one-time investment of Rs0.9mn which can pump water non-stop from sunrise to sunset for irrigation. Solar pumps could fulfill the daily water requirements of small to medium-size fish farms and communities as well. These could pump water from a depth of up to 1000 feet, according to a report.

Pakistan receives high level of solar radiation throughout the year- around 1000 watts per square meter. Mr Arif Allauddin, chief executive officer of AEDB, said recently that 2.9mn MW could be produced through tapping solar energy in the country.

But Pakistan has failed to utilise solar power though it has opted to invest heavily in the oil-run power plants. The AEDB has signed several MoUs on installation of solar energy panels with different agencies. It plans widespread use of off-grid solar technologies in Pakistan through public and private sector cooperation. Setting up of local solar PV manufacturing facilities is also included in its programme.

However, the high installation cost of the system, lack of awareness among people, and banks’ reluctance to finance the system were hindering the spread of the technology.

Failure to establish local solar energy manufacturing units in the country has also made the system comparatively costlier.

Several government companies like AEDB, Pakistan Council for Renewable Technologies etc, dealing with the sector, and the lengthy process of approval of solar energy projects inhibit investors from adopting this system.

The technology may be costly and unaffordable for one person, but is considered within reach when combined investment is made by a few families or the process is supported by the government and international bodies.

But the fact that solar energy system can be installed with one-time investment and there is no need of maintenance or operating expenses.

“While the World Bank and Asian Development Bank are allocating funds for solar technologies, the local banks do not come forward to support the sector. The AEDB will keep on creating high hopes but actually it is doing nothing,” said an expert.

A project, launched by the UN environment programme in 2003 in the Indian State of Karnataka, facilitated over 18,000 loans for solar panels over three years. UNEP recruited two popular banks to take part in the project as part of their ‘priority sector lending’ obligation and it subsidised the loans to help decrease the interest rate. The UNEP plans to initiate similar projects in other countries but not in Pakistan.

The government needs to provide tax holidays and grants to selected villages, schools, mosques and offices, some resource risk coverage, competitive tariff for solar energy and guaranteed purchase agreements from producers.

President Zardari recently asked the concerned bodies to shift Presidency to solar power on the pattern of Planning Commission and Pakistan Engineering Counci. He also advised that one town be converted to solar energy each year; all new development schemes should have solar street lights and solar cookers. Use of water heaters and water pumps should be encouraged, he said.

According to a report in the Guardian recently, Greece may allow Germany to develop about 20,000 hectares of solar power parks for exporting renewable energy to Germany.

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Original text of the article

Utilising the solar energy

By Tahir Ali

In the wake of apparent government’s failure to utilise the huge hydro power potential and hit worst by the ever increasing load-shedding and power tariff, quite a few people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are turning towards solar energy and the sales of solar panels in the province is on the rise.

Particularly, the tribal belt, where there is less pollution and so high intensity sun-rays produce powerful energy, the sales are going up enormously.

Wakeel Ahmad, a Peshawar based dealer of solar technology, said people are turning to solar technology as load-shedding/costliness of power and the rising maintenance and operation expenditures of generators has left them with no other option. Nazir Ahmad, a Swabi based dealer, said hundreds of solar energy systems are sold in the area.

“Solar lamps have been installed near Peshawar bus stand and these are likely to be installed on streets and roads in the city very soon. Individuals are also coming in great numbers,” he said.

“Solar technology is sold in watts at Rs250 per watt with 20 years warranty. A normal household with daily consumption of 1000watt would thus have to spend Rs250,000. The family could also buy a solar panel only at Rs40, 000 to charge its electricity based un-interrupted power supply systems to use the power later in their homes,” he added.

A Wapda official, based in Dir, said people in the difficult terrain of the district have installed even imported solar systems which has brought revolution in their lives and agriculture.

Over a million tube wells in Pakistan are eating up billions in power subsidy and consuming an estimated 1000-1500MW of power, straining the weak national grid.

According to Ahmad, a solar tube-well with 20 years guarantee could be had by onetime investment of Rs0.9mn which pumps water non-stop from sunrise to sunset for irrigation. Solar pumps could fulfil the daily water requirements of small to medium size fish farms and communities as well. These could pump water from a depth of up to 1000 feet, according to a report.

Pakistan receives high levels of solar radiation throughout the year- around 1000 watts per square meter for most parts of the year. Mr Arif Allauddin, chief executive officer of AEDB said recently said that 2.9mn MW could be produced through tapping solar energy in Pakistan.

But Pakistan has failed to utilise solar power though it has opted to invest heavily in the oil-run power plants.

The AEDB has signed several solar energy MoUs or contracts with different agencies for widespread use of off-grid solar technologies in Pakistan through public and private sector and for dissemination of solar energy and setting up local Solar PV manufacturing facilities.

However, the high cost of solar system installation, public unawareness and banks’ reluctance to lend to investors was further hurting potential projects, however, are keeping the technologies from dissemination.

Failure to establish local solar energy manufacturing units in the country has also made it comparatively costlier.

And several government companies -AEDB, Pakistan council for renewable technologies etc-dealing with the sector and the lengthy process of approval of solar energy projects inhibit investors.

Non-seriousness of authorities can be judged from the fact that AEDB has yet to issue the new updated alternate energy policy. The present policy was drafted in December 2006.

The technology is deemed costly and unaffordable for one person, but is considered within the reach when combined investment is made by a few families or the process is supported by the government and international bodies.

But the fact that solar energy system can be installed with one time investment and then there is no maintenance or operating expenses, those who can afford it are coming towards the technology in great numbers, Ahmad opined.

“While the World Bank or Asian Development Bank are allocating funds for solar technologies, the local banks do not come forward support the sector. AEDB will keep on creating high hopes but actually it is doing nothing,” said an expert.

A project, launched by the UN environment programme in 2003 in the Indian state of Karnataka, facilitated over 18,000 loans for solar panels over three years. UNEP recruited two popular banks to take part in the project as part of their ‘priority sector lending’ obligation and it subsidized the loans to help decrease the interest rate. The UNEP plans to initiate similar projects in other countries but Pakistan is not included.

The government must provide incentives such as tax holidays, grants to the selected villages, schools, mosques and offices, some resource risk coverage, competitive tariff for solar energy and guaranteed purchase agreements from producers and the like.

President Zardari recently asked the concerned bodies to shift Presidency to solar power on the pattern of planning commission and Pakistan engineering council, being financed by Japan. He also advised that one town be converted to solar energy each year, all new development schemes should have solar street lights and solar cookers, heat pumps, water heaters and water pumps be encouraged.

According to a report in the Guardian recently, Greece plans to sell its sun to Germany which plans to develop about 20,000 hectares of solar power parks for exporting renewable energy to Germany. And Greece, facing a default after it secured £97bn in rescue funds, hopes solar energy can help it out of its debt crisis.

Germany is the global leader in solar energy but it has a lot less sun than Greece. After Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, German government has decided to close its nuclear reactors by 2022.

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