Hydropower Controversy

The recent uproar surrounding the extension of the 20MW hydropower project to 40MW in Gilgit-Baltistan epitomis­es the dire need for transparent and accountable decision-making processes, especially in matters as critical as energy de­velopment in the country. In a region grappling with acute power shortages, the stakes could not be higher, yet the manner in which this project has unfolded raises serious questions about gover­nance and regulatory oversight.

Among soaring project costs and the absence of proper approv­als, it is evident that something has gone seriously wrong in this endeavour. It remains unanswered how we could justify a proj­ect’s capacity doubling without the necessary green light from rel­evant authorities. The lack of transparent bidding processes only adds fuel to the fire, signalling a blatant disregard for regulato­ry norms and procedural integrity. We cannot turn a blind eye to such blatant transgressions, especially when they concern vital in­frastructure projects essential for the region’s development.

Gilgit-Baltistan’s potential for hydropower is undeniable, but poten­tial alone is not enough. We need concrete action coupled with robust governance mechanisms to harness this potential effectively. The re­gion’s energy sector, currently reliant on isolated micro and small hydropower stations, is crying out for comprehensive reform. This reform cannot happen on its own, as it requires adherence to trans­parent and accountable governance practices every step of the way.

The establishment of a dedicated energy regulatory authori­ty and development organisation is a step in the right direction. However, lip service will not suffice. We need tangible measures to ensure regulatory autonomy and transparency, starting with stringent oversight of project implementation. The draft acts sub­mitted for legislation must not gather dust on bureaucratic desks; they must be swiftly enacted to provide the regulatory framework necessary for sustainable energy development.

Lastly, we must not forget the voices of the local community, whose concerns have been drowned out within bureaucratic bungling. Their grievances regarding guideline violations and lack of consul­tation must be addressed urgently. After all, it is their lives and liveli­hoods that hang in the balance. We owe it to them to prioritise their interests above all else and ensure that these energy projects serve their needs while fostering broader regional development.

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