President Zardari presides over four meetings at Bilawal House

KARACHI: President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday presided over a number of meetings and briefings on various development  projects at Bilawal House Karachi advising the government to step up the projects  so that maximum benefit could be provided to people.Presiding over the meeting on “Alternate Energy Options” available , the President called for stepping up search for out of box, imaginative and bold solutions to meet the country’s energy needs by recourse to alternate sources of energy based on available natural energy resources such as wind energy and solar power.Those who attended the meetings included  Sindh Chief Minister, relevant federal and provincial ministers and senior officials of the federal and provincial governments related to the meeting’s subject.Briefing the journalists on the meetings  spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that the meeting on wind energy was informed that the USAID had agreed to build a 150 megawatts (MW) wind power plant in the coastal areas of Sindh to augment power generation.
The meeting was also informed about the status of land allocations for new wind power projects built by private investors in the country.The President said that Pakistan offers promising opportunities for massive investment in new sources of energy in Pakistan particularly in the development of wind and solar energy.Emphasising greater utilisation of alternate energy the President advised that all the new houses being built in the rural areas of Sindh under Behan Benazir Basti Programme should be provided solar or wind power.
He said that gas and electricity geysers be eventually phased out of the Government buildings in order to save gas in the winters for diversion into more productive uses.
Likewise all new street lights should be solar/ LED based and billboards and electronic power based neon signs should be converted to solar at the earliest. Special industrial hubs be set up in the coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan based on the captive wind power that is harnessed in these areas, he said.

The President directed that work on the wind power projects be stepped up and letter of support  be issued to the firms that have evinced interest and completed the initial formalities as well.Taking note of the reports that despite land allocation some private entrepreneurs had not yet obtained letters of support (LoS) the President directed that they should be given time till the end of this year after which their right to get allocated wind corridor be forfeited.“We are passing through a severe energy crisis and cannot afford to wait indefinitely for harnessing alternate power resources like wind and solar power projects to take off”, Farhatullah Babar quoted the President as saying.
The meeting was informed that in the Gharo, Bandar and Jhimpir Corridor where the wind speed was over 7 metres  per second at 60 metres  height, as much as 50,000 MW of wind power  could be generated.General Electric Company of the US has already expressed interest in setting up wind energy projects and in building fast track railway lines and has held a number of meetings with relevant officials during the past few months.

The President said that the business friendly and liberal investment policies of the government in key sectors like power generation, transportation and infrastructure have resulted in attracting significant foreign direct investment in Pakistan and must be made good use of.The meeting on the proposed Turkey-Pakistan fast track cargo train which was also attended by the Federal Railway Minister was informed that the technical feasibility of the project had been established and now efforts were afoot to involve the private sector in financing the project. The President called for a special meeting next week with private entrepreneurs and investors of stock exchanges to discuss raising finances for the project through stock exchanges of the country.Emphasising the up-gradation of the existing rail link to cut the travel time between the two countries the President said that it would open up vast European and Asian markets to the benefit of not only Pakistan and Turkey but also of all people in the region.The President suggested that the train may be named after the Turkish President as “Gul Train”.

He also advised that private investor, selected for the project should be asked to employ latest technology and fabricate it locally in the country. This should be the guiding strategy for improving railway in the country, he said.Farhatullah Babar said that the demonstration run of the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul container train was launched on August 14 last.  During President Zardari’s January visit to Istanbul, the Turkish railway authorities also gave a detailed briefing on the prospects of Islamabad-Istanbul container train. Turkey has also offered to assist Pakistan in upgrading its railway network, he said.The spokesperson recalled that during President’s visit to USA in September last year the Chairman/ CEO of General Electric Company called on President Asif Ali Zardari and discussed prospects of exploiting wind energy as well as building a fast track railway line for transportation of goods.The General Electric has shown keen interest in investing in wind energy projects and also in building railway lines. The President had then invited the CEO General Electric to visit Pakistan. The Board of Investment and General Electric Company have also signed a cooperative MOU to identify energy/ power, transportation including rail transportation and water projects including water plants for purification,  desalination  and water treatment.

The meeting on flood rehabilitation and reconstruction in Sindh was informed that 20 high powered de-watering pumps had been supplied to four districts while another 50 pumps were being supplied to other districts to drain the flood water out once the bulk of flood water is drained through gravity action.Scores of breaches in canals in Kashmore, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Qambar- Shahdadkot and Dadu had been plugged and remaining breaches will be plugged by the end of next month. The President called for a fast track plan to draw out the flood water and make the land available in time for crop sowing.
The meeting was informed that Rs 700 million were required for restoration of the 2400  kilometres  of provincial roads and 27 bridges and another Rs 1.4 billion for the restoration of 4700 kilometres  of district roads and 130 bridges.In yet another meeting  Chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP)  Ms Farzana Raja  gave a briefing on the progress made on the project of providing mobile telephone sets free of cost to the beneficiaries of the BISP. The meeting was also attended by representatives of the mobile telephone companies and heads of several banks. The President directed that the pilot project of providing mobile sets in at least two districts  be  launched on December 27 to coincide with the third death anniversary of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.“Shaheed Benazir Bhutto had dedicated her life to the empowerment of women and it will be a befitting tribute to her memory to launch the pilot project that would empower poor women on her third death anniversary”, Farhatullah Babar quoted the President as saying – App