Indigenous Energy - Pakistan, India and Bangladesh

Yesterday and this morning I spent my time helping clear up the damage from a storm that hit our town over the summer. We were away, and several trees were left with limbs torn, damaged and in some cases dangling. So, I used the chance to get some of the other trees pruned of dead wood, and to generally clean up around the yard. Now I am left with a reasonable amount of kindling and firewood, to help heat the house over the winter. We have a tile stove, and so the effort is a little more to cut the wood to the shorter lengths, but the work is justified

The trees remain, and will continue to grow. But other parts of the world are not as fortunate. Judith Curry has written of the facility with which commentators have cited the recent flooding in Pakistan as being due to global warming, when there is a significant case that it could, more correctly, be blamed on inept water and agricultural practice, with a little regional politics thrown in. Unfortunately the problems that she describes illustrate the problems of a country where the pressures of a growing population have sought short-term answers to long-term problems.

For example:

Illegal logging supported by the Taliban in the northwest province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has felled as much as 70% of the forest in some districts. The lack of trees, combined with overgrazing by livestock, reduces the soil’s ability to hold water and leads to soil erosion. Flash flooding in the northern, mountainous areas then sends silt downstream, reducing the amount of water the river channel can hold. . . . . . . . . . . . There are a substantial number of barrages (dams) on the Indus River that support irrigation and hydropower. The flood occurred when the rising river bed (owing to the huge silt deposition in the upstream areas) was trapped by the Taunsa barrage, obstructing the water flow. These heavy silt loads were then transported through western tributaries of the Indus River. Construction of protective levees and dykes has also contributed to raising the riverbed and the sedimentation of upstream areas; moreover, the rising riverbed levels have rendered protective levees ineffective.

In 1951 Pakistan held a population of 34 million people. This had increased to 144 million in 2001, and is currently estimated at over 170 million. It is thus now the sixth most populous of nations. The average consumption of 500KWh is a fifth of the global average of 2,500 KWh. Of that thermally generated energy currently produces around 63% of the power, while hydro has produced around 32% (6,500 MW). However, as noted above, the lakes behind the high dams are sedimenting rapidly, as deforestation increases the bearing load of the streams. It is estimated that 20% of the live storage capacity is already gone. Yet, because of its geography, there is a potential for more than doubling the amount of power available to Pakistan from hydro-electricity generation. It has the advantage of being indigenous, in a country that already faces considerable expense in importing energy. There is one project, the Neelum-Jelham scheme, in Kashmir, currently in progress, though it is controversial.

Neelam Jhelum Hydroelectric Project is located near Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Administered Kashmir. It aims to dig a tunnel and divert water of Neelam River from Nauseri, about 41 KM East of Muzzafrabad. A Powerhouse will be constructed at Chatter Kalas, 22 Km South of Muzaffarabad; and after passing through the turbines the water will be released in Jhelum River, about 4 Km South of Chatter Kalas. Once completed, the Neelam Jhelum Hydroelectric Project will produce 969 MW of electricity annually at the cost of US $2.16 billion.

To meet the needs of the population Pakistan has steadily increased oil imports (to about 400,000 bd). It does have natural gas resources, and has seen these rise to almost 4 billion cu ft/day, in the same period. However it has, increasingly, also had to import coal to meet its growing needs. And yet the country has a large coal resource.

Pakistan coal reserves are estimated at 175 billion tons which according to the Vice-Chancellor (VC) of Punjab University, Professor Dr Mujahid Kamran equal 618 billion barrels of crude oil. According to the most reliable analytical reports Saudi Arabian crude oil reserves are estimated at around 260 billion barrels. At 60 Dollars per barrel this equates to 3708 Billion Dollars or approx. 4 Trillion Dollars (at current prices). At future prices these reserves will be worth 8 or 24 Trillion Dollars. This is enough money to build the most modern infrastructure, the best roads, the best hospitals, the best education, the best universities, the best hi-speed rail system and the best public transportation system on the planet.

On the other side of India, there is a planned collaboration between India and Bangladesh to jointly build a 1320 MW coal-fired power plant in Khulna, the land being proposed as Bangladesh’s equity investment.

It is planned that the Khulna plant would use high-quality coal imported through the sea from countries like Indonesia or Australia. The government is not considering import of Indian coal as it is generally low in quality and comparatively more environmentally harmful.

Bangladesh opened its first coal mine in April 2003 and has yet to develop it extensively, though there have already been strong protests over the planned opening of the Phulbari surface mine.

I bring these matters up, because I anticipate that, with the tightening of oil supplies, and the resulting increases in the price of imported energy, that countries will have to rely more on the resources that they find within their own borders. Pakistan, India and Bangladesh will likely be among those nations that will, likely because they have no other viable economic choice, move to an increased reliance on coal-fired power. The reserves are there nationally, even if, for now, the world price for coal is low enough, because of the large size of other national deposits, that they may not be mined. But, in time, they will be. Because, as with places like Haiti, and Lebanon, once the trees are gone they will likely not come back for a very long time.

It is estimated that 20% of the live storage capacity is already gone.

Where did you obtain these estimates?

Growth in hydro is always preferred over additional coal burning plants (which are always controversial, though you chose not to include any arguments against them).

It came from the Nation article that I cited just above the comment. Sadly that (on rechecking) is just an "it has been reported" quote, so it is not possible to carry the reference further back. It does tie in with the comments from Dr. Curry's post, however and gives some quantification to the damage that she was noting.

Without the source of the estimate, however, how can we assign it any value?

Given that lack of sourcing, the argument against hydro (i.e., "Coal is the brightest future") remains weak at best.

Interestingly, the article notes;

Compared with total current demand of 18000 MW, Pakistan has an identified hydropower potential of 45000 MW out of which merely 15 percent, amounting to 6500 MW, has so far been exploited.

So Pakistan could become an exporter of clean hydro energy, a significant source of income.

On top of that,

India is endowed with hydropower potential of about 149 GW (giga watts), of which only 25 per cent has been developed so far.

So Pakistan could become an exporter of clean hydro energy

So, Pakistan has a demand of 18 GW and a hydro potential of 45 GW? Do you know they average 50W per capita, whereas the world average is 300 and the EU does 700 and the US 1400? They won't export any electricity, period.

I read that the Pakistan coal resource is very low quality, with high water content and heavy metal contamination, making it of little use in a conventional coal power station. It is hard to see this resource being exploited in the near future.

The huge population is clearly unsustainable, in the face of peak oil driving energy prices out of reach of the poor farmers. I had not heard that the Taliban were funding themselves through excessive logging, but all insurgencies must have some source of income, and the Taliban are still a rising force in Pakistan.

The soil degradation and silting of rivers and flash flooding are a story repeated all over the developing world, where population pressures have driven people into mountains which could not have supported more than a tiny fraction of the current population before fossil fuels. It is Malthus writ large.

Isn't coal viability also a function of ease of access as well as quality? If it's close and easy to get, does inefficiency matter much when power is needed, as long as it's good enough to have a decent EROEI?

It's also pretty sunny there a solar option for drying coal? Dig it, dry it, transport it, burn it, perhaps?

I imagine the metals issue is a nicety that rich people worry about...poor people will worry about eating and staying warm today, not disease in a few years.

Most of Pakistan is mountainous, overcrowded and wet. A non-starter to leave millions of tons coal lying around on the of-chance of a sunny day. A German company has been designing a novel power station to burn the fuel efficiently and capture the heavy metals, for about 30 years. Contract recently passed to the Chinese....

Do the heavy metals also post a risk to the miners, or is it mostly a "burning" issue?

I can't find the reference now, but this is a detailed report on coal resource.

Heavy metals won't be an issue for first world miners. In the third world it probably comes a long way down on the list of hazards.

Coal power stations emit more radiation to the atmosphere than nuclear stations (as long as they don't explode).

In response to RalphW's comment: "Most of Pakistan is mountainous, overcrowded and wet."

I've been living in Pakistan the past couple of years. Yes, Pakistan has many mountains (including K2) and gets a lot of rain during the monsoon season. But much of the country is relatively flat floodplains, and those plains are where by far most of the people live. More importantly, most of the coal (from what I've read) is in the Thar desert region in the southeast, and that area is flat, very dry, and extremely hot.

So would it be feasible to leave coal out to dry in the sun? Maybe someone can do a back-of-the-envelope calculation. People do leave wheat, rice, and chiles out to dry. Could they do it with coal, too? What might be the coal consumption per person, compared with wheat?

I do not see any solution for Pakistan's poverty unless it can get a grip on its population explosion. Aid, medicines, and foodstuffs will not alleviate what is a disaster that will repeat itself again and again. The more aid, the more the population grows, and ultimately the more that exist in abject poverty, until the next event. Many other examples exist; Haiti, Nigeria, Bangladesh and soon to be India (if it not already there). The world is about to find that an exploding population is an unsustainable population. The four horsemen await their call.

I totally agree, carnot. I posted last week that Pakistan worries me alot. Yet this is just one example of why my overall forcast for humanity is quite doomerish. If it is accessable it will be burned or exploited. Of that I have no doubts. Humans will continue to burn anything they can, deplete non-renewables and increase atmospheric CO2 until they can't.

Even efforts to mitigate resource depletion and climate change (think IPCC, ASPO) may result in a net contribution to these predicaments; well intentioned causes, folks consuming resources, producing emmisions, moving about the planet hoping to affect change. My only hope is that these heroic efforts will have a lasting residual effect on whomever may remain once the global population has dramatically declined.

A massive human dieoff is our species' only hope for long term survival.

Ok,,,,, who wants to volunteer first?

It might be more accurate to say that the horsemen are already embarked upon thier journey;they will arrive at the battle field within the next decade in many, many places.thyey are already engaged in Pakistan and some other places.

Any country with a population that cannot be supported with its own resources and without resources to trade is in deep trouble.

A country such as Germany might manage to maintain her industrial exports due to her superb technology and quality for the indefinite future, trading finished goods for raw materials.

But countries that have only ordinary quality finished goods for export, or goods that are easily manufactured with not too much capital investment in terms of sophisticated machinery and highly trained workers, are now engaged in a race to the bottom as far as trade is concerned.

Here in the states we have lost most of our textile and furniture industries to places that will in turn lose these industries to even lower cost producers, and indeed are already losing them.

As the energy and resource crunch worsens, the markets for one kind of manufactured export good after another will shrink or vanish as formerly rich consumers find it necessary to cut back.

Japan in particular is a country that i percieve as being in very big trouble as a result of this scenario playing out.She has a superb manufacturing base, but it is no longer necessarily cost competitive with countries where wages and living standards are lower.

Here in the states, we will return to a ppolicy of trade protectionism at some point in the not too far distant future, in order to survive.We have no choice in this mnatter, as we have nothing much to export except entertainment and soon to be worthless debt, unless we export our coal and food like a third world colony of a former European power.

It will be POSSIBLE TO SUPPORT THE COUNTRY ON DOMESTICALLY PRODUCED GOODS, BUT IMPOSSIBLE TO EXPORT DEBT FOREVER.We will at some point come to realize that paper and electrons hace lost thier magic powers.

Fortunately, we do have a sufficient resource base than we can survive as a civilized modern society, albeit in reduced circumstances, if we make the right decisions.

The decisions I refer to are the ones advocated by Alan from Big Easy, speaking in general terms.

It will be POSSIBLE TO SUPPORT THE COUNTRY ON DOMESTICALLY PRODUCED GOODS, BUT IMPOSSIBLE TO EXPORT DEBT FOREVER.We will at some point come to realize that paper and electrons hace lost thier magic powers.

Unfortunately, the people whose wealth and power derives from pushing debt are the ones in control.  It will take considerable time and effort to de-throne them, and a lot more damage will be done before we can start correcting.

Don't forget the US export of military goods and services. That's a big one.

I do not see any solution for Pakistan's poverty unless it can get a grip on its population explosion.

Pakistan appears to have a strategy of colonizing its former colonizer, and sustaining the home population from the productivity of Britain.  It's a race between emigration and the BNP.

They are reasonably far along on the fertility decline curve. Demographic projections says they'll stop at about 4 million children per year. When the pyramid has straightened, they may be about 250-300 million.

The population of the Indian subcontinent (Bangladesh 156,050,883; India 1,156,897,766; and Pakistan 174,578,558) totals 1,487 million, which is greater than the population of China 1,338,612,968.

The Indian subcontinent will be the first of the major global population regions to crash, since the population growth is largely unconstrained, the current economic condition is too weak to support a transition to an advanced post-PO economy, and the political and social institutions are too weak to organize such a transition.

The current "emerging market" status of India reflects a lot of support given to India as a Hindu bulwark against Islamic domination of South Asia. Pakistan currently benefits from bribery payments to not support Islamic radicalism. Neither of these streams of income are possible in the longer term, given the weakened financial condition of the US and UK.

The Indian Subcontinent is in severe overshoot, and not even remotely survivable.
Pakistan, immersed in religious fundamentalism, poorly educated, resource and energy challenged, has been high on my list to be the first of the large countries over the cliff.

The population of the Indian subcontinent (Bangladesh 156,050,883; India 1,156,897,766; and Pakistan 174,578,558) totals 1,487 million, which is greater than the population of China 1,338,612,968.

The majority of Bangladesh is less than a meter above sea level. Their situation will be greatly exasperated when their 156 million or more start moving inland due to sea level rise when that happens this century. I suppose that's why India built a high barbed wire fence to keep them out. Sounds like a recipe for disaster over there. But are there any solutions? Doesn't the situation end up much the same as Haiti? Periodically having to beg the world for bailout funds, overpopulated for the resources available.

Is the future of humankind to live in poverty with near zero foliage which leads to muddy floods, barely surviving on a malnuritional diet, overpopulated, no AC in the heat of Summer and inadequete heat sources in winter, suffering all sorts of intestinal diseases? But maybe that's the price for lack of planning.

And will it be any different for the US where there is no planning, no constraints on an ever increasing population? In fact, the Christian religion constantly encourages their flock to have huge families. Are we not going to end up with 1-2 billion people, most living in poverty, lack of foliage, etc.? Isn't India, Pakistan and Bangladesh examples of what will occur everywhere in the world?

Maybe getting washed away in mud filled rivers during storms will become a common experience that occurs numerous times in everybody's lives.

Depends on how good the fences, munitions, and birth control hold out. Some places COULD do better than others.

Disease might help thin the herd before nations take to it mechanistically, or individually, though.

"He would have finished him off then and there, but pity stayed his hand. It's a pity I've run out of bullets, he thought"

Selected national fertility rates (biths per woman)
- Wikipedia

Periods - - 2005 to 2010 (2000 to 2005)

Pakistan- - - 3.52 (3.99)
Bangaledesh - 2.83 (3.22)
India - - - - 2.81 (3.11)
World average 2.55 (2.65)
USA - - - - - 2.05 (2.04)
China - - - - 1.73
Canada- - - - 1.53
Japan - - - - 1.27

US is way too high on that list (and increasing) to be poking Bangaledesh with sharp sticks. Get your own house in order.

The US fertility rate is just about the replacement rate. The US has no problem feeding itself and is a net food exporter.

You are forgetting legal and illegal immigration. I do not think the Indian subcontinent has much of that. The U.S. is more aptly called a feed exporter. It remains to be seen if all of that irrigated land in the mid west will still be producing the same yields 5 years down the line with depleting aquifers and climate change.

It is a reasonable point, i'm hoping it is balanced out by the amount of meat we can stop eating with the various conversion ratios working to our benefit on the downward slope of not eating meat.

However, with the extensive use of hybrids, specifically corn, I look around at the neighbor farms (including Amish) and realize that if that supply chain gets broken they will be harvesting weeds.

I used to think the same way and I also thought that most people were rational. Since this does not seem to be the case I think we should push for a higher diet of meat and poultry. In this way more land will be in pasture and less grains produced. With less food we will have fewer people. With more food we will just have more people exactly like any other group of organisms on the planet.

Americans are eating more calories than they currently need. They are also eating more protein and fats than they need (or are actually good for them). If we stop exports of food and shift to a diet more like that of the Chinese or Indians then we could support a substantially larger population.

As for immigration, it can be stopped any time we really want to stop it.

One of the consequences of declining oil is that air transport will decrease very significantly.

Only materials or well documented travelers on official business will be crossing borders.

Get rid of illegal immigrants and their anchor-babies and USA would be heading down. It'll happen, soon enough.....except it might not be soon enough.

Something will come down alright. I have made a few visits to the US and one thing I have noticed is that immigrants; legal or otherwise, seem to be the only people doing any actual work. Expelling the illegals would cripple the produce industry, as well as several others; labour costs would go through the roof; assuming you could find enough americans to lower themselves to such work.

As for americas low berth rate; aggregate measures can conceal underlying trends. At their current rate; in only five generations the the Duggar family will count in the millions. And while they are certainly the most famous, they are not the only members of the “Quiver full” movement.

When it takes only a few percent of the people to do all the agri work, and a few percent more for mining and manufacturing, it is only to be expected that most people are not "doing any actual work", especially when you have a long-hours work ethic and working spouses that is typical in America.

We could probably all work 30 hours weeks, have stay at home spouses, and still have about the same "quality of living", if not for the debt-cycle with overseas vendors.

In response to Peak Earl: What you said about Bangladesh is wrong; most of the country is actually more than one meter above sea level. Undoubtedly one meter of sea-level rise would be a major problem for them, but it's not going to submerge most of the country.

Here's a map from UN's GRIDA showing a simple model of what 1 meter of sea-level rise would submerge. The blue area is what would go underwater, according to this model; it's about one-eighth of the country. The actual answer is more nuanced than that, but you can read the articles I link to below to find out more.

I point this out because it irks me when people say "Bangladesh is a lost cause." What do they think the 160 million people living there now—or the 180 million or 200 million that will be living there in the future—should do? I hope the world won't give up on Bangladesh.

If you want to read more about Bangladesh's climate change issues and how they're trying to take first steps to adapt, here are links to two articles I wrote: In Nature Reports Climate Change: "Where warming hits hard", and in the journal Science: "Hot, flat, crowded—and preparing for the worst"

Also, here are a couple of blog posts I wrote that are critical of coverage of climate change, especially with regard to Bangladesh, and which give people the mistaken impression that with 1 meter of sea-level rise, the whole place will be like Kevin Costner's Waterworld: "Bangladesh set to disappear under the waves?" (on my website, Failing Gracefully) and "Catastophe in context" (for the Columbia Journalism Review).


Thanks for this excellent contribution calling attention to the importance of population and deforestation in explaining the recent flooding in Pakistan. Even though you've got a link for Pakistani oil use I think it's helpful to get the pictures out in front of folks so that they can literally see the trends you're talking about.


Pakistans still has almost 2% annual population growth resulting in 21% growth in the last decade. The growth rate is declining slightly but needs to drop much more quickly. The other interesting thing in the chart below are the years 1980-1981. These were the darkest years of Zia ul-Haq's military dictatorship and also of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. (The no-growth year of 1980 followed by a spike in 1981 is probably a data processing mistake by the Census Bureau. Much of the 1981 growth probably occurred in 1980.) The large influx of Afghan (mostly Pashto) refuges leading up to and continuing throughout the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979-1989) is clearly seen in the increased YoY change in population during this period.

Energy Resources

It is helpful to look at Pakistan's total energy mix. You briefly mention the importance of gas but go on to spend more time discussing coal and hydro. However, a look at the data show that fully 50% of their energy consumption is met by gas with 30% oil and <10% each for hydro, coal and nuclear. Gas is by far the most important fuel for Pakistan.

Natural Gas

Being a poor country, Pakistan has been unable to afford LNG imports and has met its needs internally up to now. After big production increases a few years ago, growth in gas has returned to about the same level as growth in population.

Pakistan desperately needs either the IPI pipeline or the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline to get built. And it does look like the IPI deal will proceed with India Left Out Of Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Deal. (India cannot be blamed for its concerns about the transit nation.) And only a few days ago we read TAPI gas pipeline project inked - Pakistan official.

I agree completely with your concerns about deforestation but question how soon Pakistan will turn to coal. In the long term -- I hate making predictions for the long term. But in the shorter term -- say over the next decade -- I expect Pakistan to grasp at natural gas straws (pipelines) to meet its energy needs. It would require a Herculean effort to ramp Pakistani coal production up just to the point where they could reduce coal imports. Increasing production so much that it displaces other sources of energy is extremely difficult to imagine.

Best Regards,


"Look at the data -- that's where the interesting stories will be found."

(charts from Mazama Science databrowsers)

Some years ago I was struck by the fragility of our society - a real hothouse plant.
Essentials for life are the basics of strategy and war - so for a fellow following political punditry and geopolitics, context and exploration was in order. The Himalayas were the generator of an inter-village form of warfare : control of water. Like 'Poisoning the Well' exercises decried in desert lands, thirst is an effective weapon. When you have downslope to play with and retention devices...possibilities of flooding are added to the mix.
International Rivers put out a PDF outlining the political interplay behind dam megaprojects in the Himalayas.
Here's a recent related article.
Indian politics in particular follow a game which endangers the public. PakAlert had very specific concerns about dam projects, going so far as to blame upstream forces for deliberate flooding.
That and secret U.S. HAARP weather modification protocols. They really are 'up to speed' with many things you don't see covered in the - ahem - 'media'.
The same accusation of malicious release was levied in South Korea against the North a few weeks back.
A drone base in the area was cause for one breach in containment, flooding additional millions.
I tend to post on water - a lot. In the sidebar and included in RSS SnapShot! posts are blog and spider updates on a regular basis. In the Topical Index is Water - Wealth and Power, which includes End of an Era, my first overview.

Pakistan coal reserves are estimated at 175 billion tons which [...] equal 618 billion barrels of crude oil. [...] At 60 Dollars per barrel this equates to 3708 Billion Dollars or approx. 4 Trillion Dollars (at current prices). At future prices these reserves will be worth 8 or 24 Trillion Dollars. This is enough money to build the most modern infrastructure,

This reasoning is wrong on so many levels!

Coal prices are more in the area of $40 per ton, and Pakistan's coal is rumoured here to be of bad quality. So, that is $7 trillion for the coal. Now, that's $40,000 per capita. If they extract and use/sell this coal over a 40 year-period, it gives their GDP a mere $1000 boost per capita (even if their population wouldn't grow). That may not even keep them from starving.

The big new coal fired plant has been justified by aid proponents from the angle that the Bangladeshis are 'entitled' to catch up with developed world living standards. This argument has been put by both IPCC head Pachauri and the World Bank for example. The counter question is whether countries like Bangladesh should have increased their population way beyond local resources.

I wonder if there is a kind of implicit agreement that the countries who have good quality coal will readily supply it so they can re-import cheap goods made in sweat shops. I believe India's steel industry depends on Australian coking or metallurgical coal. I note from today's Drumbeat that alternative coking coal supplier South Africa may be near peak.

If/when international carbon taxes become widespread coal imports may become unaffordable for countries like Bangladesh. If the Australian Greens Party have their way when they control the Senate the spot price of export thermal coal could go from $100/t to $150/t due to carbon charges. The big new power station in Bangladesh that relies on imported coal won't seem like such a good idea.

One of the things I enjoy about articles is the utter inability to deal with complexity. Makes things so simple and easily explained. As this article states "there is a case that it could, more correctly, be blamed on inept water and agricultural practice", maybe it's both or a combination of several factors. But such complex thinking seems to be beyond so many people's thinking and would require a more indepth analysis instead of quick short comments on extremely complex situations. But then we love simplistic solutions so much. I think it's also why we will not solve our problems. Everybody has "the" answer whic of course is always "the correct answer". It's this or it's that. I only wish my life were so simple.

Personally I believe thinking in complex terms is beyond the Western "right/wrong, yes/no, black/white" way of looking at life. Simple, quick and, often, leaves a trail of unintended consequences. Avoids nasty thoughts of doubt, insecurity, fear, etc.

Earlier this week, Thomas Homer-Dixon made an interesting observation on the coverage of the Pakistan floods, which I discuss here (also in relation to Curry's post):

I'm a science journalist who has been living in Pakistan the past couple of years, and I think Homer-Dixon is absolutely right. I wrote an article about the long-term changes that contributed to the flooding, for National Geographic News: "Pakistan Flooding Because of Farms?"

The experts I spoke with didn't bring up deforestation as a major cause of increased silt load in the rivers. It does make sense, though. But even without this deforestation, the silt load in the rivers would still be pretty high, I think. Because of the extensive damming and containment of rivers with embankments, much of this silt gets deposited on the river beds and reduces the amount of water the river channels can carry. This means that the rivers become progressively more prone to flooding.

I'd be very surprised if the government in Pakistan or any of the international aid groups (including the UN) have any kind of serious long-range plans for dealing with these problems, which have been building up since the British started building Pakistan's irrigation system in the mid-1800s.


Thanks for speaking up and pointing out your articles. Your site is fantastic!

I hope we get to hear more from you from time to time.

Best Regards,


Silt in rivers is a problem all over the world--look at the Yellow River in China or the silting up in Lake Nasser. The Pakistanis need to dredge the rivers and do the routine maintenance other countries do.
Clearly the Pakistan government (bureaucrats like Mr. Mustafa) is not doing enough. Why spend money doing river repair when that money could stuff somebodies foreign bank account?
Obviously great care needs to be taken in irrigation but your journalistic 'attention-grabber' is that farms cause flooding.
It would be more correct to say that neglect of proper river maintenance caused (in part) the flooding.

But you took the sensationalistic route and blamed poor farmers.

That claim of 175 billion tons of coal for Pakistan is preposterous.
I heard that this is some lignite in the Thar desert.
EIA and BP Statistical gives about 2 billion tons of lignite.

The Pakistanis should be building hydro if only for flood control.
Both countries get most of their power from natural gas.
These countries need to concentrate on food production (and population control) and forgo industrialization(excepting biofuels like sugar cane ethanol and solar electricity).

Growing sugar cane in Pakistan—whether for biofuels, or just to sweeten the tea that everyone's drinking—seems to me like a bad idea.

The conditions for growing sugarcane in Pakistan are not the best, and it's a very water-intensive crop, according to a report from the Wilson Center, "Running on Empty: Pakistan’s Water Crisis" (link to 1.3 MB pdf).

The report uses numbers from a WWF report (link to 328 KB pdf), which estimate that Pakistan uses about as much water for growing its sugar crop as it does for its entire wheat crop—and wheat is Pakistan's main staple.

Here are the numbers from the Wilson Center report (rounded off), for the area that Pakistan typically plants for each of the main crops, and how much water each uses in a year:

Sugar: 1 million hectares, 49 billion cubic meters of water
Wheat: 7.5 million hectares, 51 billion cubic meters of water
Cotton: 3 million hectares, 51 billion cubic meters of water
Rice: 2.4 million hectares, 70 billion cubic meters of water

They're only making a scant amount of biofuel from sugar so far, and the country is struggling to make enough sugar for tea and cookies. The past couple of years have seen poor sugar harvests, and people have had to wait in long lines just to get a small sack of it. But Pakistanis love sugar, so they will wait!

So sugar, as a food, is arguably not very helpful, and probably pretty harmful—there are high diabetes rates in Pakistan. Yet the sugar industry uses as much water as the country's wheat industry—which does keep people's bellies full—and as much as the cotton-textile industry—which creates a lot of factory jobs and brings in income.

Some politicians in Pakistan are pushing ethanol from sugar, and some of the state-run gas stations are selling E10 (10% ethanol) blended petrol. But it seems to me that Pakistan would be a lot better off without sugar, and that trying to ramp up sugarcane plantations to provide a lot of biofuel would be a disaster.

"commentators have cited the recent flooding in Pakistan as being due to global warming, when there is a significant case that it could, more correctly, be blamed on inept water and agricultural practice, with a little regional politics thrown in."

It could, most correctly, be blamed on global warming *exacerbated by* inept water and agricultural practice.

Figure 1: Global Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2004

CO2 Fossil Fuel Use : 56.6%
CO2 Deforestation : 17.3%
CH4 (methane) 14.3%
NO2 (nitrous oxide) 7.9%
CO2 Other : 2.8%
F-gases 1.1%

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