Four-country pact to ship surplus power from central to south Asia

30 September 2013

An ambitious scheme to ship excess electricity from Central Asia to power-starved Pakistan and Afghanistan took a step forward this month.

Leaders from four countries met in Islamabad to sign off the plan to ship some of the 1,300MW of summertime surplus power generated by hydropower plants in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan to their two southern neighbours.

Estimated to cost $953m, the project involves building 1,222km of power lines over mountainous regions.

In developing the scheme, called "Casa-1000", the countries have been advised by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group.

Construction of the lines will be tendered internationally, according to a 2011 document prepared by the IFC.

The transmission lines will have to cross mountains in the Kyrgyz Republic (Credit: Bmg12060/Wikimedia)

Having agreed to cooperate, the countries will now seek funding for the project.

Pakistan’s water and power minister Khawaja Asif told Pakistan’s APP news agency that Pakistan faced a severe electricity crisis that hurt economic development.

He said the scheme would "bring in clean and affordable hydroelectricity to our energy-starved national grid".

He also claimed that the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank would back CASA-1000.

There are security concerns with the 1,222km line passing through Afghanistan and Pakistan’s northern areas. An extra $10m has been included in the cost estimate to cover landmines and sabotage, according to the IFC.

Questions have also been raised over the potential of theft of the electricity. Mr Asif told media that "stringent action" would be taken against thieves and said the new transmission lines would be protected.

Afghanistan in turn agreed to provide sovereign guarantee to guard the lines on its territory.

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