With his emphasis on rejuvenating the power sector, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has reviewed progress on the proposed coal-fired power projects in Gaddani in Balochistan during a visit there on Saturday.

The Balochistan government has given 5000 acres for the construction of ten 660 MW power plants, of which the first one will be built by the Pakistan government. Mr. Sharif chaired the first meeting of the steering committee at Hub, Balochistan to oversee and facilitate the development, according to a press statement.

Chief minister of Balochistan Abdul Malik Baloch asked for equity in the project since the province was offering land and spoke of how the region was neglected for the last 12 years. The meeting approved the Government of Balochistan’s participation as equity partner.

The Pakistan Power Park Company which is managing the project, is conducting feasibility studies which will be completed by November, according to officials at the briefing. During the meeting, Mr. Sharif said no delays in launching the project would be tolerated. Already, China has assured support for four of the power plants and the government is open to inviting private sector participation in the transmission lines as well.

The project is of immense importance, according to Mr. Sharif and he was also keen to invite Turkey to invest in it. He is slated to visit Turkey next month. The Prime Minister is keen on launching the first project by March 2014 and asked for the contracts to be awarded by then. Gaddani is a port with a major shipbreaking industry and fishing villages, and locating coal-fired power plants could pose issues related to fly ash disposal and pollution. Along with other projects reviewed by Mr. Sharif, Gaddani will be a major thrust to the country’s demand for power.

According to Pakistan’s new power policy there is a yawning supply-demand gap of up to 4,500-5,500 MW which has grown over the last five years, leading to load-shedding of 12-16 hours across the country.

Electricity theft alone is estimated to be costing the national exchequer over Rs 140 billion annually. Last Monday, Mr. Sharif hit out at the corruption in the power sector and said that a power station at Nandipur set up with China’s help in 2007 was incomplete.