VIOLENCE IN THE DARK & HEAT

A voice of frustration

MUNTAZIR HAIDER
June 11 - 17, 2007

A tourist who hired a taxi at night from Karachi Airport asked the driver, where are the lights in this 'City of Lights'?

The driver instantly replied, "light will be restored as soon as the night is over and the sun rises in the morning! You would get plenty of 'natural' light then."

THE CURRENT SCENARIO

This real life anecdote that happened last summer could well be applied to the current situation with regard to the persistent power crisis in the metropolitan city. Yes, the city of lights has plunged into darkness this summer as well. The common folk, business community, students, children, housewives, working people all stand to suffer alike. It is now a multi-dimensional dilemma affecting almost every sector in one way or the other.

CITIZENS CRITICIZE GOVERNMENT

Almost all the citizens of Karachi across the board continue to criticize the government for failing to control the persisting power crisis resulting in a simultaneous water crisis as well. After all, it is truly the duty of the Government to provide basic amenities to the citizens; a responsibility that the government has nearly failed to be accountable for.

RESIDENTIAL VIEW OF POWER CRISIS SCENARIO

The residents in many areas have been complaining that the prolonged durations of power failures have resulted in water crisis because water motors cannot be operated, alongside also causing frequent motor-damaging by power fluctuations. Housewives complained that frequent voltage fluctuation has also been damaging a lot of electrical appliances. It isn't an easy job to rectify the damage in a day or two. Sometimes it takes weeks to repair or replace the damaged gadgets at home and for the citizens it's so difficult to cope with such extra problems. In the absence of power utility, routine household chores like washing, cleaning and preparing meals become bitter tasks.

BUSINESS SUFFERING

Factory owners in SITE area said that they are facing multi-dimensional problems and business losses, which include both macro and micro ones. On one hand, the loss is of precious work hours, while on the other hand, the frequent voltage variations damages machineries. They said that they are also faced with the dilemma of 'tired and exhausted' workforce. Because it's natural when a person will pass a sleepless night, he will find it difficult to do justice to his work. Electronic dealers in Saddar informed that several thousand air conditioners in offices and homes in Karachi city have suffered damages due to the unusual load-shedding. They say that the demand for compressors of air conditioners has gone way up in the city like the previous summer. KCCI Chief Majyd Aziz said that the progress of trade and industry depends on constant supply of electricity; adding, load-shedding was causing loss of billions of rupees to trade and industry. The business activities in the city have been affected owing to frequent power outage resulting in exhaust work force, damage of machinery, and loss of precious work hours. Export orders are being delayed and production capacity is badly affected. He charged that after privatization of KESC, the power crisis had turned from bad to worst and holds the Government, KESC and other concerned authorities responsible for the crisis.

IMPACT ON EDUCATION & HEALTH CARE FACILITIES

To further aggravate the situation, government has issued orders for early closure of shops. "Karachiites are suffering with no immediate relief in sight. They are playing 'hide and seek' with the city of lights. It was pledged that Karachiites would not suffer from continues load-shedding but these pledges was not being fulfilled. Like the corporate houses, the academic institutions have also been hit by the load-shedding. The students preparing for the examinations have also been affected". Tahir, a university student, quips that he is not expecting good results in this term due to loss of precious study hours because of load shedding. "What I fail to understand is this that even on Sundays when the demand is lower than the supply, majority of the densely populated areas are without electricity for hours", he added. Public sector hospitals across Karachi have also been falling prey to follies of KESC. Though these hospitals have managed to have alternative arrangements against frequent power breakdowns to avoid delay or cancellation of scheduled surgeries, yet the power supply to OPDs at the hospitals cannot be ensured steadily. Dr Kaleem Butt, CHK Medical Superintendent, said that Civil Hospital is in fast process of procuring two more generators to meet the ever-increasing load of patients and combating irregular power supply.

WHAT THE GOVERNMENT IS DOING?

Governor Isharatul Ebad Khan is of the view that the problem of load-shedding can be solved with collective efforts. "We have also directed the KESC authorities for all round focus on maintaining an effective supply system avoiding un-announced load shedding. We have also allowed opening of Bazaar on Sundays in order to provide relief to shopkeepers and people. The facility of allowing the business activity up to mid-night on Saturday should also be ensured. The KESC has its own notions and plans. KESC CEO Lt. General (Retd) S.M.Amjad said, "the power demand of the city stood somewhere at 3000MW, whereas there is shortfall of about 1000MW. The shortfall is being met through Wapda's supplies, he added. He said outages would persist for the next four to five years. However, during these four to five years load-shedding will decrease gradually. Next year Karachi will get 190 megawatts power through a new power plant. Besides, an additional 190 megawatts will be supplied in May next year through the Bin Qasim power plant. He said, though KESC has exclusive rights for power generation, IPPs would be invited to set up power plants to meet growing demand of electricity in the metropolis. Putting light on long-term planning of the power utility he noted that during the next 10 years Karachi would need power supply equal to 6,000mw, which hopefully would be achieved with help of private sector and future plans of KESC. "We want to end dependence on WAPDA in 10 years. On short term planning, he said he would talk to higher authorities to purchase 225MW power from industries to meet shortage of present 225MW", he added, "posting power distribution plan to improve existing structure, KESC chief said 12 new Grid Stations would be set up in the city. A citywide survey was being considered to sort out area-wise power requirements."

MORE UPCOMING PROJECTS

It is also noticeable that the Minister for Water and Power, Liaquat Ali Jatoi informed the National Assembly last week that thirty-two power projects are under implementation and are expected to commission during the next three years that would generate 2500-megawatt electricity. There are twenty-eight proposals under consideration for establishment of new thermal power stations in private sector and these are being processed by the Private Power and Infrastructure Board. These projects would generate 7679-megawatt electricity and that would be sold to WAPDA. The government is in process to import electricity from Tajikistan and Iran to meet growing demands.

When KESC was not here!

Dear Customers,

We regret to inform you that due to critical conditions of the city on May 12, 13 and 14 our staff despite their best efforts could not reach their offices and as a result of this you had to spend these three days without LOAD-SHEDDING. We sincerely apologize for the CONVENIENCE caused to you.

We assure you this thing would not happen again.

KESC slogan
We know our customers best
We know when to disappear