COST OF POWER IN KARACHI

Announcement in the federal budget regarding reduction in electricity will not be applicable on KESC

By AZAM ALI
June 28 - July 04, 2004

Karachi, which is country's industrial and commercial hub, would continue to face crisis in productivity during next year as the industrial sector was facing multiple problems in power sector including cost of electricity which is on the higher side as compared to rest of the country.

Industrialists and exporters who were appreciating budget now feeling ridiculed as Karachi Electric Supply Corporation will not implement the reduction in power tariff announced by Federal Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz in budget speech. KESC would take its own time to announce the reduction in electricity tariffs at its own convenience.

This sounds amazing that an announcement in the federal budget regarding reduction in electricity tarriffs would be applied only on WAPDA while it will not be applicable on KESC regime. Although, only 58 paisas per unit was reduced for industrial consumers, 25 paisas were reduced for commercial consumers and only 10 paisa relief for the domestic consumers yet that is too high for WAPDA consumers while the KESC keeps a mum in this respect.

Increasing challenges for industrialists especially exporters have increased when they have to fight with their competitors and face WTO with crippled power supply system with higher cost. The cost would not have been as serious hindrance in the productivity as if power supply was good in quality and quantity.

Opinion leaders and experts said that only power crisis in the commercial and industrial hub is consuming huge time and manpower of the industrialists who need especial attention in production side.

They don't see any relief in the dilapidated power supply system as crisis are further deepening every day. They have serious objections over Rs. 13 billion grant given by the federal government for "system improvement" of the KESC. They alleged that transmission and distribution losses have been mixed into the power theft account and huge amount was being spent over power meter shifting from inside of the consumers premises to outside. The whole grant might be spent on meter shifting of total 1.9 million consumers.

Another painful and objectionable issue of the affair is the fast meters which are being replaced with existing meters with very objectionable methods. At the one hand fast meters are being fixed later shifted outside and than the KESC's own testing system. They said how can an accuse party can test and decide about the credibility of the meters. The KESC has not appointed any technical or electrical engineers from consumer's side. They challenged the credibility of KESC's own testing system which remained as an accuse of installing fast meters. They further said that a fresh crisis erupted whenever consumers raised voice over the issue. That is enough to prove the KESC's intention and credibility.

Nowadays a new problem of wire theft has arisen. In many areas, power supply is now disrupted due to wire theft from the KESC poles. The problem has erupted when temperature in Karachi has slipped down due to weather change and consequently reduction in power consumption. Increased power consumption during some time remains a basic reason for power crisis. Industrialists said that another justification is that there is "lead theft" from KESC sub-stations that cause power outage in industrial areas. They said that there is always one or the other reason for power disruption in Karachi. Even high tension wires from KESC towers are stolen by unidentified people. But remained untraced so far.

It may also be mentioned here that throughout from the beginning, KESC never provided uninterrupted power supply but only one to most important installation of KWSB at Gharo and Dhabeji from where drinking water is supplied. At last, KWSB lost the hope from KESC for providing uninterrupted power supply to pumping stations and arranged its own generators so that Karachi could get uninterrupted water supply.

Industrial zones in Karachi, including SITE, Korangi, Landhi, Federal B. Area and major commercial parts of Karachi should have been taken first for system improvement instead of going into entire Karachi, so that productivity could take off in a smooth and trustworthy environment. At present, KESC is spending huge manpower and finance in the Katchi Abadis where KESC can not generate revenue due to nature of low consumption. KESC so far has not declared any part of the Karachi either residential, commercial or industrial as model where KESC could be claimed the area without power theft and transmission and distribution loss.

It is also learnt that fast meter issue will take serious turn after KESC's privatization and bidding parties are seriously examining the issue that they have to face after taking over.

However, industrialists don't see comfortable environments for required productivity challenges during next fiscal year as even after privatization corrective and professional steps would, however, need some time for complicated power supply system of KESC.

Industrialists said that even now if power supply system and power tariff which is the backbone for productivity of the whole country is taken on its due status of priority that could minimize hindrance to be faced in future by them. They said this is the high time that not only Federal and Provincial governments but Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Board of Investment should come up to resolve the matters in order to prove that they were really interested in improving national economy.