Apr 07 - 13, 2008

LAHORE: The current electricity crisis has not only left negative vibes on the country's economy but also increased sufferings of people particularly students whose studies are affected badly.

With the current shortfall of 3000 MW, load shedding is being resorted to in urban and rural areas for 7 and 9 hours respectively. There are many areas of rural areas which are facing long hours of load shedding.

There have been difficult situations since the creation of Pakistan but I don't think ever before so many crises have hit us in such quick succession. During last two years, particularly, we have seen nothing but crises, one after the other, and not a single one handled properly by government, people hailing from different walks of life told PAGE.

The most irritating part of the current load shedding is that no schedule whatsoever has been published for people to know and try to manage things in a better way. Even the businessmen were not taken into confidence while resorting to load shedding.

A LESCO official on the condition of anonymity said that the duration of load shedding might be increased in rural and urban areas in coming summer. Presently, the country requires around 11,000 megawatts per day, while per day availability is around 8,000 megawatts. In summer, the per day requirement would surge to 15,000 MW leaving shortfall of 7,000 MW.

Pakistan Industrial and Traders Association Front (PIAF) Chairman Mian Abuzar Shad told PAGE that Pakistan is the only country in the world where share of industrial power consumers is merely around 35 percent and even they are not getting electricity round the clock.

He slammed the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) on its failure to chalk out effective planning to avert ongoing energy crisis and also not taking the business community into confidence while resorting to load shedding in the country.

Mian Abuzar Shad said that the country was facing power shortage due to ineptness of previous regimes. ''No big dam was constructed during the last 35 years due to which water level is depleting," he added. The government should evolve both short-term and long-term policies to overcome the energy crisis.

Outlining short-term policies, he was of the view that income tax notices should be served upon those electricity consumers who receive electricity bills exceeding Rs 10,000. This step would help broaden the tax net on one hand, while encourage electricity saving on the other, he added. He also stressed the need for promoting energy savers and asked the civic agencies to convert streetlights to energy savers.

Mian Abuzar Shad said that WAPDA should have taken the industrialist and business community into confidence before finalising the load-shedding schedule and suggested closure of different electricity feeders on different days rather than Sunday only to mitigate the industry and domestic problems. Instead of sticking to construction of mega or controversial dam, the government should focus on building small hydel power stations. The construction of small hydel power station of 10-MW after every five-km on big canals will be helpful in creating additional electricity while the feasibility reports have already been prepared by the Irrigation Department, he claimed. If the government provides protection, the private sector is ready to invest in small power stations which would cost Rs 300-500 million, he maintained.

He further said that because of the high tariff and energy shortage, cost of production sharply moved up which had left negative vibes on our export sectors. If cost of production continues to rise further, our trade deficit would not only increase to US $25 billion but the dollar's worth will also go up to Rs 70 by the end of this year, he opined. The USA, which is said to be close ally of Pakistan, treats our textile products discriminatory by levying taxes while Bangladesh is exporting its garment at zero rate. The Pakistan government should take up this issue with the US authorities so that trade deficit could be reduced to some extent, he said.

To a query, he said Industrial consumers are facing manifold problems due to the power crisis, as on one hand, they are unable to meet their export commitments while they are facing problem of high cost of business on the other.