The four-day Eid holidays announced by the government do not bring only joy for the people of Lahore. There is also trepidation at what lies after the usual celebrations are over. There has been a warning that the hours of loadshedding will increase still further after Eid due to the suspension of gas to independent power producers (IPPs) operating near Lahore. This will push the power shortfall up beyond the 1,000 to 1,500 MW mark where it stands at present — already failing to meet the demand of 3,400 MW of power needed by Lahore to keep its lights blazing, its fans whirring and, most importantly, its factories running. The Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd. Company has said the suspension of gas supply to the IPPs was unavoidable due to the planned closure of the Qadirpur gas field from August 29 to September 17 to carry out maintenance work. However, these technical details will obviously do little to appease the angry people of a city which has seen over five or six hours of loadshedding on a daily basis even during Ramazan. In some localities, the power cuts are for much longer than that.
Pepco has stated, in a gesture of reassurance, that there will be no cuts during the coming Eid holidays. But this can bring only limited comfort given that prolonged loadshedding is likely to lie beyond this brief period. What is also alarming is that there seem to be no swift solutions in sight. Every few months or so, the hapless citizens of this country are told by one minister or the other that electricity loadshedding will soon end. In fact, a senior member of the current cabinet had said a couple of years ago that it would end by 2010! Pepco states that one of the reasons for the shortfall is the high demand of industries such as those producing cement and textiles which need a continuous supply of electricity. It has been suggested to these industries that they cut down on production to ease the load on the power supply system. But obviously this is impossible. Neither the industries themselves nor our economy can sustain further losses. Other answers need to be found which can keep the commercial sector working and prevent the collapse we are already seeing as small businesses are forced to shut doors and turn employees away.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2011.