Water woes: Power dues draw a blank in KWSB’s new budget

Published: June 10, 2012

KESC claims that the KWSB owes it more than Rs16 billion in electricity bills.

KARACHI: 

The Karachi Water and Sewerage Board’s (KWSB) budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year does not include any allocations to clear its outstanding power bills of the Karachi Electricity Supply Company (KESC).

For the 2012-13 fiscal year, the KWSB has prepared a budget of Rs29 billion – slightly more than the Rs26.2 billion last year – with an estimated Rs11.6 billion as the non-development expenditure, including salaries, electricity bills and some other development works, officials told The Express Tribune.

The budget comes along with an increase in water charges for bulk consumers and offers little hope for settling the ongoing payment crisis with the KESC. The utilities have been at loggerheads for months over the issue of bill payments. The power company claims that the KWSB owes it more than Rs16 billion in electricity bills. The water utility, however, insists the dues are not that much.

The argument has caused massive headache for millions of citizens, as the power utility regularly cuts off electricity supply to the KWSB’s main water pumping station at Dhabeji.

A KWSB official said that the fact that allocations have not been made for payment of electricity bills indicates the hard stance the management has taken against the KESC.

In the new budget, the board has asked for Rs13.25 billion for the government-funded water projects, including K-IV and K-III, to bring much-needed water to the city. Funds will also be spent on the ‘Sewerage Improvement Plan- III’. The K-IV project, which envisages supply of 260 million gallons per day (MGD) of water to Karachi in the first phase, was to be completed last year; but work on the scheme has not even started. For two years now, the KWSB has been allocating Rs1 billion in its budgets for the project.

It also remains unclear if the water board will spend any money to reactivate its sewage treatment facilities. Of the three treatment plants with total capacity of treating 151.5 MGD wastewater, two have been shut down and raw sewage is being dumped into the sea.

For the ongoing smaller projects, the water utility has sought Rs5.2 billion, which is less than what it received from the government in the previous year.

“The budget has been prepared amid a lot of confusion,” a senior official, requesting anonymity, said. “We don’t even know yet whether the KWSB reports to the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) or the Sindh government?”

This may not necessarily have any impact on the budget but raises the question whether the KWSB will make the details public when the KMC announces its budget later this month.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2012.

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