HYDERABAD: As the Water And Sanitation Agency (WASA) battles through a financial crunch, the Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) rubbed salt into its wounds by cutting off all power connections to the agency’s filtration plants, sewage pumping stations and offices on Thursday.
WASA’s four filtration plants supply water to over 2 million people in the city. Most of the rural talukas do not get water from the agency. WASA managing director Saleemuddin Arain said the restoration of water supply will take at least 24 to 36 hours as the pipelines have dried up. According to Hesco Commercial Director Mehmood Qaimkhani, the WASA owes Rs1.319 billion in outstanding bills to the Hesco for the period of 20 months, from July 2010 to February 2012. “The actual arrears are up to the tune of Rs7 billion,” he said. Power supply to WASA installations was restored after 22 hours on Friday only when Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad assured the power utility of payment of the electricity dues. The day-long closure triggered protests in Mukhi Bagh, Station Road and parts of Latifabad among other areas, with people complaining about the water scarcity.
Acknowledging the trouble caused by the power disconnection, Qaimkhani said Hesco has been ordered to pay Rs4 billion to the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) by the end of June. The government departments owe Rs27 billion to Hesco and WASA stands out among them. “We have no other option but to sever the connections to ensure recovery,” he added.
Arain says the agency is not in a position to clear its electricity dues. It has requested the provincial government to make the payment, which itself owes Rs1 billion to the WASA. “We want to revive the mechanism under which the Sindh government used to pay our electricity bills until 2010,” Arain said.
However, the agency’s woes do not end here. In addition to the circular debt, its water supply and drainage is often affected by the employees’ protests and power outages. Only last week, the staff called off its four-day strike against non-payment of five months’ salary. The employees are yet to receive their dues and the Employees’ Action Committee has threatened to resume the token strike by closing water supply for six hours daily from June 18.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2012.