KESC knows who’s been naughty and who’s been nice

Published: October 6, 2010

Utility wants to lower power cuts in good neighbourhoods. DEISGN: AMNA IQBAL &ANAM HALEEM

KARACHI: The Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) has a heart. Not one that runs on a pacemaker thankfully but one that understands that this city’s residents who pay their bills suffer because of those who don’t.

“KESC is trying to identify good and bad areas, so that it can reduce power cuts in areas where there are considerably fewer electricity losses,” said an official while talking to The Express Tribune about new data the utility issued on Tuesday.

If a neighbourhood is reporting less losses, then we want to stop power cuts in the area, he said. “It is so unfair that areas where there are considerably fewer leaks are also subjected to the same power cuts as areas where 70 to 76 per cent losses are reported.”

In a press release on Tuesday, KESC shared that there are 69 “kunda-infested localities” in Karachi, where as many as 500,000 kundas or illegal power connections have been attached to the main electricity supply lines.

The most problematic are the densely populated ones, such as the goths and the katchi abadis. “But even if we say that the areas of Defence and Clifton are possibly the least problematic, there are still several cases that have been reported from them,” said the KESC official. As these are the areas with more money, the ways of stealing electricity are also more refined.

While shantytowns work with kundas, illegal underground electricity cables are a popular choice with residents of areas such as Defence and Clifton. “This method was even used by a school recently,” he said. “We caught a guesthouse running on underground cables, as well as the house belonging to the sister of a media company’s owner.”

KESC recently came up with a new plan to monitor power cuts. Part of it was to identify areas where the kunda system and meter tampering were most common. KESC announced a head-on campaign to remove illegal connections and faulty meters from eight zones in its region No. 3 (the city’s east zone). These areas are supplied electricity through 80 feeders where the most amount of electricity loss has been recorded – as high as 76 per cent.

KESC divides the city into four regions to manage its power distribution system. And while the company is only focusing on region No. 3 in its first phase, it plans to expand the work to the other three regions over the coming days, sources revealed.

There are many ways to tamper with a meter, which is a huge problem. “This is why we are trying to work with the readings on a feeder,” the official explained. By recording the readings, you can see how much electricity was supplied to a feeder and how much went ahead. This is how leaks can be identified.

Unfortunately, around 34.9 per cent of the electricity sent out from KESC cannot be billed because of technical losses and theft. While one-third of electricity losses are due to technical faults, two-thirds are due to electricity theft. These are called transmission and distribution (T&D) losses. One per cent of T&D loss equals a loss of Rs1 billion per annum.

The problem is that there is no legislation in terms of dealing with kunda connections or meter tampering. Stealing electricity is not a crime punishable by the court.

“The most we can do is remove the meter, issue the consumers a notice and impose a monetary penalty on them,” said a source. “When they pay the penalty, they become ‘good customers’ again.”

He added that there are too many people in Karachi for such a drive to be thoroughly implemented. “We act on tip-offs. We are informed of irregularities in billing information, in meter readings, after which we go to a house and check what’s happening.”

According to KESC, an amendment to the electricity act, making electricity theft a non-bailable offence, is called for.

This can only happen with the support of the government, political parties, law-enforcement agencies, judiciary, members of civil society and the media, the press release stated.

Areas where electricity theft is not as common and where residents pay their bills on time will get efficient and effective services as compared to those areas where electricity theft and the non-payment of bills is on a higher side.

KESC has asked its “honest and genuine” customers to join the drive to catch thieves, who are “not only causing huge financial losses to the company, but also forcing longer spells of power outages in these areas.”

Reasons behind power cuts

A gap between the demand and supply of electricity, fuel and cash-flow constraints as well as transmission and distribution faults are the main reasons behind power outages.

Under the scheduled Load Shedding (LS) policy (which covers Karachi as well as parts of Sindh and Balochistan), the city’s six major industrial zones as well as its strategic customers (KWSB, etc.) are exempt from power cuts. Residential customers are not supposed to face power outages between 1:30 am and 9 am daily, apart from the time slotted for Friday prayers. However, KESC officials said that there are occasional unscheduled outages due to technical failures across the network, which includes 1,200 feeders, 18,000 kilometres of overhead and underground wires or cables, 2,500 substations, 15,000 PMTs, 150 power units and 60 grid stations.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2010.

Reader Comments (13)

  • Umar Farooq
    Oct 6, 2010 - 9:47AM

    This is by far the best idea by KESC. Way to many residents in Karachi are stealing electricity, while the rest of us continue to pay. Until the kunda system isnt completely wiped out, Pakistan can never get rid of the menace of load shedding. Recommend

  • Muhammad sikandar saleem Khan
    Oct 6, 2010 - 11:20AM

    Gulraiz i totally disagree with your article as it is very easy to take consumer side by saying the ones who pay has to suffer because who who dont. Well let me remind you that those localities are under kundas or illegal electricity consum…ption zones are politically influences zones where not even police can dare to arrest normal guy as he or she turns out to be a friend of PM or president so what do u expect. secondly KESC is running corporation its not a Welfare organization that that circular debt problem
    arises solely because of this grass root problem as people who don’t pay bill results in big corporations like PSO and many other government organization going into loses. Last but not the least why aren’t you forgetting Pakistan can not even afford to pay its own import bills so what do u expect from its institution. Even if one institution is trying to serve best keeping many other constraints in view so journalist like you do behave as if they illiterate of the practical realities. So please verify and research before you write using your power of journalism.See MoreRecommend

  • Amina Ansari
    Oct 6, 2010 - 12:14PM

    Well done KESCRecommend

  • Ahsan
    Oct 6, 2010 - 12:28PM

    Well its really good to see KESC under the new management is reaching out to people with these types of communication. never used to happen before. But it also calls for the public to realize what the ground realities are. these communications should not be treated as any other article but to realize what type of people live in their neighbor hood. People find it very encouraging and an act of pride to steal. pathetic state of affairs our country is going through. Jai ho KESC.

    I would appreciate if readers engage in some constructive discussion here rather than trashing the Company or Govt. i have come across people writing for Tribune and terming Ogra as the regulatory body. hello! it has to be NEPRA. Ogra deals with Oil and Gas. and there are people saying all KESC has to charge is Rs. 100 per consumer to improve their financial condition, Do people even realize how electricity is produced, what are the ingredients and how much does the Furnace Oil costs?

    Subsidy is another issue. Now this is a Govt. decision as to when and how tariff shoots up! in turn which is governed by IMF and ignoring the per capita income, job markets and inflation. We first need to set our priorities straight! Govt earns through electrcity bills as well. Be it KESC or Wapda: Income Tax, Sales Tax, Duties etc. and the list is endless.Recommend

  • Amanat ali
    Oct 6, 2010 - 1:38PM

    KESC is defaulter of PEPCO for billions of rupees. But the supply of power is still going on. As per laws the KESC can not get power from PEPCO with out payment, so instead of dis-continuing the supply the PEPCO is providing excess supply to Kesc. This is all done with the grace of Zardari sahib because the owners are very very close relative. KESC replied the PEpco that our dues will be paid by the federal govt, it means the payment will be made from the national exchequer and the money collected by KESC goes to the pocket of relatives directly. So sad what is going on. Recommend

  • Oct 6, 2010 - 2:08PM

    kudos!
    Keep it up!Recommend

  • Ahsan
    Oct 6, 2010 - 4:55PM

    @Amanat Ali: KESC saying Fed Govt will pay to Pepco did not mean that they will do it as a favor. That was because Fed Govt. owes a hefty amount to KESC as well. Circular Debt my friend. Ever heard of it? You should research before jumping to conclusions. PSO is the biggest victim of circular debt. At one point of time PSO had a receivable of 103 Billion!!! Thnx to the Fed people.Recommend

  • Maliha Khan
    Oct 6, 2010 - 4:55PM

    It is true that until the government steps into this matter and makes sincere efforts to curb or at least minimize the electricity theft, not much can be done that would entirely be effective. Even if KESC manages to locate as many as 500,000 kundas or illegal power connections, what is the guarantee that 100,000 others would not pop up in the future? Just like a source said that the consumers found to have committed electricity theft are issued a notice and charged a certain amount of penalty after which they are “clean”. So until and unless the government and the law-enforcement agencies as well as the judiciary don’t step in, as mentioned in the article, KESC alone will certainly not be able to battle out this horrible menace on its own. The media is already playing its part, now it’s time for the State to support this commendable initiative taken by KESC. Recommend

  • Maliha Khan
    Oct 6, 2010 - 5:41PM

    No offense Mr. Sikandar but you seem to be either an avid supporter of KESC or probably someone who is employed in the Company itself. The authors of this article are not taking any sides as you suggest, but merely reflecting the overall situation that’s prevailing these days. I’d like to refute a point made by you that the “kunda-infested localities” are politically influenced zones where even the law enforcement officers dare not to arrest a common man as he turns out to be a friend of PM or Mr. President himself. Well let me remind you that the most problematic of these areas are the goths and the katchi abadis, which I highly doubt the PM’s or the President’s friends would reside in. Moreover, areas such as Defence and Clifton which are most probably where the President’s friends reside it are possibly the least problematic, as KESC itself claims.

    Besides that Mr. Sikandar, in case you didn’t happen to notice this article by Gulraiz actually attempts to praise the efforts of KESC in trying to get rid of all the many electricity problems ironically faced by the “City of Lights”, Karachi. There seems to be no mistake in the research done by the authors as I am pretty sure a highly distinguished paper like Express Tribune has verified sources no doubt.Recommend

  • Hasan Iftikhar
    Oct 7, 2010 - 12:01AM

    @Maliha Khan: katchi abadis and goths are hotbeds for political activity and while the comments by the man was a bit of exageration, the units, sectors and parties over there have significant strength and local strength. As also mentioned in the article, posh neighborhoods have more refined methods of stealing, and i presume they would be stealing big.

    Regardless, writer has done a commendable job :)Recommend

  • Usman Mirza
    Oct 7, 2010 - 11:17AM

    Not that I don’t agree with this strategy (I do and fully endorse it), I can’t help but notice that KESC is resorting to savvy perception management by using its employees to post positive comments.

    Yes I’m referring to the good job KESC message. !!Recommend

  • Maliha Khan
    Oct 7, 2010 - 3:42PM

    @Hasan Iftikhar: Yes I agree with you that the parties over there definitely have significant local strength but not as much as the commentator above suggests. And as far as the posh neighborhoods are concerned, yes they do have more refined methods of stealing but I don’t think the amount of electricity consumed illegally by these goths and kachi abadis is way more than that of posh areas. Regardless, a strict check needs to be kept on all sorts of localities, whether posh or slum and KESC itself would have to be transparent in this policies.Recommend

  • Rehan Iqbal
    Dec 4, 2010 - 11:40AM

    Assalam-u-Alaikum,

    I am a residence of Al-karam Square. I have been paying all utility bills for ages. Even electricity bills are also cleared. I would like to ask to KESC deputy general manager public relations Why am i suffering this pain? AM I BEING PUNISHED FOR PAYING BILLS? Those who didn’t pay their bills are still getting electricity from Nearest apartment Al-Azam Square. This is really heart crumbling for me & one of those who pays their bills & still in darkness. I request to the KESC that please fix meters on every flat in the apartment. This is pure unjustification. I peacefully protest.

    Regards,

    Rehan Iqbal.Recommend

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