ISLAMABAD: The government intends to introduce prepaid cards for electricity use to overcome rampant power theft, Water and Power Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said on Monday.
He informed a Senate panel that his ministry was in talks with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to ensure funding for the proposed scheme. He said the use of prepaid cards for energy use was common in the developed world. “Once the cards scheme was in place, every unit of electricity consumed would be paid for, saving the government billions of rupees it loses because of electricity theft and non-payment of bills,” the minister told the Senate standing committee on water and power.
He said electricity theft has become quite a norm and people don’t consider it as theft anymore. The minister lamented that people do not report electricity theft and residents of localities tend to protect each other against officials investigating the offence. He declared that the use of pre-paid card would not only eliminate electricity theft but would also allow the utility authorities to save money being spent on efforts to stop the theft.
The minister informed the panel that the government would start procuring land for the Diamer Bhasha dam in May. Former president Pervez Musharraf had inaugurated the project without first procuring land for the project, he said, adding that the local people had some issues with the land procurement process which the ministry has resolved. Raja Pervez also revealed that due to expenditures on the war on terror the government had cut down funding for the annual Public Sector Development Programme. This resulted in lack of funds for some projects. He said the ministry was also reviewing the facility of free electricity provided to the employees of Wapda.
He said it was a common practice around the world that markets close by 9 pm but, he said, it had become a norm in Pakistan to keep bazaars open till late into night. He said it would take six to seven days to completely enforce the decision taken in the energy conference. He said 800 MW of electricity would be saved by shutting down markets at 8 pm and observing two public holidays. Tahir Basharat, managing-director of the Pakistan Electricity Power Company (Pepco) told the Senate panel that Pakistan should not be compared with India on electricity deficiency. He said the shortfall in India is 40,000 MW while the electricity deficit in Pakistan should have been 3,000 MW but it reached 5,000 MW due to lack of water in dams.
He said 250 MW of extra electricity will enter the system within two days. He also informed the committee that it would take three years to get 1300 MW of electricity from Tajikistan. Wapda chairman Shakil Durrani informed the committee that his department was to build 37 dams but not a single rupee was available for these projects. He said Wapda was allocated Rs37 billion in the national budget. Later, he added, the amount was slashed to Rs27 billion and so far Wapda has received only Rs10 billion.
He also revealed that Chinese engineers working on various projects in the Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa, tribal areas and Balochistan were reluctant to visit the project sites because of security concerns. This was delaying the projects, he added. He also lamented that continuing incidents of terrorism had badly shaken the investor confidence. He said hydel power was cheap but it takes years to build projects while the easily available thermal power was very expensive. Senator Lashkari Raisani presided over the Senate panel meeting.