KARACHI: Industrialists and trade bodies have protested against continued prolonged power outages and unavailability of water with many of them threatening to go on strike if crippling issues are not addressed immediately in Karachi.
The provincial capital, which is the hub of business activity, industrial development and one of the largest cities of Pakistan, has been subjected to prolonged load-shedding and continues to face water issues. The situation has worsened in recent times as demand for water and energy soared in the summer season.
“Initially, dying units stopped work due to absence of water supply; it had a snowball effect and subsequently cutting and stitching units also came to a halt,” Federal B Area Association of Trade and Industry Secretary Rashid Hamidani told The Express Tribune.
“The labourers, who are engaged in cutting and stitching and earn on the basis of per piece of cloth, are sitting idle and are not earning anything; this is a very serious crisis and nobody understands the gravity of the situation,” Hamidani cautioned.
Recently, Amreli Steels, a listed company, announced that its production had fallen by 40% due to load-shedding. In similar views, Sindh Industrial and Trading Estate (SITE) Association of Industry President Jawed Bilwani said load-shedding and water crisis in the area had cut production activities to half.
“If things go on like this, exporters will not be able to honour export commitments. If I do not get hangers and buttons on time, then how could I be able to meet my export commitments,” asked Bilwani, who is also the chairman of Pakistan Apparel Forum.
This all comes in the backdrop of government’s efforts to ramp up exports of goods in order to reduce the fast widening trade deficit and arrest the rapid decline in the country’s foreign exchange reserves.
Last year, the government had also introduced an export package worth Rs180 billion along with tax incentives in an effort to give a boost to exports.
In the energy crisis, K-Electric has passed the buck, blaming Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) for not supplying enough gas for electricity production without any interruption.
According to K-Electric, it had been receiving 190 million cubic feet of gas per day (mmcfd) from SSGC last year while this year, it is getting only 90 mmcfd.
SSGC, on its part, notified K-Electric that it would not be able to ensure adequate gas supply as it did last year as the power utility had yet to guarantee payment of past dues of billions of rupees and had not signed a gas sales agreement. According to SSGC, K-Electric owes Rs80 billion.
At the My Karachi Exhibition on Friday, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, while expressing strong support for the industry, lashed out at the federal government and termed the excessive load-shedding in Karachi a conspiracy against the city.
“The federal government wanted to derail industry in Karachi,” the CM said while clarifying that the Sindh government had no representation in K-Electric and SSGC. In a meeting held by the Federal B Area Association of Trade and Industry, its members told federal and provincial governments that if electricity and water supply was not fully restored, the industries would stage a strike on April 27 by shutting down their factories.
Later, if no response came from the authorities concerned, the protest would be extended, they said.
The Landhi Association of Trade and Industry also met on Saturday where it protested against prolonged load-shedding.
Its Secretary Mobeen Khan cautioned that if the problem was not tackled soon, many of its members would be forced to shut down their manufacturing units in the city.
Members of the SITE association will also hold protest at the Karachi Press Club on April 23 against load-shedding and water scarcity. Its president has invited other traders to join the protest and add to growing calls for addressing the challenges faced by the industry.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2018.