Power outages spark protests across Karachi

NEPRA directs KE to take immediate steps to rectify the situation


​ Our Correspondent June 25, 2020
Blackout loadshedding load shedding PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: The city witnessed widespread protests on Wednesday as residents, angered by prolonged blackouts and water shortages amid rising temperatures and a pandemic, took to the streets.

Various neighbourhoods, including Korangi, Landhi, Surjani Town, Liaquatabad, Lines Area, Keamari, PIB Colony, North Karachi and others, are reportedly being subjected to seven to 12 hours of loadshedding.

According to citizens, the power outage is attributed to faults in cables, tripped feeders, maintenance and other technical issues by K-Electric (KE).

Demonstrations

However, KE's reasons failed to convince disgruntled citizens who staged demonstrations protesting long hours of loadshedding and water shortage on Wednesday, as mercury soared past 39 degrees in the metropolis.

Residents staged a sit-in near Ghareebabad Chowrangi, blocking the road, obstructing traffic and shouting slogans against KE and the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB).

They accused KE of deliberately suspending the power supply to rile up citizens and use it as an excuse to get further fuel concessions from the government.

Demanding an end to unannounced loadshedding, they lamented that those in power did not realise their predicament. "They drink mineral water and have generators at home. How can they realise KE and KWSB have made our lives miserable?" asked a demonstrator.

Meanwhile, residents of Gulshan-e-Zahoor and Abyssinia Lines held a demonstration outside KE's office on Sharae Faisal and even attempted to break into the office. However, they were unable to do so.

Irked, they warned of a sit-in at Sharae Quaideen and blocking the thoroughfare if KE officers did not come out and listen to them.

As they followed through on their threat, staging a sit-in and placing barriers, queues of vehicles crammed the road.

They complained of unannounced loadshedding of up to 16 hours, even at odd hours.  They further pointed out that coronavirus patients in home isolation were further troubled by this.

"The government asks citizens to stay home but KE is forcing us to step out, even at the risk of contracting coronavirus," they lamented.

Though police tried to convince them to disperse, they remained adamant they would only do so KE officials negotiated with them and fulfilled their demands.

Eventually, KE officials gave assurances of not suspending electricity at night and asked them to visit the office on Thursday so that a schedule for loadshedding could be devised.

Meanwhile, residents of Lines Area, Liaquatabad, Orangi Town, Gurumandir, Jamshed Quarters and other areas staged protests in their own neighbourhoods.

They called for KE's nationalisation as well as for the Sindh government to take measures to end loadshedding.

Behind the power crisis

According to KE sources, the power utility is relying on low-cost sources of electricity generation and distribution, including independent power producers, national grid and gas, instead of using furnace oil.

They claimed Karachi needed 3,300 megawatts of electricity and despite having the capacity to produce this, KE had opted for cheaper solutions.

On the other hand, the KE spokesperson maintained that the electricity supply has been affected due to furnace oil and gas shortages, as well as tripped feeders, other technical issues and electricity theft.

NEPRA takes notice

Taking notice of Karachiites' plight, as news of prolonged outages circulated in the media, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) ordered KE to take immediate measures to rectify the situation, seeking an urgent, detailed report from the power utility.

With citizens complaining of excessive billing too, NEPRA has asked consumers to file complaints at its regional office in Karachi or on its website, along with documentary evidence. 

Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2020.

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