The residents of Gilgit suffered a painfully long power outage on Sunday, as life in the city came to a complete standstill.
Electricity was suspended at 4am on Sunday, and was not restored till 2am on Monday.
Even though officials cited ‘technical reasons’ for the prolonged power outage, the public belief that a lack of commitment and unaccountability of Public Works Department (PWD) officials were the main reasons behind the power crisis remain.
The unannounced power breakdown was unprecedented in summer, as there is plenty of water in the channels coming from melting glaciers. However, residents of Gilgit live through such prolonged loadshedding every winter, when people face over 20 hours of loadshedding due to the ‘shortage’ of water created when channels freeze.
The areas which faced prolonged power cuts include Kashrote, Jutial, Khomer, Zulfiqar Colony, Sakrwar, Nagral, Majini Muhalla, Amphery, Baseen and adjoining areas. A supervisor at Kashrote Power Station blamed the power outage on, “A technical fault at the power station at Naltar.” However, he refused to elaborate on the fault.
“We are working to restore power and the fault will hopefully be rectified by evening,” he explained. However, electricity remained suspended till 2am, while the city remained in complete darkness.
Another official said that there was some cleaning work going on at the power office besides the technical fault, adding that the practice usually goes on for quite some time.
“Usually the power is suspended on Sunday for necessary cleaning of machines and this is exactly what is happening today,” he said.
Hamid Hussain, the head of the PWD Power Section, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts as his cell phone was powered off and his official number was unattended.
Abdul Haseeb, a resident of Jutial, said that power cuts have become a norm in the capital city, where people face up to six hours of loadshedding every three days, besides shorter power outages.
He said there was a breakdown of power on Monday as well, adding that the government was not keeping a proper check on PWD officials, who are known for their corruption.
“The VIPs do not face any loadshedding and they don’t bother to improve the situation for the rest of the people,” he claimed.
Following the construction of the 18 MW hydel power project at Naltar during the rule of former president Pervez Musharraf, Gilgit had become self-sufficient in power generation. However, last year’s floods damaged the Naltar Power Project, along with other projects in Gilgit-Baltistan. Due to a lack of funds to repair these projects, people continue to suffer from unparalleled power outages.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2011.