In the freezing cold, thousands of people in the Ghizer valley took to the streets and blocked roads to protest against loadshedding that has practically brought life to a standstill across Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B).
In Chilas, Diamer district, where the Diamer-Bhasha Dam is under construction, people suffered a blackout after the power and water department suspended electricity to consumers to protest against an official’s maltreatment by the police.
Residents of Ishkoman, Yasin, Phunder, Gitch and Goharabad were provoked by prolonged power cuts since electricity is the only facility available for residents in the valley where temperature plummeted to -12 degrees Celsius this week. “We have no water, no heating arrangement in this freezing cold. The four to six hours of electricity that we get has also been suspended,” said a trader, Nassem. The power cut had left thousands of people in the dark.
Police had booked more than 40 people for damaging public property in Ghizer valley as protests continued throughout the week.
In Gilgit, the duration of loadshedding has exceeded 15 hours a day while the mercury continues to drop. The situation is worse in Skardu, Astore, and Hunza-Nagar.
Official sources said G-B is currently experiencing 132 megawatts (MW) power shortfall while the government is unable to provide electricity to at least 15 per cent of the population of the region so far. It is generally believed that the shortfall increases considerably in winters when consumption increases while production declines. However official sources said the shortfall experienced in Gilgit is about 23 MW while it is about 25 per cent in Skardu, the second major city of G-B.
According to official statistics, the total strength of consumers in all the seven districts of G-B is more than 150,77, while approximately 400 connections are daily issued to new consumers.
G-B Minister for Water and Power, Wazir Shakil, said on Sunday that about 120MW of electricity would be generated by 2015 in G-B, a region that is believed to have the capacity to produce more than 50,000 MW. “Hectic efforts are under way to streamline matters pertaining to water and power,” he said, adding that the government was faced with financial issues.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2011.