No toilet trips for KESC staff if they cut our supply: KWSB

Water board says that the main pumping station has been damaged.

Our Correspondent February 26, 2012


The ire of the water board’s MD was palpable after their power supplies were cut off on Saturday over the utility’s unpaid bills.

“KESC officials should realise that they won’t be able to wash themselves in the washroom if our pump doesn’t work,” said MD Misbahuddin Farid. “We can’t buy power at commercial rates, we are a public utility. How are we supposed to pay inflated bills?”

His anger was matched by that of the exasperated Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC), which says that the Karachi Water and Sewage Board (KWSB) owes it about Rs16 billion. It shut down the power supply to the city’s main pumping station at Dhabeji, leading to a crisis that lasted five hours.

The water board said that one of its 10 pipelines also burst as a result of the sudden power breakdown in the morning. The supply was, however, restored in the evening after government intervention.  KESC said it had repeatedly asked KWSB to pay its bills.

According to KWSB, its monthly electricity bill reached Rs320 million while three years back it was just Rs130 million. “We supply water to flats and even slums. Our power tariff should be reduced,” he argued.

In response, KESC said that the water board paid only R150 million during the past four months. KWSB’s outstanding bill accumulated to Rs16.69 billion last month, from Rs15.7 billion in November 2011.

KESC accused the water board of using water shortages as an excuse to avoid paying its bills. “In spite of agreeing to regularly pay at least their current monthly bills in a meeting at Governor House, the water board has not been paying at all.”

A day earlier, Farid sent a letter to the Sindh finance secretary, insisting that millions of rupees in unpaid water bills were stuck with the police and public health engineering departments.

KWSB’s request to raise the water consumption fee to encourage conservation has been rejected by the government.

According to KWSB, Karachi’s total water consumption is 650 million gallons per day (MGD), whereas the actual demand is 1,080 MGD. Dhabeji pumps 580 million gallons per day. Engineers said that the pump cannot withstand sudden power cuts without sustaining damage.

“The pumping station is located right at the sea level. Water is pumped 214 feet up, 4.5 kilometres through 10 huge pipelines,” said the KWSB chief engineer for bulk supplies, Iftikhar Ahmed. “There are 22 pumps, each pumping millions of gallons of water. So when the power is cut, the pumps stop and the water accumulated in the pipelines flows back with high pressure and it ruptures at the weak points.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 26th, 2012.


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