KALAM: A wave of happiness surged through the residents of Kalam after two dysfunctional power stations were handed over to non-governmental organisation (NGO) Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government.
The 200-kilowatt Kalam mini-hydel station was closed down around a decade ago while the 400-kilowatt Ashrun power station was shut after it was severely damaged in the 2010 floods. The closure of both Pakhtunkhwa Hydel Development Organisation (PHYDO)-run power houses plunged areas in the valley’s upper belt such as Pishmal, Mankyal, Kalam, Ushu, Utror and Gabral into darkness.
A memorandum of understanding to undertake the restoration of the two power stations was signed by the provincial government and SRSP on Tuesday.
Kalam is one of the most famous tourist resorts, with thousands of people from across the country visiting during the summer every year. “There are more than 200 hotels, small and large, which are flooded with tourists from March to August,” explained Rahmat Din Siddiqui, a local journalist. “Unfortunately, tourists face many difficulties due to the lack of power.”
Siddiqui added some hotels had arranged generators, but this created unwelcomed noise and ruined the ambiance of the serene valley. “Both locals and tourists will get relief if these power stations are made functional.”
Residents of Kalam valley and its suburbs expect work on both power houses to be initiated soon and expressed relief that the stations were being handed over to the SRSP.
“We were completely disappointed by the previous government, as it could not resolve the electricity problems,” said Iqbal Khan, a resident of Kalam. “The strange thing is micro-hydel power stations have high potential in our area, but the previous government did not take advantage of this.”
Younger residents also complained about the lack of interest given to the valley by previous governments. “We want modern education and to join in on global advancement, but how can we do this without a basic necessity like electricity?” questioned Nazir Khan, a student. “I am living in a hostel in Mingora. If both power stations are made functional it will benefit us greatly.”
Both power houses will be rehabilitated and upgraded by the NGO under the European Peace Project, which has already been initiated in Malakand. In addition, the power stations will also reportedly be upgraded in order to meet the electricity needs of the 200,000-strong population of the upper belt.
Protests rage on: Locals condemn power outages in Bannu, Kohat
Power outages and low voltage remained an issue for residents of Kohat and Bannu, who once again blocked traffic in response to their electricity woes on Wednesday.
On Monday, hundreds of tribesmen from the Kakki tribe attacked Peshawar Electricity Supply Company’s (Pesco) Bannu circle office, torching furniture, office records and nine vehicles in a protest against prolonged power outages. The angry residents gave Pesco three days to address their electricity problem and warned they would bomb the company’s buildings if their demands were not met.
Following this, on Wednesday morning Pakistan Peoples Party leader Malik Pakhtun Yar, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Murad Ali Shah, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party leader Nisar Khan, Qaumi Watan Party leader Aurangzeb Khan, Jamaat-e-Islami district chief Sifat Ullah Khan along with tribal elders Malik Noor Ali, Munawar Khan and Sher Khan incited residents to launch a protest by making announcements through loud speakers in mosques.
In response, hundreds of tribesmen armed with guns and sticks marched towards Bannu city, chanting slogans against government and Pesco officials. Pesco Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Ayaz, however, negotiated with the protesters and assured them uninterrupted electricity would be provided within 24 hours, after which residents dispersed.
Meanwhile, residents of Shadi Khel and Kamal Khel blocked the Indus Highway and Kohat-Rawalpindi Road to demonstrate against lack of electricity.
Led by social activist Muhammad Salim, protesters first blocked the Indus Highway. The route was later reopened and the enraged demonstrators then blocked Kohat-Rawalpindi Road from 9am till 11:30am.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2013.
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