The Capital Development Authority (CDA) appears to be in no mood to clear the air over inexplicably astronomical electricity charges it is paying to the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco).
For reasons unknown, the CDA is not holding an audit to determine the exact number of streetlights in the capital. Iesco has capitalised on the civic agency’s laxity, evidenced by it charging against 65,000 streetlights even though the actual number is far smaller.
“For the past two years, the CDA has been pursuing the government’s electricity conservation policy, including running alternate streetlights, but Iesco continues to charge against 65,000,” said a senior CDA official requesting anonymity.
Even if there have been concerns, they have fallen on deaf ears as the city managers are now weighing options to replace the 65,000 conventional streetlights with energy efficient ones to curtail monthly bills amounting to Rs90 million.
It has been learnt that the CDA chairman has asked the civic agency’s Engineering Wing to renew an earlier plan to replace streetlights with LED lights.
The official said the project would not be a revival of the controversial Rs6.5 billion LED lights project which was canned two years back.
“The chairman has directed to scrap the old plan and reinitiate work on a proposal for the new one,” said the official.
He said the wing would soon present a detailed report over the proposed project.
The civic agency has already been working on a proposal for the replacement of old streetlights with solar-powered ones.
“We recently held meetings with the Infrastructure Project Development Facility (IPDF) regarding conversion of streetlights to solar power. In the meantime, we will initiate work on the LED lights project,” said another official, adding that all these efforts are aimed at reducing the inflated electricity bills.
For the ongoing financial year, the CDA has allocated Rs20 million for the streetlights project.
New wine in old bottles
This is not the first time the CDA has introduced the LED lights project.
In 2011, the civic agency envisaged the idea but the bidding process was manipulated to favour a firm — Oslo Lighting — allegedly owned by a close affiliate of the former PPP-led government.
At first, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) had agreed to finance the project but refused owing to alleged irregularities in the bidding process among other transparency issues.
Later, the CDA decided to go for the government’s expensive Cash Development Loan (CDL) to execute the project, but this didn’t materialise.
The LED lights project has come under the scrutiny of parliamentary committees and has also been investigated by the Federal Investigation Agency and National Accountability Bureau.
Recently, an Islamabad High Court-appointed judicial commission scrutinised the project and pointed out rule violations during the bidding and contract awarding process.
Work on both the LED and solar-powered lights proposals would go on simultaneously till the most feasible one is selected, informed the official.
Recently, IPDF officials suggested in a presentation that in the first phase of the project, solar lights be installed in those CDA-administered residential areas which are deprived of them.
“A suggestion was put forward to install solar-powered streetlights in Sector D-12 and Sector E-11’s northern strip, while a portion of the Islamabad Expressway has also been identified for the first phase,” said the official.
CDA Spokesperson Naeem Rauf said the civic agency has been considering the LED lights project to reduce electricity consumption as they consume less power and provide better results.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2013.
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