HYDERABAD: The Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) restored power supply to the city on Thursday evening after suspending it for nearly 26 hours.
Due to cyclic power cuts to the city’s water filtration plants, severe water shortage had crept up in large parts of the district. If the electricity had not been restored by Thursday evening, the remaining water in the supply lines would have dried up, said officials. On top of this, the city’s only hydrant had run dry as it is also supplied from one of these plants.
The district has been witnessing similar situations for last several years due to the endless dispute between the power and water supply agencies over unpaid electricity bills. The Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) claims that arrears against the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) have accrued to Rs3.93 billion since 2003.
Determined to make them pay, Hesco severed all the 114 electric supply connections of Wasa as well as 88 of its parent organisation, Hyderabad Development Authority (HDA) - which had to pay Rs2.05 billion - on Wednesday evening.
According to Wasa managing director Saleemuddin, the disconnections affected all five filtration plants, water and drainage pumping stations in addition to their offices. Over 60 million gallons per day supply was affected. “Even after if the electricity is restored by today [Thursday] evening, it will take up to 48 hours to restore water supply to the areas falling on the tail-end of the supply,” Saleemuddin had said earlier on Thursday. These plants supply water to three of the four talukas in Hyderabad including City, Latifabad and Qasimabad.
HDA director-general Ghulam Mohammad Qaimkhani said that Hyderabad division commissioner Syed Mustafa Jamal was in contact with the Sindh government to address the issue. The provincial government owes billions of rupees in unpaid water bills to Wasa. “The financial health of Wasa is known to all. It has been unable to pay its salaries for the last four months to its around 3,000 employees,” he said, explaining that Wasa earns around Rs240 million while it spends Rs550 million.
Wasa is an autonomous body but it functions under the provincial ministry of local government. According to Saleemuddin, local government secretary Ali Ahmed Lund has written a letter to the Hesco chief Laeq Ahmed, giving assurance on behalf of the Sindh government to pay the arrears.
Controversy over arrears
Both Wasa and HDA dispute the amount of arrears that Hesco claims to recover from them. “Wasa also owes around Rs1.5 billion to Hesco and not Rs3.93 billion as they claim,” said HDA’s Qaimkhani, adding that Rs2.05 billion unpaid dues by his department is not a reconciled figure.
Saleemuddin does not own the bills charged from 2003 to early 2010. According to him, the reconciled sum is Rs1.5 billion from July 2010 to October 2012.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2013.
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