Large parts of the city were without electricity from Monday evening to Tuesday as 14 feeders of the power utility tripped.
K-Electric claimed that the feeders tripped due to extensive load, line faults and humidity but the people suffering in the heat did not buy into the excuses. “It is foolish to believe that the feeders shut down due to the humidity,” said the president of Sindh Tajir Ittihad, Jamil Ahmed Paracha.
Pointing towards the generators that have been running overtime, the president complained that they are compelled to do business in this scorching heat without electricity. “This is the prevailing situation across the city where 1,140 small and big markets are functional,” he said.
“We have given a 72-hour ultimatum to K-Electric and the Sindh government to fix this, otherwise, we will start protesting the utility’s inefficiencies across Karachi,” he warned.
As the mercury climbed, so did the tempers of residents in several parts of Karachi, such as North Nazimabad, New Karachi, North Karachi, Garden, Federal B Areas and Gulshan-e-Iqbal, where residents took to the streets. After brief closures of the main roads, the protesters dispersed peacefully.
A K-Electric spokesperson said that the ongoing heat wave has raised the electricity demand in Karachi to 2,800 megawatts, which is the maximum the city has needed yet. This has been made worse by overloading, line faults and illegal connections, he added.
“People should avoid installing illegal connections and pay their bills on time so that K-Electric can upgrade the system,” he said. The spokesperson assured that the fault in the high tension transmission line has been fixed and there is no serious electricity crisis now. On the traders’ threat to protest, the spokesperson said that they do not discriminate between their customers. “We only conduct load-shedding in those areas where the ratio of revenue generation is less,” he explained.
The rolling blackouts have also worsened the water crisis in the city. The Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) supplies water into the city through 250 small pumping stations that are installed across the city. Since the water board has yet to set up the power supply back-up in these areas, the water supply has been inconsistent. The KWSB has no resources to install a back-up of power supply, he said, insisting that there is no extra shortfall. “We manage these pumping stations during the times we have electricity supply,” he said.
Meanwhile, the K-Electric spokesperson said that they have committed to providing uninterrupted power supply to the main pumping stations in Gharo, Pipri, NEK, etc. “It is not possible to exempt these [smaller] pumping stations from load-shedding and they [KWSB] should manage them on their own to ensure smooth water supply,” he said.
Fortunately, the major hospitals in the city, Civil and Jinnah, have been spared from frequent power outages. Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) has three generators of 1,000KV which can provide power to the entire hospital. “There is no issue of power outages as the JPMC is exempted from routine load-shedding,” confirmed the JPMC joint executive director Dr Seemin Jamali.
A problem occurs when there is an incident of a power breakdown, she said, adding the hospital can manage such crises easily as they have enough backup. The JPMC faces water shortage due to load-shedding in other areas, she said. “That is a major issue for us now.”
Even Civil hospital is exempted, which is why some people try to use their direct lines, which are given to them by K-Electric, said an official at the hospital on the condition of anonymity. “Action is being taken against those who use the hospital’s electricity through kundas.”
The official added that their power generators are strong enough to supply power to nearby areas. “Not a single surgery is affected due to a power breakdown in the city,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2014.