A few hours after the first monsoon rain hit Sindh, the entire province was plunged into darkness. Four out of six divisions in Sindh were without electricity for as many as 20 hours and more as the authorities blamed the crisis on ‘natural’ faults.
To make matters worse, one-fifth of Karachi again experienced a blackout on July 26. In fact, an official of Jamshoro grid station claimed his worker saw lightning strike a transformer on July 25, which then caught fire and caused the massive breakdown. When our utility officials follow the same formula as our government officials, which is blaming their faults on reasons beyond their control, they are shrugging off responsibility. No one accepts that the fault could have been prevented to begin with and, therefore, the next time rains come to Sindh, its residents should prepare for another such tragedy. If the authorities are concerned about fixing the electricity problem, then there is a need to conduct an impartial inquiry into the faults that developed on Friday and make sure competent engineers are hired to deal with them. Once the fault is properly fixed, the electricity utility engineers must work towards establishing a backup that can be used whenever such breakdowns occur.
The shortcomings of the privatised electricity utility Karachi Electric (K-E), were also blatantly exposed during the blackout. The company blamed the shortage in the supply from the national grid in Jamshoro for the prolonged outages but the breakdown in Hub also made the situation worse. The utility can use its effective public relations team to issue public apologies, but the truth remains that a mere drizzle in the city rendered K-E helpless. This means that there is an urgent need for the company to maintain its infrastructure, invest some money into reviving grid stations and make sure there is ample power supply available for the coming monsoon season. K-E needs to learn a lesson from this episode, otherwise, the people of Karachi must brace themselves for outages lasting days if more rain makes it way to the city.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2014.
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