The country’s main power regulatory body holds K-Electric responsible for around 1,300 deaths in Karachi that were caused by complications arising from a deadly heatwave in Sindh last month.
Contrary to its previous claim, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) has said the city’s power utility failed to promptly rectify technical faults and so the distribution network could not continue regular flow of transmission to the consumers.
Nepra’s claim emerged in a report submitted on Friday by the Senate Standing Committee on Water & Power to the upper house of parliament. The report was drawn up on the orders of Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani.
The panel also blasted KE for failing to prevent heat-related deaths in the port city. “We found multiple problems associated with KE,” the committee’s chairman Iqbal Zafar Jhagra told The Express Tribune.
“KE is responsible for providing electricity to its consumers and so stands answerable in such times of emergency,” reads the report.
The committee deplored “KE’s disengagement with public representatives, alienation and sacking of its experienced workers and its apathetic attitude towards its consumers’ complaints”.
The panel, which might visit Karachi to prepare a more in-depth report, also linked the recent heatwave to climate change. Its report said that power breakdowns, coupled with water shortage, had exacerbated the situation in the metropolitan city.
The senators expressed fear in the report that the tragedy might not stop with this one heatwave and that it might “instead become a more horrifying recurrent phenomenon”.
‘No power for days’
Nepra told the Senate panel that some parts of Karachi were without electricity for up to 96 hours at a stretch. The regulatory body said that under KE’s revised purchase agreement with the National Transmission & Despatch Company, the power company was to generate electricity from its own resources, but it still depended on the national grid to meet the demand.
The Nepra chief told the committee that despite the fact that KE was generating electricity at full capacity, it could not transmit the same to the consumers because of old and worn-out transmission lines.
Power faults occurred frequently, coupled with extreme temperatures, resulting in 255 mob attacks on KE offices.
The power company has, however, expressed resolve to upgrade its transmission system and possibly become capable of serving an additional gigawatt of electricity, which would be an increase of nearly 30 per cent of KE’s existing capability.
The Senate committee also blamed the country’s climate policies and strategies for causing confusion over federal and provincial jurisdictions as well as lack of coordination, which, in turn, worsened the Karachi tragedy.
The body also referred to the poor performance of the disaster management authorities and the meteorological department for failing to issue an advance warning of the blistering heatwave.
According to Jhagra, the Senate committee might recommend empowering the national regulators to take action against the power distributors. “We have yet to conclude this report, but, yes, we want to take it to its logical end.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2015.