ISLAMABAD: The water and power crisis aggravated on Wednesday with the power shortage hitting the highest ever mark of 6,800MW and the water situation moving towards the drought-like conditions of 2004.
According to sources, the electricity shortfall peaked as authorities running the power companies struggled to cope with financial constraints and appeared to be unable to pay for even half of the oil need to run their plants.
Pakistan State Oil (PSO), the primary supplier of furnace oil to power plants both in the public and private sectors, has expressed its inability to provide the needed fuel supplies without guarantee of full payments.
Officials said Pepco had been told not to expect 35,000 tons of fuel when it paid for only 15,000 tons a day because the supplier could not take the power sector’s responsibilities.
Gas companies have also shown reluctance to provide natural gas to power plants on credit when there are a lot of customers ready to pay even in advance for the supplies as shortages increase.
The sources said the water and power authorities had clearly told the federal government that the current power shortage was a man-made issue which could be resolved if full funding was ensured either on behalf of provincial governments or through equity injections. They said the power companies were capable of increasing generation to about 17,000MW a day, reducing average loadshedding to one hour a day, provided their cash flows were improved.
“Nobody is serious about resolving the energy crisis,” an official said, adding that the prime minister had been requested in March to convene an ‘energy summit’ in the first week of April but the conference was postponed five times and was yet to be held, even though the country experienced the worst loadshedding.
He said power shortage had touched 6,200MW a couple of months ago but it never exceeded 6,500MW in the past.
As a result, the average loadshedding increased to almost 14 hours a day -- better only than the time a few years ago when cascading trippings left most parts of the country without power.
As if power woes were not enough, the officials said the water situation was fast developing towards an extreme shortage like the one the country faced in 2004.
They said temperatures in Skardu and other northern parts had increased over the past days, but were forecast to fall again over the next days because of expected rainfall.
Lower temperatures continuing for more than three days will lead to a critical situation; water shares of the provinces will have to be cut by early next week and Mangla Dam will have to be depleted to meet irrigation needs.
Officials said the total inflows at Tarbela on Wednesday were recorded at 140,000 cusecs against outflows of 150,000 as its water storage dropped to a critical 1.48MAF, about 1MAF less than last year. The situation at Mangla was also worrying, the sources said, adding that about 25,000 cusecs should normally be stored every day in these days but only 6,000-7,000 cusecs were being stored at present.