KARACHI, May 27: As people suffered extensive power loadshedding across the city on a second consecutive day, the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) and the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) finally reached an agreement during a meeting between their high-ups on Monday evening in order to revert to the previous loadshedding schedule.

The basic conflict between both the utilities was over the payment of dues. According to the SSGC, the KESC owes it Rs47 billion but the power utility says it is actually Rs27 billion and the remaining Rs20 billion was basically interest.

“Meanwhile, the government owes the KESC Rs78 billion in the form of outstanding dues from the water board, tariff differentials, etc., which is not being paid to us. Then how are we supposed to pay what we owe to others?” reasoned Syed Ahmed Faraz, a spokesman for the KESC, while speaking to Dawn.

He said: “The SSGC curtailment of gas supply to the KESC also goes against the order of the Sindh High Court. The SSGC is directed by the court to supply 276MMCFD [million cubic feet a day] gas to the KESC until we keep paying them the current bills while not looking at what we owe them. The Economic Coordination Committee, too, told the SSGC to make Gas Supply Agreement with us like we already have a Fuel Supply Agreement with Pakistan State Oil. We have tried for this and are looking forward to an agreement where we pay for the 276MMCFD we get. But the SSGC is willing to do the agreement provided the quantity of gas is not mentioned in it. That’s what has got this issue pending.

“Last year the SSGC was providing us 221MMCFD, but it is 120MMCFD now. The peak summer demand for electricity is 2,650 megawatts and to fulfil that demand we need to fire up our gas power plants. The KESC has over the past 18 months paid Rs42 billion to the SSGC and got Rs41 billion worth in return. So as far as paying for our current supply goes, we are doing that,” he explained.

However, he said, after the two days of curtailed gas supply to the KESC, Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan intervened calling both sides for talks. He said, “I’m glad to report that the talks went well.

“According to the agreement with the SSGC, they will now give us 220MMCFD gas. And on this happening, the KESC will return to its old loadshedding schedule of three days ago. The exempted areas where there is no loss theft of electricity will get an uninterrupted supply like the industrial zones while the high loss areas will experience the regular six- to seven-hour loadshedding.”

According to SSGC spokesman Inayatullah Ismail, the gas utility would be supplying 220MMCFD gas provided the KESC paid them their current bills along with 30 per cent of the arrears owed to the gas utility.

“The modalities like late payment surcharge, and payment of arrears are still to be decided but most things have been settled for now,” he explained.

Meanwhile, the governor suggested to the power utility to exempt all industrial areas from loadshedding and not carry out loadshedding in residential areas after midnight. The prolonged loadshedding in Karachi going up to 14 hours in some areas of the city had brought normal day-to-day living to a standstill.

Ms Qureshi, a resident of Gulistan-i-Jauhar, Block 16 complained that they didn’t have power from 6am to 8pm. “Even when power was restored for a little while, the voltage was so low that we couldn’t turn anything on,” she said.

Another resident in Block-6 of PECHS, Mr Mahmood said that their place was without electricity from 9.30am to 5pm. “When we called the KESC to complain, we were informed that there was some maintenance work under way at the Kawish Crown Plaza grid station. Though power was eventually restored at 5pm we were left without the power supply again at 7pm,” he said.

“We didn’t have power first from 8am to 10am and after it was restored at 10am, it was gone again at 10.02am to return at 2pm. I think living in the Stone Age or Dark Ages would have been easier because then at least we would not have known electricity to feel its absence,” said K. Khan, who lives in Gulshan-i-Iqbal Block 3.

“We didn’t have power for a continuous six to eight hours,” said Mr Farooqi, a resident of Gulshan Block 10-A. “And we only got respite for a couple of hours before power went out again,” he added.

In the absence of electricity at many examination centres, students took their final exams in hot and dark classrooms. However, patients were worst sufferers as even major hospitals such as the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), too, experienced prolonged outages. A spokesman for the JPMC said they were without power supply for too long on Monday. “This being a hospital, we don’t experience as many outages as the rest of the city but after having complained about no power at the hospital and being given a complaint number, too, we called again after two-and-a-half hours to learn that they had forgotten about us and expressed surprise that we had been without power for so long.

“We have generators but they are for the operating theatres, ICU and labour rooms. It is not possible to run the entire hospital on them.”

Fishermen going out to sea to catch fish also complained that they didn’t have enough ice to keep their catch fresh. “Because of the severe loadshedding the ice factories couldn’t freeze enough ice to fulfill the fishermen’s demand. The bigger boats usually take around 200 slabs of ice with them out to sea. That way even if it melts they still have enough ice to keep their catch fresh but they hardly got 50kg each over the past couple of days and most of the fish they caught, rotted away,” said Karachi Fisheries Harbour Authority spokesman Sagheer Ahmed.