Protests against power outages turn violent

Published June 20, 2015
Residents of North Nazimabad area burn tyres and furniture on the road during a demonstration against power breakdown and prolonged loadshedding.—Online
Residents of North Nazimabad area burn tyres and furniture on the road during a demonstration against power breakdown and prolonged loadshedding.—Online

ISLAMABAD: As most parts of the country sizzled with temperatures hitting record high in some areas, violence erupted in cities and towns on Friday with people in large numbers taking to the streets in protest against frequent power breakdowns.

They were particularly complaining against prolonged loadshedding during Iftar, Taraveeh and Sehr hours despite government statements about ensuring uninterrupted power supply during the important Ramazan hours.

The government blamed a sudden surge in demand for the power breakdowns on the first day of Ramazan and appealed to people to reduce consumption.

Reports from several parts of the country, including Islamabad and adjoining areas, Lahore, Karachi, Multan and Faisalabad, suggested that power supply tormented people even during Sehr and Iftar on Friday.

Also read: Violent protests erupt in parts of KP over prolonged loadshedding

However, the government claimed, problems in most areas were sorted out by the staff of distribution companies at the grid station level. No major breakdown was reported from any area, but people in some localities reported frequent breaks in power supply because of damage caused to transformers and grid stations.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif “expressed resentment over the power outages during Sehr and Iftar”, said a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s House. He sought a report and directed the water and power ministry to immediately address the complaints.

Govt blames sudden surge in demand for breakdowns

The prime minister’s reaction was understandable given the fact that he had presided over a marathon four-hour session of the cabinet committee on energy on Thursday to review arrangements for a ‘loadshedding-free Sehr, Iftar and Taraveeh’ throughout Ramazan. He was informed that steps had been taken to solve the problem.

Later, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif and his deputy Abid Sher Ali announced that there would be uninterrupted supply of power to residential consumers and places of worship during Sehr, Iftar and Taraveeh and loadshedding would be slightly lower than usual.

Mr Asif said the supply to industries had been curtailed by eight hours to divert power to residential areas.

On Friday, the ministry said electricity consumption in the domestic sector had surged to a record high and the gap between demand and supply was 1,300MW on Thursday evening. The average generation stood at 15,500MW, peaking to 16,000MW, while consumption demand remained at around 17,000MW.

It said hydropower stations were on an average contributing 5,500MW which would go up to 6,000MW over the next few days depending on the stability of transmission system.

A power ministry spokesman said all avenues for optimal load management were being explored to ensure that there was no loadshedding during Iftar, Taraveeh and Sehr.

He said the pattern of high domestic consumption created a gap of around 1,300MW which might result in ‘short-term loadshedding’ in some areas because of necessary load management. He said a comprehensive plan had been chalked out to minimise the overall impact by distributing the load across the country.

The gap during Ramazan last year was around 2,000MW and a large number of areas had faced prolonged loadshedding during Iftar, Taraveeh and Sehr, the spokesman said.

Although the consumption this year has risen by 1,000MW, the increased generation and system improvements have reduced the gap to 1,300MW. He said the industry had reported sale of 500,000 air-conditioners this year.

The ministry appealed to people to minimise power consumption so that maximum areas could get uninterrupted supply.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2015

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