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Power cuts belie official claims

Updated June 21, 2015


RANGE and extent of heatwave in the country on Saturday.
RANGE and extent of heatwave in the country on Saturday.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been told that a let-up in electricity loadshedding was possible only if the demand decreases while Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif claimed on Saturday that “forced loadshedding” had been brought under control.

During a briefing at the PM House on Saturday, the minister said that the electricity supply situation had improved by “around 93 per cent” in urban areas and “86pc” in rural areas. He also came up with a claim about “uninterrupted” power supply during Iftar, Taraveeh and Sehri.

But belying his words, many areas of the country plunged into darkness again hours after he made these claims. The power failure set off demonstrations in a number of cities and towns, with furious protesters ransacking the offices of the electricity utility in several places.

This was the second time in three days that the ministry of water and power had to face embarrassment as a massive blackout had crippled life in many parts of the country on the first day of Ramazan, too.

The prime minister expr­essed his resentment over the power outages at Sehri and Iftar times in a statement issued by the PM House on Friday night. On Saturday morning, the PM summoned Water and Power Secretary Younus Dagha for a briefing on the power failure.

The PM was told that the situation could only be brought under control if the demand came down. He was also told that there had been an unprecedented surge in the demand for electricity on the first day of Ramazan, necessitating a certain amount of “forced loadshedding”.

The ministry told Mr Sharif that there were difficulties in areas served by the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) and the Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco).

Prime minister told loadshedding can decrease only if demand falls

However, complaints of prolonged loadshedding came in from different parts of the country, including Islamabad, where residents faced power outages during Sehri and Iftar on Saturday too.

Sources in the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) told Dawn that demand had surged as the mercury hovered around the 40 degree Celsius-mark in most major urban areas of the country.

The official said the country had been in the grip of a heat wave over the past three days, raising the demand for power manifold.

“Electricity generation stood at around 14,700MW on Friday morning and rose to 15,980MW by early afternoon,” the official said. However, by Saturday the demand had surged past 21,000MW.

On the other hand, Khawaja Asif said in a statement that “due to continuous and vigorous monitoring and load management, the Ministry of Water and Power has been able to control forced loadshedding in the country since Iftar on Friday”.

FACE_SAVING RAIN: Possibly encouraged by a Met Office report that forecast rains for Saturday evening, Mr Asif said all-out efforts were being made to improve the situation.

“Gradually, the situation is returning to normal. There has been no loadshedding during Iftar, Taraveeh and Sehrii,” the minister said.

As anticipated, the power demand dropped after rains in several parts of the country in the night

However, the unscheduled outages took their toll on the Pakistan Meteorological Depart­ment’s offices, where sensitive equipment was damaged, affecting the organisation’s ability to access satellite imagery.

But repairs were quickly made and the system was made functional late in the night.

Talking about the power supply situation in Karachi, the minister said it was the responsibility of K-Electric and that the ministry was supplying 650MW to Karachi despite all the difficulties it had to face.

He also said that the agreement between the centre and K-Electric had expired and no new arrangement had been made so far.

Even though a federal complaint cell has been established for the rectification of technical faults and is supposed to operate round the clock, Dawn was unable to reach the telephone numbers.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2015

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