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PATIENTS at the Sindh Government Hospital Liaquatabad’s dialysis ward suffer during the power breakdown on Saturday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
PATIENTS at the Sindh Government Hospital Liaquatabad’s dialysis ward suffer during the power breakdown on Saturday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Karachi suffered another major power breakdown on Saturday — the fourth such incident in recent weeks — due to what K-Electric claimed was “sudden tripping in transmission line of the national grid”.

The areas affected included Malir, Landhi, Korangi, blocks of Gulshan-i-Iqbal and Gulistan-i-Jauhar, North Karachi, Federal B. Area, Defence, Clifton and others.

The power disruption took place a little after 12pm and took more than two hours to restore.

Although the power utility called the fresh breakdown a “brief interruption”, there was no word from the regulatory body — the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) — on the fourth such incident in the country’s commercial capital in recent weeks.

“Power supply to the city has been restored to routine levels after a brief interruption following tripping in transmission line of the national grid,” said a KE statement. “The sudden disruption in supply to the city had a rollover effect on local circuits serving Karachi. Power was restored promptly by the national grid whereas KE’s plants landed safely in ‘island mode’ that helped catalyse the restoration process and most of the affected areas were restored swiftly.”

CM Murad Ali Shah takes notice of frequent power failures in the metropolis

It said that the power utility maintained close coordination with the authorities concerned during this time.

Saturday’s power failure came as a reminder of Oct 4 breakdown when Karachiites remained without electricity for hours and KE came up with an excuse blaming the breakdown on “adverse weather conditions resulting in abrupt disconnection of power supply”.

Following the Oct 4 breakdown, Federal Minister for Power Omar Ayub Khan had directed the authorities to investigate the matter in detail to see if any preventive maintenance was carried out by both the National Transmission & Despatch Company (NTDC) and KE to avoid such a situation.

However, there was no word since then on the fate of the “investigation” and impact of his directives to KE.

The power utility on the other hand claims to have massive investment to strengthen its infrastructure and ensure system stability and faster restoration.

“Continuous investments and upgrades in the system have resulted in greater network resilience and turnaround efficiency to ensure system stability and faster restoration,” said the KE statement. “The KE has invested over $2 billion since 2009 across the entire value chain whereas around $500 million was invested alone to expand and rehabilitate its transmission network. Moreover, a $450m Transmission Enhance­ment Project (TP-1000) is also under way to further enhance the transformation capacity and improve reliability of the power supply.”

The people of Karachi, however, have yet to taste the windfall of such a huge investment by KE as after suffering consistent poor service during summer, recent episodes suggest hardly any positive change in their experiences even during the approaching winter.

CM irked by frequent breakdowns

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Saturday took notice of the power breakdown in the city and asked the provincial energy minister to contact the KE management and restore power supply in Karachi.

“Such breakdowns increase problems for the people in the city as well as badly affect the economy and economic activity,” the chief minister said in a statement.

He also asked the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board to ensure uninterrupted water supply to all parts of the teeming metropolis as per schedule.

JI demands judicial commission

The situation has also pushed the political forces to question KE’s performance and demand authorities’ intervention.

“We demand a judicial commission to investigate all loot and plunder and poor performance of the KE,” city chief of the Jamaat-i-Islami Hafiz Naeemur Rehman told a press conference here at the Idara Noor-i-Haq. “A recent article in a foreign newspaper has exposed the nexus between KE and the ruling class of Pakistan which has only returned sufferings to people of Karachi. It has also proved our campaign against the power utility which we have been running for the last more than a year,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2018