ISLAMABAD: The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) on Friday formally held K-Electric responsible for 19 of the 35 deaths from electrocution in Karachi after the two spells of showers in July and August, and started legal proceedings against the power utility.
K-Electric, however, said many of the unfortunate incidents occurred inside homes due to faulty wiring, illegal connections and the unwarranted placement of cable TV and internet cables on electricity poles, encroachment and water logging around power installations.
“According to the investigation committee report, KE has been held responsible for 19 out of 35 electrocution cases and breakdown of power supply for longer duration,” said a Nepra statement, adding that a show-cause “notice has been issued to KE” on these charges.
The investigation committee, which had been constituted by Nepra last month under Section 27-A of Nepra Act 1997, submitted its report after detailed field visits and examination of power installations where fatalities had been reported.
The regulator said its team investigated loss of human lives due to electric shocks and suspension of power supply for prolonged duration during heavy rains in Karachi on July 29-31 and August 10-12. “The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority has decided to initiate legal proceedings against K-Electric under relevant provisions of Nepra Act, 1997,” the regulator said.
K-Electric blames urban flooding due to rain and encroachment around power installations
Nepra spokesperson Sajjad Akram said the probe team found the KE violating Section 4(g) of Performance Standards and Distribution Rules 2005 that deals with leakage of current and Section 7(3)b under which the utility failed to submit an immediate report to the regulator. Besides, he said, the company was also found in violation of distribution code. He explained that the leakage of current from LT poles indicated that they were not properly earthed.
The probe committee noted that 18 incidents involving 19 fatalities were reported following the July 29-31 rains and the K-Electric was held responsible for 12 of those deaths. The incidents included that of the two young boys widely circulated on social media.
During the second spell from Aug 10 to 12, a total of 13 incidents were reported involving 16 deaths and KE was held responsible for seven fatalities. Nine other persons lost their lives inside their homes or for reasons other than KE. As such, a total of 31 incidents were reported involving 35 deaths, 19 of them due to KE’s negligence, according to the investigation committee.
The company will submit its para-wise response to the show cause notice. If the response is found to be unsatisfactory, Nepra is required under the rules to impose a fine ranging between Rs10 million and Rs200m, which would increase at the rate of Rs100,000 per day in case of non-payment. Given the enormity of the loss of lives, there is a likelihood of a maximum penalty besides the compensation to the families of the affected persons.
K-Electric said it was a responsible, law-abiding organisation and will submit its response to the authority in stipulated time. The KE was deeply saddened by the tragic incidents, which occurred during the recent torrential rains and sympathised with the affected families. It is, however, important to mention that many of these unfortunate incidents occurred inside homes due to faulty wiring, unsafe use of electrical appliances or because of kundas and the unwarranted placement of cable TV and Internet cables on electricity poles, a fact which is substantiated by Nepra’s initial findings.
However, it said, the KE would undertake required remedial measures in light of Nepra’s investigation results though the power utility regularly conducts exercise to identify opportunities for infrastructure improvement and to strengthen both reliability and safety of power supply.
But the power utility continues to highlight that external challenges such as standing water, encroachments around electricity infrastructure, and theft of grounding wires, not only damage KE’s infrastructure but also jeopardise the integrity of the electricity system and bypass laid down electrical safety mechanisms, thus, creating public safety hazards. All these external factors, which come under the purview of different civic bodies in Karachi, have a significant effect on the power utility’s ability to ensure provision of safe and reliable electricity to its customers.
The power utility is committed to safety and as per Nepra’s last State of Industry Report issued for 2018, KE has the third lowest number of incidents. During the recent rains, however, several parts of the city were submerged creating an urban flooding situation and power supply to some of these areas was suspended on the request of district administration in the interest of public safety as water logging around power installations in low-lying areas not only damages utility infrastructure but it also hampers restoration efforts and causes fatal accidents.
The KE has repeatedly requested all stakeholders and civic administration to recognise their due role in providing an enabling environment for the power utility to operate by enforcing basic urban development protocols in a planned manner across the city.
Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2019