KARACHI: Residents of Karachi and traders have been experiencing prolonged power cuts and unannounced loadshedding for the past few days in the prevailing hot and humid weather as well as facing the problem of overbilling by K-Electric, it emerged on Thursday.
However, the power utility linked the outages with a demand-and-supply gap and shortage of furnace oil.
Residents said that KE had either resorted to unannounced loadshedding or sent SMS alerts telling them that their area might experience power interruption and timings may vary.
They said if a person complained about the unannounced power cut, the KE replied that its “teams are working to restore the power supply” with estimated time of restoration.
They also criticised KE for ignoring their complaints of overbilling.
Complaints of unannounced loadshedding, overbilling by KE are on the rise
Loadshedding time extended up to 10 hours
Asif Ahmed, a consumer from Korangi Crossing, said that his area had been facing loadshedding for a total duration of 10 hours a day, instead of six hours daily a couple of days ago.
He said that tripping was also a very common reason behind prolonged outages in his neighbourhood and whenever anyone lodged a complaint with KE it appeared that rectifying the fault was not their priority.
Another resident, Salman Ahmed Khan, tweeted about prolonged power failures in many areas of Karachi and said that it had become a very serious issue for those Covid-19 patients who were self-isolating at home.
People asked KE to realise the gravity of the situation in view of rising Covid-19 cases as most people did not have backup power supply system at home.
Many consumers said that KE had been switching off power supply to their areas soon after midnight on the pretext of some technical fault.
They said that people with no UPS or generator had no option but to come out of their homes, which made them more vulnerable to the coronavirus threat.
Areas like Mawach Goth and Baldia Town have been experiencing loadshedding in the middle of the night for the past many days.
Some areas, which are not on the high-loss list of KE, are facing power failure of two hours each three times a day.
All city markets facing loadshedding
The general secretary of the All City Tajir Ittehad Association, Ahmed Shamsi, said all markets of Karachi were facing power problems at a time when traders were trying to recover their losses incurred in the two-month lockdown.
“Either power goes out for one hour each in morning or two to three hours in the evenings,” he said, adding that KE was recovering fuel charges of 2018 to 2020 despite prime minister’s announcement of a relief in electricity bills for traders.
The president of the Bohra Bazaar, Mochi Gali Traders Association, Mansoor Jack, said traders, who used to get Rs3,000-4,000 bill, were now receiving Rs7,000-8,000 bills, while those getting Rs6,000 bills earlier were now getting Rs9,000-10,000.
He said at a time when a number of markets in the Saddar area were already closed due to a smart lockdown loadshedding for two to three hours daily was beyond anyone’s understanding.
The president of the All Hyderi Bazaar Traders Welfare Association, Syed Mohammad Saeed, said unannounced loadshedding for two hours had been going on for the past three to four days and KE attributed it to maintenance problems or issue in supply from grid station.
He said inflated bills carrying recovery of fuel charges of previous years further affected the traders.
He said there was no uniformity in the PM’s relief package on power bills. “Surprisingly, some traders have been facilitated while others have been neglected,” he said.
Meanwhile, the KE had exempted industrial areas from loadshedding and there was no complaint from any industrial unit, except from the FB Association of Trade and Industry, in this regard.
FBATI chief Abdullah Abid expressed his anger over receiving inflated bills and loadshedding in the area in the name of maintenance work or removal of illegal connections (kundas) from the area.
He said the KE conducted kunda removal exercise last year with the help of the association.
A spokesperson for K-Electric said areas where theft of electricity was rampant experience higher incidences of faults, tripping and overloading.
“KE conducts drives against illegal connections, streetlight switches and illegal internet TV cables, which not only affects KE’s power infrastructure but also contribute to faults which pose a major safety hazard”, said the spokesperson.
About overbilling complaints, the KE official said that billing was done in accordance with regulatory guidelines and in line with the mechanism laid forth by the power regulator.
“Until Eid, KE provided uninterrupted power supply to all parts of Karachi including high-theft locations. This compounded by the legitimate increase in residential electricity consumption due to people staying at home and practicing social distancing has an impact on electricity billing which must be recognised.
“Over 70 per cent of Karachi, including industrial zones, is exempted from loadshedding. The ongoing fuel shortage is, however, leading to generation constraints. This has an impact on KE’s ability to meet the rising electricity demand on account of high temperatures. We are in contact with all relevant authorities for a swift resolution of this challenge,” he said.
“We are hopeful that the situation will improve soon as authorities have taken notice and are exploring the import of furnace oil in order to regularise fuel supplies,” he added.
Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2020