KARACHI, June 5: The ever-deepening power crisis in the city forced enraged citizens on Tuesday to take to the streets, block a portion of Shahrah-i-Pakistan between Liaqatabad and Teen Hatti and stage protest demonstrations in Lyari and Gulbahar.

The Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) faced an estimated 400 megawatt (MW) shortage caused by declining generation power that was compounded on Tuesday by a technical fault in the Mauripur grid station. Due to the unspecified technical fault, the station remained off-line from 10am to 4pm, which left large swathes of Lyari, Mauripur and Baldia without electricity.

Meanwhile, the Bin Qasim Thermal Power Plant also suffered a breakdown early Monday morning and resumed operation some 24 hours later.

Residents of the affected areas set up road blocks and shouted slogans against the KESC, city and provincial governments. They also accused Federal Minister for Water and Power Liaquat Jatoi of doing nothing to solve Karachi’s power problems, and demanded his resignation.

Karachi’s electricity problems have worsened lately because the Bin Qasim Thermal Power Plant, one of the KESC’s largest generators, remains in dire straits despite costly recent renovations. Designed to generate 210MW, Unit-5 of the Bin Qasim Power Plant broke down and remained closed for over three months, during which efforts were made to boost the dwindling generation capacity. The unit became operational in April but has broken down many times since then.

KESC officials said that the recent prolonged power outages were caused when Unit-5 of the Bin Qasim power station broke down, reportedly because of a leaking tube in its broiler. The closure increased the gap between electricity supply and demand from 250MW to 400MW. Consequently, many areas suffered about six hours of load-shedding at a stretch, three times in 24 hours.

However, residents of some of the affected areas complained of three- to four-hour-long breakdowns that took place every 15 minutes. In other areas, including Defence Phase II, the power supply remained suspended for several hours in at least three spells during 24 hours.

The Lines area, on the other hand, was reportedly lucky enough to get away with about three hours of load-shedding during the past 24 hours.

Many irate residents called newspaper offices to find out what lay behind the prolonged breakdowns and complained that nobody seemed to be monitoring the KESC complaints centres.

Residents of Karachi have been angered by the lack of improvement in the KESC’s services, particularly since its privatisation. And there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel despite the recently announced loan granted by the Asian Development Bank, aimed to improve the power company’s power generation, transmission and distribution networks.

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