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KARACHI, Sept 24: The Karachi Electric Supply Company on Saturday increased the duration of unannounced power outages for domestic consumers to about 12 hours and for the industry to eight hours.

Residents of North Karachi, parts of North Nazimabad, Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Gulistan-i-Jauhar, Federal B Area and PECHS block II complained that they suffered at least five spells of power outages of two-hour duration each. Residents of Orangi, Keamari, Malir, Shah Faisal Colony and Korangi suffered even more hours of power outages.

A KESC spokesman, however, claimed that residential and commercial consumers would suffer a maximum of nine hours of loadshedding while the duration for industrial loadshedding would be eight hours.

He said as the gas supply was 160MMCFD (million cubic feet daily), the KESC's combined cycle power plant was still closed and the remaining gas turbines were on below optimal output due to a low gas supply.An SSGC spokesperson, however, claimed that the KESC needed a minimum of 130MMCFD to operate turbines, and maintained that the power utility was making unnecessary noises to deflect the focus from its own mishandling of the situation.

As the blame game continued between the KESC and the SSGC, the power utility became more emboldened due to lack of any expression of concern by the government on the appalling situation despite the presence of President Asif Ali Zardari in the metropolis.

The crisis could be averted and the SSGC could be better off financially and operationally by implementing the June 30 cabinet decision on a gas load management plan, said the spokesman reiterating the KESC's offer to pay double the money for every molecule of gas above 200MMCFD.

Contradicting the SSGC claim of an outstanding amount, the KESC said since the meeting at the Governor's House on July 29 the power utility had paid about Rs15 billion to the SSGC and PSO combined, including Rs3.2bn towards arrears.

Meanwhile, the SITE Association of Industry has criticised the eight hours of loadshedding in two spells daily in industrial areas.

Abdul Wahab Lakhani, chairman of the SITE Association of Industry, said he did not understand the reason for loadshedding as gas supply from two gas fields had tripped on Friday but there was no total halt of gas supply. He said as per the understanding with the KESC, in emergency cases they were obliged to supply uninterrupted power by using alternative fuel.

He said that since industries were in the last quarter of the calendar year, factories were busy meeting their export targets before the international markets went on Christmas and New Year vacation, and it was feared that Pakistan's market would lose if they did not meet their commitments.

The Federal B Area Association of Trade and Industry, in a statement, slammed the KESC decision of eight hour industrial loadshedding and termed it a move to cripple Pakistan's industrial hub. It alleged that the KESC management was serving interests of foreign agents.