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Dark way of ending rural-urban divide

June 18, 2012

RAWALPINDI, June 17:  Westridge is a posh locality in the heart of this garrison city but the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco) has classified it as a ‘rural area’ with a dark purpose in mind.  

The deliberate ‘misclassification’ helps Iesco to subject the locality and its surroundings to 18-hour loadshedding applied to rural areas.

A senior Iesco engineer confirmed to Dawn on Thursday that the KTM grid station on Peshawar Road, which supplies electricity to Westridge, was located in urban area. Still for the purposes of blackouts, the company considered it convenient to designate Westridge, along with almost half of the garrison area, as rural.

The situation was not the same a year back when the vast urban area now mapped by Iesco as ‘rural’ was connected with Pirwadhai grid station, and the loadshedding was not so severe.

According to him, the KTM grid station is providing 100 per cent electricity to the residential and commercial areas of the cantonment. The affected areas are Westridge, Peshawar Road lanes, Racecourse Road, Valley Road, Range Road, Nisar Road, Zakria Road, Misriyal Road, Qasim Market, Afshan Colony, Parade Lane and scores of other small residential localities.

The power supply to Tarnol, which now forms part of the federal capital territory, has also been affected.  Two rural-based feeders have already been shifted to I-14 grid station from Tarnol.

The Iesco engineer stated that the worst loadshedding being experienced in cantonment areas was not the same as in other parts of the city. Other city areas have less loadshedding compared to the almost half of the cantonment area.

When contacted, Iesco director (operations) Farmanullah said loadshedding measures were being taken as a result of shortfall in electricity generation.  He described the 18-hour-long loadshedding from KTM grid station as low.  He declined to respond to the question regarding treating the cantonment as rural areas and switched off his mobile phone before the question about unscheduled loadshedding could be asked.

A recent USAID sponsored report spoke of bad governance in Iesco. The worst example of its bad governance is non-compliance to prime minister’s instructions to halt unscheduled loadshedding and make equal distribution of outages for all regions.

The Iesco official further revealed that the allocated electricity for cantonment area had been adjusted for energising the city while the electricity quota for the city had been moved forward to Chaklala schemes, Gulistan Colony, Gangal, airport housing society and other newly-developed housing societies.

“The power supply has become totally unreliable. No cold drinks are available, ice cream stuff is melted, as a result, our business is suffering,” said Liaquat, the owner of a general store in Westridge bazaar. Medical stores fear damage to life-saving drugs stored in refrigerators.

For the first time, PTCL landlines have stopped functioning due to severe loadshedding.  With dead phone lines, internet services have also been affected. A subdivisional officer of Westridge telephone exchange said the exchange was functioning on generator and its running cost had been multiplied.