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Daylight saving: Are we really saving anything?

April 26, 2009

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Pakistan's problems are more complicated and cannot be resolved merely by playing around with the hands of a clock.

 

The daylight saving time was introduced in Pakistan last year when clocks were advanced by an hour for five month starting from June. The government claimed that it was able to save 250MW daily, although Wapda had reportedly set a target of saving 500MW to 700MW of electricity daily at the time of introducing DST.


The officials of Pepco, Wapda, had suggested that daylight saving time had a lot of benefits for the economy, but could optimally be achieved only when the clock was advanced for six months from April to October. Their argument essentially implied that energy could be saved by working early morning in the summer to make full use of daylight at the workplace when the temperature is relatively comfortable, thus to avoid using extra lights, air conditioners and other appliances in the evenings. However, it was uncertain that advancing the clock or shifting the business hours will result in significant energy saving.


On the other hand, daylight saving time also appears to compromise the process of sleep by decreasing both sleep duration and sleep efficiency during summer nights as they are already short and it is impossible to get rest in the sizzling heat during the day for those returning homes early, except the ones who have the luxury of an air conditioner.


Besides, most city dwellers do not compromise on their bedtimes and stay awake till late nights, so a good amount of energy is consumed for illumination and using different electronic gadgets. In addition, the carelessness of our public remains a main cause for high consumption of electricity because majority of people lack the habit of switching off electric appliances, both in offices and homes, especially those appliances that are not being used.


Furthermore, these days, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad have entered the age of large departmental stores and malls, where bright dazzling lights continue to glow throughout the day. These large stores and malls also have centralised air conditioning systems where electricity is being consumed regardless of daylight saving timings. Even the relatively smaller retail stores are no exceptions.


Despite several orders by government to close commercial centres and shops after 7pm, there were no changes in the attitude of both the shopkeepers and shoppers, so the stores remained opened until 11pm or even 12pm. The stance of the business community was well justified, keeping in view the fact that people will never come out in the sizzling daytime hours to shop.


In Pakistan, the sunrise in summer and winter varies by around two hours, however, the geographic variation remains constant throughout the year, the desired objective of daylight saving time can be fulfilled more efficiently if, instead of advancing the time, we adjust the office/business activity according to the season of the year which was practiced to some extent in our country before introduction of daylight saving time. In either case, people would indeed be required to make some sort of adjustments to get adapted to the new scheme of things. The latter option offers more flexibility and is thus better.


The uniformity in timings of different businesses is not necessary and different working hours can be adopted in different parts of the country, depending on the location, season of the year and the nature of the activity.


Therefore, during summers, government offices may start at 730am in Lahore and in Islamabad, and then they could begin at 8am in Karachi and 830am in Quetta. Similarly, the time synchronised in winter will help in utilising solar light instead of electric/gas heater to keep working areas warm. Since the same time would be applicable across the country, various airlines, the railways and other agencies which often work 24 hours a day will operate with synchronised timings and could continue their business as usual. The prayers calendar will also remain the same.


Daylight saving time has caused confusion as many people are illiterate and not yet trained to look at things in a scientific manner. Many parents had a hard time adjusting their working hours to their children's new school time.


Pakistan's problems are more complicated, and cannot be resolved merely by playing around with the hands of a clock. The efficient use of electricity also requires that its price covers the average cost of production. Continuous information and education through print and electronic media is also necessary for the development of an energy efficient society. In addition to this, the government should launch a campaign to make people aware of seasonal adjustments in their lifestyle. Let us hope this year we will adjust better to daylight saving.