19-hour outages as funds delayed

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ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Water and Power conceded on Thursday that up to 19 hours of loadshedding was being carried out even in industrial cities like Faisalabad and blamed the finance ministry for the miseries of the people, saying it had not disbursed Rs22.5 billion approved by the caretaker prime minister to improve electricity generation.



“We can substantially minimise the sufferings of the people by bringing down loadshedding to eight hours if we are provided Rs22.5bn committed by the finance ministry on the directives of the prime minister,” Water and Power Minister Dr Musadik Malik said at a news conference.


He said the finance ministry had so far disbursed only Rs5bn that had gone to the Pakistan State Oil to retire its letters of credit, while it was finding excuses to delay more disbursements.


He said the decision for disbursement of Rs22.5bn had been approved on May 20 by Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso at a meeting attended by the ministers and secretaries for finance, petroleum and power. Dr Malik said he had repeatedly talked to the prime minister’s adviser on finance, finance secretary and principal secretary to the prime minister over the past two days. The water and power secretary also wrote letters to his counterpart in the finance ministry, but the amount was not released.


Water and Power Secretary Anwar Ahmad Khan said the prime minister had approved the additional amount to maintain power generation at about 12,000MW and contain loadshedding.


He said the power ministry had provided complete details about oil requirements at different power plants as sought by the finance adviser but the only feedback from the finance ministry was that they were working on the issue while keeping in view the overall fiscal space available, according to their interpretation.


Sources said the arguments between the two ministries had reached such a stage that both the minister and secretary for water and power had offered the finance ministry to take charge of the power sector. They said they would step aside if the finance ministry were to micromanage the power plants.


The power ministry was asked by the finance ministry to submit efficiency-wise merit order of power plants for which it could arrange fuel.


When asked about the possibility of his resignation, Dr Malik said he had talked about this and he would have resigned much earlier had he known that he would be made so helpless in mitigating the sufferings of the people in scorching heat, but it would be creating a scene if he took such an extreme decision when he had only a few days to go anyway.


He said he had no doubt that the new leadership would be able to overcome the power crisis within 24-30 months with the right policies. He said he had been invited to brief PML-N leaders and he was impressed with the refreshing ideas, commitment and drive they had to overcome the crisis.


Dr Malik said about 25 per cent of generation capacity was lying idle because of shortage of funds and fuel and another 25pc for technical reasons. For example, a major public sector plant could not be put to use because a minor fan of its cooling plant had been out of order for over two years and nobody had attempted to repair or replace it. This capacity could be brought into use very shortly without any major investment, he said.


He said the government would have to change the regulatory framework to encourage efficiency of the power plants instead of penalising good operators. He was of the opinion that the government could increase the generation capacity and reduce the cost of power production from Rs14 to Rs9 per unit in five years by converting the diesel-based plants to coal, increasing efficiency of the plants and using bagasse plants.


Dr Malik reports from distribution companies showed that the period of loadshedding in urban Islamabad was eight hours and in its rural areas 10-12 hours.


The 4-6 hours loadshedding in Quetta was the least, but its rural areas faced 18 hours of outages.


In Peshawar, loadshedding in urban and rural areas has increased to 12 and 18 hours, while the tribal areas were without power for 17 hours.


In urban Lahore, the period was 10 hours and in adjoining rural areas 16 hours. Faisalabad city remained without electric supply for 16-17 hours and its rural areas 18-19 hours. Gujranwala suffered 14 hours of loadshedding. The period in urban and rural Hyderabad was eight and 10 hours and Multan 14-15 hours.

Courtesy:  Dawn


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