Anger boils over at prolonged outages

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  • SSGCL accuses KE of not paying Rs80 billion

  • KE claims sub-judice matters made as excuse for not providing required pressure

  • Sindh CM writes letter to PM to adress the issue

KARACHI: The residents of Karachi on Saturday took to the streets against the unscheduled and unannounced power outages in various areas of the metropolis, including Liaqatabad, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, New Karachi, C-1 area, Keamari, Orangi Town, Korangi, Nazimabad, Safoora Goth, Scheme 33 and University Road, prompting Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to write a letter to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to take notice of the issue.

Mass protests in these areas resulted in a blockade of roads in the city, disrupting the flow of traffic in the affected areas. The protesters chanted slogans against load shedding and demanded the government to resolve the issue on urgent basis.

The crisis is said to have resulted due to the low pressure of gas provided by the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) to the Karachi Electric (KE) – the primary electricity provider in the city. However, the SSGCL has alleged KE of not clearing outstanding dues worth Rs80 billion owed by them in arrears against the purchase of gas over the past five years.

The SSGCL maintained that despite KE’s failure to make the payments, it continued to provide KE with gas with good quantum “in the best interests of people of Karachi” over the course of past five years.

It also claimed that according to their Gas Supply Agreement (GAS) with KE, it is only bound to provide 10mmfcd (unit for the pressure of gas) to run its 500 MW gas-run power plant, and not more than that.

Bringing the rift online with a hashtag ‘#standupforKHI’, the SSGC said, “SSGCL has a list of satisfied customers who honour their agreements. KE needs a lot of catching up to do on this front.”

In a quick response to the accusatory statements levelled by SSGCL, KE responded with a counter-hashtag ‘#RealGasStory’ online in an attempt to rebut the claims made the gas-supplying company.

Although KE conceded to the fact that it is receiving 90mmcfd at the moment, it claimed a gradual decrease by SSGCL in the pressure of gas from 163mmcfd and 193mmcfd in the year 2017 and 2016 respectively.

Moreover, KE disputed the SSGC claims of not being paid a hefty amount of Rs80 billion. It said that the amount that is due to be paid to SSGCL is only Rs13.7 billion and the rest of the amount imposed on KE comes under the head of late payment surcharges and mark-ups, a matter that is sub judice to the court. It further said that KE has been consistent in making payments to SSGC for the past 5 years.

It accused SSGCL of bringing the sub judice matters and making them an excuse to cause inconvenience and disturbance to the people of Karachi when at a time when the city is expected to face a worse heat wave.

SINDH CM WRITES TO PM:

Responding to this crisis, the Chief Minister of Sindh Murad Ali Shah wrote a letter to the prime minister drawing his attention towards the matter.

He urged the PM to look into the issue while lamenting the reduced gas pressure provided by SSGC which he said is insufficient to cater to the needs of the KE to run its 500 MW gas-run power plant.

While citing to a similar situation that occurred in May 2017, the CM said in his letter that SSGC should be directed to sign the GSA as per the Economic Coordination Committee’s (ECC) National Gas Allocation Policy which proposed SSGC to allocate 276mmcfd for KE.

The CM further demanded from the PM to form a committee comprising representatives of federal government, the provincial government, SSGCL and KE to resolve the matter as soon as possible so the people of Karachi can be saved from this pain and agony.

Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) President Muffasar Atta Malik also expressed his deep concerns over the load shedding faced by the industrial zones of the city and urged the lawmakers in Islamabad and Sindh to take notice of the situation by strictly directing the Utility Service Provider to supply uninterrupted electricity to all industrial units across Karachi.

Federal Minister for Power Awais Leghari while taking notice of the stand-off between SSGCL and KE, urged both the stakeholders to resolve the issue in the best interests of people of Karachi.