Finance Minister Murad Ali Shah and Local Government Minister Agha Siraj Durrani on Friday vented their fury on the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) and the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) of Hyderabad for their “mismanagement” of affairs.
During a provincial assembly session, the two ministers also directed their ire towards the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) and the Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) for “inflicting suffering on citizens” by disconnecting power to the two water utilities.
“The provincial government will intervene in the matter and scrutinise the two water utilities’ funds,” said Shah.
He was responding to a point of order raised by Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) Syed Waseem on the water crisis in Hyderabad following Hesco’s disconnection of power supply to Wasa over non-payment of dues.
The minister said the KWSB and Wasa were extremely mismanaged and citizens were suffering due to negligence on the the part of the heads of these utilities. “They [the KWSB and Wasa] keep demanding a bailout package of two or three billion rupees even though both organisations are autonomous and supposed to generate funds for themselves.”
Shah said the government realised that citizens were in anguish, but mismanagement has been destroying the two water utilities for years. He pointed out that Hesco had recently demanded Rs25 billion in dues from the provincial government, but the matter was settled at Rs3.9 billion, which were paid.
The minister said Hesco had claimed dues for 25,000 government connections, out of which, 8,000 had nothing to do with the government. “Thus, the government saved Rs21 billion.”
Speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro observed that these organisations were holding people “hostage” so that the government could bail them out.
Local Government Minister Agha Siraj Durrani said the practice of the government providing subsidies to these utilities was “cancerous”. “These [subsidies] are temporary solutions and subsequently, the problems pile up.”
He also said the KESC and Hesco should be ashamed for subjecting citizens to suffering by disconnecting power for the sake of money.
“If the chief minister gives me permission, I can fix these power utilities,” said Durrani in an enraged tone, after which some legislators told the minister that the House was giving him permission to go ahead with the move.
The minister said due to some reasons, Wasa had delayed payment of dues to Hesco. He pointed out that Hesco was a federal institution, while many federal departments and organisations also owed dues to the KWSB.
Proposing that these dues should be adjusted, Durrani asserted that disconnecting power connections and making people suffer could be a move by these utilities to “destabilise” the government.
The MQM’s Khalid Ahmed said the water utilities have been declared “strategic partners” through an agreement between the government and the power companies, and their electricity supply could not be disconnected.
“When the Sindh High Court recently ordered the KESC not to disconnect power supply to the KWSB’s Dhabeji station, which provides drinking water to Karachi, the power utility resorted to loadshedding of up to 12 or 14 hours in revenge.”
Earlier, the MQM’s Waseem said Hesco had cut power supply to Wasa since Thursday afternoon, resulting in a water shortage in Hyderabad.
He recalled that in a recent meeting between the chief minister and the governor, it was agreed that Hesco’s dues would be paid in the first week of July but the power company still disconnected electricity supply to the water utility.
“Power dues are an issue between the institutions of Sindh and the federal government, but citizens, who pay their bills, are being made to suffer.”
The lawmaker noted that the Hesco chief had reportedly said that he would not restore Wasa’s power supply until the federal power minister ordered him to do so. “The citizens of Hyderabad are infuriated over the water shortage and protesting.”