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September 25, 2010

Raza Haider’s motion led to probe into massive power breakdown


September 25, 2010

When an agonizing power crisis had hit Karachi, Hyderabad and other parts of Sindh on June 17 and 18 last year, MQM’s slain legislator Syed Raza Haider had moved a motion in the Sindh Assembly that was passed and referred to the Standing Committee on Irrigation and Power.
The PA body was supposed to submit its report within 15 days after probing the causes of power breakdown that could not be rectified by the KESC and the Hesco for over 18 hours but, unfortunately, the report could not be completed in the life of Raza Haider.
The preliminary report was presented in the assembly on October 8, 2009, by the standing committee chairman Arif Mustafa Jatoi but it was returned after certain objections were raised by PPP minister Murad Ali Shah.
Arif Jatoi told The News on Friday that they have now completed the report spread over 40 pages.
He said that the report not only touched upon the causes of the power crisis on the said dates but it also dwelt on several other issues closely linked to the power situation like perceived non-transparent privatization of the KESC, significant reduction in generation capacity of power plants in Sindh owing to various reasons (as installed capacity of the plants was sufficient to meet the demand of the province), lack of coordination among different entities concerned, transmission and distribution losses, tendency of running power plants on expensive furnace oil instead of much cheaper source of gas, and variation of power tariff between Lahore, Karachi and Hyderabad, etc.
He said that they also examined the government’s questionable policies of overcoming power crisis like rental power plants and proposed “alternatives”.
Arif Jatoi, who is considered as the most active member of the assembly, said that the members also recommended that financial records of the KESC should be examined as the power utility received over Rs 30 billion in subsidy during the year.
Jatoi, who is also a member of NPP

(National People’s Party), said that Hesco has been facing a host of problems including interference by influential people in village electrification since over 7,611 villages were provided power during last five years and almost all of them were too poor to pay, thus they resorted to Kunda system.
Other factors for Hesco’s poor performance related to its old and outdated distribution system.
The standing committee chairman said that after getting detailed information from the management of the said power utilities they have submitted short-term and long-term recommendations to overcome power crisis in the province.
He opined that their suggestions hold great relevance even for today when the KESC has increased daily load-shedding. Jatoi said that their recommendations also stood valid during recent rains when power supply was again disrupted, as it was a considered view of the standing committee that the main problem lies in transmission and distribution network and not generation.
Talking about the recommendations, Arif Jatoi said they have suggested that Hubco should be dedicated to supplying power to Karachi and the coastal districts of Sindh and both the KESC and Hubco should engage in direct PPA (power purchase agreement). Besides, other power plants in the province should be provided with required financial resources and administrative support to bring their output to their rated capacities.
The legislators were of the view that alternate “black-start” facility should be sourced by Hubco and KESC independent of the national grid so that there should be no delay in restarting plants in such future situations.
The MPAs noted with concern that the KESC’s complaint centres were not responsive to the consumers’ grievances, as there was a general perception of lack of follow-up to the complaints.
The PA body suggested that the Sindh government should acquire the remaining shares, if any, of the KESC owned by the federal government, which would enable the provincial government or the assembly to elect board members and improve the power utility’s oversight.
This oversight was considered imperative as the KESC plays critical role in the economic prosperity of the mega city.
As far as Hesco is concerned, Arif Jatoi said they have recommended that some MPAs should be included in the board of directors of Hesco to monitor its performance.
Since much of the power crisis was the result of transmission and distribution network of KESC and Hesco, the PA body suggested for refurbishing and upgrading the same.
It was disturbing to note that LESCO was charging Rs5.43 per unit for agriculture while HESCO was charging Rs 12.75 per unit in Sindh, Arif Jatoi said and added that this variation in tariff requires government’s attention.
He opined that Article 157 of the 1973 Constitution gives significant powers to the provinces pertaining to electricity matters but it appeared that Clause 45 of NEPRA Act-1997 was contrary to the Constitution, as it empowered the federal government to exclusively determine rates, charges and other terms and conditions for electricity service.
The PA body members included joint opposition leader Jam Madad Ali, Rana Abdul Sattar Rajput, Mohammed Shahryar, livestock minister Abid Jatoi, Ms Nuzhat Pathan, Dr Sikander Mandhro, Mohammed Nawaz Chandio, Imdad Ali Pitafi, Waseem Hussain, Mohammed Akram and former irrigation and power minister (ex-officio member) Murad Ali Shah.

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