Friday December 08, 2023

Power theft: a tale of two neighbouring districts

By Our Correspondent
September 23, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Two neighbouring districts of Pakistan, Bhakkar in Punjab and D I Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, show striking disparities in power theft and electricity cost recoveries, despite almost similar socioeconomic landscape.

These districts, situated in southern Pakistan, share the same demographics and with low literacy rates, high poverty indices and limited access to information technology. However, the contrast in their power cost recovery levels is stark.

Power Division Secretary Rashid Mahmood Langrial took to his official X account on Friday and released a detailed comparison.

He termed this, “Geography of theft: tale of two districts.” Further elaborating that they are neighbours just the mighty Indus in between. Equally poor, one slightly more urban [D I Khan], the other slightly more literate [Bhakkar]. Still power theft differentials are so huge as if they were located in two different continents.

“Bhakkar, situated in Punjab, has managed to significantly curb power theft and achieve commendable rates of electricity cost recovery. In contrast, D I Khan, located in the neighboring KP, struggles with rampant power theft and low electricity cost recovery rates.”

Without explaining the reasons, and power supply period, Langrial issued the comparison of both districts through pie charts. The comparison he made was that the D I Khan district with 0.186 million consumers was supplied with electricity of Rs16 billion, but the volume of recovery was only Rs6 billion (37.5 percent). The remaining Rs10 billion was lost due to predominantly power theft.

Whereas, in Bhakkar district, with a consumer volume of 0.29 million, electricity of Rs13 billion was transmitted, and the cost recovery was Rs12 billion (92.3 percent). Of the total cost, Rs1.0 billion of electricity was lost due to theft.

Regarding both the districts’ socioeconomic indicators, he wrote that the literacy rate in D I Khan was 38 percent while in Bhakkar it was a little more at 49 percent, and on the poverty index both districts have the same level. Similarly, laptop use in D I Khan was eight percent while in Bhakkar it reduced to six percent. Interestingly, urbanisation in D I Khan was higher at 22 percent than 16 percent in the Bhakkar district.

The secretary did not draw a conclusion as to why there is so much disparity between the two though having almost the same demographics. But experts say that governance and law enforcement mechanisms vary between the two provinces, leading to differing outcomes in power theft deterrence.