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September 20, 2017

‘Good Electricity’ becomes a bone of contention in Chitral


September 20, 2017

CHITRAL: For the thousands of inhabitants of Chitral Town who live in its central parts the last month and a half has been exceptional for the quality of electricity they have been receiving.

This electricity comes from the 2 megawatts powerhouse set up by Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) with the assistance of European Union at Istore village in Golen in barely two years of work voltage has been at 220 watts for the first time in more than a decade and a half.

It’s been a source of great joy and eased life for thousands of inhabitants of the town who have access to it. Poor quality electricity that lacked the capacity to charge a mobile has been substituted by good quality electricity that for the first time is running fridges which were being used as cupboards in its absence. 

Electricity has made a big impact on the market where different machines are running for the first time. Abdullah, an ice-cream maker, said that his ice-cream maker was functioning for the first time. The motor vehicle repair shops have had their bills dropping drastically and hotels have full time electricity make a big difference in their revenues.

The biggest impact is at the three Chitral hospitals where blood banks are functional, and patients have running fans in the hospital rooms and doctors are carrying out operations under full lights. Government offices, schools and court rooms have electricity. 

The central parts of the town comprise of the villages of Arian, Sabzi Mandi, Dangarikan Deh, Moghalandeh, Thingshen, Jangbazar, Muldeh, Zargarandeh, Goldur, Rehankot, Shaliden, Chewodok, Chitral Bazaar, two hospitals, Koghuzi, Barghuzi, Kuju Bala, Kuju Payeen and Ragh and a large part of the poor people of the town reside in this part.

The electricity production is at 1.8 megawatts excluding line losses.

Sadly, while this good quality electricity flows into the town and meets its needs, this is not sufficient for the entire town which requires about 6 megawatts of electricity for its needs.

This is met partly by a hydroelectricity system set up at Singore in early seventies by Wapda which produces barely 400 kilowatts of electricity and is supposed to be supplemented by 3 megawatts of electricity from the national grid which unfortunately is of poor quality and barely gives 80 watts of electricity against 220 watts it’s supposed to provide.

This means that while one half of the town gets good electricity the other half has bad electricity.

Rotating the good electricity between the two parts of the town is hampered by technical challenges. The two megawatts power house at Golen operates is an isolated project mode transmission.

Electricity has to be generated and transmitted to Pakhtunkhwa Energy Development Organisation (PEDO) lines and supplied to Pesco grid station and then supplied through existing Pesco lines to the town.

As this electricity is not entering into national grid, therefore, the load carrying capacity of the powerhouse is incremental.

This means that 2 megawatts load cannot be put on at once; rather it is started from 200 kv and incrementally raised to the maximum of 2 megawatts. For this an exercise of delinking the entire transformer and then gradually re-linking those transformers one by one is mandatory required process. 

This process is considered burdensome by Pesco and Wapda staff especially because if electricity is spread to various parts of the town then the exercise of linking and delinking the transformers becomes tedious and long. The poor quality of the existing transmission lines leads to frequent tripping of the system making this process very repetitious.

This is one of the main reasons that Wapda has avoided rotating the electricity distribution within the town and restricted it to the centre of the town.

What is ironic about this entire process is that despite approval being awaited from NEPRA, the SRSP is out of a charitable impulse continuing to supply electricity to Pesco which gets it free.

Pesco supplies this at full cost to the consumers. This has helped the consumers, who are getting good quality electricity. It is also saving Pesco from criticism, which has been unable to supply its share of electricity on the national grid. The SRSP has still to get permission from NEPRA to supply the electricity to the town.

Despite this situation, the SRSP has supplied about 1.5 million units of electricity to the town which in monetary terms could come up to Rs20 million at Wapda rates. The role of local politicians has also come under criticism. The local nazims want to divert the electricity to their constituencies.

Ahmad Shah, a local social activist, criticised the local nazims for playing no role in making the system sustainable by pleading with government to get the necessary permission but instead putting pressure on organisations that were already doing their best for the town.

The district administration has become helpless in this scenario because the local government system and posting of local officer to their home districts has meant that these become nothing more than appendages of the politicians and fail to play their neutral role in the distribution of electricity.

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