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Pakistan war on power deficit

world Updated: Apr 22, 2010 23:44 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad

Shopping centres and bazaars will be shut by 8 pm and wedding halls will have three hours to host events, according to a new set of regulations imposed by the Pakistan government, which is battling its worse power crisis ever.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced measures to cut electricity consumption by half so that power outages can also be reduced in the country.

Measures include turning off lights and air-conditioners in government offices — to reduce a daily shortfall of 4,500-5,000 megawatts (MW) and encourage energy conservation in the private sector. Government employees will also get one additional day off.

The main reason for the shortage is that past governments “failure” to anticipate growth in demand and delay in implementing power and dam projects that would have boosted output.

“We inherited this problem,” Gilani told a news conference. “I assure you that the government will not leave a single stone unturned to sort it out.” The government has been under consistent attack over the power outages. Effigies of the President and PM have been burnt in different protests all over the country.

Pakistan has the capacity to generate about 14,500 MW from the current resources. But it is producing only about 10,000 MW of the required 16,000 MW.

A lack of investment in existing plants, outdated grids and rampant electricity theft mean that some grid companies experience line losses of 30-40 per cent.

Lengthy power outages can last upto 12 hours which have triggered what the Pakistani media terms “power riots” with people pouring out into the streets and venting their anger on cars, buildings and passers by.

The recommendations come out of a three-day energy summit and will take effect over the next few days.

Moments after the plan was announced, the Karachi Traders Action Committee announced its opposition to some measures.

“We will not abide by the government’s decision to close markets by 8 pm and will work our regular shift of 11 am to 10 pm,” said Siddique Memon, the committee”s chairman. He said the group would challenge the measure in the courts.

The energy plan also involves diverting power from Karachi. The MQM party, a member of the ruling coalition, says that it is a conspiracy to keep the city in the dark.