Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Load-shedding in Balochistan

By Shezad Baloch

February 4, 2015

Nine members of an extended family suffocated to death last week after inhaling carbon monoxide fumes from an electricity generator in the Pishin district of Balochistan. These and other deaths show how severe the province’s energy woes are. In the absence of electricity and gas, people resort to other alternatives, which often lead to deadly incidents. Load-shedding is a major problem faced by people in the area. In remote areas, electricity is available for just two to three hours a day. Sometimes there is no electricity for 72 hours at a stretch.

The people of Balochistan are perhaps the greatest sufferers when it comes to poverty or the lack of basic facilities such as healthcare, education, infrastructure and power supply. According to a Qesco spokesperson, the national energy crisis and non-payment of bills are the main reasons for the increased hours of load-shedding. Surely Qesco ought to cut supply to those agricultural consumers that owe the authority billions of rupees – and spare the poor.

There are four huge power plants in Balochistan, which generate around 2,300MW of electricity — Hubco Power has a capacity of 1,229MW, Habibullah Coastal has a capacity of 140MW, while the Uch Power Plants I and II have capacities of over 900MW. Despite that, electricity first goes to the National Grid Station, and then it is distributed across Pakistan. Balochistan itself receives just 300 to 400MW of electricity due to the poor infrastructure. The prime minister, during the inauguration of Uch Power Plant II had promised to alleviate the suffering of the Baloch people. But his promises have gone unfulfilled. The province continues to receive tail-end supply.

Balochistan’s chief minister has proposed the import of 1,000MW of electricity from Iran besides increasing the power supply to Gwadar. This project may take decades as it needs a new long transmission line from Taftan to Quetta and the province lacks resources. Similarly, two mega transmission lines of 220KV are under construction, which would be completed soon in a bid to ease the crisis. The deadlines for completion of these two transmission lines were extended many times both by former chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani as well as Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, the incumbent chief minister.

The people of Balochistan have been made to feel as if they are second or third class citizens when it comes to the provision of basic facilities, development works and relief. Their grievances must now be heard and addressed.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2015.

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