Nothing heralds the approach of peak summer in Pakistan other than extended bouts of load shedding and the ensuing disputes between distributers and energy companies while the public swelters in the heat. With the residents of Karachi complaining of extended power outages in their neighbourhoods for 10 hours at a stretch so early on in this unforgiving season, the situation may take a turn for the worse as KE and Sui Southern Gas Company face off over a billing issue.
Where the issue is a routine case of a drawn-out organisational dispute disrupting the livelihoods of citizens, it is worrisome that a tiff between the power utility and its energy provider over delayed payment by the former culminated in the SSGC taking the unilateral action of curtailing gas supply to the distributer, holding the city’s power hostage and leaving citizens to suffer interminable discomfort. It is also a testament to the feeble authority of the provincial government that could not hitherto step in to effectively mediate the issue between the entities, ultimately seeking the intervention of the federal government.
The federal government needs to address this issue of organisational delinquency, especially on the part of SSGC which is a semi-government organisation, in the face of the urgency of providing relief to the city’s people and industry from load-shedding. Where the KE holds the recovery of outstanding electricity dues accountable to the federal government as part for delay in payments, it should behove the latter to take immediate notice and resolution of the matter instead of allowing it to be relegated to court processes.
Where the everyday lives of residents of the metropolis and the local industry have been crippled by electricity outages in rising temperatures, such a situation could create a law and order problem and should be resolved post-haste. Yet even if the dispute is effectively resolved, our dependency on a limited energy matrix and incapacitated power plants will still contribute to crippling load shedding as the demand for power shoots up, an inadequacy that must be ultimately addressed.