ISLAMABAD     -    The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) has initiated a formal investigation against K-Electric for the incidents occurring in Karachi during the recent monsoon season. Karachi has witnessed wide-spread monsoon rains that have caused havoc due to flooding and water accumulation.  A large number of fatal and non-fatal accidents have occurred due to electrocution and prolonged power outages were experienced in large parts of the city, said a press release.

These prima facie facts indicate possible violations of NEPRA-administered laws, codes, standards and other applicable documents by K-Electric. NEPRA has taken cognisance of these incidents and has ordered a formal investigation under section 27A of the Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power Act, 1997 against K-Electric to ascertain the underlying facts leading to the fatal and non-fatal accidents. It will also determine whether any violation or non-compliance of law and applicable documents has been committed by K-Electric, which caused loss of life and suspension of power supply to consumers.  Senior NEPRA officers have been appointed as investigating officers in the matter and 5 days has been given for concluding the investigation.

Meanwhile, K-Electric has said that it is deeply saddened by the unfortunate incidents which occurred during the recent torrential rain and sympathises with the affected families. KE is extending full cooperation in the investigation process with various stakeholders including NEPRA. The power utility reiterates that it remains committed to Karachi and will undertake required remedial measures in light of the investigation results. At the same time, KE will also be undertaking a network wide study to identify opportunities for infrastructure improvement so as to strengthen both reliability and safety of power supply.

While KE is assessing all electrocution incidents, as per initial reports, majority of the incidents either occurred inside homes through broken wires and internal equipment or due to non-KE infrastructure such as kundas and hanging lights. In such cases where KE’s infrastructure and equipment is not involved, K-Electric is not responsible.

Before the recent rain, the power utility took all precautionary measures including preventive maintenance, network-wide inspections of the power infrastructure and strengthened vigilance of on-ground teams. KE also promoted public safety awareness through campaigns on rain safety through TV, print and social media, SMS and has also been engaging with school/seminaries students and communities as well as announcements in mosques besides placement of safety banners across the city. Additionally, an alert letter was also sent to the city administration, disaster management organizations and all concerned stakeholders by KE to dispense their responsibilities in the wake of projected heavy rains, which the deteriorating civic infrastructure of Karachi cannot sustain, with drainage issues and massive encroachments.

In his regard, KE had also requested civic bodies to take preventive measures before recent rains to ensure there is no water-logging in Karachi so as to avoid any untoward incident. However during the recent rains various areas of the city have been submerged creating an urban flooding situation, to the extent that power supply to some of these areas was suspended on the request of district administration in the interest of public safety as water entered homes. Water logging around power installations in low-lying areas not only damages utility infrastructure, it also hampers restoration efforts and causes fatal accidents.

Non-KE wires on power distribution infrastructure such as kundas, streetlights, TV, telephone, or internet cables are also a major safety hazard as they damage KE’s infrastructure and bypass safety protection mechanisms. While KE removes thousands of kundas and illegal wiring besides serving warnings through mass awareness campaigns and public/legal notices where applicable, such wires and kundas re-emerge regularly. While the power utility has strengthened resolve to take action against such encroachments, it also requests various municipalities to support its efforts in combatting this public safety menace.

Here it is critical to mention that per various studies; a large portion of Karachi is unplanned and includes encroachments in different areas. Despite multiple drives to remove these illegal power connections and intimation to law enforcement agencies, these slums and encroachments are still infested with kundas. KE has also identified encroachments around power infrastructure across its network, including some where electricity poles and PMTs have been absorbed into private premises to concerned authorities for immediate action and issued notices to consumers having illegal encroachments (residential and commercial properties) near power lines. Settlements which encroach power infrastructure create a dangerous and unsafe situation by compromising the safety protocols and procedures of these structures.