LAHORE In order to meet the electricity shortage and minimise power outages, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has announced that the government offices will work five day a week, markets to be closed by 8pm, banquet halls to remain open till 10pm and the CNG stations will not serve customers for one day in the province. Neo-signs have also been disallowed. By taking all these short-term measures, it is hoped that 1700MW to 1800MW electricity will be saved, and after this, provision of uninterrupted power supply to agriculture and industry will be given preference. Moreover, there will be one-third less power outages and that too will be as per schedule, he added, while addressing a press conference here at the Chief Ministers Secretariat on Friday. Federal Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Chairman WAPDA, MD PEPCO and other officers and political figures were also present. The CM admitted that the government should have managed the electricity crisis better in two years, but it could not. We should have managed it better, but we could not, he said. Shahbaz Sharif, while highlighting the electricity crisis, observed that the country was passing through the worst power crisis, and the load-shedding was adversely affecting the working of agriculture, health and education sectors particularly and every field in general. He mentioned that there was a shortfall of 5000 MW, and the Prime Minister called meeting of all the Chief Ministers, including others concerned. He appreciated the PM for taking certain steps on war-footing. Shahbaz Sharif was of the view that the decision of 2-weekly off days was accepted by the Punjab government under compulsion, since the electricity was to be conserved. It has been also decided that 583 cubic meters of natural gas will be used for generating 740mw of electricity. In the same vein, the CNG stations will remain closed for one day, he said, adding that the markets would close by 8pm, and banquet halls would function till 10pm, that is, only for three hours, and they would not be allowed any illuminations as well. As part of the power austerity measures, the CM also said the neo-signs could only function on solar energy, and only alternate street lights would be switched on. He also mentioned that the air-conditioners in the government offices would not be switched on till 11am. As a part of the long-terms measures, Shahbaz Sharif said huge reservoirs of coal, and sugarcane residues being produced by the sugar industry could be used to produce electricity. He also said the premier had also announced a Rs 20 billion-package for producing electricity. He criticised former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf for not constructing dams. Raja Pervaiz Ashraf mentioned that the energy summit was attended by all the stakeholders and energy experts from foreign countries. Thanking all of them, he said the government was following a three-prong strategy of short, medium and long-term measures towards solving the crisis. He was of the view that all the participants considered the issue as a national challenge, and the diagnosis was done. The last government did not do anything, and if there were any initiatives, they were either not taken or left into files only, he said, adding that the during the initial days of the incumbent democratic dispensation, foreign investors lacked interest owing to the reason that the intending visitors were issued travel advisories. He also maintained the energy summit had quelled various rumours about the crisis, since all unanimously agreed on the agenda. He told the mediamen that the premier had taken initiative on the Bhasha Dam, which would cost $12.8billion, while the previous government indulged bogus inauguration of the Dam. He enumerated various steps being taken for resolving the energy crisis, which included the initiation of the Thar Coal Energy Development Board. He repeated the emergency steps for curtailing electricity consumption being taken by the provincial governments, which had come into force immediately. He also mentioned that the PM House and the Presidency had also switched off its 50 per cent lights. He also mentioned that the water-level had risen in Tarbela Dam. About the KESC, he said 300mw would be given to the rest of the country since fuel had been provided to the plant producing the same mw of energy, and it would be given to the KESC, which owed Rs 40 billion to PEPCO, and the Company had more line losses, which needed to be finished across the country, and the government had already cut connections of 132 companies owing to the reason these were indulging in power theft. He said Musharraf showed criminal negligence in energy projects and did not increase even a mega watt of electricity. He said the efforts would be made for the speedy completion of energy projects. Traders and industrialists assured that they will extend full cooperation to the government on the decisions made regarding energy conservation, he added. To a question about developing consensus among the provinces for constructing the Kalabagh Dam, he said three provincial assemblies had passed resolutions against the Dam, and instead of creating more dissension, other projects like the Bhasha Dam should be considered for construction.