LAHORE - As the City is experiencing the hottest March this year, the Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) has resorted to 18-hour loadshedding in the provincial metropolis while the rural population is facing 20-hour power outages. The massive power outages are not only causing disaster to the economy, from industry to small businesses, but also proving health hazard especially to the women and children as the people have been left at the mercy of mosquitoes. Hospital sources said the medical experts had registered alarming cases of malaria and fever at the public hospital during the last couple of weeks. Even after the government increased electricity tariff manifold, putting extra-burden on the already inflation-hit public, the government has badly failed to bridge the electricity supply and demand gap. According to the sources, PEPCO has resorted to 18-hour loadshedding in the big cities and 20-hour in the rural areas to manage 4500-MW shortfall. The residents of Walled City said they were spending sleepless nights as the densely populated areas turn into hell during night hours due to excessive power outages. The worst power outages forced the people to take to streets here in various parts of the City as the 18-hour loadshedding has paralysed the routine life besides multiplying the miseries of people. The massive power outages badly affected all segments of the society particularly the traders, shopkeepers, office-goers, students, businesses and even the under treatment patients at various public and private hospitals. Traders said the business activities came to a halt across the Punjab Capital due to excessive and unscheduled power outages. The massive electricity loadshedding also forced the shopkeepers and traders to switch over to alternate arrangements like generators and UPS, which also increase the cost of doing business. The local residents said 16 to 18-hour unannounced power outages are disturbing the life throughout the City. There was five-hour continuous power outage in EME-sector of DHA on Monday night, which led to water shortage, as we had to wait for eight hours to clean the dishes and clothes, Mrs Usman told The Nation via phone. The Lahorites say the loadshedding was multiplying the miseries of the people as the housewives have to burn candles to cook food during the night hours. The congested residential localities like Islampura, Sanda, Samanabad, Iqbal Town, Sabzazar, Johar Town, Wahdat Colony, Kot Lakhpat, Shalimar and Baghbanpura areas are the most affected vicinities, where LESCO has resorted to 18-hour breakdown. But the posh neighbourhoods of Model Town, Township, Garden Town, Muslim Town, Gulberg and Defence have also fell victim to the most unwanted routine. We were considering that the people would not be subjected to power outages this year as the government had announced to end loadshedding by December 2009. The so-called PPP-led government also increased power tariff manifold. But the unannounced loadshedding has again become the order of the day, Kashif Mumtaz, a resident of Islampura said. Sources in the Lesco said they had no schedule for loadshedding. The senior officials had directed the management of all the grid stations in the City to follow the directives of the National Control Centre and resort to loadshedding when it is necessary, an official said, seeking anonymity.