A lesson from Karachi power protests

Urgency of cheap power production

On Tuesday tens of thousands of people came out into the streets in Karachi on a second consecutive day to protest against power shortages which had also caused water shortage in the city. It was sizzling hot with the mercury rising to 34°C. A helpless Chief Minister routinely called on KESC to end power outages, knowing well that his appeal would have little impact. With human suffering becoming unbearable power riots erupted in as many as 18 areas where crowds of discontented men, women and children participated in the protest The police finally managed to restore traffic by making arrests, resorting to baton charge and tear gas shelling. This led to several being injured while an elderly woman reportedly died during the protests. There were reports of shipments of fruit and vegetables to other countries having been delayed as a result of prolonged traffic jams.

Karachi presents a glimpse of what could happen in many other cities of the country in coming months. Pakistan currently faces a power crisis as the energy shortfall exceeds 5000 MW and there are reports of up to 12 hours of load shedding in most cities across the country whereas the situation is even worse in rural areas. Meanwhile Minister of State for Petroleum Musadik Malik admits that the country simply cannot compete with the buying power of European countries who were also bidding for LNG in the market. It is not yet clear if the allied administration would be able to procure enough crude oil or coal, whose prices are also rising, to fulfill the country’s rising power needs, while at the same time provide affordable electric supply to the people. Unless the government manages to perform the Houdini act, it could soon be facing the wrath of the people all over the country.

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Senator Malik needs to avoid hoping for miracles. Instead of expecting that the upcoming monsoon would turn the tide of the power crisis, he should evolve both short term and long term policies to resolve the power crisis. The possibility of acquiring sufficient coal though local currency from nearby Afghanistan should be explored. Attempts should also be made to increase local production of furnace oil. Simultaneously, large investments need to be made in solar and wind energy.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].

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