PESHAWAR, July 31: Manufacturing activities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have experienced a further slowdown over the last three days due to suspension of electricity supply to industrial areas at night, causing losses to industrialists.
“Power supply to industrial estates across the province remains suspended from 5pm to 6am as a new measure to divert electricity to facilitate home-based electricity consumers,” an official of the Water and Power Development Authority said on Tuesday.
Mohammad Ishaq, a Peshawar-based industrialist, told Dawn that the new arrangement had left many industrialists with no option but to run only one shift of eight hours of industrial operations daily.
“Running an industrial unit has become very difficult under the given situation, especially for smaller units that cannot afford to produce captive power,” Mr Ishaq said, adding that under the current situation, only the process-based industrial units, including steel manufacturers, woolen mills and chipboard manufacturers, were running three shifts daily.
“They are doing so under duress because these manufacturing units cannot let their boilers cool down since it causes extra costs to heat up the boiler to resume the manufacturing activities,” he said.
The Wapda official said manufacturing sector was previously exempted from nightly suspension of electricity under an understanding between Wapda and manufacturers’ associations in different parts of the province.
It was agreed between the two sides that industrial areas would not be subjected to intermittent power outages, instead, power supply to them would be shut down for the scheduled number of hours in one go, making it possible for the manufacturers to run their shift based industrial operations.
However, during the past few days power supply to the industrial areas, said the official, was suspended after 5 pm till 6 am next morning ignoring the agreement between Peshawar Electric Supply Company and the local manufacturers.
“About 90 per cent industrial units in Peshawar’s Hayatabad Industrial Estate are nonfunctional, the nightly suspension of power supply has served a major blow to the remaining operational units,” said Ishaq.
He said the measure had also left without electricity residents of two labour colonies that were provided electricity from the same Wapda feeder that supplied electricity to the Hayatabad Industrial Estate.
A large group of enraged industrial labour - residents of the labor colonies - took to the streets and staged a protest rally in front of the power facility in Hayatabad, said Ishaq.
On its part, the Peshawar Electric Supply Company, said its spokesman Shaukat Afzal, was trying its level best to utilize the available electricity judiciously.
“The Company’s new chief executive has visited power control rooms in Islamabad and Peshawar to analyze the situation on the basis of which he has instructed Pesco’s field staff to provide maximum benefit to the general public by judiciously distributing electricity made available from the national grid,” said Mr Afzal, when contacted.
He said that a sense of urgency existed within the Company’s officer ranks and field staff as, according to him, the company wanted to improve the situation, resolving people’s problems.
However, Wapda official, requesting anonymity, said the situation was beyond Pesco’s control. “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s total consumption requirements stand at around 2700 MW and 2800 MW against which it is being supplied merely 1000 MW electricity, leaving Pesco in no position to bring about any improvement in the situation,” said a well placed official.
According to Pesco officials, recent attacks by rioters in Charsadda, Swabi, and Thall had left the company’s staff under pressure. The Company, said the officials, had a limited number of security staff at its facilities across the province, some of which were situated in areas where public sentiments ran quite high due to power outages.
Pesco has a total of 86 grid stations in the province and it has three to four security guards at each of these stations. Officials termed the number of security guard available for the grid stations as inadequate. “They perform duties in shifts, which means in an eight hour shift we usually have one or two guards at each of the stations worth hundreds of millions of rupees,” said an official.
According to sources, the Peshawar based Pesco authorities have sought damage details from the local Wapda authorities of Swabi, Charsadda, and Thall after enraged power protesters attacked the electricity installations.