Sunday, May 9, 2010

Electricity Nightmare and the Laughing Minister of Power

April 25, 2010
Electricity Nightmare and the Laughing Minister of Power
By Saeed Qureshi
Have you seen Pakistan’s minister of water and power in a jolly, upbeat mood during the Energy Conference? In his once in a century sermon, while absolving the government of overcoming the acute energy shortage, he instead has exhorted the hard pressed Pakistani to use electricity for fewer hours. Already the people can barely get electricity for 6 hours. The chaos resulting from power shortage is unrelenting and assuming horrendous proportions. The kind of measures announced by the freakish Minister of Water and Power are childish and ruinous for the society especially for the business and industry that are already in deep trouble.

It is like putting the cart before the horse. The government’s approach towards resolving this vital problem is cosmetic and would aggravate the chaos and turmoil that is driving the people to the level of insanity. Electricity is an indispensible necessity for human beings. From cooking to running a huge mill it is the electricity that is needed. If the government asks people to close their businesses by the sunset and go home which are also dark due to incessant power outrages and shaky voltage, the mayhem is bound to take place.
The minister of power should stop combing his creamy, shampooed black colored hair, discard wearing custom tailored suites and abandon putting up a smile on his face as if all was well with the state of Pakistan. Instead he should dress himself in rags as a token of lamentation for the woes of the dispossessed people. Is he unmindful that the citizens of Pakistan are in a state of complete paralysis and undergoing unspeakable suffering due to the short supply of electricity?
Instead that the government should tackle this challenge on war footing, it is demanding of the people to bear with the devastating, debilitating and crippling load shedding that has taken away their peace of mind. The whole Pakistan is in a state of protest and crowds of bedevelled citizens are expressing their anger and frustration by denouncing the government. It is a calamity that was never seen in Pakistan before.
Even a conjurer or a moron knows that the real panacea of this festering problem is not to force less use of electricity upon people but to increase its output in the shortest possible time. The problem is that the ruling junta views all nation building projects from the angle of self profiteering out of the deals that they would enter into with power producers. The pressure or the urgency that is evident from the woeful plight of the Pakistanis necessitates the generation of power within weeks if not days. The situation is being allowed to slip from bad to worse so that the rental power houses are accepted by the people without any uproar.
Like rubbing salt to injury, the government stalwarts make contrdictaory, confusing and false claims to rid country of load shedding in a specified period of time which never happens. They tag more power in grid stations with the flow of water into dams. Now this is an argument and a hope that is outright sham and nonsensical. By the time the dams are filled up to the required level of water, the harried people should keep suffering, the industrial units should work by intervals and the commercial activities should be curtailed.
To survive without electricity for 18-20 hours in this sizzling season is nothing short of a rigorous punishment for the people for no crime. Can one think of living even one minute without electricity in these times when several countries are surplus in electric power production?
Now the argument is valid that those who opposed Kalabagh Dam did it with mala fide intentions knowing well in advance that the country was going to suffer from power shortage in the future. These are the same people who got their piece of humble pie via 18th amendment. They are gloating over their triumph for getting an ethnic name of the province but would sleep over the anguish of the people without electricity for better part of the day. Had they been favorably disposed towards larger interest of the country, they should not have opposed the Kalabagh Dam in the first instance.
Secondly if the government in power wanted to meet their long standing demand by renaming the NWFP province, these guys in return should have been asked to agree to the construction of Kalabagh Dam. The provincial grudge and the hidden rancor against Pakistan came in the way of completing this vital dam that would have saved the people from this ongoing malady and affliction of colossal order.
I have been personally concerned with the appalling civic situation in Pakistan. I have voluminously written to various successive governments in Pakistan to devise a compressive and long term plan for modernizing the deteriorating and antiquated civic system in Pakistan. There has been no marked improvement over the municipal system established by the British before the partition: the same open drains and manual system of cleaning the toilets and streets. The working of the local bodies and municipalities is infested with corruption and inefficiencies and lack of vision to solve such human problems as providing water, disposing of sewerage, building roads, running public transportation and adopting modern techniques to sweep roads and public places. This is called bad governance.
At the same time I have been impressing upon the governments both at center and in provinces to foresee and preempt the crisis that would erupt due to water and power shortage. I have sent to them concrete and well researched plans how to conserve water and generate electricity without much hassle and expense. The response has been formal, lukewarm and evasive to such well meaning offers. I came to the conclusion that the leaders, who come to power through a flawed and easy to manipulate ballot system, either do not possess the vision to modernize Pakistan by way of latest and abundant utilities and social services or intentionally ignore their responsibilities to serve the country. Whatever the reasons, the abysmal state of affairs is before us. The whole country is debilitated and the people going hysterical.
For a change the offer to streamline the civic mess is being renewed once again from this forum. Those of my readers who can read through this column must convey it to the higher authorities, that there is person from Pakistan now residing in America who has a profound pain and concern for his countrymen and has some very viable plans to harness the energy and water resources, without much cost and labor. Pakistan needs to radicalize, from top to bottom, the governance of cities and provinces. The western countries and specifically America during its early stages after independence faced the similar soci- civic problems. They solved these problems with prudence and diligence and by adopting such city management systems that changed the complexion of urban and rural life now bustling with comforts and bounteous civic services.
The governments in Pakistan must be mindful about the rapidly growing population and further breakdown of the facilities that are already fast depleting. If cities are not governed with farsightednss and far reaching civic plans and if the institutions like railways are not modernized and systemized, the society would plunge into a complete civic anarchy. A gubernatorial national reconstruction effort is imperative to arrest the population explosion that is outpacing and devouring the existing facilities at a much faster pace than at what these are being created.
Pakistan is fast turning into a slum due to blind, myopic, incoherent and haphazard plans and policies in regard to governance. Pakistan can take a cue from the western countries as to how they embarked upon civic order and injected sanity, established respect for law and created a city governance system that runs so efficiently and smoothly. If we can implement, let us say, the American city and county system by a fraction we can make a big breakthrough in easing the lives of citizens in Pakistan. Who is going to take up this cudgel? And if someone like me offers his services would the myopic bureaucrats, fond of cumbersome rules, listen to such calls coming out of sheer concern and patriotism for one’s own people and country of origin?

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