Dewatering and KCR revival
An adviser to the Sindh government has said that rainwater in most localities of Karachi has been removed and faults in the sewerage system repaired because now there are no gutter overflows. It does not matter whether bright sunshine has evaporated the rain and gutter water or it is due to untiring efforts of the government. He also emphatically announced, on Tuesday, that encroachments across the city would be removed indiscriminately as it was unauthorised structures on and around stormwater drains that choked them with garbage.
This statement recalls to mind the recent statements of KMC officials that they would ensure that removal of encroachments did not render people homeless. The pronouncement came after people protested fearing homelessness during the recent campaign to remove illegal structures. The action was stopped after residents of affected areas protested. Even where earlier encroachments have been removed, the damaged pavements have been left unrepaired. This and accumulation of garbage have harmed businesses and many shops have shifted to other places. This situation has been persisting for the past several years.
The adviser has also talked about revival of the Karachi Circular Railway and criticised its inclusion in the Prime Minister’s Karachi Transformation Plan, insisting that since the restoration of KCR was part of CPEC, it cannot be included in the transformation plan. For the residents of Karachi and for visitors, the planned revival of KCR came as a ray of hope in a city where now public transport does not exist. However, the sad reality is that large tracts of railway lines have disappeared, and on KCR land, buildings have been constructed. It looks remotely possible to demolish such buildings especially when they come under jurisdictions of different organisations. One should buy the latest edition of gobbledygook dictionary to understand what politicians say.
Circular debt challenge
Circular debt remains the “biggest” of the seven challenges in Pakistan’s power sector, says a recent study conducted by Engro Energy Limited to identify problems in the power supply chain. Currently standing at Rs2.2 trillion, the circular debt is growing 60% annually and would be doubled by 2025, according to the study titled ‘Fixing Pakistan’s Power Sector’. It is no secret that low recovery of monthly bills and rampant power theft have given birth to the complicated circular debt which continues to grow at a rapid pace due to mismanagement and inefficiency, mainly on the part of the nine power distribution companies operating in the country. In addition to the permissible 16% line losses – which are recoverable from consumers through monthly bills – these distribution companies are incurring 12% losses on an average, including those due to theft.
It is the power consumers that are bearing the brunt of this mismanagement and inefficiency in the form of quite a few surcharges that continue to inflate their power bills. Pakistan produces the most expensive power in the whole world. The cost of power production in Pakistan for industrial consumers is 26% higher as against other countries in the region like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Thailand. And for residential consumers, this cost is 28% higher than in the mentioned countries. This high power tariff – also a major hindrance to foreign investment in Pakistan – is also mentioned in the Engro report as the fourth biggest power sector challenge. The others are: excess production capacity (second), low demand (third), import of fuels to produce electricity (fifth), power outages (sixth) and need to expand transmission infrastructure (seventh).
On assuming power, the PTI government had vowed to nip the menace of circular debt in the bud. To the contrary, they have worked to increase it from Rs480 billion as of June 2013 to Rs2.2 trillion currently – an addition of Rs1.72 trillion in two years which comes to Rs71 billion a month or Rs2.3 billion a day.
Another new Punjab IG