By Barkat Ullah Baloch
Gwadar port is the focal point of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the economic development of Pakistan is being linked to its development. Under the umbrella of CPEC, a free zone and an industrial zone will be launched but the question remains, “Is it all possible without electric power?”
A contract to build a power plant with a capacity of 300 megawatts was signed between the government of Pakistan and a Chinese company on 30 May 2017. The first plant with a capacity of 150 megawatts will be completed before 2022.
At present Gwadar needs more than 40 megawatts of electric power to meet its daily demand but the current power production is not even half of what is needed. Here the question arises, “How will the construction activities take place during the establishment of free zone and industrial zone in the absence of electric power?”
Salah Kar Chaman Das, a tailor in Gwadar, is really worried by the non-stop power outages. He has received enough stitching orders but what lacks is the power to run stitching machines. “We are bearing the brunt of power crisis. We require electricity to run our machines. How can we work in the absence of electricity?”
He further informed, “Our machines break down very often due to unstable voltage and we have to bear the extra charges of generator fuel as well.”
During the era of former president Pervez Musharraf an agreement with a neighbouring country, Iran was signed to import 70 Megawatt of power for Panjgur, Kech and Gwadar, of which Gwadar share is 15 megawatts.
Hassan Ali Magsi, Xen Gwadar, Quetta Electric Supply Company (QESCO) told Pak Voices, “Makran is being supplied 100 megawatts whereas the demand stands at 150 megawatts. The users face powers cuts due to increasing difference between the demand and supply.”
Due to the shortage of power, businesses are having negative effects. Majid Baloch, President, Traders Association Jannat Bazaar says, “We are facing adverse effects on our business as a result of load shedding and a lot of businesses are getting closed every day.”
Gwadar residents face a lot of unannounced power outages along with the scheduled load shedding. There are only 3 hours of calculated power time off according to the official announcement. But in reality, the city witnesses load shedding from 8 to 10 hours of daily unexpected power outages.
Regarding this unannounced load shedding, Hassan Ali, the Xen of QESCO says, “At present, there are only 3 feeders working in the city whereas at least 6 feeders are required to maintain proper supply.”
In the wake of power shortage, there is a growing demand for solar power panels and generators in Gwadar and one could find shops selling solar power panels and generators everywhere in the city.
Ali Jan a local shopkeeper says, “Due to the use of alternative power sources like generators the cost goes up and ultimately common man bears the burden of extra costs.”
Abdul Rahman a senior citizen questions the government, “What kind of development is this where we are crying out for electric power?”
According to Nawab Khan a resident of Asaa Ward in Gwadar, QESCO doesn’t take notice of people’s complaints until they come out on the streets to record their protest. “Last month when our transformer went out of work after it caught fire, QESCO authorities didn’t take any action in spite of repeated complaints.”
Hassan Ali of QESCO says, “QESCO faces a shortage of workforce and as a result, the complaints pile up. It’s impossible to take notice and remedy such complaints immediately.
Qadir Baloch, an official of QESCO says, “Overloading is the biggest cause of transformer malfunctions. Commercial connections and home connections are all connected to the same transformer and it can’t handle the load beyond its capacity. This results in malfunctions and technical failures.”
Regarding the electric power crises in Gwadar, Dosteen Khan Jamaldini spoke to Pak Voices telling, “A new deal was signed with Iran for the provision of additional 100 megawatts of electric power. But it could not be materialised due to sanctions on Iran.”
Almost 80% of the project is ready on the Iranian side but Pakistan has yet to begin work on its side. With the sanctions already lifted from Iran, once again there is a renewed hope for the restoration and completion of this project.
The writer works with Pak Voices as a citizen journalist from Gwadar.
Translated By Tariq Mahmood
Edited By Hassan Khan