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Plugging Karachi's power leaks

Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 - 02:04

June 30 - Pakistani power companies battle to keep the lights burning in key cities like Karachi. Paul Chapman reports.

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Supplying electricity to Pakistan's power-hungry cities is a complex business. Here in Karachi stealing power by hooking up makeshift wires to the lines is commonplace. Mafias control the illegal lines. Some slums are held by the Taliban or gangs, making them no-go areas for power company staff. Karachi Electric Power Supply Company manager Muhammad Siddiq says it's an impossible situation. (SOUNDBITE)(English) MOHAMMAD SIDDIQ, KESC MANAGER, SAYING: "If you remove them, which we often do, they're back again in five minutes or ten minutes and law enforcement is not effective." Some of those who steal power see it differently. (SOUNDBITE)(Urdu) MOHAMMAD TALIB, LATHE MACHINE SHOP SUPERVISOR, SAYING: "When we get home in the evening there's a power outage. Even then KESC sends us huge bills. We can't afford to pay those bills, which is why we use the hooks." Pakistan's power companies share the same set of problems. Many staff are corrupt, influential families refuse to pay bills, and the government sells power below the cost of production but pays subsidies late if at all. KESC Chief Executive Tabish Gauhar's taken a tough line. In 2008 he slashed the workforce by a third, cut off non-payers, and declared war on the illegal connections. Gauhar's house has been attacked by gunmen and there've been violent protests. (SOUNDBITE)(English) TABISH GAUHAR, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF KESC (KARACHI ELECTRIC SUPPLY COMPANY) SAYING: "When there's tension I can't sleep at night. I think it's taken a heavy toll on my health, for sure, the last three-and-a-half years. And you know, you just can't sleep at night when there's a serious outage, when you know hundreds and thousands of people are suffering." There are signs the shake-up is paying dividends. Some businesses say the power cuts of the past are far fewer and shorter. In 2012 KESC made its first profit in 17 years and theft has dropped nine per cent in four years. KESC is also the only power company in Pakistan to buck the trend.

Plugging Karachi's power leaks

Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 - 02:04

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