The unprecedented rains and urban flooding in Karachi severely disrupted civic amenities and services and caused a number of incidents. The management and employees of K-Electric are deeply grieved over these tragic incidents which occurred during the recent two-day rain spell. The power utility extends its deepest sympathies to the affected families.
With almost 36 hours of relentless and continuous downpour, the city received close to 150mm rain, which is the highest in five years, creating unprecedented circumstances of urban flooding around power infrastructure in low lying areas, causing power outages and damage to infrastructure. KE regrets the inconvenience caused to consumers as a result. A main 220kV grid of K-Electric off superhighway was flooded due to overflow of Lath Dam. The possible damage to the KDA grid could have had disastrous consequences causing outages in many areas of Karachi. Under the situation, Pakistan Army came to help on KE’s call and untiring help from Army, Rangers and other government agencies, the Grid was saved.
Given the current situation, it is critical to mention that as per various studies, more than thirty-five percent of Karachi is unplanned, which also includes massive illegal encroachments. These slums and encroachments are rife with power theft and kundas, and despite multiple drives to remove these illegal power connections, and despite reporting power theft and encroachments to law enforcement agencies, the illegal hooks are reconnected causing potential safety hazard to people, especially during rains. A number of electrocution related incidents were also reported. A high-level committee has been formed and KE is investigating the incidents in detail, and is also cooperating with regulatory institutions and other stakeholders for additional investigations. Preliminary investigation reveals that a number of these incidents happened inside homes and were due to internal issues, whereas the rest were the consequence of pervasive kunda wires used by unknown elements in “katchi abadis”” or unplanned encroachments, which resulted in the loss of innocent lives. KE once again re-iterates its sympathy and is grieved on all such incidents.
KE also took all precautionary measures including network-wide inspection of the power infrastructure to prepare for the monsoons and vigilance by on ground teams to ensure all safety precautions were taken besides suspension of electricity in areas which are highly prone to such incidents. However, joint effort from all concerned stakeholders is critical to eliminate hazards caused by encroachments and waterlogging near power infrastructure and to ensure right of way for all utility services while enforcing basic urban development protocols in a planned manner.
The power utility has consistently highlighted the hazards posed by kunda connections and how these hazards are magnified during the rain, through public safety campaigns based on print and electronic media as well as via Twitter and Facebook. These messages are also conveyed as part of consumer bills and sent through SMS. While KE ensures compliance to respective safety protocols and procedures, it also appeals to the public for their own safety, to maintain distance from power infrastructure including power lines, transformers, grids, substations, street lights and poles. Special attention must be paid to children who should be cautioned from playing near electricity installations.
KE has also been playing a pivotal role towards creating greater inter-agency coordination for improved summer and monsoon preparedness in Karachi with wider stakeholders such as National Disaster Management Authority, Provincial Disaster Management Authority, Rangers, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center.