Sunday, May 26, 2013

Energy Crisis in Pakistan

Here in Pakistan, there’s an energy crisis. From my limited understanding, no energy is imported.  It is all produced here in Pakistan.  And there is not enough.  Let me introduce you to a new word.  Load shedding.  You won’t find it in Webster’s.  I had never heard of the term before coming to Pakistan.  Fortunately, we have very large Cummins generators in all the homes. When the power goes off, there’s a 10 second pause and then that generator kicks in and with the roar of a diesel truck, it spews black smoke, supplying our homes with power for air conditioning, water and lights. 
My generator

Imagine how it is in the summer when the temperature hoovers at 117 all day and might get down to 100 at night.  Then imagine all your electricity turned off for 12 out of 24 hours a day. No wait…make that 20 out of 24 hours a day.  Your water is delivered to you by an electric pump so when you have no electricity, you have no water.  Sleep is impossible and with no way to cool off, people just do what they can.  Imagine trying to keep infants cool. Imagine the number of heat related deaths.

There is no quick fix.  This has been an issue for years here and the last government did nothing to improve this.  The newly elected officials have said a fix is 1-2 years away. 
There is a wonderful leather shop here in Lahore called Royal Leather and we are all having leather things made... purses, wallets, jackets, backpacks and anything made of leather from Qamber. Just give him a picture and he can copy it!  Yesterday we talked about how this crisis is affecting his business.  He has a second shop where the leather is received and processed, making it ready for his shop to turn it in to beautiful products.  With the summer heat, the other shop, employing 500 people, can’t work the hours needed to get the leather to Qamber.  So, as a result, he has to call his customers, like Ikea for one, and tell them that instead of delivering products in June, it will be October.  He didn't say for sure, but I got the impression he’s lost some orders.  One of the things he makes is the leather cushions for the Poang (Poang Chair Ikea) chairs that Ikea sells.  I had never seen one of these chairs but I now have gorgeous distressed brown leather cushions for the chair and ottoman and can’t wait to buy the chair when I get home.  

Most supermarkets and other large businesses can afford the large generators necessary to keep their registers working and the lights on during these black outs.  I was in the local Hyperstar grocery store yesterday when all the lights went out and about 10 seconds later, they came back on.  Independent businesses like Qamber’s can’t afford the luxury of one of those large generators, let alone the gas it takes to run it 20 hours a day. 

I feel sorry for my guards. I have 4, 2 contract guards and 2 others who are retired police. They live in a small apartment-like room on the 3rd floor of my house.  One of each are on duty guarding my house and me around the clock.  Every morning, I give them a plastic bottle of frozen water and collect the one from the day before. They put this bottle into a large jug filled with water so they have cool water to drink.  We have an electric water cooler outside for them but…well, it’s only cool a couple of hours a day and the reservoir only holds about 3 glasses of cold water.  Every home has a mobile ‘swamp cooler’ in the carport but it’s not that great and the air it puts out is just slightly less than body temp.  The contract that the Consulate holds with the local guard company clearly states what we can and can’t do for them.  They are supposed to provide for the guards but very little seems to be provided.  The other day, I took them all bowls of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream.  I couldn't understand a word they were saying but they were all smiling.
My guard entering his post

Such is life in this third world country, unable or unwilling to improve the quality of life for its citizens by solving an energy problem. With all the heat here, you would think that someone would have gotten on board with a solar energy program by now.  Maybe they have but things move very slowly here. 

July is when the temperature begins to cool off. July will be when people here get a good night’s sleep and children will not spend the night covered in sweat.