Ammar Nabi Khan
We are living in the year 2019, which means that 19 years of the much-hyped ‘21st century’ have already passed. The pace of human progress has increased manifolds, in different sectors. Many ‘inventions’ of the recent past have become less than relics, unknown to most of the millennials. Every day new gadgets are appearing in the market, making life easier. Cooking, heating, cooling, lighting, driving, and interacting with humans, have all become automated and digitized. The world seems to have changed.
Not for the residents of Gilgit city, though.
Gilgit is a small mountain city, which serves as the capital of the Gilgit-Baltistan region. It is a relatively very modern city, with a university, several hospitals, roads, markets, hotels, small and medium factories. All seems to be well, if you don’t consider the plight of electricity. Gilgit is a partially modern city which suffers due to acute power shortage. This sentence seems to be contradictory, because one may ask how can a modern city run without electricity? Well, I didn’t say that Gilgit is ‘running’. It may be learning to crawl, slowly!
Winters are particularly cruel in Gilgit for two reasons: 1) the temperature goes below the freezing point and, 2) electricity vanishes, like the metaphoric horns that vanished from the head of the metaphoric donkey!
This issue is perennial and generational in the sense that it has not changed during the last three decades. Power generation has increased to a small extent, but so has the city’s population; supply is always acutely lesser than demand.
Instead of focusing rigorously on power generation, the authorities continue urging locals to use less electrical appliances, if they want to enjoy electricity. Hence, there are households who have purchased electrical appliances, but can’t use them. During each winter, the ‘PWD’ authorities raid houses and snatch ‘heavy electrical appliances’, meaning heater, geysers, and immersion rods.
While the world is moving towards an era of artificial intelligence, we, the residents of Gilgit city, continue to rile under darkness, sandwiched between great mountains, gushing rivers, and melodiously flowing glacial streams.
Power shortage affects all aspects of life, from business to health and tourism service provision, and entertainment to ironing of cloths!
Can we expect the government of Gilgit-Baltistan, and the federal government, to make power generation a priority? How can they promise a ‘glorious future’ for Gilgit-Baltistan, if our households and businesses do not have enough access to electricity? Will the ‘knowledge corridor’, envisioned as part of CPEC, be of any help if the people don’t have electricity to charge their mobile phones or power-on their laptops?
The government and the relevant departments need to treat electricity as a basic human right, because it is one. The authorities should come out of the deep slumber, and show some action, instead of engaging in absurd activities like snatching heaters, rods and geysers from consumers!
The contributor is a 2nd-year Pre-Engineering student at Aga Khan Higher Secondary School, Gilgit.