Gilgit (ET): Naltar villagers’ refusal to restore water supply to a hydel power station left residents of Gilgit reeling from a 40-hour-long power outage on Saturday.
Water supply to the 18 megawatt hydel power plant in Naltar, was cut off on Friday by residents fearing that recently developed cracks in a water reservoir would cause it to burst and inundate villages downstream.
Residents said they face “an immense threat” and the government needs to take concrete measures for their safety. They said more than 70 families are at risk of being swept away if the water reservoir, holding over 1.3 million cusecs of water, ruptures. Cracks have appeared in an 18km-long wall of the reservoir.
According to sources in the district government, the government deputed a senior official to settle the issue but the residents refused to restore the water supply. However, another source said that the power is expected to be restored by 8pm. The official added that according to a rough estimate, the power cut has affected more than 90 per cent of the city that is home to over 50,000 people.
The issue was raised by locals a couple of weeks ago, but the authorities ruled out the possibility of an outburst. Water and power department Executive Engineer Hamid Hussain told reporters that there was “nothing to worry about.” Some leakage from the joints in winter was normal since the joints contract in low temperatures, he said.
An official of the district administration said Gilgit-Baltistan is experiencing a 132-MW power shortfall. “Consecutive power outages and plummeting temperatures have made life in the capital city miserable.” The loadshedding is so prolonged that people are finding it hard to even recharge their mobile phones, he added.
The 18-MW plant in Naltar was built in 2008 and is the largest in the region. The plant was built by a Chinese firm under the supervision of the water and power department.