Power cuts hit the city hard

2019-12-18 06:00
PHOTO: suppliedPietermaritzburg and Midlands Chamber of Business CEO, Melanie Veness, holds up candles during a period of load shedding at the chamber's offices.Photo.Moeketsi Mamane

PHOTO: suppliedPietermaritzburg and Midlands Chamber of Business CEO, Melanie Veness, holds up candles during a period of load shedding at the chamber's offices.Photo.Moeketsi Mamane

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THE escalation of load shedding to stage 6 this week threw out the Vulindlela water pump station, and the City’s acting infrastructure services general manager Brenden Sivparsad has warned of risks to the water system, business production and festive events.

Other cities such as Cape Town are also braced for blackout triggered water cuts. Sivparsad told The Witness that the municipality was shocked by Eskom’s Monday decision to increase the demand for the load for municipalities to give back to the national grid.

“Unfortunately we have no choice but to comply with whatever Eskom tells us, even when it comes at a great inconvenience to our ratepayers and businesses operating within Msunduzi,” he said.

Stage 6, he explained, meant that Msunduzi had to sacrifice between 60% and 70% of its grid at a time in order to save enough to meet Eskom’s demand. He said this meant they had to cut off at least two areas at a time on a two-hour rotational schedule.

“The repercussions are bigger if we don’t shed when Eskom tells us to,” he said on the impact this could have on the national grid.

SERVICE DELIVERY

Having to cut off supply, Sivparsad said, had dire consequences as it compromised service delivery, delayed production in factories and exposed the people of Msunduzi to criminal elements.

He said the surges that happened when the power was switched back on resulted in faults on the City electricity infrastructure, some which took hours to fix. The Vulindlela water pump station was the first casualty of the surges as it failed to restart when power came back on after the introduction of stage 6 on Monday evening.

“As we speak the people of Vulindlela are prejudiced, they have no water.

They were first inconvenienced by not having electricity but when it came back on it left them without water.”

Sivparsad said the situation had the potential to get worse for Msunduzi citizens as other water and sewer pump stations could also be affected by the surges that were associated with load shedding.

He said there was a risk of sewage spills because these sewerage pump stations could not operate without power for long periods and could not use generators because of their massive size.

He said the challenge was also being escalated by the large volumes that these pump stations received during this time of the year, not only due to heavy rains, but also industry bringing in additional staff to meet production demands as well as people visiting shopping centres and other parts of the city.

“We are also sensitive at this point in time to try and see how we can best conserve the Duzi because next year is also the Dusi Canoe Marathon in January. People also complain about the impact of E.coli on the communities.”

CRIME

Sivparsad assured the people of Msunduzi that the municipality would be shedding according to the schedule that was published so that they were not further prejudiced. However, his concern was that criminals could take advantage of the planned outages to target not only the City’s electricity infrastructure but also people’s homes and businesses.

“If you publish your load shedding grid, you are giving the criminal element the times to make it convenient for them to vandalise your substations. They also know which areas will be off so there will be no street lights and the alarms will probably be off. So we urge the public to be extra vigilant,” he said.

BUSINESS

Industry is amongst those hard hit by load shedding and Sivparsad said stage 6 meant that the City could not even assist by negotiating with Eskom to spare them.

He said some businesses had been asking the municipality to intervene as they were chasing production deadlines before they close for the festive season but Msunduzi’s hands were tied.

He said he was aware that some businesses had already spent a fortune on diesel for generators, with one of them having paid about R140 000 in just the past week. “And the guy is saying that essentially that’s his profit margin.”

EVENTS

The municipality cannot guarantee that lights will be on for some of the festive season events planned around the City.

Sivparsad said he had already experienced it first hand how this could ruin events when a dance he attended over the weekend was delayed by more than an hour due to load shedding.

STAGE 8?

Sivparsad’s worst fear was that Eskom could escalate the demand to be shed as the power utility had been constantly reminding municipalities to publish their schedules that were up to stage 8.

“If you look at what’s been happening you’ll see that we’ve been moving in even numbers, stage 2, 4 now we are on 6 and I’m hoping that we don’t go another two up which is 8.”

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