Commuter conundrum: Winter of discontent looms as CNG stations face cutback

Owners of pumps may keep them closed longer to galvanise consumers into action.


Express December 01, 2011

KARACHI/HYDERABAD:


People who rely on vehicles which use CNG must brace themselves for tough days ahead, as gas supply to stations will be truncated during the winter.


People started to feel the pinch over the last two days. A large number of buses, rickshaws and cars were forced off the roads as CNG stations closed down. The authorities have ruled out any concessions as the country is facing a dire shortage of gas, which is the main fuel used in the economy. Due to the cold weather, households have also started using more gas to keep warm.

In recent months, an increase in the demand for CNG has put gas utility companies in a difficult position. Recently, the government increased the price of diesel and as a result, public buses and vans switched to gas. “The demand for gas by CNG stations has jumped by about 50% in five months,” said the managing director of the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), Azeem Siddiqui.

“In June 2011, the CNG stations were demanding 60 million cubic feet per day. The figure has now shot up to around 90 million cubic feet per day,” he said. “It is obvious that we cannot cut supply to CNG stations for long periods. But it isn’t fair that people have started running high-powered cars on gas.” The SSGC can supply a total of around 1,000 million cubic feet per day.

Authorities have decided to keep CNG stations closed for at least one day every week to save gas. They will be closed on December 7, 9 and 10.

The Sindh CNG Association was not too pleased by the suspension of supply. It said that CNG stations suffered a daily loss of Rs600 million as a result of the closure. The members of the association from across the province held a protest outside the Dialdas Club in Hyderabad on Thursday. The Hyderabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry supported it. “We condemn the illegal and unconstitutional suspension of gas as well as a violation of the court’s decision,” read the main banner of the protest. The Sindh High Court had recently ordered the SSGC to refrain from the load-shedding of gas.

Some of the CNG stations were reopened at around 6 pm on Thursday - five hours ahead of the scheduled time. The president of the Sindh CNG Association, Zulfiqar Yousfani, said that the shutdown was a breach of the constitutional provisions which give the first right of using natural resources to the province which produces them. “We will defy the rules by keeping the stations open. We will not be pushed against the wall or tolerate any discriminatory behaviour,” he said. At the protest, some of the members even suggested that the stations should be voluntarily kept closed for a longer period of time so that consumers of CNG would come out on streets and apply additional pressure on the government.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2011. 

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