By Zafar Ahmed Khan
As mercury drops and consumption of gas increases in the country, the people in the metropolitan city of Karachi continue to face hardship amid the worst shortage of gas contrary to the claims of the PTI government that everything was OK. The consumers whether they are domestic or industrial are suffering badly due to gas shortage, whereas compressed natural gas (CNG) is also not available for motorists.
Due to the gas shortfall housewives are facing difficulties in cooking food at home, whereas warm water is not available from geysers in the chilling weather. People in different parts of Karachi including Lyari, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Liaquatabad, Orangi Town, Nazimabad, Saddar Town, Safoora Goth and other areas are facing acute shortages of gas, especially at the time of breakfast and dinner. Hundreds of industries and several CNG stations have been closed down in the country’s economic and financial hub due to a non-supply of gas. In many parts of Karachi’s rural areas due to gas shortage people are burning wood or coals as an alternative to gas to overcome the challenges in cold weather.
Muhammad Tariq, a resident of Lines Area told this scribe: “There has been no gas in our homes in the Lines area for the last many months.” Local residents are using LPG gas cylinders for cooking food and most families have to prepare breakfast and lunch early in the wee hours, sometimes at 2.00 am when the gas supply is restored for domestic consumers, which is also only for two hours by SSGC, he said.
He said people are using wood and coal in cold weather, whereas the price of LNG has also increased manifold. The survival of the poor in the metropolis has become a challenge as the shortage of gas reached an extreme level in Winter, Tariq said.
Sindh Minister for Energy Imtiaz Sheikh said that the incompetency of the PTI government in the centre was the main cause of the gas crisis in Sindh. The Prime Minister had admitted in a meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) that the gas should be provided to Sindh as per the Constitution provision that it is the first right of the province where petrol or gas is produced. But the federal energy minister is not obeying the PM’s orders, he said.
Sheikh said that the Sindh government will take up this issue in all proper forums, assemblies and Senate as well. We have also the option open to approaching the Supreme Court. In fact, the federal government has curtailed 1000 MMCFD from its actual quota to Sindh as the province is producing a total of 2700 MMCFD and the Sindh requirement is 1600 MMCFD, Imtiaz said.
He told this scribe that the Sindh was providing 1100 MMCFD from different fields and Balochistan’s share was also included in this share of gas. “Sindh will never surrender its share in the gas as the province is producing 68 per cent of the total production of the natural gas in the country,” Imtiaz Shaikh said.
He said the gas shortage has caused miseries for the people of Sindh in winter and the supply of CNG for transport has been suspended as the CNG stations are also suffering huge financial losses due to the closure of the gas for almost an entire week due to gas shortage. Gas is provided to CNG stations for 12 hours for 2 days only (from 7 pm on Sunday and Tuesday to 7 am on Monday and Wednesday),
By using negative tactics the PTI government is forcing Sindh to withdraw its gas share and purchase imported Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) at higher prices that we already have refused, said the provincial energy minister.
Federal Minister for Power Omar Ayub in a statement stated that Sindh provincial government is responsible for the ongoing gas shortage that has led to a public outcry.
The Federal Power Minister said that “the Sindh government has declined the federal government’s offer to provide LNG under article 158 of the Constitution.”
Muhammad Jawed Bilwani, an industrialist told this scribe: “Half of the country’s industries are located in Karachi and contributing billions of dollars to the Pakistani economy.” Due to the worst gas shortage, hundreds of industries have been shut down and thousands of workers are rendered jobless within months in Karachi alone, he said.
Bilwani said the owners could not pay the salaries to their workers as production in industries was shut due to gas shortage. The exports from only Karachi, the country’s economic hub, are 22 billion rupees, which is now affected due to the gas crisis, he said.
Bilwani said that the industrialists have threatened to shut down all the factories and start countrywide protests against gas shortage. Just after this threat the gas supply was restored to industries by the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) for a short period but now the supply has again been suspended for industries, he said.
Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGC) spokesman Safdar Hussain told this scribe that “SSGC is receiving 1150 MMCFD gas but the demand in cold weather is 1500 MMCFD in Sindh.” The consumption has increased in cold weather and people are facing gas shortages in Karachi these days, he said.
“We are following the federal government’s policy,” he said adding that our top priority is to provide gas to domestic consumers first. The industries and CNG stations are our second and third priority respectively for gas supply as per the government’s policy, Safdar added.
Hussain said, “We understand that the industrial zones are facing difficulties and many industries in Karachi have stopped working due to serious gas shortage.” The SSGC is taking initiatives to provide gas properly to the domestic, industrial zone and CNG stations in Karachi. He hoped the situation of gas supply would be better by the end of February.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mr. Zafar Ahmed Khan is a journalist based in Karachi. He contributes to various English and Urdu publications like Balochistan Express, Friday Times, The News on Sunday and Dawn. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter @Zafar_Khan5