Sunday July 14, 2024

Gas crisis

By Editorial Board
December 15, 2021

It has been an unrelenting story of prolonged gas shortages across the country. From domestic to business consumers to industrialists – all are suffering from acute disruptions in gas supplies which are not entirely unexpected. Now the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) Chairman Masroor Khan has said that setting up two liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and increasing the number of cargoes in the next few years would help address the issue of gas shortages in the country. Such promises we have heard many times, and each promise gives us hope to expect something ‘in the next few years’. Just by asserting that the government machinery is fully aware of the issues that domestic and industrial gas consumers face, the problem is not going to disappear. There are over a dozen LNG associations and alliances in the country whose problems the government appears to be unable to solve. There are grave issues of safety and irregularities at the end of small retailers in the LNG and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) distribution. Unless these issues are taken care of, just hearing the consumers out may give a feeling of satisfaction but no concrete result is going to come out of it.

The government is saying that it will take some time to implement the standards at the distribution level for domestic and small-scale commercial consumption. Business owners in Karachi have announced that they are planning to stage protests and sit-ins outside the head office of the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) against the suspension of supply to non-export general industries. In other cities also a situation is emerging in which gas is not available for both domestic and industrial use. Everyone is wondering where the gas has gone, or if it is not there, why the government lacked adequate measures to forestall a problem that many observers have been highlighting for the past many months. It is imperative that the government make the entire matter as transparent as possible by making the details of utilisation public so that consumers could review the overall demand-supply situation which is at the moment opaque.

There appear to be at least two possible but temporary solutions to this problem. One, the government may consider a gas holiday once a week at a specified time and announce it beforehand so that consumers know when they will not get the supply and prepare accordingly. Two, the government must implement better load management to keep the country – especially big cities – operational without disruptions. Uncertainty over gas supply creates more problems for consumers who are caught unawares. Such suspicions hamper the overall activities of life in the affected areas. The decision to shut down home stoves and general industries to keep the export-oriented industries operational may trigger confrontation and unrest among business and domestic consumers. It is unfair to suspend supply to general consumers who are an integral part of the economy and must receive their due share in the supply-chain. The whole country needs to remain operational and its citizens must not suffer like this just because the government was unable or unwilling to anticipate the severity of the crisis.