Gas crisis cripples households

December 12, 2021

Gas shortages are affecting the quality of life in Karachi

Gas crisis cripples households

Maleeha Farhan, a housewife living in Karachi’s Hijrat Colony, tells The News on Sunday that she has been unable for a week to cook food for her family. “My husband brings breakfast, lunch and dinner from a nearby restaurant. Hundreds of houses in the area, including ours, have had no gas,” she says.

“We live in compact houses and cannot use wood as an alternative fuel,” she says. “We pay our utility bills on time but that is not enough to ensure that we get reliable gas supply,” she laments.

We cannot afford LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) cylinders for cooking. The LPG prices are too high for us. One hears that there are huge natural gas reserves in Sindh but continues to face cumbersome shortages,” she says.

Several areas in Karachi are facing massive gas shortages and low gas pressure. Lyari, Baldia Town, Orangi Town, Saddar, DHA, Punjab Colony, Moosa Colony, Hijrat Colony, Sultanabad, Landhi, Malir, Korangi and Faqeer Colony are some of the worst affected areas.

Hordes of people throng the local restaurants for breakfast early in the morning due to the ongoing gas crisis. The gas shortages have affected the quality of life for many who are unable to cook food at home.

On November 26, the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) announced the suspension of gas supply to CNG stations across Sindh and Balochistan. The suspension will be in effect from December 1, to February 15. It is blamed on a spike in demand from domestic consumers during winter. In a statement, the SSGC explained that the decision has been taken to manage gas availability for domestic customers, adding that gas supply to non-export captive power plants (CPPs) in Sindh and Balochistan has also been stopped to ensure uninterrupted supply to domestic customers, especially in Balochistan.

According to Sakina Baloch, gas shortages started in Orangi Town towards the end of October. Now there is a massive shortage in several areas,” she says.

“I have been burning wood for cooking as there is no gas early in the morning or in the afternoon,” she says. After 5pm, she says, they get gas for about an hour. Then the pressure starts dropping and eventually the supply goes out. “I don’t know for how long we will have to burn wood to prepare our meals in Karachi,” she says.

Aftab Hussain Siddiqui, the parliamentary secretary for Ministry of Maritime Affairs, has written a letter to Imran Maniar, the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) Limited managing director (MD) about the gas pressure problem.

Gas crisis cripples households

During a discussion in a Senate committee, Azhar denied that the supply of gas was going to come down to three days a week. He said Pakistan was about to strike a deal with Russia and that the repair of gas pipelines was under way.

Siddiqui tells The News on Sunday that in his letter, he has stated that for several years, the residents of Defence Housing Authority have faced severe gas supply problems. While the situation is dire in several areas during winter, gas shortages have continued into the summer. “We are aware of the recent measures taken by SSGC but the common people are still suffering,” he says.

“The SSGC had announced a new gas pipeline to resolve the gas shortage issue for the residents of Seaview, Khayaban-i-Muslim and Khayaban-i-Bukhari in Phase VI of the DHA. This pipeline was to be laid from Dolmen Mall, Clifton, to Phase VIII in DHA. The project started 18 months ago but there is still no progress on it,” he says.

Siddiqui says his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf federal government is trying to solve the problem. He says Hammad Azhar, the energy minister, is helpless as there is no gas in the country. “We can only pressure the SSGC to resolve the issue of low gas pressure in Karachi,” he says.

Haseeb-ur-Rehman, 35, a resident of Lyari, says that using wood for cooking has become a common practice in Lyari due to gas shortages in winter. “When gas pressure is low, it takes 40 to 50 minutes to prepare a few cups of tea. CNG and LNG stations are closed for two months in Sindh to accommodate domestic demand but there is still no gas in Karachi,” he says.

Haseeb says working class people are unable to purchase LPG cylinders. Many, he says, can also not afford to eat at restaurants very frequently. “I don’t know for how long we will have to do without gas. I currently use the LPG but I may have to look for a cheaper alternative, ” he says.

Gas crisis cripples households

Salman A Siddiqui, a spokesperson for the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) says that the gas pressure falls due to the use of heaters, geysers, generators and gas compressors across Sindh and Balochistan.

According to Siddiqui, people are complaining about gas shortages in many areas of the port city. “Baldia, Korangi, Orangi Town, Lyari and other localities that are far from the main population might be facing a gas shortage, but otherwise there is no gas crisis in the city,” the SSGC spokesperson says. “The gas load shedding in accordance with the announced schedule is continuing,” he says.

Siddiqui says that the total supply of gas in the SSGC system is estimated at 1,036 million million cubic feet per day (MMCFD) for both Sindh and Balochistan franchises. He says the consumption demand for the gas is 1,225 MMCFD.

Federal Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar said on November 12, that the supply of gas to domestic consumers during breakfast, lunch and dinner hours will be ensured.

He also said, “Sindh produces 38 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa produces 12 percent, the Punjab produces 8 percent and Balochistan 40 percent of the country’s gas.” He said Sindh currently consumes 80 percent of its gas production and the KP 79 percent.

Azhar recently told a Senate committee meeting that there was no plan to cut domestic gas supply to three days a week. He said Pakistan was about to strike a deal with Russia and that the repair of gas pipelines was under way. The minister said the country was producing 70 percent of the natural gas it used. The remaining was imported as LNG. He said an escalation of shortages was unlikely.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Karachi. He can be reached on Twitter @Zafar_Khan5

Gas crisis cripples households