KARACHI: Amid a worsening gas crisis in almost entire Karachi, people adopt a novel, but illegal, way to increase the pressure in their stoves by installing a device that runs on electricity.
It is called an air pump though now it is also being sold as a useful suction gadget for improving gas pressure despite the fact that it is illegal to install such a device just like it is illegal to install a suction pump in the water line.
For years people have been buying it as an aquarium bubbler for oxygenation of water in a fish tank. It is a multipurpose device after all with several uses including inflating balloons. Similar devices are a key component in medical respirators. And now during a severe gas shortage it has found a new use as a gas suction pump.
These pumps can be installed in the gas supply line just before your stove, heater or gas-run generator. They range in power. But using an external devise like this to suck gas or water deprives other users of the utility. Therefore it’s use is illegal. But having multiple other uses, it is not so easy to ban it or stop it’s sale.
SSGC says installing a device to increase gas pressure comes under gas theft
Earlier, a pump which used to cost between Rs1,200 to Rs1,500 is now available for Rs2,500 to Rs3,500 because it is in so much demand.
Najeeb Khan, who deals in gas appliances in the Gizri commercial area, told Dawn that though it is much smaller in size, it does the same work of a water suction pump that people attach to their main water supply lines to steal other people’s water.
“When attached to the main gas supply line, its powerful suction can steal away all the gas from your neighbours. You get guaranteed gas at good pressure but only if there is some gas in the line,” he said, adding that there is a limit to everything.
“When the gas pressure in the main line drops to zero, the pump will become inactive,” he said.
He also said that some customers worry about whether it is dangerous or can cause an explosion. “There is no such danger of causing any kind of explosions due to excessive gas. You get a controlled supply,” he added.
Another dealer, Matiullah, also situated in DHA, said that although this device can run on 220 volts AC house current, there are also popular models out there that have the option of running on 12 volts DC current, meaning they can be attached to a car battery or can be run on solar power as well. Doing good business on it, none of the dealers seemed to realise that they were selling something wrong or illegal.
Though, it may fast be becoming popular, mainly because of gas shortage, experts say the gas authorities have a way to check this illegal activity. If the gas supply in a particular locality is low, but meter reading from a particular house shows higher usage, the residents can be caught, and can be charged for illegal use of an external device on the gas pipeline.
According to a Sui Southern Gas Company spokesperson, installing the device comes under gas theft though the gas utility is not entitled to arrest anyone.
“If we are informed about its use by anyone such as a neighbour or anyone else, we will either inform the police or complain on the Pakistan Citizen’s Portal. Following this, if found guilty, a user of the device will be facing six-month imprisonment along with paying a fine of Rs100,000,” the spokesperson said.
Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2022