On first Ramazan, gas crisis tests patience of fasting Karachiites

Published March 13, 2024
Unable to cook anything at home due to a gas outage, people queue up at a roadside stall in North Nazimabad on Tuesday morning to purchase chai and paratha for Sehri. — Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Unable to cook anything at home due to a gas outage, people queue up at a roadside stall in North Nazimabad on Tuesday morning to purchase chai and paratha for Sehri. — Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

• Residents criticise SSGC over inability to ensure supply
• Many forced to buy expensive LPG to meet their needs in the holy month
• PPP warns Centre gas crises could push consumers to the end of their tether

KARACHI: Fasting people of the city on Tuesday had a great deal of hardship when they woke up to find either very low pressure of gas or no supply of it in almost every part of the metropolis, shattering the gas utility’s tall claims of uninterrupted gas supply during Sehri and Iftar in the holy month of Ramazan.

The gas utility had in a public announcement a couple of days ago assured people of uninterrupted gas supply for Sehri and Iftar preparation. As per the gas utility’s announcement, gas supply will be ensured from 3am to 9am for Sehri, the meal taken in order to gain essential nutrients for fasting, and from 3pm to 10pm for Iftar, the evening meal when the fast is broken.

“SSGC wishes a blessed Ramazan to its esteemed customers and would like to assure them of uninterrupted gas supply for Sehri and Iftaar preparations,” the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited had said in the announcement.

However, most parts of the city remained without gas during Sehri and Iftar timings, piling miseries on people, most of whom had not arranged any alternative due to constant claims of the gas utility regarding uninterrupted supply.

A gas utility spokesperson, however, said that uninterrupted gas supply was ensured during the Sehri and Iftar hours. He said that there was a widening demand and supply gap as there was around 10 per cent depletion annually in the country’s gas reserves.

The worst-hit were the salubrious parts of the city, such as Defence Housing Society, Bath Island, Clifton, PESCHS and their surrounding neihgbourhood.

Seema Shahid, a resident of DHA Phase-I, said that there was no flow of gas at 3am as promised by the gas utility. “I waited and waited for it, but to no avail”, she said, adding that her husband had to go out to bring ‘parathas’ and omelette for fasting.

A resident of DHA phase-6 said that gas supply was restored in her area at around 4am and it vanished by 5:30pm. “I was lucky to prepare Sehri, but my kids left for school without breakfast as later there was no gas.”

Mishkat Rabbani, a textile engineer, said she didn’t want to curse the gas utility for their failure to supply gas during peak hours of the holy month as she was fasting. “But they (SSGC) should consider people’s plight”, she said.

The situation in downtown, mainly Lyari and its surrounding areas such as Kharadar, Mauripur and Agra Taj Colony, was no different from other parts of the city.

Muhammad Aslam, a resident of Lyari, said that he had come to Burns Road to buy food from a restaurant for Sehri. “There was no gas at all in my area at 3am,” he complained.

Residents of some localities in Gulshan-i-Iqbal and Gulistan-i-Jauhar, however, said that they were supplied gas in the morning for Sehri preparations, but it did not continue till 10am as claimed by the gas utility.

Complaints of very low pressure poured in from across the city and people said that they could get the gas by only using suction devises, which the gas utility said were illegal to use.

The aggravated gas crisis during Ramazan has forced most residents to switch from natural gas to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to meet their gas requirements, resulting in a rise of sale and purchase of gas cylinders.

“I am a motorcycle mechanic. I cannot afford that expensive LPG”, Sajjad of Hijrat Colony said.

Another resident of Malir said that the LPG price had been increasing every day. “Today I bought it for Rs280 per kg, while the rate two weeks ago was Rs260,” he said.

While the people suffered to a great extent due to disruption of gas supply in Sehri, they did not have any respite during the Iftar hours also.

Residents of different parts of districts West and Keamari said that they did not get any gas during Sehri and Iftar hours.

Shakeel Khan, a resident of Orangi Town, said gas had not flowed through the pipes in parts of the vicinity for many days and residents, including him, had no option but to switch to LPG for cooking. “We no more depend on the gas utility, they are of no use,” he added.

The residents also alleged that areas close to the infrastructure of the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited were, however, getting enough gas supply, while no gas reached in other parts of the city.

A resident of Federal B Area said that gas did flow in the morning in his locality, but there was no gas supply in the afternoon for preparation of Iftar.

Meanwhile, insiders in the power utility told Dawn that the poor and dilapidated distribution system of the gas utility was one of the main reasons for low gas pressure in the city. However, they said, the pressure became lower during Sehri and Iftar as most of the people used stoves simultaneously.

They said the wide use of suction pumps had also caused low pressure in certain localities.

PPP warns allies

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), meanwhile, warned its ally in the Centre that the severing gas crisis in Karachi and other parts of Sindh could explode the patience of consumers in the second most populated province of the country and the SSGC would be responsible for any untoward situation.

The PPP Sindh general Senator Waqar Mehdi also made it clear that in the situation where hundreds of thousands of households were being tested for their basic right in the holy month, his party would stand with the people of the province.

“It’s a sheer incompetence and failure of the SSGC that it has been unable to supply gas even during Iftar and Sehri,” he said in a statement.

“We demand the PM and the federal minister of energy and power to take action against those responsible for this poor planning and execution. It’s time to find out those who were unable to plan the supply properly despite knowing the demand and supply gap and the approaching Ramazan well before the holy month.”

If the action is not taken against officials who caused stress and financial burden to millions of people across Sindh, the situation would worsen and there would be no deterrence for improvement in the future, he added.

“If this crisis isn’t resolved immediately, it would explode the people’s patience that would lead to serious consequences. And the SSGC would be responsible for all these consequences,” said Senator Mehdi.

Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2024

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