LAHORE: The Sui Northern Gas Pipelines suspended supply to industry and CNG stations in Punjab “indefinitely” on Saturday to pacify domestic consumers who took to the streets in several cities of the province after having gone without gas for several days.
Terming the move as “snatching of their livelihood”, the industry and owners of CNG (compressed natural gas) stations refused to obey the orders.
Domestic consumers took out rallies in Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Sialkot, Bahawlpur and Dera Ghazi Khan.
The company maintained that it ran the risk of “system collapse” if the industry and CNG stations don’t shut down.
“The entire distribution system is getting emptied because of exceptionally prolonged cold weather,” says K.W. Shariq of the gas company. If the pipes got empty, as they are, compression (gas travel) in the pipelines would become impossible and the entire system would collapse, he added.
He said the there was no option but to cut the supply to industry and CNG stations off to save the system.
The CNG stations in Punjab consume about 200 million cubic feet (mmcf) of gas and 50mmcf in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where gas supplies could not be stopped under Article 158 of the Constitution.
Similarly, the industry within Punjab also consumes around 600mmcf. By shutting the CNG stations and the industry, the company would save around 800mmcf and that equals to total deficit of the company, he said and added: “Problem is that the industry and CNG station owners don’t cooperate and the company continues suffering.”
The industry, however, refused to accept the decision, saying that it has no option but to resist. “What option we have got; shut the units down, throw the labour out and go on permanent fast,” says Malik Aftab of Lahore, who runs a small unit on the city suburbs.
“The move will only create social and political unrest. It is also bad for the federation as only Punjab is suffering while all other federating units are getting normal supplies. If domestic consumers can scare the company by taking to the street, the industrial workers will do the same on Sunday. Over 1,300 units were closed, rendering thousands of workers jobless last time when the gas suspension had shut the industry for three days. Now it is for an indefinite period,” he said.
Officials in the CNG industry also refused to cooperate, saying that they “are talking to the gas company to get a waiver”. They declared: “We will not close CNG stations at any cost.”