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Commuters worst sufferers of govt decisions

January 01, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Dec 31: No government department holds itself responsible for maintaining and overseeing the quality of CNG fittings in public transport vehicles while top government managers even without trying to fix responsibility for the cylinder blasts put the blame on the filling stations.

After the recent surge in CNG-related accidents in public transport, the interior and petroleum ministers issued statements blaming the CNG stations for the blasts which claimed up to 50 lives.

Incidentally, both the ministers and even the oil and gas regulator have failed to identify the departments that are supposed to maintain CNG-related quality standards in the vehicles.

In line with the government policies, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) has banned CNG filling in public transport vehicles with cylinders installed beneath the seats or on the rooftops.

“If any CNG filling station is found providing gas to such vehicles, its licence will be cancelled on the spot,” stated a notification issued by Ogra.

The authority said CNG kits and cylinders in all public transport vehicles must qualify the standards prescribed under the CNG rules 1992.

Chairman Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority Sabar Hussain said they had taken serious notice of the recent accidents in CNG-fitted public service vehicles.

“These fittings had been made by unauthorised roadside workshops resulting in gas leakages from damaged/poor quality/un-approved fittings and kits of the vehicles involved in almost all the recent incidents, and confirmed by Hydro-Carbon Development Institute of Pakistan and other third-party inspectors,” Mr Hussain said, adding the CNG stations were not following the mandatory refuelling procedures.

The officials and even the stakeholders, including the transporters, are not sure which authority to blame for the recent upsurge in CNG-related accidents.

Contrary to the general perception that the quality and standards of CNG cylinders, kits and fittings are maintained by the Hydro-Carbon Development Institute of Pakistan (HDIP), the acting director general HDIP said they were just technical service provider and had the system to check the quality of CNG cylinders.

“But we are not the regulator to ensure that all the vehicles are up to the quality standards,” he said, adding it was the job of Ogra and the motor-vehicle examiners (MVE) who issue the fitness certificates to the public transport vehicles.

While responding to it, an official of Ogra said quality checking of CNG fittings, kits and cylinders in public transport vehicles was the responsibility of the directorate of explosives, which is under the ministry of industries.

“CNG system is not fitted in public transport vehicles only; it is in private cars too and they do not get the fitness certificate from the MVE.”

Responding to the same query, the ministry of industries said the department of explosives was more into the infrastructure and storage system for all inflammable and explosive material, including petrol, diesel, other fuels and the CNG, while this applies for other industrial gases.

“We give licences and conduct safety checking on the CNG workshops, tyre/puncture shops etc., at CNG stations and petrol pumps as per the prescribed standards,” said the official of the ministry of industry. “But the department is not involved in checking the qualifications of the employees at petrol stations or the standards of vehicles on the roads.”

An official of the MVE in Rawalpindi said they followed the standards as prescribed in their regulations, and the fitness certificates were issued to vehicles upon fulfilling their prescribed conditions, like the working headlights, indictors, smoke emissions etc.

However, the official declined to comment on the standards and qualifications of their staff to check the CNG kits and fittings. “We are not involved in checking the engineering of the vehicles.”

The transporters have said the fitness certificates are issued after every six months and the motor-vehicle examiners is not involved in the maintenance side of the vehicles.

“First, the government wanted us to convert to CNG fittings to reduce smoke emissions, and the laws should have been made at that time,” said Haji Malik Nawaz, the chairman of Islamabad Wagon Owners Welfare Association.

Talking to Dawn, an official of Ogra said the authority had no role in maintaining the quality standard of CNG system in vehicles. “But we have intervened in view of serious public safety concerns and since CNG stations are under our jurisdiction we see the only way out of the situation is to enforce the regulations through them.”

Chairman All Pakistan CNG Association Ghiyas Paracha criticised the government functionaries for blaming the CNG stations for the substandard quality of CNG fittings or cylinders.

“We have been asking Ogra to grant us permission to conduct CNG quality checking but they did not allow us; so why we should be blamed for any unfortunate incident.”

Mr Paracha said. “This is practically impossible for CNG stations to check the cylinders, kits and the fittings of vehicles before filling.”

However, as the public transport has been stopped from getting CNG across the country, the worst sufferers due to the confused government policies will be the ordinary commuters who will face a new wave of increase in transport fares.