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Gas cylinders bone of contention between govt, transporters

January 13, 2012

Different petitions, seeking complete ban on use of CNG gas tanks in public and commercial transports are also being heard in separate courts. - File photo


The stand-off over the installation of extra gas tanks between the government and transporters has not been resolved despite frantic negotiations. Critics point out that with the expected increases in price of diesel and petrol, the government will face poor comphance as far as the ban is concerned.

For quite some time, the government had encouraged transporters to switch from petrol and diesel fuel to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). The trend took off so much that automobile manufacturers started assembling gas-kits in vehicles and issued licences to workshop owners in this regard.

It was all good till the CNG load-shedding schedule was announced: three days every week gas stations across the country remain shut to make up for fuel shortage. But just because the gas stations were shutting down did not mean thatpeople would quit going about their daily routine public transport is undoubtedly an essential part of life and so to make up for storage capacity, vehicle ownersbegan installing additional gas tanks to the one tank allowed legally.

It wasn't long before the shoddy contraptions began to malfunction: a series of gas cylinder explosions inpublic service vehicles resulted in innocent lives being lost and even the owners faced heavy losses.

Had the secretary regional transport authority, motor vehicle examiner, the district police done their job in implementing government orders, no unfit vehicle would have plied on roads nor any tragedy like burning of passengers alive due to gas tank explosion hap-pened.

Since then the public has been questioning the government move to encourage the transporters to convert their wagons and buses toCNG. When the g o vernmen t went for stricter implementation of the ban but had to back off when the transporters went on a strike. The transporters had spent large sums on conversions,they are now reluctant to go back to diesel or petrol.

Zahid Bashir, a motor vehicle examiner, said that the consultation between the stakeholders had not been finalised yet, though public service buses may be allowed to have a limited number of additional tanks.

'Nine gas tanks on the rooftop in big buses, six tanks in mini-buses, three tanks for wagons and two tanks forpickup vans,' he added.

He said transporters had been given a deadline of one-and-a-half month (till Feb 15) to get their vehicles checked through special teams of experts, comprising officials from the Hydrocarbon Development Institute of Pakistan (HDIP), Chief Inspector Enforcement, Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, and Motor Vehicle Examiner.

The team will do a quality assurance check of the standard of gas kits. All approved vehicles will be provided a sticker and certificate of fitness certificate from the MVE, he added.

It is also being considered to make the fitness of CNG kits and cylinders' certificates mandatory for the public and commercial transporters to get the route permit from Secretary Regional Transport Authority.

Following the safety guidelines, it is also being suggested to set up 'testing workshops' on separate sites to get the public and commercial vehicles' CNG kits checked thoroughly. The gas tanks installed in public service vehicle beneath the seats usually starts leaking as their valves and other connecting pipes get damage when hit or touched by passengers' feet.

Different petitions, seeking complete ban on use of CNG gas tanks in public and commercial transports are also being heard in separate courts.

The Supreme Court had already directed the Punjab government to constitute special teams in each district to check 'fitness' of gas kits and tanks in public service vehicles. The apex court directives seem to have fallen on deaf ears of the regional transport authorities.

The secretary RTA was not available to give the details of the job he had been assigned to ensure the safety of gas tanks and kits.

Despite being empowered to cancel the route permits of the unfit public transport, no action has been taken.

All the recommendation made by the stakeholders in their ongoing meetings would be sent to the ministry of petroleum who will submit its report in the Supreme Court on February 15.

However, the recommendations are yet to be finalised by the transporters and authorities concerned.