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Punjab’s gas shortage

January 29, 2013

PUNJAB has experienced the worst-ever gas shortages this winter. Though the people were not expecting a miracle to rid them of the shortages, no one had imagined that these winter months would prove to be so difficult. The fertiliser plants in the province have not been getting gas for sev-eral months now. The industry, which continued to receive the fuel, albeit partially, for its captive power generation and processes through the last year, finds its supplies suspended since Dec 5. CNG stations are closed for an indefinite period. Domestic consumers are facing low gas pressure, not enough even to cook food. It is, therefore, no surprise that all affected consumers — from housewives to factory owners — are running out of patience. In this context, the protest by textile factory owners and their workers in Faisalabad over the past weekend was just a warning of the shape of things to come if gas is not restored to industrial units soon. Though the federal adviser on petroleum has promised to restore supplies to the textile industry two days a week from Feb 1, this is not enough.

Who is to blame for the ongoing energy crisis that results in losses of up to three per cent of the overall economy every year and which has wiped out hundreds of thousands of jobs? The government, of course, and its policymakers. But the government appears least bothered about the issue, let alone about solving it. Even the prospect of the fast-approaching general elections hasn’t worked. The violent protests over gas and electricity shortages across Punjab during the last five years have failed to stir it into action. The generic official response of rationing gas and electricity for different sectors has only exacerbated the crisis. The latter will not go away unless new supplies through imports are added to the system. That requires concerted efforts and an integrated energy policy. Additionally, the cost of all fuels should be brought at par for all sectors so that nobody feels discriminated against. This could be done by calculating the average cost by raising the price of cheaper fuels and reducing that of expensive ones.