Jan 11 - 17, 20

The country is facing an acute energy crisis and soaring price of oil has made a sharp rise in the number of CNG users over the last five years in Pakistan. In Punjab, Sindh and NWFP, the number of CNG stations have increased over the last few years with the increase in number of its users. On the other hand, Balochistan has not witnessed that sharp increase in the number of CNG users, as CNG stations were not set up in accordance with the requirement of the people in the province. The province still absolutely lacks the CNG stations, particularly in its rural districts. A CNG user outside Quetta does not find any CNG station if he travels into the interior Balochistan.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) provides a smoke-free and cheaper option to vehicles for switching over from petrol. In view of the soaring oil price, it has become unaffordable for the people to use petrol-run vehicles and they have fixed CNG kits in their vehicles to reduce their fuel expenses. The petrol or diesel-run vehicles in Pakistan cause greater environmental damages making the air pollution problem acute in the cities.

Unlike other provinces, the people of Balochistan are still bearing higher costs for traveling in their petrol-run vehicles. The province has run out of CNG stations to meet the requirements of CNG-converted cars and vans.

There are only three CNG stations in the provincial capital Quetta. Only three stations are absolutely insufficient to meet the fuel requirements of nearly 50,000 vehicles with CNG kits in Quetta. One can see a long queue of vehicles outside the CNG stations in Quetta. The people have to wait for hours to get the CNG for their vehicles. As a matter of routine, the people reach the CNG stations since dawn to get CNG for their vehicles.

Only three CNG stations can not meet the requirement of Quetta with a population of 1.5 million people. The province needs more CNG stations that should be set up in all the 32 districts.

Private sector should also play its active role in setting up CNG stations across the province. The provincial government should mobilize the private parties for establishing CNG stations in remote areas of the province by announcing special incentives to them.

The government should also establish more CNG filling stations and provide CNG kits at easy installments to the people. Provincial government should immediately plan to install CNG kits in thousands of rickshaws present in the provincial capital. Motor rickshaws are the major cause of abundant air pollution in Quetta.

CNG is thought less expensive and more eco friendly by the experts. Air pollution is an acute problem in Quetta, which has recently been declared the worst polluted city after Mexico in the world. There was a time when tuberculosis patients from all over the country would come to live in Balochistan, particularly in Quetta and Ziarat, for its healthy, clean and fresh atmosphere. Unfortunately, the situation has reversed today. The air quality in urban areas especially in Quetta is poorer and worse than any city of the country.

Traffic congestion, heaps of filth and garbage and smoke emitting vehicles particularly rickshaws are the main factors threatening a massive environmental disaster in Quetta. The worst polluted air in Quetta and other cities of the province poses serious health hazards to its residents. The successive governments in the past paid no attention to the worsening environmental problems in the provincial capital and today the situation has become malignant.

It is worth mentioning that CNG kits should conform to international needs and standards, otherwise the substandard CNG kits will reserve the situation. The government should ensure the installation of CNG system meeting the required safety standards and monitor the workshops installing substandard and unsafe CNG kits.

It is unfortunate that the people of least developed province are still not properly enjoying the CNG stations facility. Outside Quetta, there is almost no CNG station and generally the people travel long distances in their vehicles to other districts without using less-expensive CNG. They have to bear dear cost for their traveling in petrol or diesel-run vehicles.

Under President Rozgar Scheme of the former government, thousands of CNG Rikshaws were provided to the unemployed youth on payment in easy installments, but these Rikshaws are presently running on petrol due to the less number of CNG stations in Quetta. The high fuel price is the key reason behind rising fares of these rikshaws.

The provincial government should take steps to flourish and promote the business of CNG stations in Balochistan. It should ask the federal government to patronize this business in the province so that local people could also enjoy the facility of CNG at reasonable price for their vehicles.

All Pakistan CNG Station Owners Association (CSOA) has alleged that the government wants to destroy the business of gas stations by supplying gas to industries to earn more revenue. CSOA has warned that if the government tried to interfere against the price the association had fixed, all CNG stations would be closed down.

Presently, the CNG consumers will have to pay Rs5.09 per kg more in Sindh and Punjab and Rs5.60 in the NWFP and Balochistan after the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) raised natural gas tariff by 18 per cent, effective from January 01.

Ogra fixed the CNG price at Rs53.63 per kg for Sindh and Punjab from Rs48.54, while for NWFP and Balochistan at Rs55.30 per kg from Rs49.70. The government has allowed 15 per cent profit to the pump owners on gas sale.

There are reports that federal government plans to equate the price of CNG with petrol and diesel in order to maintain gas supply to the country's industrial units, which are currently facing acute shortage of gas. With the increase in CNG price, the people will lose the charm of using cheaper CNG and switch their vehicles on to petrol. With such measures, the government can earn more revenue but the people will suffer. This may also cause an environmental disaster in the country.

It is the policy of the federal government that can promote use of CNG in motor vehicles in the province. Unfortunately, present government has also not taken any measures for the development of CNG sector in the province that has long been meeting the country's energy needs through its gas reserves. The provincial government should take steps for the development of CNG business in the province with an aim to protect environment and create job opportunities for local people.