ENERGY ISSUE: A SERIOUS CHALLENGE

AMANULLAH BASHAR
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Jan 9 - 15, 20
12

The two gas utilities sustain billions of rupees losses on account of unaccounted for gas despite the fact that they are well equipped with the hi-tech software to precisely identify the gas pilferage in the system. Both the gas distribution companies (SSGC and SNGPL) suffer heavy monetary losses due to the gas theft.

These utilities are quite capable to plug the leakage of gas by using the available facility. Yet, they are not doing so under the political pressures or condoning the connivance of their staffs in encouraging pilferage.

The natural gas distribution landscape has an ugly and unprecedented spot of over 12 per cent gas theft technically called unaccounted for gas in the transmission or distribution network giving a serious dent to the economy since each percent is equal to one billion rupees, a fact that has even been conceded by the gas utility officials.

The ever deteriorating energy situation calls for the stringent action to cancel licenses of those bulk gas users both industrial consumers and CNG stations irrespective to their political status or affiliations.

Until and unless the gas supplies are made normalized, the hope for economic growth will be like hoping against hope.

In fact, the energy shortfall has assumed a proportion, which calls for making it a single point agenda for the policymakers who should resolve the issue at the highest priority.

The abnormal short supplies have consequently disrupted the normal operations of various important sectors including large scale manufacturing sector, export oriented industries, urea plants, and textile and leather industries, which are supposed to contribute a major part into the economic growth. If the remedial and corrective measures are not taken at once, the results of these economic players would be highly disappointed at the end of the year.

Reacting over the grave situation, the trade and industry leaders expressed serious concerns over the poor health of the economy due to mismanagement of the energy resources.

They remarked that isn't it a great irony and clear injustice that while we in Sindh are receiving 25 per cent less of the allocated quota and still we are compelled to close our industries for four days.

In the province of Punjab, SNGPL distributed gas connections left, right, and centre exceeding all limits, while it is most unfortunate that the industries in Sindh are being punished and penalized.

It is imperative that the government should impose a ban on all such connections and the already inequitably distributed connections must be disconnected forthwith to resolve the sobering issues.

If the government does not supply proper, adequate and full pressure gas to industries in Karachi, the export oriented industries with 50 per cent of contribution in exports will collapse, close down, or make huge number of male and female workers jobless.

Last week, trade associations of Karachi held a hurriedly called press briefing to bring into notice the severest ever load shedding of gas and miserably low gas pressure affecting the export- oriented industries in the city.

A joint statement was issued to the press by Mian Abrar Ahmad, president Karachi chamber of commerce and industry, Irfan Motan, chairman SITE association of industry, Ehtesham Uddin, chairman Korangi association of trade and industry, Ziad Bashir, chairman Landhi association, Masroor Ahmed Alvi, chairman F.B. Area association, Abdul Rasheed, chairman North Karachi association, Mehtabuddin Chawla, chairman SITE Super Highway association, and Usman Ahmed, President Bin Qasim association.

All the seven town associations complied with the request of SSGC of not to use gas and stop all their production on Sundays from 7.00 am to Mondays 7.00 am upon a solemn promise by the utility that for the remaining week there would be absolutely no curtailment of gas supply, they said. However, SSGC failed to keep its promise, and gas supply was stopped to these industries for continuous three days in a week and further for the remaining three days gas was supplied with miserably low pressure, they lamented. This caused drop-off in production by 50 per cent, they added.

They are suffering and facing the load shedding despite the fact that Sindh's share in national gas production is 70 per cent. Balochistan's share is 21 per cent and that of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is nine per cent.

There is a serious figure fudging in relation to province-wise consumption, they said. They said the figure of 41 per cent usage by Sindh is not true since 1115 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) is available to SSGC and the country's total production stands at 3800mmcfd. It does not warrant a rocket science to work out the actual percentage i.e. 29.34 per cent, they added.

They asserted that under Article 158, the province producing gas has the first right over its resources. Now, currently the distribution of gas in Sindh is most inequitable and unjustified.

GAS FIELD MANAGEMENT

Frequent closure of gas fields on account of maintenance of the fields is one of the reasons for disrupted gas supplies. The overhaul of gas fields is a technical requirement, but it should be once or twice a year and no so often.

Monitoring of the existing gas fields and the development work on the incoming gas fields is equally important to ensure smooth supplies of the commodity.

Today, the province of Sindh is the largest producer of gas and has the potential to cater to the energy needs of the entire country.

It is a matter of will to develop available energy resources in the province where law and order situation is much better than what it is in rest of the federating units.

The only thing required is to devote time and energy as well as a strong will of the team responsible to enhance production of gas from the available resources.