CNG unit switch leads to transport crisis

Vehicles queue up near a CNG station in Karachi on Thursday night. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD NOMAN/EXPRESS

Vehicles queue up near a CNG station in Karachi on Thursday night. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD NOMAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Sindh is on the verge of an acute public transport crisis as CNG station owners have decided to sell gas per litre instead of per kilogramme in the province despite the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) declaring the sale of locally produced natural gas-based CNG in litres as illegal.

Reacting on the decision of CNG station owners, the Karachi Transport Ittehad (KTI) and the Sindh Bus Owner Association has decided to go on strike on August 17. The partial closure of CNG stations on Thursday hit daily commuters in Karachi hard on Friday as a majority of public transport vehicles remained off road.

Sindh Bus Owners Association chairperson Mir Afzal Khan told The Express Tribune they were initially planning to go on strike from August 13 but due to Independence Day, they have postponed their strike till August 17. He pointed out that the CNG could never be sold by the litre and if the unit is changed they would face a loss of between Rs800 and Rs1,000 every day. “With this loss, naturally the prices of bus fares would increase,” he warned.  Sindh’s transport department has already banned the use of CNG cylinders in all inter-city public vehicles following an earlier Sindh High Court (SHC) decision. Responding to this, Khan admitted that their minibuses and coasters were still plying on the road with CNG cylinders.

Meanwhile, Sindh transport authority secretary Ghazanfar Qadri said the Sindh Bus Owner Association has nothing to do with CNG. “When they take a route permit from us, we make sure that their vehicles don’t have CNG cylinders installed,” he claimed, adding that if they go on strike, action would be taken against them and special checking would commence.

On the other hand, KTI’s general secretary Syed Mehmood Afridi said they were facing a Rs600 loss each day due to the change in unit. He also threatened to go on strike on August 17 and said if CNG continued to be supplied in litres, they would definitely raise their fares. Chairperson of the CNG Dealers Association, Abdul Sami Khan, said that on Saturday they would continue to supply CNG in litres. He said that the unit has already been changed in Punjab and tax has been reduced there. On a question regarding the hike in transport fares, he said that several times in the past CNG prices were reduced but the transporters never reduced their fares.

Transport crisis

Where most of the CNG stations remained closed on Thursday, long queues of vehicles were seen at the few that were open. Even on Friday, Afridi said most of their transport remained off the road, as buses failed to get their cylinders filled. As expected, during the crisis, rickshaw fares have soared. North Karachi resident Owais Muhammad, said for the past two days he has seen no public transport on the roads. “Rickshaw drivers are demanding very high fares claiming to have their rickshaws on petrol,” he lamented.

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