Looming gas crisis

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Gas shortage is looming for Sindh, the biggest producer of the natural fuel, as Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan has warned Sindh will soon be a gas starved province. Other provinces are already facing gas shortage given the fact that the country faces a 3.5 billion cubic feet shortfall of the gas per day, thanks to the growing domestic, commercial and industrial needs and successive governments’ negligence to take up gas imports projects from Iran and Central Asian States. The country’s demand is exceeding 7BCFD and the shortfall of 5BCDF is met with imported gas under makeshift arrangements. That expensive gas is subsidized by the government, which in turn increases the circular debt. It is the high time the government rationlised the prices. Earlier, Sindh used to be a self-reliant province because of its excessive gas reservoirs. But, for the past few years, the province has been facing gas loadshedding in winter as the production of indigenous gas is decreasing in the face of rising demand. The situation demands that provinces sit together and find out a solution to the country’s gas shortage. The distribution of gas as per the 18th Constitutional Amendment is one issue but the government needs to tackle the growing losses of gas companies, line losses, price mechanism and import projects. For the gas distribution among the provinces, the best forum is the Council of Common Interests, where the issue can be discussed and resolved. The government must address lawmakers’ concerns regarding the violation of Article 158 and 172 of the Constitution.
The Centre and the provincial government of Sindh have long been trading accusations of inefficiency and maltreatment against each other. Last year, a Sindh minister accused the federal government of creating a shortage in gas supply to Sindh, whereas the federal government accused the PPP government in Sindh of allowing the right of way to them to lay a gas pipeline in the province. If the Sindh government was showing dilly-dally and delay on the pipeline issue, the centre should have taken the issue at the highest level, which it never did. Apart from the centre-Sindh conflicts, the major issues the gas companies are facing are huge line losses and low prices. Whenever gas companies try to increase gas prices, it becomes a political issue. Moreover, there has been no major development on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, which the Asif Zardari government had signed with Tehran back in 2012 and later inaugurated work on it in 2013. It’s time to take up the gas pipeline with Tehran as well as the US.