Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gas supply to Punjab industry suspended

Gas supply to Punjab industry suspended

LAHORE: The Sui Northern Gas Pipelines suspended the supply to industrial units in Punjab on Sunday in order to meet the burgeoning winter demand in homes, confronting the province with a tricky choice: to risk wholesale joblessness in industry or anger the domestic consumer by restoring the quota for factories.

The Pakistan Industrial and Traders’ Associations’ Front hit out at SNGPL for the “harsh measure”, lamenting that the load-management programme had already caused a staggering loss of Rs 40 billion to the industrial sector and rendered a large number of daily-wage workers jobless.
“Around 40 per cent of the industrial units in Punjab run on gas and the rest on electricity. The use of furnace oil or diesel in place of gas has pushed up the cost of production five-fold,” Irfan Qaiser, the association’s chairman, said.

Mr Qaiser accused the government of having a ‘discriminatory attitude’, claiming that units in Sindh were getting an almost uninterrupted supply except a two- to three-hour loadshedding.

An SNGPL official defended the diversion to residential units, saying furious protests in a number of cities had forced the company to resort to such a “painful decision”.
He told Dawn that gas supply to industrial units from the Lahore circle was stopped on Saturday and diverted to domestic consumers in Gujranwala, Jhelum, Hafizabad and Sialkot districts after the relentless protests against gas shortage.

He said the supply to the industries would be curtailed under the ‘force majeure’ policy to cope with the increasing demand by domestic consumers.
“We have a priority for domestic consumers and will manage the gas available for Punjab keeping in view the growing winter domestic requirements,” he said.

In India, 30 per cent of the industries run on liquid natural gas (LNG), he added.
“It would have taken about two years to set up an LNG terminal in Karachi and start distribution across the country. Had the government accepted our proposal a couple of years ago, the terminal would have been set up by now.”

A former president of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mian Anjum Nisar, said the implementation of Article 158 of the Constitution had blocked gas supply to Punjabs industries for around 125 days during the year, while other provinces had been getting uninterrupted supply.
He said the SNGPL had announced a three-day weekly gas loadshedding plan for November to mid-March next year, which would not only severely affect 10,000 gas-based industries but also render permanent and daily-wage workers jobless.

He said the government had stopped gas supply to the provincial industries only for 22 days during the last winter.
He said the industries of other provinces were taking full advantage of the market share of those of Punjab were even paying mark-up for the days of closure because of loadshedding.
On one hand the SNGPL complained of a shortage, but on the hand new gas connections were being given to industries, CNG stations and domestic consumers, he said.
Mian Anjum expressed the fear the industrial sector would destabilise and unemployment would increase even if the scheduled loadshedding continued.
An SNGPL official said the load-management plan for the winter had exceeded the three-day schedule because of weather conditions and variation in supply to consumers.
He denied a media report that the SNGPL had announced stoppage of gas supply to Punjabs industries till further orders.
Another official said that gas in less quantity was being supplied to industries in the province under Article 158.
“We only buy gas from the government and distribute it. We have nothing to do with the discrimination alleged by the industrialists,” he added.

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