LAHORE - Tens of thousands of domestic consumers are facing great inconvenience due to the unavailability of natural gas in one third area of the Punjab capital.

Mega construction sites for Orange Line and other multi-billion projects resulted damaging of pipelines in the areas and supply cut to adjacent localities. Old dated infrastructure of the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) and unavailability of gas in the company’s network to meet the demand of the consumers coupled with line losses and theft are also the main reasons behind the shortage of basic fuel for the households.

The scarcity of also led an increase in demand and price of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) which is being used as an alternate fuel. There are 4,000 sale points of LPG in Lahore whose businesses are flourishing due to increase in demand.

The price of the LPG witnessed Rs15 increase (Rs95 kg to Rs110 per kg) in just a week which is likely to increase further in coming days. Similarly its demand has gone up from 300 ton to 400 ton daily in summer to 600 ton these days which will increase to 700 ton daily in coming month.

The main areas where natural gas is totally vanished from are: Scheme Mor, Allama Iqbal Town, Mozang, Chuburgi area, Thoker Niaz Beg, Ali Town, Garhi Shahoo, Baghwanpura, Dharampura, Township, Green Town and Shahdrah. The residents either bring meal from hotels or they use LPG for their needs.

The problem of low pressure of gas, however, continues in almost all the city localities, causing immense problem for the masses. Several residents said they were using LPG as an alternative which is unaffordable now.

The crisis has forced people to buy bread from tandoors. Long queues could be seen at different restaurants and tandoors in these areas.

“We consume daily two kg LPG for cooking and heating, which costs Rs250. My husband is a rickshaw driver and we are family of five. My kids go to school. It is really hard for us to meet daily expenses without natural gas,” said Razia Bibi, a housewife living in Ali Town Kachi Abadi.

Utilising LPG of an average R150 per day in a house where natural gas is unavailable means an amount of Rs4500 per month extra has been added in the utility bills of a poor family during months of December, January and February - the season of peak shortage of gas.

Some other residents of the same area requested government and SNGPL to ensure gas supply to them.

“What can we do in a situation like this? The same situation has persisted for the past several days, leaving no option for us but to buy food from markets,” said Nazeer Ahmad, a resident of Thoker Niaz Beg.

He added that several of his neighbours had switched over to LPG for their fuel needs.

The SNGPL management says that the company is facing 50 per cent shortfall in demand and supply and is it not possible for them to meet demand of the all sectors in present circumstances.

“We are trying our hard to meet the demand of domestic sector. We diverted the gas supply from other sectors to household but we feel sorry that company is still receiving complaints of gas shortage from many areas,” said company spokesperson Awais Bajwa.

“Almost 1175 million cubic feet per day (MMCFD) gas available in SNGPL’s network is being utilised in KPK and Punjab’s domestic sector,” he added.

But some insiders say that line losses and gas thefts are also contributing in shortage. “The shortage is not hitting only Lahore but other cities of the province are also facing the same issue. Yes there is shortage of gas in the system but theft and line losses are also contributing a major part in the current shortage,” said an official of the company and requested not to be named.

Besides Lahore, millions of consumers in Sheikhpura, Jhelum, Gujrat, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Okara, Nankana and other cities are also facing severe shortage of gas at homes.

There are also reports of minor protests in Lahore and others cities mostly led by women who were facing severe problems in cooking food. The intensity of the protests however could go high if the situation prevails in coming days.

The LPG Association leader Attique Khan told The Nation that LPG demand was touching 600 ton daily in Lahore which is almost half in summer. He said the surplus LPG was available with the marketing companies and there was not fear of shortage and price hike in coming days.