LAHORE – As a matter of fact, there is no regulatory-body exists as such to check the standard of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) kits in this country, where millions of motor vehicles have switched over to the environment-friendly gas fuel during the last decade.

The government is unable to bring any legislation or form any regulatory body to monitor this sector owing to one or another reason despite the deaths in cylinder blasts are multiplying across the country.

On Monday, at least seven passengers including two children were burnt alive and four others wounded seriously when the gas-cylinder exploded in a moving van near Manga Mandi at Multan Road. Officials said that the moving van caught fire shortly after one of the two gas-cylinders fitted in the van exploded with a bang owing to gas leakage.

The All Pakistan CNG Association (APCNGA) observed that the accidents in alternate fuel using public vehicles are on the rise in the country. “Because of the gas load shedding throughout the year in Punjab, van drivers prefer more cylinders and get the kits fitted wherever there is space in the vehicle,” the association said in a statement released on Monday following the Manga Mandi van blast.

According to APCNGA, the drivers don’t get the cylinders checked fearing that the extra-cylinders would be removed. The association had prepared a sample van with safely fitted two cylinders as per CNG rules-1992 but the authorities rejected the proposal, said Chairman APCNGA, Capt (retd) Shuja. He also suggested the government to make the decision in the larger interest of the public.

According to ‘Economic Pakistan’, a vital forum to monitor country’s economy, the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) sector of Pakistan by end of 2007 had attracted over Rs 70 billion investments as a result of liberal and encouraging policies of the government. Presently, it says, around 3105 CNG stations are operating in the country in 85 cities and towns, and 1,000 more would be set up in the next three years.

Over 2.4 million vehicles were converted to CNG by end 2009, showing an increase of 35 per cent yearly. On average 29,167 vehicles are being converted to CNG every month. The All Pakistan CNG Association (APA) confirms that CNG stakeholders have invested Rs 90 billion in this sector.

According to the available data, dozens of people are killed in cylinder blasts every year in this country, where the motorists prefer CNG, a cheaper fuel amid high-inflation.

Last year, the gas cylinder explosions had claimed no less than 44 lives and wounded dozens others during the span of just two weeks across Pakistan, the country said to be the leading CNG consumer in the world with millions of cylinder-fitted vehicles plying on the roads.

In December 2011, at least four people had been killed and several others injured in a road accident that took place in Gujranwala district. The road mishap happened when a passenger van caught fire after it overturned and its gas cylinder exploded, setting the vehicle on fire.  In the same month, at least 12 people had been killed and a dozen other wounded when a passenger van’s gas cylinder exploded near Khairpur in Sindh province.

Another CNG-cylinder blast had left 15 people dead in Vehari district of Southern Punjab on December 10, 2012. A similar accident left eight people dead in Sindh province on December 7, 2011 when a passenger van caught fire following the explosion of its CNG cylinder.

Hundreds of thousands of private vehicles immediately switched over to CNG-fuel by the end of 2004, following the former govt led by the then Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz encouraged heavy investments in this sector, terming the fuel as environment friendly.  At that time, according to economists, more than 120 per cent profit margin in this business prompted the investors to run CNG stations.

Though the government banned CNG kits fitting in new vehicles, the motorists are still switching over the vehicles to CNG-fuel, raising concern over the poor standard and quality of the CNG kits, being installed in the public transports.  On December 18, 2011, at least five people were burnt to death including two children in a CNG cylinder blast in passenger van in Kharayanwala area of Faisalabad.  The passengers are shocked and traumatised but they have been left with no other option but to travel on the CNG-cylinder fitted vehicles.

“Since every public vehicle is CNG-fitted, traveling in such transport is very risky. Even heavy buses are converted to CNG fuel. We don’t have any other option,” Muhammad Waheed, a passenger commented, when contacted.

Due to poorly manufactured equipment and carelessness on side of the drivers, hundreds of people have lost their lives during the past few years.

Abdul Sattar, a local transport dealer, suggested that there was a dire need to introduce a proper safety management system in the country to confront road safety challenges.