We are rapidly running out of the energy needed to keep houses running and industries afloat. The gas load-shedding problem, already crippling much of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), could now extend to Sindh. According to the managing director of the Sui Southern Gas Company, gas losses which occurred for several reasons had resulted in a shortage of the fuel and could result in Karachi facing load-shedding over the next two months. Some parts of interior Sindh are already facing the problem. The energy situation across the country seems to be deteriorating quickly. The reason is tied in to negligence over a period of many years and a failure to cater to rising demands. It should not have been hard to predict that population growth would lead to enhanced needs for fuel of all kinds. At present, while a few new fields of gas have been found, supplies from established fields such as Sui and Badin are on the decline, meaning that gas supply is essentially static while demand continues to rise. The SSGC has also said a major reason for the gas losses it confronts is the dilapidated state of the 56,000 kilometre pipeline network which carries gas to cities, towns and villages across the country. There has been too little work on preventing corrosion of these pipes and, as a result, valuable gas simply slips away.
The figures maintained by the company which provides gas to the southern provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan indicate that 58 per cent of gas losses are due to theft, 38 per cent due to leakages and 15 per cent due to inaccurate metering. The MD made a significant point when he stated that the restriction placed on new connections in 2011 had led to an increase in gas theft. Stealing means no revenue comes in to the company while gas continues to be drained from the system. Perhaps the connection policy needs to be reconsidered, but only in tandem with new initiatives to acquire gas as swiftly as possible. The gas pipeline deals being worked out with Central Asian countries and Iran will take a little time to materialise. Till then, the SSGC and its northern counterpart the CNGPL have plans to bring in imported liquid petroleum gas (LPG). But adding this to the system will obviously increase the cost given the high prices of LPG. There are also additional problems such as default by major gas users including Pak Steel and K-Electric. Pak Steel owes the SSGC Rs38 to 39 billion while a deal with K-Electric is being worked out over dues. These are issues that have continued month after month, year after year. The delay in tackling them has led to the crisis we face today. The shutoff of gas supplies to industries one day a week in Sindh and to CNG stations for three days every week affects millions. We cannot continue to live like this. We desperately need energy and a strategy to bring it in quickly, whether this means resorting to alternative energy resources or developing other ways that can help meet the basic needs of people and of our economy.