Karachi has been experiencing severe gas shortages ever since Siberian winds gripped the megacity.
Amidst gas crises, citizens have been forced to look for alternative heat sources like LPG cylinders and burning coal, wood or biofuel.
Resultantly, the price for these alternative options has also gone up by 20 to 30 per cent, backed by increased demand from domestic as well as commercial sectors.
Ayesha Khatun, a working-class woman who is a resident of the Musa Colony area, said that she cannot even afford to buy LPG, so her only option is to burn wood like the dark ages. “You would think wood is cheap, for us, that too is a great investment. Even a sack of wood costs Rs250 while a wood stove retails for Rs800. It’s because dealers have increased their prices seeing the increasing demand for wood,” the woman lamented.
Per Sehar Tariq, a resident of Liaquatabad, her area experiences gas suspensions that can last an entire day. “I couldn’t make breakfast or as much boil water on most days, and was eventually forced to get a LPG stove cylinder. It cost me Rs2,500 for one that comes with 4 kilogrammes of gas, but it runs out every other day and I have to pay for refilling which takes a serious toll on my budget,” she told.
According to Malik Zahoor Ahmad, a local stove dealer, said that LPG cylinder stoves, which are available for Rs2,000 to Rs4,000 have seen a surge in demand in the last month. “Since the prices have increased, a lot of people are currently opting for cheaper light-sheet cylinders and stove cylinders, which not safe for domestic use and present a huge risk of catching fire and exploding. People should only buy company brand cylinders,” he highlighted.
Owing to the surged prices of wood and the current state of economy, there is a portion of population that cannot afford what is perhaps considered the cheapest form of fuel. “So we have resorted to burning dried cow dung patties to cook food and heat water. But if you don’t have a cow at your disposal, a sack of dried cow dung can cost Rs150, which isn’t cheap at all,” told Hajra Bibi, a resident of Khuda Ki Basti, a settlement dedicated to the urban poor.
However, there are also parts of the city, like the Kemari area, where LPG cylinders are a rare find. People here, according to resident Asif Shah, have been buying food from hotels every day, which means an extra Rs500 to Rs600 added to their daily budget.
“We can’t do this for long, which is why everyone in our area if fed up and scared of the gas shortages,” he commented.
Addressing the gas shortages, Sui Southern Gas Company spokesman Salman Siddiqui however maintained that Karachi is getting a normal supply of gas. “In areas where there are complaints of gas shortages, we respond immediately. I appeal to the people to immediately remove compressors from their stoves and use gas carefully,” he stated.