Pakistan News

‘CNG vehicles fitness testing likely to be outsourced’

‘CNG vehicles fitness testing likely to be outsourced’

KARACHI: Several safety issues linked to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles were highlighted at a workshop on ‘Safety rules and procedures of CNG transport’, jointly organised by Pakistan Sustainable Transport Project (Pakstran) Sindh, CNG Owners Association of Pakistan and CNG Dealers of Pakistan on Wednesday.

“For the sake of creating a clean environment Pakistan became the number one CNG user in the world. Then the Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) came up with an ordinance for safety measures in CNG transportation by looking at world standards. It was said that all CNG cylinders must be tested after every five years during their 20-year lifespan. Otherwise the oil residues, etc building up in them can turn them into a bomb. Still people don’t test their old cylinders,” said Malik Khuda Bakhsh, chairman of CNG Owners’ Association.

“Then came the cylinders in buses. The bus owners were taking a bigger risk by converting oxygen, nitrogen and LPG cylinders into CNG cylinders. When using such substandard cylinders they don’t even understand the basic safety issues here what can the authorities do about it?

“Then according to the parameters set for installation of CNG kits only the licensed people are authorized to do it. Instead anyone is doing it without taking the preventive measures into account. So many of the CNG buses have cylinders fixed under their seats. They are just time bombs,” he said.

“The correct procedure is to fix the cylinders on the roof of the bus so that any gas escaping it is released into the air instead of being trapped under the seats. Here even the filling stations see this but don’t turn away the buses. They should simply refuse to sell gas to such vehicles. Also passengers should refuse to travel in such buses. If they do that, the bus owners would automatically fix their buses, but for the passengers to reject such buses, you need to make them aware of the dangers first,” he said.

“Hoping to spread awareness regarding all this we give advertisements in major newspapers and still there is no change. This is so because the people who read these newspapers aren’t the ones who travel by bus. We have to find another way to spread awareness here like publicize the problem on television, etc,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, Dr Mir Shabbar Ali gave a presentation on the ‘Policy guidelines for CNG safety rules — an overview of the principal guidelines of urban transport’.

“The population in Sindh is growing but there is an insufficient infrastructure along with an inconsistent policy for the urban area and the need for a strong coordination between several key departments,” he explained while adding that they needed to formally integrate land use and transport along with improvising pedestrian facilities, come up with an intelligent transport system of computerised cards, regular vehicle fitness checkups, etc.

Chairman of All Pakistan Petroleum and CNG Dealers Association Abdul Sami Khan said this country had been really unlucky that after spending billions on CNG the authorities were now in the process of putting an end to it all. He said there were so many issues associated with CNG that instead of fixing them, the government became overwhelmed and decided to just kill the CNG drive altogether.

“As per the Constitution of Pakistan, the first right for gas remains with the province that produces it. Some 71 per cent of the country’s gas comes from Sindh and yet we have gas load shedding here with other provinces that produce 16 or 14pc gas do not experience any load shedding,” he added.

Mr Khan said CNG cylinders testing had also been made very discouraging with the person willing to go for it being told that it would take five days to do it. “Now what consumer would agree to that?” he asked. “This is the reason why only five per cent of the consumers have their cylinders tested while the rest avoid the tedious exercise altogether,” he said.

Sindh Transport Secretary Taha Faruqui said safety in CNG transportation was a sensitive and multidimensional issue looked at from different angles by all those associated with it in different ways. “Still everyone wants the vehicles and passengers to remain safe and secure,” he said while informing that vehicles fitness checking used to be the job of police first before being given to the transport department.

But they were going to outsource this, because both the other departments just didn’t have the equipment to properly test the fitness of CNG vehicles, he added.

“So we won’t be just pushing forward files and handing out fitness certificates without having to see the vehicles. There will be a proper and uniform policy for all. And this system won’t be made tedious or difficult,” he promised.

“Still the transport department, the police, CNG associations, filling stations and vehicle owners all share the responsibility of the fitness and safety of their vehicles, as every life is precious,” he concluded.

Published in Dawn June 18th, 2015

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