Hours of electricity shutdowns in the summer and hours of gas load shedding in the winters, such is life for the residents of the country’s most populated city – who are irked by the additional costs they are having to bear to cook food or keep warm ever since the mercury dropped.
The residents of Karachi, much like the rest of the country, cannot light up their stoves or heaters this winter for extended periods of time due to the ongoing gas crisis, which forces them to rely on either liquified petroleum gas (LPG), wood, or dung cakes, depending on their income bracket. Farzana Malik, a resident of Gulshan-e-Iqbal, while talking to the Express Tribune said that winters had made life difficult. “We are paying gas bills for gas that we do not even get and for LPG cylinders as well,” remarked Farzana, adding that the double whammy had made it difficult to stick to a monthly budget.
As per a market survey carried out by the Express Tribune, prices for non-standard cylinders and various LPG stove models range from Rs 1,300 to Rs 2,500. Whereas, standard LPG cylinders with stoves are available for around Rs 3,500 to Rs 5,000.
Apart from the cost of the cylinder, Ghosiya, a housewife, informed that for a small family buying LPG was an additional burden of Rs 2,500 per month. “LPG is retailing for Rs 210 to 220 per kilogram (kgs and a small family like ours needs about 3 kgs per week to get by,” she explained.
However, for some like Ayesha, a resident of Musa Colony, who works as a maid, the additional monthly cost for LPG is simply out of reach. “We are a family of 10 and LPG is unaffordable for us. Therefore, we have to rely on wood. We purchase about 2 to 3 sacks of firewood every 15 days and it sets us back about Rs 1,500 per month,” said Ayesha, adding that the additional amount severely dented their monthly income.
Faiz Muhammad, a local firewood dealer, concurring with Ayesha, said that the onset of winter had seen a rise in demand for wood since LPG was out of reach for many. “Our cost of acquiring the wood from furniture vendors is about Rs 150 per sack and at the moment we are retailing a sack of wood for Rs 300.”
On the other hand, for those who cannot afford either LPG or firewood, the last resort is dung cakes. Rekha Mai, the head of a Hindu family living temporarily near the Gujjar canal, talking about her plight, said that we are beggars who cannot buy much. “We prepare our food by lighting up dried cow dung. Right now, a sack of dung cakes costs about Rs 120 to Rs 150 and sooner or later these prices will go up as well,” Rekha Mai lamented.
For those who are not relying on either of the three options, trips to roadside stalls or hotels to fetch naans or parathas have increased. Mehek Tariq, a resident of Liaquatabad, said that since there is no gas from 11 at night to 6 in the morning, they have to bring in parathas or rotis from the hotel. “This costs us anywhere from Rs 600 to Rs 1,000 per day.”
More trips to the restaurant means that owners, who are also affected by the gas crisis, have to bring in bigger commercial LPG cylinders to cope up with the demand. “When the queues for breakfast and dinner items increase at the restaurant, we have to buy more LPG, and eventually this will lead to a rise in the cost of LPG,” regretted Qadir Khan, a local restaurant owner.
Spokesperson of the Sui Southern Gas Company, when asked if there was any hope of addressing the gas crisis, replied that presently they were only receiving 882 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of gas, which was nothing compared to Karachi’s demand. “Gas supply and load shedding is being done according to the Gas Load Management Plan. We are doing our best to ensure that gas is supplied to domestic customers as per schedule,” the spokesperson told The Express Tribune.