The increase in prices in gas for domestic consumers might be inconsequential after all – even though for certain sections an increase of 221 per cent was recommended – because of the worsening gas shortage in the country. At this rate, it will not even matter how expensive gas currently is, if average consumers do not have access to it within their homes. Both Sui Northern and Southern are currently facing a daily shortage of 200MMCFD and 400MMCFD respectively. Small protests were seen in parts of Lahore over the issue, and this is not surprising given the cold weather and the lack of any other alternative substance for heating.

Most of the problems behind the shortage are not new. An increased demand around this time of the year is a regular occurrence; additionally, gas theft and the illegal use of compressors and pumps to boost one’s own domestic supply have all contributed to this shortage.

Sui Northern (SNGPL) loses 200MMCFD in KP from thefts taking place within close proximity of the gas fields. Bear in mind that this number is half of KP’s total gas production capacity and also the SNGPL’s current shortfall in demand. If only the government and SNGPL could somehow get a handle on this, shortage in KP and Punjab might be avoided.

For Sui Southern (SSGPL), other legal impediments prevent an increase in supply. From land acquisition cases that prevent additional supply pipelines being made, to the federal government denying permission to SSGPL for importing LNG – which SNGPL is allowed to do – all the issues are easily resolved if the government is interested in avoiding this yearly shortage.

Amidst all of this, is the CNG sector; an industry that had nearly collapsed before the government decided to revive it once more after coming into power. Previous governments had rightly come to the conclusion that Pakistan could not afford to burn its supply of gas on transportation, especially since alternatives (albeit more expensive) such as petrol existed, and our own supply of gas was being adversely affected as a result. The CNG sector is not sustainable, and this shortage alone is evidence of that.

The key takeaway here is that the problem is both artificial and definitely reversible, but it needs strong government action. Countering these issues is not possible with a quick fix however, which is why this year’s shortage can only be limited, not eradicated. The only hope is that the inability to supply domestic consumers with steady pressure will spur the government in ensuring that this shortage does not repeat itself in the next year.