ISLAMABAD: The Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) on Monday imposed a ban on the use of comp¬re¬ssed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) by all public service vehicles (PSVs), including school vans, to ensure “safety of public life and property”.
Subsequent to the ban, the motorway police laun¬ch¬ed a crackdown on such public service vehicles passing through M-1 and M-2 motorways, while the CNG owners association pledged to challenge the move in court.
In letters written to the Ministry of Energy, the provincial governments, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir government, top police officials and CNG associations, Ogra said it had taken the decision on the recommendations of the Punjab and Sindh governments in accordance with a Sindh High Court order.
“All stakeholders are expected to comply with the decision in letter and spirit,” said Ogra while asking the provincial governments and the inspector general of motorway police “to start crackdown against all PSVs having CNG cylinders installed inside the passenger’s compartments with a view to saving precious lives of innocent passengers travelling in such PSVs”.
Apart from ban on CNG in PSVs, Ogra said: “LPG cylinders are completely banned in transport vehicles and any vehicle found with LPG cylinders shall be dealt accordingly by law enforcement agencies”.
The Punjab government had recently reported to Ogra and the Hydrocarbon Development Institute of Pakistan (HDIP) that there had been severe fire accidents in PSVs especially in Hiace vans (vintage/new) because of their unauthorised placements inside their cabins and it was not possible for the transport department to check each and every PSV operating on roads. Therefore, the provincial government had requested Ogra to impose ban on use of gas cylinders in public transport.
The Punjab government had told the regulator that “designs mentioned by Ogra in its past orders regarding number and location of the cylinders as fuel tanks in Hiace vans was in complete contradiction of Rule 199 (Fuel Tanks) of Motor Vehicles Rules 1969 and Compressed Natural Gas Safety Rules 1992 which compromises on safety and comfort of the passengers”.
The Punjab transport secretary said the HDIP was also required to set up its workshops in every district to inspect quality of kits and cylinders in PSVs, but none of the workshops were operational or requisite expertise in this field.
Moreover, recent accidents at Sohawa (Jhelum) and Rawalpindi toll plaza showed the transporters were using LPG in place of LNG and had more than one cylinder beneath passenger seats. Therefore, it recommended that “use of any kind of gas as fuel and installation of gas cylinders in all PSVs be banned immediately to avoid unpleasant incidents in future and to save precious human lives”.
The regulator said the SHC in its June 19 order had “directed that the district implementation committees shall perform their responsibilities diligently in accordance with the terms of reference mentioned in the Sindh government notification to avoid any untoward incident/accidents”.
The Ogra letter stated: “In order to ensure safety of passengers and to avoid unpleasant incidents/ accidents, this authority hereby conveys its concurrence to the request of banning CNG/LPG cylinders in public service vehicles.”
Through the letter Ogra asked all the provinces and inspector general of motorway police to rigorously enforce its law (Rule I99 of MV Rule 1969) and immediately ensure removal of CNG cylinders from all PSVs plying on roads and cancellation of their route permits for making violation of order.
The school vans, which are private vehicles, in no case would be allowed using CNG fuel and cylinder to ensure safety of the innocent children, the regulator said.
The All Pakistan CNG Association (APCNGA) has threatened to challenge the government’s decision of banning cylinder in PSVs in court, as the motorway police and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration launched a crackdown on such vehicles.
The central leader of APCNGA, Ghyas Paracha, said the action of motorway police to ban PSVs’ entry to the motorways was illegal.
“We are going to challenge it in the court,” he said. He said Ogra had no right to ban use of cylinders in PSVs as in 2013 the regulator had agreed on the installation of two cylinders in Hiace, he said.
He said the PSVs could install cylinders on the rooftop, as Ogra had asked only for the removal of cylinders inside the vehicles. He said there were around half a million PSVs with CNG cylinders running on the roads and completely banning CNG in the vehicles meant destroying the CNG sector.
Mr Paracha alleged that the ban on CNG cylinder was a conspiracy of the oil mafia to retake the fuel market.