LAHORE: The sale of sub-standard Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders is on rise in the provincial capital, ignoring the fact that thousands of lives have been lost owing to such cylinders during the last few years, Pakistan Today has observed.
On the other hand, thousands of LPG sellers are busy in illegal decanting of LPG in sub-standard cylinders under the nose of the authorities. The Punjab government in May 2016 had prohibited the refilling and decanting of LPG and declared it a punishable offence.
While passing through markets in various areas of Lahore, it can be observed that cylinders are being sold without any fear. The major market for such sub-standard cylinders in the city is Shah Alam market where one can easily buy a cylinder ranging from Rs700 to Rs 4,000.
While surveying the market, every shopkeeper found was claiming that he was selling the best cylinder.
Abdul Hameed is selling the gas cylinders for more than 10 years. Talking to Pakistan Today, he said that he never received a single complain since he has been selling these cylinders. “Nobody can stop the incidents from happening but saying that it’s due to these cylinders is an injustice,” he said, adding that tragedies mostly occurred during illegal decanting of LPG at shops where no proper mechanism is adopted.
LPG decanting from one cylinder to another using electric motor is prohibited by law but the practice is continuing due to the absence of strict monitoring by the authorities concerned.
During last five years, more than 500 cylinder blasts have been reported in Punjab which caused several deaths and injured several others.
Since the residents face low gas pressure issues, using LPG as an alternate source is the only option for them. Not only domestic cylinders are being filled, LPG is also being filled in vehicles through electric motors.
It can be observed that shopkeepers decant LPG without taking any safety measures. People, customers and even shopkeepers can be seen smoking while decanting the LPG.
Moreover, almost all the LPG sale points are operating without any fire extinguishing equipment installed to be used during emergencies.
LPG Distribution Association Chairman Irfan Khokhar, while talking to Pakistan Today, said that since the Punjab government has no powers to enforce relevant laws, it has become impossible for Ogra to check or regulate decanting going on with impunity in every nook and corner of the province. He informed that around 200,000 shops in Punjab were involved in LPG decanting and among them around 5,000 were present only in Lahore.
Khokhar admitted that most of the shopkeepers involved in decanting LPG ignore the safety measures which lead to the incidents. “Decanting is no doubt a dangerous way to refill the cylinder but the most dangerous is the use of sub-standard cylinders,” he said adding that over 500 factories in Gujranwala were manufacturing the cylinders and they are producing more than 75 per cent of the sub-standard cylinders.
He alleged that authorities had given licenses to such factories.
Khokhar alleged that whenever any incident occurred, authorities came down hard on the sellers instead of taking action against the sub-standard cylinder manufacturers.
“Our association has time and again suggested government to make it compulsory for the gas marketing companies to introduce the cylinders of low weight so it could eliminate the culture of decanting,” he said, adding that authorities failed to impose the ban as officials were busy in extorting money from LPG shopkeepers.
An official in Civil Defence department, while rejecting that any official was busy extorting the money, said that the department was carrying raids on sub-standard cylinder sellers and illegal decanting points on a daily basis. However, he could not flourish the exact number of raids conducted by the department in last one year.