The CNG route

Pakistan finds a new mantra to clean up its polluted air

By Muddassir Rizvi
Published: Thursday 15 February 2001

the Pakistani government has declared compressed natural gas (cng) as the "fuel of the future" and is moving on a fast track to promote the fuel as the environmentally friendly alternative to petrol and diesel. The promotion of cng in the transport sector has a two-way advantage for the government: reduction in the import bill for oil and diesel and less vehicular pollution in urban centres, a problem that has emerged to be one of the most serious environmental issues confronting the country.

Till now, 120,000 vehicles have been installed with cng fuel kits, which costs around us $400 per vehicle. There are around 90 cng stations and 100 more are coming up in 15 cities across Pakistan. According to the Islamabad-based Hydrocarbon Development Institute, Pakistan spends around us $2.5 billion annually on the imports of oil and its products. By converting 100,000 cars to cng, the country can reduce the use of 140,000 tonnes gasoline each year (which is 12.6 per cent of total supplies) and save about us $30 million per year.

Targeting the diesel-run public transport, the government is planning to import 2,000 cng buses. Six cng fleet stations with larger compression facilities would also be established. The government is also giving incentives for the use of cng . It has recently withdrawn general sales tax on cng kits, and also slashed their prices. " cng is rapidly being accepted as a safe and ecofriendly fuel in Pakistan. A recent study of the major cities in Pakistan by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (jica) found that about 90 per cent of air pollution was due to vehicular emissions.

According to a report by the Islamabad-based Environment Protection Agency (epa), vehicle population has shown a sharp increase over the past two decades. The number of vehicles has risen from 0.681 million in 1980 to 3.83 million in 1998, showing an overall increase of 462 per cent. Similarly, the consumption of fuel went up by 188 per cent during the same period. "The past two decades have shown a considerable increase in the number of most polluting two-stroke vehicles like motorcycles (495 per cent) and rickshaws (95 per cent) and diesel-run buses (198 per cent) and trucks (273 per cent) between the years 1980 and 1998," said the report.

"Over 12 million tonnes of leaded fuel is burnt in the country every year, emitting approximately 550 tonnes of lead into the atmosphere. Oil-fired thermal power plants add another 190 tonnes of lead in the air," said an environmentalist in Islamabad. Against this backdrop, the government's decision to actively promote the usage of cng seems to be a timely intervention that would benefit the country's environment in the long-term. "We are striving to increase the usage of cng , which is considered a cheaper and less polluting fuel," said Asif Shujja Khan, director general, epa .

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