Chronic shortage of subsidized LPG in the country

Minister for Economic Affairs says if more people take the non-subsidized LPG gas then the shortage will be minimized

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is used as fuel to fire cooking stoves across Bhutan. But the chronic shortage of LPG is making it difficult for people to refill their LPG cylinder. “Sometimes, the empty LPG gas cylinder remains in car for many days,” said Pangbang MP, Dorji Wangdi. Adding that, in Pangbang Dungkhag, it has been six months that they have not received LPG refill.

Pangbang MP requested Minister of Economic Affairs, Loknath Sharma, to explain the cause of the problem, and also if there is any chance to increase the import of 700 metric tonnes of LPG to 1000 metric tonnes, during the Q&A session in the National Assembly yesterday.

In response to the questions, Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said shortage of LPG was always a problem in the country. He said Bhutan imports 700 metric tonnes of LPG from India every month at a subsidized rate. He said the 700 metric tonnes of LPG is about 49,295 LPG filled gas cylinders.

“We thought 700 metric tonnes of LPG will not be sufficient for the people, so we introduced non-subsidized of 1000 metric tonnes of LPG, which is 70,422 LPG filled gas cylinders in a month,” said Lyonpo Loknath Sharma.

But the problem arises when all the people from urban as well as rural areas go for subsidized gas cylinder, and very few go for the non-subsidized gas cylinder, Lyonpo pointed out.

He also said that people are not aware about the subsidized and non- subsidized LPG as majority of the people are still getting the subsidized gas, and that is where the shortage is. According to Population and Housing Census of Bhutan (PHCB) 2017, there are 163,001 households in the country.

Therefore, 49,295 LPG cylinders are sufficient for only 30 percent of the households. Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said the 30 percent of the households are already in the urban areas.  That means more than 60 percent of the total households are left without the subsidized LPG.

Economic Affairs Minister said not many people are opting for the non-subsidized LPG. He said if there is a policy stating that the subsidized LPG cylinders are to be supplied in the rural areas only and the non-subsidized LPG cylinders in urban area, then there would be less problems.

In the meantime, the government has proposed to increase 700 metric tonnes of subsidized LPG gas to 1000 metric tonnes, but the Indian government has not sent any response to the proposal so far.

In order to help the low-income group of people, Economic Affairs Minister said he requested the higher officials and those who can afford to pay to get the non-subsidized green coloured gas cylinder.

“We are also thinking if we can make the cost of both subsidized and non-subsidized LPG gas same then the problem may reduce,” said the Economic Affairs Minister.

He also encouraged the citizen to go for electric or induction stoves and ovens. He said people in the rural areas can even use biogas and traditional or innovative ovens in rural areas. He said such steps would help to reduce the dependence on LPG.

A trade official, Phub Tshering, said they working towards creating awareness among the people to opt for the green or nonsubsidized LPG. He said it is working as more and more people are opting for the nonsubsidized LPG.

He said if each household takes one green LPG cylinder then during a LPG shortage, it will easier to get a green cylinder exchanged for a full one without having to wait in long queues and filling up forms.

He said the green gas is available in every filling depot as it is convenient and can be taken without any restrictions unlike the subsidized gas. A green cylinder refill costs Nu 840 and a subsidized LPG refill costs Nu 530.

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