Safety measures: LHC limits use of CNG kits in commercial vehicles

Sixteen children and a teacher were killed when their school van caught fire. PHOTO: FILE

Sixteen children and a teacher were killed when their school van caught fire. PHOTO: FILE

PESHAWAR / KARACHI / ISLAMABAD / LAHORE (PAKISTAN): Out of concern for passengers in CNG-operated vehicles following the May 25 Gujrat school van tragedy, high court judges in Lahore and Islamabad have issued fresh rulings to regulate the use of compressed natural gas in commercial vehicles and check the quality and fitness of CNG kits.

While the Lahore High Court called for a blanket ban on commercial vehicles using “substandard CNG kits”, the Islamabad High Court ordered the removal of multiple CNG cylinders from all vehicles — especially school and college vans.

Both court rulings were issued in the wake of the May 25 tragedy which left 16 schoolchildren and a teacher dead following an explosion in the CNG cylinder in Kot Fateh Din, Gujrat last Saturday.

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government was the first to order measures for transporters’ safety. On May 28, it decided to send teams of vehicle examiners to schools and colleges to ensure that students were being provided with safe transport.

Unchecked use of CNG is also widespread in Karachi, with drivers refilling CNG containers to a much higher pressure than that allowed, as reported by The Express Tribune on December 14, 2012.

LHC proceedings

Apart from a check on substandard CNG kits, the Lahore High Court on Thursday ordered the petroleum ministry to apprise the court about the quality and fitness of equipment installed for fuel use.

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial also a sought a report of the Gujrat incident at the next hearing scheduled for June 10. The ruling was issued on a petition filed by Advocate Fazal Mahmood.

The petitioner, through Advocate Shahid Ikram Siddiqi, said that the ministry of petroleum had allowed the use of gasoline in commercial vehicles without any planning and policy. Siddiqi claimed that there have been no standards provided for the use of gasoline equipment in vehicles and that no criteria was provided for checking the use of sub-standard gas cylinders in commercial vehicles.

He said it is the statutory duty of Punjab Transport Authority and DIG traffic to check all such commercial vehicles periodically and issue fitness certificates, but alas, no valid certificates of the like were being issued.

The petitioner also pointed out that illegal running of overloaded rickshaws was another problem.

Finally, he appealed to the court to restrict the use of gasoline in commercial vehicles and check the operation of rickshaws.

IHC proceedings

During the Islamabad High Court proceedings on Thursday, Chief Justice Muhammad Anwar Khan Kasi, while admitting the application of Advocate Waqas Malik, challenged the use of multiple CNG cylinders in vehicles and directed Islamabad Transport Authority’s secretary, chief commissioner, and interior secretary to check all vehicles carrying multiple cylinders and remove the extra cylinders, especially from the vehicles used for carrying school and college children.

The petitioner highlighted the recent incident of Gujrat and termed it a failure of the government which has failed to check the vehicles carrying multiple CNG cylinders.

He maintained that two or three gas cylinders on average had been fitted under the seats of these vehicles, however, often in commercial buses, seven to eight cylinders were being used.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2013.

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