Gas shortage, a thing of the past | Daily News

Gas shortage, a thing of the past

People voice their bitter experiences

What we as Sri Lankans have experienced during the last few months of 2022 can be described in one word - Unprecedented. We went through a deep economic crisis resulting in huge shortages of fuel and gas. We also had disruptive power cuts of long duration. Without fuel, economic activity in almost every sector of the country has been drastically affected.

This was up until a month ago. Apparently miracles do happen and prayers to the universe are answered! As far as gas is concerned, not only has there been a light at the end of the tunnel, but we seem to have come out of the tunnel. Today in Sri Lanka, it seems that the gas situation has returned to normalcy! Daily News spoke to a cross section of the public, to find out how they coped with the gas situation in the country.

People can now buy their cooking gas without waiting in queues.  Picture by Sulochana Gamage

Shakeel Ismath, pointed out that he thinks that the suppliers didn't provide the gas even though there were enough stocks in hand. They hoarded the stock to increase the price. We were completely exploited says Ismath, who went onto say that we can't predict what may happen in the future and only time will tell.

“When the crisis began, we did not anticipate a shortage of gas, like most people. It was only a few days later when we realized that there was a shortage, creating a huge demand for gas. We used the gas which was available only for frying purposes. For the cooking of vegetables and rice we used the rice cooker. The electric kettle was used to boil the water. Soon, we shifted to electronic cooking devices. You can imagine the electricity bills! It was three times more than the previous month’s. Before we moved to electric devices, we depended on fast food for our breakfast, lunch and dinner. But when that became too expensive we relied on electric devices. However, even electronic devices could not be used during power cuts leaving us completely helpless. It was a time consuming process to get a cylinder. I gave up the idea of getting the cylinder standing in line, because I was forced to neglect most of my other work. After three months we got a cylinder last week without having to stand in a queue. I think rather than complaining about the politicians and the system, we should think of finding alternatives,” said Ismath.

Piyumi (real name withheld), pointed out that her family had to innovate in order to cope with the gas shortage.

“Since we live in a one story house with a back garden, we were able to make a hearth and cook during the gas shortage. It was tremendously bothersome for my parents because we have a lot of pets who need food, and the time spent cooking with the hearth smoke increased day-by -day. My parents, not me, did the cooking, so they had to stay in the smoke for so long. However, my grandmother lives in an apartment complex where they cannot set up anything outside; therefore, they had to pay outsiders to stand in the queue. She and her caretaker are very old, and so are my parents,” she said.

Chalaka Epasinghe, pointed out that it was a nation- wide crisis, and we all suffered together when it came to the shortage of gas.

“Well at the beginning, we had to stay in gas queues for as many as seven hours or even longer to get a refill. As the crisis worsened, we had to use alternative methods such as firewood for cooking. I would say that it did drastically affect the quality of life. Having to spend more than 1/3 of the day wasting your time was really a bad sign. Especially, it affected the productivity as well as you were basically too tired to work the rest of the day. As time passed, I guess we managed to adapt to the situation as this was a nation-wide crisis and people understood how it took its toll on people’s everyday lives,” he said.

Anura was very critical of the way the country is being governed. He said:

Damage caused by gas explosion.

“People have forgotten the worse times of the gas shortage. There were gas explosions in several houses and restaurants resulting in a couple of deaths. The explosions were due to the change of the composition of chemicals. They were not even compensated by the government. This sort of arbitrary actions should never be allowed.”

Mrs. Renuka, a mother and a housewife, immediately looked at other alternative ways she could resort to, in order to mitigate this issue at least temporarily.

“The shortage of gas was a huge issue that we initially had to deal with as soon as the economic crisis hit, along with all the other challenges that were posed. The sufficient supply was not available. I was required to stay for long hours sacrificing the time which was not something I could afford to do with the children at home.

As a result of the shortage of gas, I had to cut down on the number of dishes that I prepared on a daily basis (given that the food prices were also skyrocketing, had to be extra cautious when it came to the monthly expenditure.) Therefore, I shifted to using a “dara lipa” - the wood stove as it was difficult to rely on the gas supply anymore. However, comparatively, it was a less time-efficient option, it demanded extra effort as well. On the other hand, finding kerosene was also seemingly challenging amid the fuel crisis. So, all in all, gas shortage did have a considerable impact on the quality of life we used to maintain,” she said.

She feels that the situation now has significantly improved as the availability of gas has begun to increase day-by-day.

“It’s a relief that we do not have to wait in long queues as we used to before, and the price reduction also has made people hopeful. Somehow, I still continue to take forward the alternative practices like the reduced number of dishes options, using the wooden stove for some dishes etc. However, based on the experiences during the peak of the economic crisis, I think we should learn to invest in sustainable energy options for the future of Sri Lanka without solely being dependent on the currently available gas supply or the energy sources that are currently in use, to ensure that we do have a back-up plan in case if we have to face similar challenges again in the future.”

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