We have been experiencing the shortage of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from time to time. It was in Thimphu two months ago. Now the shortage is being felt in six dzongkhags of Sarpang, Tsirang, Dagana, Zhemgang, Bumthang, and Trongsa.
LPG is the principal cooking fuel in both urban and rural parts of the country. That a majority of our rural home now depend on LPG to cook meals is a sign of development. It also indicates that we are now putting less pressure on our forest for fuel wood. Any disruption along the supply line, therefore, put Bhutanese kitchens in difficult circumstances.
The shortage of LPG, however, does not appear to be from the source. We get close to 800 metric tonnes of LPG from India every month, on a subsidised rate, of course. This, which is meant primarily for the people from low-income backgrounds, should be enough. To address the shortage of the gas in the country, which result from hoarding, over 70,000 non-subsidised LPG, which is about 49,300 filled cylinders, were made available from February 9 this year.
When non-subsidised LPG was introduced to encourage people who can afford to surrender subsidised gas cylinders and opt for non-subsidised LPG, few showed any interest to give up subsidised LPG. Hoarding began in earnest instead. In Thimphu, it is not uncommon to see at least three LPG cylinders in average Bhutanese homes. Months after the coming of nonsubsidised LPG, only a little more than 250 non-subsidised LPG cylinders could be sold. Even as the Ministry of Economic Affairs pleaded with the public, especially with those in the top positions in the political and bureaucratic offices to surrender subsidised LPG cylinders, response has not been encouraging so far.
Recently, more than 200 subsidised LPG cylinders that were returned so far by the consumers in Thimphu were distributed in two gewogs of Haa. Trade officials saying that the shift “will take time” is not a worthy argument. The office has not done enough to sensitise and educate the public. If it really wants to see a shift, the office could just run through the inventory and pull out subsidised gas cylinders from the homes that can afford nonsubsidised LPG.
The greed for Nu 200 more per cylinder is shameful on the part of those who can afford. We will have enough LPG in our houses only when those who can afford go for non-subsidised gas and leave the subsidised for the rural kitchens.
Break the hoarding culture.