The Department of Trade (DoT) stopped issuing new subsidised LPG connections from April 9 in four major towns of Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Samdrupjongkhar, and Gelephu.
Non-subsidised LPG, however, will continue to be available.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) adopted this measure to ensure uninterrupted supply and distribution of subsidised LPG.
The monthly quota of 700MT of subsidised LPG was last revised in 2008 from 500MT a month. As per the Population and Housing Census (PHCB) 2017, Bhutan’s population had increased from 658,756 in 2008 to 734,374. The number of households increased by 30 percent (from 126,115 in 2008) to 163,001 in 2018, which required additional LPG connections.
Director of DoT, Sonam Tenzin, said that due to population increase, demand for LPG also increased and the introduction of Rural LPG scheme in December 2017 further fueled the demand for additional LPG services. “About 40 percent of rural households that traditionally depended on firewood for fuel were provided with new LPG connections.”
If 700MT of subsidised LPG were divided among the population, three Bhutanese households would have to share one LPG cylinder. Today, there is a shortage of two cylinders every month per household even after importing 1,000MT of non-subsidised LPG.
The department has come up with various measures to address the shortage and submitted a letter to Cabinet on April 9.
The department implemented a token management system on Tuesday in all depots to ensure that customers don’t have to return home without refill services and to avoid unnecessary hassle.
Sonam Tenzin said consumer information notification was pasted in all the depots for the convenience of the consumers and to give them a transparent picture about the whole process.
The department also stopped issuance of new LPG connections from the Motithang fuel depot in Thimphu as an interim measure to direct customers to obtain new connections from Druk Petroleum Cooperation and Damchen Petroleum. The balanced distribution is expected to reduce the crowd at Motithang depot.
Sonam Tenzin said that home delivery service for subsidised LPGs is also discontinued. Service providers are allowed to deliver only non-subsidised LPG and commercial cylinders. “They will be given a month’s time to adopt the new change,” he said.
The department has also stopped bulk lifting of LPG cylinders by agencies and institutions to ease and normalise the shortages. He said that the depots would discontinue keeping emergency stocks to distribute enough LPG to the consumers in the queue.
He said that the government has issued an executive order requesting all parliamentarians, director generals, directors, chiefs, general managers and all well-to-do families to avail of non-subsidised LPG connection and to surrender the connection for subsidised LPG. “Although we have written to all the government agencies twice, the response has been poor. We will further appeal to all the higher officials to switch their LPG.”
Today, the prime minister, speaker, opposition leader, NC chairperson and other cabinet ministers will surrender their subsidised LPG and avail non-subsidised at the Motithang fuel depot.
An official letter was sent to regional trade and industry offices (RTIO) to conduct regular inspections, monitor business establishments, and to impose penalties if seen using subsidised LPG for commercial purposes.
He said that recently the department of trade lifted about 16 cylinders from two shops in Thimphu that were hoarding the cylinders. “We will carry out surprise checks.”
The department has asked the RTIOs to issue new LPG cards and to accept online registration for M-coupon services only after surrendering the old cards. DoT, Sonam Tenzin said was exploring long term solutions in streamlining the LPG distribution based on eligibility. “If you are paid above a certain amount, you have to switch to non-subsidised LPG.”
He said, while the department would work towards harmonising the difference in prices of subsidised and non-subsidised, the focus would be on encouraging energy efficient appliances as an alternative and to reduce the dependence on import of fossil fuel.
He said that BOD management was notified to improve their service delivery and to start stocking up the LPG because the border areas would be closed due to election in India.
About 85 to 90 new LPG cylinders are lifted daily from 44 outlets in the country.