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Kabul drivers exhausted by high petrol prices increasingly converting to LPG

Masood Momin
The introduction of liquid petroleum gas to Afghanistan has motorists divided on the benefits.
10.09.2015  |  Kabul
An engineer fits a car with a liquified petroleum gas system (photo: Masood Momin)
An engineer fits a car with a liquified petroleum gas system (photo: Masood Momin)

A pioneer Afghan businessman has created a trend of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) in Afghanistan, simultaneously reducing the cost of motorists and pollution in the capital. The Sayed Abdullah Sadat company has become a leading importer of LPG from Italy and has trained dozens of mechanics to convert diesel and gasoline-powered cars to the more environmentally friendly emissions system.

Thousands of Kabul residents suffer from respiratory diseases caused by emissions from motorised vehicles, but thanks to the efforts of local entreprenuer Sayed Abdullah Sadat, C02 emissions from cars are slowly being curtailed. According to a recent survey by the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) of Afghanistan, nearly 20 per cent of Kabul pollution is due to car emissions, but the recent introduction of Liquid Petroleum Gas can dramatically reduce pollution in the capital, according to Mohammad Kazem Hamyoun, NEPA's Planning Director. "NEPA is working to encourage drivers to convert their cars to the LPG system," Hamyoun told Afghanistan Today. 

Abdullah Sadat, a 30-year-old businessman, invested 7.5 million afghani (118,000 USD approx) to import the necessary parts from Italy and Turkey. His company now has branches in 22 provincesm as well as 8 in the capital Kabul. Installing LPG can save drivers up to 65 per cent on fuel costs: LPG costs approximately 15 (0.25 USD) afghani per litre, whereas petrol is 42 afghani and diesel 45 (0.7 USD). Converting a vehicle to LPG talkes no longer than 4 hours - depending on how old the car is - and costs between 12,000 and 35,000 afghan (189 to 550 USD approx)

Divided jury

Kabul drivers seem divided on the potential benefits of converting. Tameem, 24, says he is happy with the LPG he installed in his car for 14,000 afghani. Others believe LPG will damage old cars designed to run on diesel or petrol.

In April 2015, The Norms and Standards Department of Afghanistan claimed that substandard and low quality LPG systems were being installed in vehicles in Afghanistan, a claim the Sayed Abdullah Sadat company vehemently denies.

Mujeeb-ul-Rahman Khateer, deputy director of the Norms and Standards Department of Afghanistan told Afghanistan Today that they are currently working on the development and introduction of a national standardized LPG system.

The department has conducted more than 20 workshops to engender capacity in evaluators and 10 LPG-importing companies have already been evaluated, according to Khateer.

Provider rebuffs accusations of substandard systems

Sadat says his mechanics have been adequately trained by Italian and Turkish engineers and that his business adheres to the highest international standards. The Directorate of Kabul Traffic refused to renew road permits for vehicle owners who had converted to LPG, but thanks to the lobbying efforts of Sadat, who is also the head of the Union of Industralists, LPG-converted cars can now legally circulate again. Many Kabul residents say the problem is not the conversion itself, but the inability of Kabul mechanics to install the LPG system properly. According to Sadat, all 11 companies in Kabul providing this service have been adequately trained by foreign specialists.

“I learned the installation of LPG systems through the Sayed Abdullah Sadat Company who introduced me to a Turkish engineer in Mazar Sharif and I went through 6 weeks of training," says Engineer Amin, a Herat-based mechanic with Sayed Abdullah Sadat company. But some car owners are sticking to the tried and tested. “The engine and system of petrol or diesel vehicles are manufactured to be compatible with the burning of petrol and diesel," says 40-year old Kabul resident Ahmad Shakir. "If LPG is used for this system, it will surely damage the vehicle engine.”

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