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Gas crisis in city worsens

Demand rise, illegal lines key reasons

Helemul Alam
These days, Suraiya Parveen of the capital’s Mirpur-12 cooks her family’s lunch and dinner the night before. She tries her best to finish up cooking by midnight before going to bed since she has to go to work in the morning.

She wakes up long before sunrise to prepare breakfast for her three-member family as the gas supply stops around 7:00am. The supply in Suraiya’s neighbourhood resumes after 3:00pm but it is off again at 7:00pm only to resume around 11:00pm.

Mirhajirbagh is across the city from Mirpur-12. But the picture there is no different.

Farhana Islam of Mirhajirbagh starts preparing breakfast and lunch for her family at 5:00am, as the pressure of gas drastically drops after 7:00am. She can cook again after 6:00pm when the supply becomes normal.

Preparing food for her eight-month-old baby is tough, as the baby needs to be fed more frequently, she said.

Like Suraiya and Farhana, thousands of city dwellers are facing an acute crisis of gas this winter. Residents of Dhanmondi, Lalmatia, Sheorapara, Agargaon, Taltola, Pashchim Kafrul, Uttara, Gendaria, Ulan and Rampura have complained of either very low gas pressure or no gas supply at all for the better part of the day.

Although the supply of gas usually drops in winter, the crisis is worse this year. A drop in production, an increase in demand, faulty supply lines and illegal connections are the major reasons for this, according to officials concerned.

Accumulation of condensate in major gas transmission pipes causes pressure to fall in winter but production has dropped a few months ago, they said.

Whatever the reason, it’s the consumers who are paying the price.

“I’ve bought a kerosene stove a few months ago,” said Ananya Begum of Pachim Kafrul. It increased her family’s monthly expenditure by Tk 1,500.

Seeking anonymity, an official said the city’s gas supply and distribution network was old and needed to be replaced. Leakages were affecting gas pressure and supply at many places.

“Besides, in recent times, some people are using home gas compressors to forcibly draw gas into their home burners. This means others are not getting whatever gas is available in the line, while the ones with compressors are being able to keep their stoves performing just fine,” the official said.

The gas crisis is also hurting businesses, particularly, the city’s refuelling stations.

Omar Faruk, manager of Padma Services Ltd, said gas pressure was usually low from 6:00am to 11:00pm every day. Instead of the usual 15 PSIs (pound-force per square inch), they now receive gas at only 3 to 4 PSIs during daytime, he said.

“We can provide gas to vehicles only through one dispenser out of the four due to the low pressure. We have been facing this since October.”

Faruk said their daily sale has dropped to Tk 1.50 lakh from Tk 2 lakh due to the crisis. There are 10 filling stations between Jatrabari and Jurain and all of them have been hit hard, he added.

The state-run Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Ltd, the sole gas distributor in the capital, attributes the crisis to high demand for gas in winter.

However, sources at Titas blamed illegal gas connections for the situation.

Engineer HM Ali Ashraf, director (operations) of Titas, said currently the demand for gas in Titas areas was 2,050 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) but they are able to supply only 1,750 mmcfd.

Apart from the shortage of 300 mmcfd, domestic use of gas increases by 20 percent in the winter, which worsens the situation, he said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Titas official said illegal connections drain around 30 to 40 mmcfd of gas.

Although drives against illegal connections are being conducted on a regular basis, public representatives often impede the raids, the official claimed.

Another Titas official said they had ripped out 820km of illegal gas lines in different areas, including Narayanganj, Sonargaon, Narsingdi, Gazipur, Chandra, Tongi, Tangail, Manikganj and Savar, Kamrangirchar, Basila, and Mohammadpur of Dhaka.

He said they disconnected 4.5 lakh illegal domestic gas connections during their drives between 2014 and November 2016.

According to Titas, it now has 13,038.69km of pipelines and has 20.23 lakh consumers — 20.06 lakh domestic, 10,917 commercial, 4,604 industrial, 1,085 captive power, 333 filling stations, seven public power plants, 31 private power plants, and three fertiliser factories.

Source: Daily Star, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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