How long people will live in this fear?

Prothom Alo illustration

Dhaka dwellers spent the Monday night in extreme fear and anxiety. People in parts of the city panicked after the gas smell caused by leakages in the supply lines of Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Limited (TGTDCL) spread over a large portion of the city, especially after the incidents of fire and blasts one after another in recent months.

Announcements were made from local mosques requesting the people to not turn on gas stoves or light match sticks. Many also posted on social media about the gas smell with similar warnings. People called the national emergency service number ‘999’ to report the gas leaks.

In this situation, the ministry of power, energy and mineral resources explained the reason behind the gas smell in a Facebook post published at 12:00am on Monday night and requested the citizen not to panic.

In 2021, several people were killed after a building in Moghbazar collapsed in a massive explosion caused by gas accumulation from a leakage in an abandoned gas supply line of Titas. It is also assumed that the blast in a building in the capital’s Science Lab area on 4 March originated from accumulated gas in the basement of the building. The blast in a building at the capital's Siddique Bazar was also caused by a leakage in an abandoned supply line of Titas.

Explaining the reason behind the gas smell, the ministry of power, energy and mineral resources said in a Facebook post on Monday, “As gas supply to factories are shut down during Eid, the gas pressure in transmission and distribution line increased, causing (overflow) the smell.”

The state minister for power, energy and mineral resources Nasrul Hamid shared the post, asking the citizens not to panic saying, “The TGTDCL authorities have already taken necessary initiatives in this regard.”

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A few hours later, on Tuesday morning, the deputy manager of TGTDCL said that they have fixed the problem that caused the leaks in different areas of the city on Monday night.

According to a Prothom Alo report, residents of Moghbazar, Eskaton, Rampura, East Rajabazar, Tejgaon, Crescent Road, Bashundhara Residential Area, Badda and Hazaribag complained of smelling gas in the air on Monday night.

However, we cannot be rest assured by the explanation of the ministry and the TGTDCL authorities by any means. Experts say, reports of gas smell in several places of the city at once means that there are numerous leakages in the supply lines of Titas, which is in deed alarming.

Energy expert professor Badrul Imam said, “The incident could take a severe turn. It proves that there are numerous leakages in the pipelines of Titas, which is unwarranted. Probably, we can’t smell the gas in normal times due to lack of pressure. However, it is now detectable as the gas pressure in the transmission and distribution line has increased. It causes the risk of creating pockets of accumulated gas in many places, which could result in a blast or a massive disaster in future.”

The accumulated gas from the leakages in the distribution and transmission lines may appear to be a powerful explosive. Even a little spark can cause a massive blast.

We don’t understand how could the ministry and Titas Gas authorities urge people not to panic when the city they live in has turned into a ticking bomb? The leakages must be detected as soon as possible and the defected pipelines must be replaced.

The spread of gas from the leakages in the supply lines of Titas is a warning for all. If we can’t take lessons from this, the citizens must be prepared to face any severe consequence.