Three members of a family were killed and three others severely injured as the gas cylinder of an ambulance exploded in Chattogram's Anwara on 17 October. This incident is a matter of priority because the number of casualties in CNG-run vehicles' gas cylinder explosions is increasing day by day. We find no reliable data over how many people are killed or injured in such accidents every year. The scarcity of the data shows that the authorities are not concerned over the issue.
A gas cylinder has a specific duration. According to the government’s Department of Explosives, a gas cylinder's life is around 10 to 15 years. After this time, the gas cylinder remains at risk of exploding. So, it is a common sense to stop using these gas cylinders after a certain period of time. But in Bangladesh, this common sense is unfortunately uncommon. No one even bothers to know how long these cylinders are being used. Around three years ago, the explosives department examined a total of 11,000 cylinders of state-owned Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation and found 8,000 unusable. From this, we can understand the degree of risk involved in using gas cylinders in vehicles.
Expired cylinders could be considered as powerful bombs. The way Anwara's ambulance exploded into pieces looks like it was attacked by a strong bomb. There is an acute lack of monitoring the gas cylinder companies, the standard maintain and the safety measures they take for gas cylinders.
According to the data of Rupantarita Prakritik Gas Company Limited, around 500,000 vehicles in Bangladesh use gas cylinders. This organisation has so far permitted more than 180 CNG conversion centres across the country.
There is a mandatory rule of retesting the gas cylinder of a vehicle after every five years by the Department of Explosives. However, the government agency has only eight workshops for retesting the cylinders. Bangladesh has been using compressed natural gas in vehicles for more than 15 years. And this means, the first batch of cylinders are now expired, making a number of CNG-run vehicles at high risk of being exploded.
Not just by CNG-run vehicles, people are being killed in their residences by gas cylinder blasts too. Accidents occur from gas cylinders in many ways. Explosions can happen if poor regulators are used in cylinders. Lack of awareness and caution can also lead to accidents. To resolve these problems, the Department of Explosives should be up and going. It should take initiatives to monitor the retest process of the cylinders, ensure their quality and make people aware of the accidents.