By regulation, gas cylinders of every type of compressed natural gas-run (CNG) vehicles must be checked for defects and replaced at regular intervals, but few owners follow the mandatory safety guidelines.
This blatant disregard for safety regulations has turned many CNG-run vehicles into ticking time bombs. News of related accidents is becoming more and more common in the media.
Officials concerned have warned that if owners fail to properly maintain the gas cylinders installed in these vehicles, it could led to many fatalities in any given moment.
CNG auto-rickshaws were launched in the capital around two decades ago. Due to its relatively cheap cost compared to fuel oil, the use of CNG was gradually adopted in private vehicles and public transports.
During this time, numerous companies offering CNG conversion services began to crop up throughout Dhaka.
However, owners are not getting their CNG-run vehicles inspected by service centres at regular intervals in accordance to mandatory safety regulations.
Sometimes, these owners are fined and warned by the traffic police or mobile courts run by Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), but this is definitely not enough to curb the risk of related accidents.
In a latest incident in the Shahbag area of Dhaka last Wednesday, a CNG cylinder explosion burned a Midway Poribohon bus down to its frame.
The passengers, in a bid to escape the inferno inside the bus, injured themselves while rushing out through the door. Bus driver Atiq Hossain Molla, 42, suffered burn injuries in his hands and feet.
He is currently undergoing treatment in the Burn Unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).
Addressing the issue, Abdus Salam, an executive magistrate who leads a BRTA mobile court in Dhaka, said: “To mitigate this risk, there is no alternative to building awareness among vehicle owners.”
He added that he has warned and fined the owners of a significant number of vehicles for using gas cylinders that have expired or were installed defectively.
The executive magistrates have found, on numerous occasions, that gas cylinders are being placed under the patients’ beds in ambulances.
Also read- Gas cylinder blast burns down bus in Shahbagh
Speaking to this correspondent, Bangladesh CNG Filing Station and Conversion Workshop Owners Association President Masud Khan said: “Expired and defective cylinders not only put the vehicles at risk, but also threaten the CNG filling stations.
“The association has provided safety guidelines to all filling stations. The owners should get their vehicles checked regularly, for their own sake.”
He pointed out that the Rupantarita Prakritik Gas Company Limited (RPGCL) and the BRTA is responsible for enforcing the regulations relating to to CNG-run vehicles.
But he expressed disappointment that these organizations are not taking necessary steps in this regard.
Chairman of Bangladesh Bus-Truck Owners Association, Faruk Talukder Sohel said: “Five to ten percent of all the buses running in Dhaka are using CNG as fuel, and the rest runs on diesel.
“However, the cost of CNG and diesel is almost the same at present. So, CNG-run buses might soon return to using diesel as fuel again.”
Speaking about the use of expired cylinders on many vehicles, he said: “The owners should regularly get their gas cylinders checked because they have to suffer the consequences themselves.”
RPGCL Manager (workshop) Shuvo Barua said: “The CNG cylinders inside vehicles must be inspected at a five-year interval. There are organizations that can take action if this regulation is violated. RPGCL can only recommend action against violations, but it cannot hand out penalties itself.”
He added: “Those who got their CNG cylinders installed at an authorized conversion centre would have a lower risk of accidents. However, those who converted to CNG at an unauthorized centre, will be held accountable if anything goes wrong.”
Commenting on the issue, Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Media and Public Relations) Masudur Rahman said, “The traffic police will take legal action if expired or defective cylinders are found installed in a public transport. This problem is less prevalent in private vehicles.”
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune