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Tengratila gas field explosion: Residents continue to suffer health hazards

  • Published at 06:14 am January 7th, 2019
web-Tengratila gas field
Tengratila gas field entrance in Dowrabazar upazila of Sunamganj Dhaka Tribune

Though14 years have passed since themassive fire engulfed the gas field, gas bubbles can still be seen coming out of the water in the ponds of adjacent areas

The environment and the localities surrounding the Tengratila gas field in Dowrabazar upazila of Sunamganj has not yet recovered,after the gas field suffered two major explosions 14 years ago. The earth around the gas field lost fertility, causing major disruption in the ecosystem. The area has become barren, with no new plants growing and ponds that are without fish or microorganisms. Moreover, the local people are the main sufferers of these adverse effects, and are living with serious health risks due to the still uncontrolled outflow of gas.     

The Tengratila gas field caught fire twice following explosions on January 5 and June 24 in 2005, when Canadian gas company Niko was conducting a drilling operation in the well. According to eyewitnesses and locals, hundreds of flower and vegetable plantations, and ponds spanning 3,000 acres of land, were destroyed. Excessive amounts of arsenic, a chemical hazardous for health, was found in the drinking water of deep tubewells near the gas field. 

Nearly ten villages in the Tenratila, Azabpur, Girishnagar, Islampur, Bhujna, Alipur and Shantipur areas were damaged in the fire. Since then, villagers have been experiencing various diseases like breathing difficulties, heart disease and dermatitis. 

Though 14 years have passed since the massive fire engulfed the gas field, gas bubbles can still be seen coming out of the water in some ponds of the adjacent areas. Alarmingly,many families are using unsafe local methods to utilize the gas being emitted.

File photo of Tengratila gas field in Sunamganj | Dhaka Tribune

Civil Surgeon office sources said, according to a report published in August 2016 on the health impact of the gas explosion, a total of 129 people were hit by various diseases including:45 people with breathing difficulties, 22 with heart disease, 36 with dermatitis and 22 with other ailments. In reality, the number of people affected by these diseases is much higher. People in the area have also experienced other health issues like dry hands and loss of hair. 

MdMonir Hossain, an arsenic-infected patient of Girishnagar village, said he has been suffering from the disease for 10 to 12 years and cannot currently do any kind of work. He also said he had spent nearly Tk10 lakh for treatment purposes but has made no recovery whatsoever. 

Another local,Foyzunnesa, wife of Kalu Mia of the same village, said she has been suffering from breathing difficulties for five years now and bearing the treatment costs by herself, as the government had launched no health program for them. 

Many of the locals are experiencing similar kinds of difficulties. 

Aside from the health issues, they said the agriculture and fishery businesses in the area had also been greatly hampered in the aftermath of the Tengratila gas explosion.          

After collecting environmental data around the gas field, the government filed a lawsuit with the international tribunal against Niko,the gas company responsible behind the explosions.  

Citing the irreparable damage caused by the explosions, Tengratila High School Head Teacher (Rtd) Md Fariduddin Ahmed, also a key witness of the Niko case, said nearly a 10km area was affected by the gas blasts. The evergreen environment of the area was totally destroyed, with more trees and forests dying every day, birds and other animals leaving, and zero crops being cultivated. The uncontrolled gas emission is continuously polluting the air and making health issues more critical for the inhabitants.          

Mentioning the shortage of pure drinking water in the area, MdMamunur Rashid, chairman of Surma union 9, demanded befitting punishment for those responsible for the gas field explosion.

Sunamganj Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Abdul Ahad said gas extraction in the Tengratila field remains suspended since the explosion occurred. The case is under trial. The local administration is on full alert so that no untoward incident can further take place in the affected areas.

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