Chittagong, the port city of Bangladesh, is reeling under an acute gas shortage. The crisis has hit both the household and commercial customers alike, despite an effort to mitigate the shortage through measures such as rationing.
The prolonged gas shortage took a turn for the worse as supply went down further over the last few weeks. Even hospitals and clinics across the city are suffering because of the gas shortage.
The Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company Limited (KGDCL) currently supplies gas to 597,662 consumers. Of them, 593,574 consumers are households, 2,788 are commercial and 1,045 are industrial.
“We are facing a tough challenge to continue the supply of gas to the household and industrial consumers, as the supply kept dropping sharply over the last few days,” Anupam Dutt, Manager (Customer Management) of the KGDCL told the Dhaka Tribune.
According to the KGDCL, the current gas supply to Chittagong is below 200 million cubic feet, against a demand of around 470 million cubic feet per day.
Shortage hits households hard
The household consumers are feeling the pinch due to the recent slump in gas supply.
The residents of Chittagong city complained that they are having difficulty in cooking meals, and even turning on the gas stoves has become a challenge due to low pressure in the gas line.
Many have resorted to buying food from restaurants and eateries since the gas shortage hit.
Expressing her helplessness and anger, Priyanka Chowdhury, a resident of Sholoshahar area said: “We are going through indescribable suffering due to the low pressure in our household gas line for the past few weeks.”
CNG filling stations feeling the crunch
The disruption in gas supply has also forced the CNG filling stations to suspend their services for long periods of time without any notice.
There are 66 CNG filling stations across Chittagong district. As the crisis continues, many CNG-run three-wheelers queue up for long hours at different CNG refueling stations and return empty handed.
Meanwhile, Farhan Nur, general secretary of Chittagong CNG Refuelling Station & Conversion Workshop Owners’ Association, said the low pressure in gas line was a regular phenomenon during winter.
A gas supply measuring around 15 PSI (pounds per square inch) is required to run a CNG refueling station but, it becomes significantly difficult to run a station if the supply drops below 10 PSI.
“Some of the stations have already suspended their services due to the sharp drop in the gas supply. The gas pressure is usually very low during winter. We are somehow providing services in spite of the gas crisis,” said Selim Uddin, an official of Four Star CNG Refueling Station.
Industries in a precarious position
Left with no other option, the KGDCL decided to suspend gas supply to three units of Shikalbaha Thermal Power Plant, two units of Raozan Thermal Power Plant and Karnaphuli Fertilizer Company Ltd (Kafco).
According to Chittagong Distribution Zone of Bangladesh Power Development Board, the power generation at Shikalbaha Thermal Power Plant currently continues using fuel oil, while two units of Raozan Thermal Power Plant remain inoperative.
Meanwhile, Mahbubul Alam, president of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), in a recent statement called for boosting the gas supply from the national grid to address the acute gas crisis in the port city, which is home to around 6 million people.
There are concerns that the ongoing gas shortage will take a heavy toll on the trade and commerce of the port city, as the owners of apparel and other industries might fail to meet the work order and shipment deadlines.
“The gas crisis has reached an intolerable level. This acute shortage is taking a huge toll on both the households and the industries. The gas supply to Chittagong from the national grid should be increased without delay,” demanded SM Nazer Hossain, central committee vice president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh.
Ayub Khan Chowdhury, managing director of Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company Ltd (KGDCL) acknowledged that there is little they can do to resolve or mitigate the ongoing gas shortage.
“We are also concerned over the severe gas shortage, but the KGDCL does not produce gas. This acute gas shortage might go away by 2018 with the import of liquefied natural gas (LNG),” Chowdhury told the Dhaka Tribune.