The state-run company has no idea how much gas has gone to waste in that time
It all started with a video clip which went viral on Facebook last month, which showed water in a river in Narayanganj bubbling from gas leaked from an underwater pipe.
In the comments’ section, locals revealed that it’s been nearly a year since the underwater gas pipeline leakage was discovered in Ashariachar area of Sonargaon upazila — a claim Dhaka Tribune confirmed to be true during the on-spot visit.
At the beginning, they said, a small amount of gas was seen leaking from the pipe. But the situation started worsening about six months ago, spreading fear among locals and affecting the river’s ecosystem.
And much to the dismay of the Ashariachar residents, Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Limited has failed to address the problem even after all this time.
Concerned officials of the state-run company do not know how much gas was wasted during this period, or how much gas is supplied through that pipe every day, or its size, or the extent of the leak.
The faulty pipeline went undetected for a year because of a lack of inspections by Titas and inadequate monitoring, which has now caused danger to be lurking around them, said locals.
The video, shared on Facebook by one Moniruzzaman Monir on September 5, shows water of Menikhali River bubbling as a result of gas gushing out of one or multiple leaks with considerable force.
The local office of Titas said, after learning about it, steps were taken on September 7 to repair the pipeline — situated near the south end of Second Ashariachar Bridge on the river.
However, much to the contrary, during a recent visit to the spot - some 300 feet north of Meghna Bridge Toll Plaza on Dhaka-Chittagong Highway-Dhaka Tribune discovered that gas was still leaking out of that underwater pipe.
Titas authorities have claimed that they had little or no information about the continued gas leak until it was reported to the authorities early last month.
How much gas was wasted?
State-run Titas, apparently, does not know - making it impossible to ascertain the worth of the amount of gas already wasted.
Md Saiful Islam Chowdhury, deputy general manager (marketing) of Titas’ Sonargaon office, told Dhaka Tribune: "Soon after the leak was reported to us, we took necessary measures to fix it.
“Actually, the gas leak happened due to corrosion on the pipeline as it has been underwater for long. However, we’ve already plugged the leak,” he said.
The Titas official added that the pipeline was installed for a real-estate company called Newton Housing.
“But I don’t know exactly when it was installed,” he maintained, adding that it currently supplies gas to Ashariachar and its neighbouring areas.
Asked how much gas was wasted through the leak over the year, Saiful said he had no idea. “I’m also not sure what amount of gas is supplied through the pipeline every day, and the size or diameter of the pipe.”
When contacted, Titas Director (operation) Md Kamruzzaman Khan told Dhaka Tribune that leaks in gas pipelines were nothing new, and a regular occurrence.
“It is pretty normal that pipelines will suffer leakages and undergo repairs. This is a continued process,” he said.
Kamruzzaman also could not say how much gas was being supplied every day through that pipe at Ashariachar, and the amount that has already been wasted.
Fears and frustrations
Locals said that the gas leak had taken a serious turn over the past six months.
People also panicked at the sound of pressurised gas leaking through the pipe heightened at night, mostly during the last winter, when the river bed dried up.
“On June 18, a fire broke out in the area because of the leaked gas. We called the fire-fighters, and after they arrived, we helped them douse the blaze in 30 minutes,” said Md Jewel, an Ashariachar resident.
He also vented that when he asked a Fire Service and Civil Defence officer for help to plug the leak immediately, the officer told him that it was not their job to repair the pipe, and he should contact the authorities concerned.
“But if the fire-fighters had notified the gas company right away back then, we would not have to live in fear,” said Jewel.
Md Shafiqul Islam, another local, said even though the leak was not making any noise after the repair works, residents of the area were still panicked.
“Bubbles from leaked gas can still be seen there. This can lead to a major catastrophe,” he said.
Many also said that the gas pressure in their homes has been very low since the leak was found.
Underwater gas leakages — from both natural and manmade sources — generally represent an environmental hazard.
Locals of Ashariachar have claimed that the gas leak has already disturbed the marine ecosystem of Menikhali River.
Aftab Mia, a local fisherman, said the river was once the main source of their livelihood.
“But the situation has drastically changed over the past several months. We hardly make good catches nowadays," he said.
Another Asharichar resident, Md Solaiman, said Titas cannot avoid the responsibility over the gas leak. “A resource like gas should not go to waste like this because of their negligence.”
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Consumer Association of Bangladesh Narayanganj chapter President Dr Shahnawaz Chowdhury said they receive gas-related complaints all the time from the locals, even though Titas officials always say they are “working to resolve the problems.
“Continued waste of gas because of the leaked pipe in the Menikhali River is very unfortunate. Titas should have addressed the problem with due urgency and found a lasting solution,” he stressed.