The latest leak of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) from cylinders causing fire in which an entire family of four perished in Gazipur has now become a dreaded saga. Such leaks and subsequent combustions of pressurised gas have been claiming lives from time to time. It appears people purchase agents of death from the market. There is no way to dismiss such tragedies as natural consequences of unavoidable accidents. The number one query should be if the business of filling or refilling gas in cylinders is in safe hands. Another highly important question concerns the quality of cylinders in use in the country. Even when manufacturers of cylinders ensure high quality LPG cylinders, they can get damaged. More importantly they must inscribe clearly on their cylinders their expiry date so that users can easily see they are not bringing home a date-expired one. If this is made mandatory and production of cylinders is authorised by a government agency like the Bangladesh Institute of Standard and Testing (BIST), manufacture and marketing of substandard cylinders can be legally dealt with.
Notwithstanding such measures at the government level, human error and lack of caution can lead to leak of gas from cylinders. Even such lapses can be taken care of if a portable device is installed near the cylinder. This is called LPG leak detector which is highly sensitive to any unwanted release of gas. It starts sounding alarm bell well before (at 20 per cent) the gas reaches its combustion point. This gives users ample time to take remedial measures. The device is not highly pricey either. Products from China are priced well within Tk 2,000 a set. If import duty is slashed, the price of this highly useful device can be brought down to half or even less. In that case, it can be within the reach of the low-income groups such as those living in slums but using LPG cylinders.
Gases -- including oxygen meant for saving lives of critical patients in hospitals -- stored in cylinders in a compressed state is potentially combustible. So, maximum caution is desirable at every stage of handling all such cylinders. It must be reiterated that CNG cylinders used in cars need to be replaced before they exceed their lifespan. Users often forget to check the expiry date and the inevitable happens. In case of LPG cylinders, they exchange hands quite frequently. All the parties involved need to be careful. Even safe transportation of such cylinders has to be ensured so that they do not develop cracks or get otherwise damaged.
The bottom line here is that the total cylinder business needs to be standardised in order to prevent accidents. There should be an efficient and effective supervisory authority that will be responsible for monitoring the business. Right from the manufacture to the refilling system and down to the mode of transport at the grassroots level, every aspect should be brought under a closer scrutiny. Also those deviating from the set rules and regulations should be awarded stringent punishment. After all, here is a business involving an essential service and daily use with potential danger on account of trifle laxity.