Nonchalant Over LPG Accidents

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Nov 30 2021

An LPG (domestic gas) leak reported from a house in Polgasowita on Sunday and a death, three injuries and damages to house and property reported from six other LPG related accidents that have taken place in Colombo and elsewhere this month, coupled with a few other LPG related accidents, though not officially reported as yet, further having had taken place this month, is Sri Lanka’s current LPG story.

Previous to these LPG related accidents, the LPG story in Sri Lanka was ‘no gas,’ related to the non-availability of LPG in the market due to a foreign exchange (FX) crisis at present engulfing the country.

But now, while LPG is available, LPG’s new story is the number of LPG related accidents taking place islandwide in a short space of a month, some with fatal effect. However, the tragicomedy is that despite these LPG related accidents, no steps have been taken by the company or companies in question, nor by the Government, to withdraw such LGP filled cylinders from the market, till the root cause of such accidents is found. 

If, in the event, as claimed by LPG suppliers in the country, there are two, one  wholly State owned and the other listed, that these accidents have nothing to do with the LPG they supply per se, the inference then is that these LPG related accidents are due to careless use.

If, as inferred by the LPG supplier/s that these accidents are due to careless use, no action has however been taken by it/them to educate the consumer of the proper use of LPG.

This is in contrast to neighbouring India. 

‘The Hindu’ in an article dated 29 January 2013 and published under the heading, ‘Start the day on a safe note’ with a supporting bottom strapline which said, ‘Awareness of the safe handling of the domestic gas cylinder is unacceptably low,’ to quote excerpts said, “Five separate incidents of LPG cylinder blasts at homes in Chennai in the last four months raise this doubt. How far people are aware or take the lurking danger seriously? Provider companies – Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (HPCL) – can’t choose to sit easy. In the wake of such accidents in metros, the companies are running aggressive campaigns.

Taking the lead is a major player, IOC. The company has launched ‘safety clinics’ and plans to conduct a mega one next month.

Another major player, BPCL, is reaching out to its customers through programmes on All India Radio. It has also come out with a CD explaining all aspects of LPG safety, which is screened for consumers in all distributors’ offices. HPCL is conducting safety melas (fairs) in smaller towns and villages.”

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa speaking in Parliament on Saturday, to quote excerpts said, “A Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) should be appointed to inquire into the accidents caused by leakages in LPG containing cylinders.”

He made this request following SJB MP Chaminda Wijesiri and several MPs who spoke of such an accident in Polonnaruwa which caused the death of a young woman.

However, Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena in reply said that these accidents were not anything caused by a mixture as speculated by some.

Nonetheless, Premadasa urged the Government not to evade the issue as such gas leakage accidents have already occurred at Kapparathota, Alawwa, Ratnapura, Reid Avenue, Colombo, Pannipitiya, Nikaweratiya and Welikanda.

He added that the Government has failed to provide a clear explanation on these accidents based on scientific evidence. Premadasa added that a former Executive Director of the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) said that these accidents were a result of the change in the propane to butane ratio of LPG in cylinders.

Premadasa said that in three reports,  it is revealed the ratio of propane and butane which was supposed to be at 70:30 has been changed to 50:50. Government should reveal the truth.

Meanwhile, Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena who was quick to lodge a complaint against former CAA Executive Director Thushan Gunawardena to the CID for the latter’s revelation of a garlic scam at ‘Sathosa,’ has however thus far remained silent nor has lodged a complaint with the CID over the former Director’s allegation of another scam, this time involving LPG, which accidents have thus far killed one, injured three and have caused damages to house and property.

A Government which chooses not only to be silent, but is also pussyfooting in their responsibilities to protect lives and property at risk due to such faulty LPG containing cylinders, need to wake up from their deep slumber.

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Nov 30 2021

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