LOW or no pressure in the supply gas throughout the day in a few areas and for a few hours in most of the areas in the winter has strained people’s life. In many areas, mostly in the capital city, residents cannot cook their full meals and many need to be shut in the kitchen for hours to prepare the day’s meals in the event of the gas supply problem that has become typical of the winter now for about a decade. Officials of Titas, which distributes about 18 per cent of the 1,800mmcfd of gas that it receives to domestic users mainly in Dhaka and Mymensingh, seek to say that the agency used to face a deficit of 400mmcfd and it now faces a deficit of 300mmcfd as the situation has improved after measures have been taken to feed imported liquefied natural gas into the national gas grid. But such an argument is untenable as the government increased the gas price by 32.8 per cent on an average six months ago to make up for the deficit with expensive liquefied natural gas under a plan executed in August 2019. Yet the problem persisted, forcing consumers to pay higher for the benefits that they have yet to receive. Bangladesh has 4.3 million gas consumers, most of whom are domestic users and about 70 per cent of them live in Dhaka.
Titas now gives excuses of condensates, formed in the supply lines in the winter, which takes away the gas pressure and hinders the smooth flow of gas. But the authorities have no scope to cover up the faults, recurring every year, that they have been aware of for about a decade. Petrobangla, however, seeks to say that it cannot feed the full supply of liquefied natural gas into the national grid as it receives 1,000mmcfd of liquefied gas but can carry a maximum of 700mmcfd, a procedural weakness that the government appears not to have taken into account before feeding the liquefied gas into the grid and increasing the gas price on this excuse. Petrobangla further says that the problem might be over after the new lines are laid out and the work would be commissioned in February. The proposition resembles that of power transmission and distribution — six power distributors, as New Age reported in November 2019, can handle about 21,530 megawatts together, but the transmission system can cope with only 15,600 megawatts.
Experts, however, blame the situation on the government’s policy of limiting gas supply to domestic users so that the business of liquefied petroleum gas in the private sector can flourish. Private-sector traders have increased liquefied petroleum gas price by Tk 320 a cylinder in all — first in late November 2019 and then in this January. They fear that the government policy is meant to advantage traders in liquefied petroleum gas in the private sector, especially in the domestic user segment as the supply to industrial users is reported not to have any problem. While the government must attend to the problems at hand early, it must not make consumers pay for what they do not get. The government should also stop unduly advantaging private-sector players, leaving domestic users in the lurch.
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