Vol. 5 Num 991 Thu. March 15, 2007  
Front Page

Titas gas field stares at disaster

The country's biggest gas field Titas in Brahmanbaria continues to face a possible disaster due to leakage of a dangerous amount of gas mixed with water and oil through thousands of holes and cracks on the ground there.

A detailed report on the situation there, which is also endangering properties and lives of local residents, was published in The Daily Star as the lead story on February 7 this year but local residents alleged that the authorities concerned have yet to take any meaningful action to ameliorate the situation which has virtually become a ticking time bomb.

Gas and the thick hot sludge of water and oil are gushing out with increased force now through thousands of cracks and holes on the ground and five tube well pumps at Sampur and Anadapur villages near gas well No 10 of location No 3.

However, the authorities are consoling the endangered residents of the area by saying that the leakage, that is visibly massive and spread over about 1,000 acres of land, 'will not cause any major disaster'.

Natural gas with water and petroleum known as hydrocarbon are automatically streaming out through five tube well pumps including a new one with such a great force that it is making a roaring noise. Similar substances are also gushing out through thousands of holes and cracks in and around the villages and Loiska Beel, a vast swamp. The soil of the area is also becoming hard and crusty.

The water that is gushing out through the leaks is hot and tainted with gas and petroleum. The villagers finding no other alternative source of drinking water are being forced to drink this contaminated water and also cooking and washing with it.

Since all the tubewells of the villages are automatically emitting a huge quantity of natural gas, the air of the village is being polluted creating a severe health crisis in the area.

Sometimes when the volume of gas in the air sharply increases, it starts burning if comes in contact with flames of oil-lamps or earthen stoves.

Boat rides on the Titas river have also become very risky. Some time ago, when a person threw a burning cigarette off his fishing boat in the middle of the river, a fire broke out as gas was bubbling out from that spot. Boat men and local villagers extinguished the blaze.

In another incident a huge ball of fire ignited over a paddy field at Loiska Beel.

At some places the gas emitted through some of the holes and cracks are burning with flames leaping high.

Local residents fear possible devastating incidents of fire there in the coming summer as the environmental heat might ignite balls of fire in the air tainted with flammable gas.

Sayed Hossain of Sampur village had to stop using his tubewell a year ago because gas was gushing out through it. He sealed of the spot with earth where the tubewell had been, now the soil of the spot always remains hot.

Residents of the village are now living with a fear of an explosion at any time at the spot.

A plethora of holes are seen in all parts of the banks of the Titas river near gas field location No 3, through which gas is continuously gushing out. Similar holes are also seen in different crop fields.

Meanwhile, the holes are gradually becoming larger while some have automatically got sealed by streaming sludge of toxic liquid. New holes with gushing gas and sludge are popping up every day.

Gas is also leaking through the riverbed of the Titas river and the bed of Loiska Beel at different spots with roaring sound shaking the ground.

About six square kilometres of area of Sampur and Anandapur villages, the Titas river, and Loiska Beel are at high risk due the leakage that continues to be downplayed by the authorities.

According to a source in the deputy commissioner's (DC) office, DC Sayed Ahmed Safa formed a five member Social Survey Committee headed by Additional Deputy Commissioner (General) Md Fayequzzaman after being directed by the respective ministry.

The committee started collecting all sorts of information about the local families and their properties to make a list which will become useful if the people there become victims of a large scale disaster.

The DC said they took the initiative to face a possible disaster and its aftermath.

The authorities of Bangladesh Gas Field Company Limited (BGFCL) however informed the DC that there is no possibility of a large scale disaster from the leaks at Sampur and Anandapur villages.

Although the pressure of leaking gas is not decreasing the BGFCL authorities claimed that the pressure remains stable.

Since the volume of natural gas has increased in the air of Sampur and Anandapur villages, the residents are not being able to light fire there.

The district administration has started advising residents through loudspeakers not to use kerosene lamps or lanterns and not to light matches in the area. They are also being advised to use electric torch lights at night.

When contacted, Managing Director (MD) of BGFCL Shahidul Abedin said the qualities of the gas reserve in Titas Gas Field and of the gas that is being leaked through the holes and cracks are of same quality.

An expert said the amount of gas lost through the leaks could be staggering.

The MD of BGFCL said on February 11 a six-member survey committee formed by Petrobangla submitted its report.

As soon as Petrobangla sends instructions the next step will be taken, the MD said.