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    Volume 9 Issue 4 | January 22, 2010|

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A Gas-free Future?

Aasha Mehreen Amin

People are talking about so many things these days, the hottest being how unbelievably cold it is getting and the Prime minister's visit to India and its implications for the country. While more and more people are trying desperately to get warm and others are weighing the pros and cons of the visit, on talk shows, newspapers, on the streets, there is an impending crisis that has received surprisingly little attention. The fact that we are running out of gas, literally.

Yes as a nation we do tend to eat large amounts of gas-producing foods but the fact is that we have not been able to really harness this dubious resource into any useable form, besides helping to clear out the room of people and creating a topic of conversation when we run out of things to say. Obviously this is not the kind of gas we are talking about here.

Nor is it the kind of 'gas' that our dear politicians tend to give us, about how there is less crime on the streets (well yes in a way, as there is more crime on campus), that the price of essential foodstuff has actually gone down when even a plate of daal bhaat has become as pricey as Chicken a la Kiev, that there will be endless supplies of guess what, GAS.

The other day I got the shock of my life when a colleague announced that he had gone shopping for a kerosene cooker as there was absolutely no gas for cooking at his home for the last few weeks. Another colleague added that his house had gas mainly in the evening, as there was a negligible amount of gas in the stove during the day. This meant that all their cooking had to take place in the evening instead of during the day which is the common practice in most homes. What was most unacceptable to me was the level of acceptance that people of this country have. How can a modern city be without something as essential as gas for cooking? Apparently the reason for the crisis is related to the 'over-gassing' at CNG stations, as many vehicles - including private cars and buses that have been CNG converted. This is a classic example of trying to do a good deed that has the most unexpectedly unpleasant consequences. Who would have thought that by using less polluting, energy and cost-saving fuels we would be depriving ourselves from the most important thing in the world, especially for Bangladeshis, food.

We have become used to load shedding during national board exams or peak hours of television or when the country is going through the worst heat wave in history. We are also used to doing with stored water in buckets for weeks on end (much to the delight of the Aedes mosquitoes) and taking the sketchiest of baths (not good for a social lives you can be sure) because of frequent water shortages.

Now we have the added 'pleasure' of getting used to cooking like old times, on kerosene burners or even using the rural lakri-chula which is polluting and uses a huge amount of fuel. This means a single meal will take the whole day to cook which may lower our cholesterol and sugar levels as this maybe the only meal of the day (like most of our less fortunate fellow citizens) but shoot up our blood pressure with the agonising wait.

But waiting is something we are very good at and our patience has gone from saintly to insufferable. Just think of the hours we spend contorted into different sized boxes each excruciating day trying to get from point A to B and back. So we will wait for the government to come up with a solution for the gas-less days to come. Someone said that we might be getting the much-needed resource from a neighbouring country. But then again it could all be just a whole lot of gas.


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