Ignoring CNG cylinders

Published: December 22, 2011
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In the space of less than six months, at least four such accidents have taken place and dozens of lives have been lost in the process. PHOTO: FILE

When the first blast occurred on the GT Road killing nine people in July, it was just a freak accident.

In less than six months, however, the once never-heard-of-before-freak-accident has become an all-too-common occurrence, with power players blaming each other and submitting petitions to the already-overworked courts. As this happens, many of the vans and buses being used in public transport even now are running time bombs since in many of them the high flammable gas methane often leaks.

But some two months ago, when the leading cause of unnatural Pakistani deaths was not a case of exploding methane storage tanks, a less-reported CNG tank explosion in a taxi sent me running to my nearest CNG mechanic . I wanted to be sure that similar fate would not befall me.

As I opened the boot, I took a step back keeping a close eye on the mechanic’s eyes, and then his hands, expecting them to spring to action turning around the knobs on that cylinder like a pro. But pros in Pakistan are a step above their international counterparts.

“Yup, it’s a genuine Italian cylinder, all right,” he declared as he turned towards me and my father.

My dad was satisfied.  I wasn’t. So I asked:

“But don’t these things need to be changed after some time?”

He paused for a second, perhaps contemplating if he had found in me a perfect victim to rip off. Good conscience prevailed, and he said that a cylinder should indeed be checked for integrity every five years. “But,” he added, “no one does that in Pakistan. Nothing happens to these cylinders.”

That was good enough for me. Why should I waste my hard-earned dough on something so trivial? So the next day I filled up my car with CNG ahead of the three-day gas load-shedding and headed off to work.

Fast forward to December. Five passengers, including two children, died in a CNG explosion in a wagon in Faisalabad. Two days later, 13 more perished in a wagon fire caused by an exploding CNG tank.

Tomorrow when I start up my car, as I switch from petrol to CNG, I will tell myself that these are just freak accidents that have nothing to do with me. And if owners of public transport vehicles are even half as ‘Pakistani’ as I am, they will dismiss their fears the exact same way.

 


Bilal.Iqbal

Muhammad Bilal Iqbal

Bilal Iqbal is a subeditor at the Islamabad Desk of The Express Tribune and an avid technology and movie buff.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.