Drivers of CNG-run vehicles may have to show that the CNG-cylinders have been tested and certified before being allowed to refuel.
Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has proposed making this mandatory since a large number of vehicles are on the road and their cylinders have not been retested in years.
According to international guidelines and CNG rules 2005, the cylinders must undergo fitness tests every five years. But cylinders of only 91,771 out of 5,03,864 CNG-run vehicles have been tested, officials said.
According to them, most of the rest have exceeded the five-year deadline to have their cylinders tested but are on the road.
In a letter sent to the road transport and bridges ministry on March 7, the BRTA proposed making cylinder retest certificate a must at filling stations.
It said a limited time could be given to owners to have their cylinders certified before the proposal is implemented.
“We received some proposals from the BRTA on March 11 but no decision has yet been made,” an official of the ministry told this correspondent yesterday.
A faulty cylinder could explode causing massive casualties and it was thought to be the cause of the Chawkbazar inferno.
Visiting the victims of the fire at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital on February 22, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said the government had instructed authorities to find alternatives to gas cylinders.
The BRTA held a meeting in this regard on February 26 and came up with the opinion that instead of banning CNG-run vehicles, proper monitoring of their cylinders should be ensured.
The BRTA in its proposal said currently the authority checks cylinder retest certificates before issuing annual fitness certificates but some vehicles do not bother to get the fitness certificate and ply on roads illegally.
“But, all CNG-run vehicles have to go to the filling station to refill. For this reason, showing of retest certificate of cylinder can be made mandatory for refilling, meaning no retest certificate, no CNG refill,” said the proposal.
Lokman Hossain Mollah, director (engineering) of BRTA, said they, in their proposal, said a particular time should be given to the vehicles owners to retest the cylinders and get the certificates.
“After the deadline, everyone has to show retest certificate to refuel,” he told The Daily Star.
When this correspondent pointed out that there were only around 30 retest centres across the country and it would take a long time to have all cylinders checked, Lokman said, “That's why we didn't mention any particular deadline. The ministry will decide after considering all aspects.”
The BRTA also proposed initiatives to ensure proper monitoring of CNG filling stations, CNG conversion workshops, cylinder retest centres, and conduct mobile court drives against CNG-run vehicles operating illegally.
In Bangladesh, the use of CNG as automobile fuel began in the mid 80s but became popular after 2001.
Even though officials say 5,03,864 CNG-run vehicles are on the road, industry insiders claim that over the years a lot of vehicles have been converted at unauthorised conversion workshops as those charge less than that of official workshops.
Mohammad Ali Biswas, general manager (operation) of Rupantarita Prakritik Gas Company Ltd (RPGCL), the authority that issue licences to CNG filling station and conversion centres, found the proposal “impractical”.
“It would be difficult to implement. Because people now have to wait a long time to refill. Once the proposal is implemented, people would have to wait even longer.”
He said the BRTA has to ensure that no vehicle operates without the annual fitness certificate and in that process, they will also ensure no CNG-run vehicles operate without retested and certified cylinders.
“This is an attempt [of the BRTA] to deflect its responsibilities,” he told this correspondent yesterday.