Explosion in CNG-run vehicles is a frequent phenomenon in Bangladesh. This occurs due to faulty cylinders storing the compressed natural gas (CNG). And some of these vehicles happen to be improvised ambulances. It is ironic, to say the least, that patients must lie on beds that are placed on CNG cylinders in ambulances to take them to hospital. These are ticking time bombs and accidents are waiting to happen. Indeed, three members of a family died and three others were injured when they were travelling home from hospital in Chattogram’s Anwara upazila on October 17. Two people died on the spot, while another died in hospital.
This incident highlights a very worrying trend. As most hospitals in the country do not have proper ambulances, people are forced to use privately-owned ambulances to get to hospitals and on their way back. And most of these are microbuses converted to carry patients with makeshift beds and oxygen cylinders. Given that the passengers—both patients and attendants—have to sit or lie on beds that are situated directly on the CNG cylinders, it can hardly be considered safe under any circumstances.
We suggest that the use of makeshift ambulances be discouraged and the government considers removing or reducing taxes and duties on imported ones. Also given that more than 500,000 vehicles are using CNG as the primary fuel to power their vehicles, isn’t it time we had a law that would ensure that CNG cylinders are checked for safety once a year? Earlier this year, the BRTA proposed that showing of documents by drivers of CNG-run vehicles be made mandatory, as well as putting forth the requirement that CNG cylinders should be tested and certified before being allowed to refuel. That proposal is still waiting for the government’s nod!