Titas snapped 996km illegal lines in 2.5yrs
Titas, the country's largest gas distribution company, has snapped illegal gas lines stretching for 996.81 kilometres in the last two and a half years, which is equal to 7.5 percent of its legal lines, according to a report.
Titas has distribution lines stretching for 13,238 kilometres. The data was revealed in the latest "Illegal Gas Connection Eviction Progress Report".
Officials and employees of those companies themselves are involved with the irregularities and corruption, but companies never publish their names nor take any action against them.
The report was presented on June 30 at a meeting of the energy division.
All the six gas distributors -- Titas, Bakhrabad, Karnaphuli, Jalalabad, Sundarban and Pashchimanchal -- presented their activities regarding the snapping of illegal connections.
According to the report, from January 2020 to June 2022, illegal lines running for 1,214 km were detected by Titas and Bakhrabad, and 1,169 km of them were cut off.
The latest progress report claimed the companies have only around 44 km of connections, 43 km belonging to Titas, left to remove. However, data on the actual length or number of illegal lines is unavailable, say experts.
The other four companies did not place figures of the length of illegal gas lines. However, they mentioned that they had found only 2,263 illegal connections and snapped all of them.
The number of snapped connections by the six distributors is more than 7,00,355.
However, experts said the number is not satisfactory, as the amount of stolen gas in the name of system loss is huge.
On average, 3,012 million cubic feet of gas was transmitted to the national gas grid -- from gas fields and imported liquefied natural gas -- in a day in 2020-21 fiscal, but the six companies distributed 2,785 million cubic feet per day (MMcfd).
"About 227 MMcfd [7.54 percent of total] of gas was missing from the database, which is equivalent to Tk 2,300 crore worth of gas for a year," stated the latest annual report of Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC).
Titas has the highest system loss, 13.95 percent in 2019-20 and 12.96 percent in 2020-21. According to experts and BERC, illegal connections were major reasons behind the loss.
For ongoing 2021-22, BERC instructed distribution companies to reduce system loss to two percent.
Amidst the current gas crisis, illegal connections have become a burning issue. Prime minister's energy adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, and state minister for power, energy and mineral resources Nasrul Hamid talked several times in this regard.
The meeting minutes said Titas formed 47 teams to detect illegal connections, and a vigilance team called "Titas Force" conducted operations to snap them.
Since January, 2021, Titas Force conducted 166 operations, including 82 mobile courts, and cut off 2.1 lakh household burner connections as well as two industrial and three commercial connections, and collected Tk 13.63 crore as penalty.
In those operations, the officials faced obstacles multiple times from locals. Last month, during an operation at Narayanganj's Sonargaon upazila, the officials were insulted by locals.
On July 3, locals attacked officials and vandalised cars in Narayanganj's Rupganj area.
In another ministry meeting held on June 28, the energy division decided to ask for a permanent magistrate for Titas.
Minutes of the latest meeting also showed that Bakhrabad -- largely serving Cumilla, Feni, Noakhali, Chandpur and Brahmanbaria -- snapped the second highest connections, illegal lines stretching for 172 km.
The company snapped 20,001 connections during the period. This year, Bakhrabad sacked four of its employees who were proven to be involved with setting up illegal connections.
Karnaphuli, the distributor of Chattogram region, claimed it has no illegal connections. This year, they have removed lines running for only 0.04 km.
In the meeting, MA Majed, managing director of Karnaphuli, said some legal gas users in high-rise buildings use extra burners. A vigilance team faced trouble when it tried to take action in this regard.
Dr Moha Sher Ali, additional secretary of the energy division, presided over the meeting.
Contacted, Senior Vice President of Consumers Association of Bangladesh and prominent energy expert Prof Shamsul Alam said he does not trust such information, as it is provided by the companies for their self-interest.
"Officials and employees of those companies themselves are involved with the irregularities and corruption, but companies never publish their names nor take any action against them," he said.
He said until they publish data of involved officials and what actions have been taken against the beneficiaries of illegal connections, this whole situation will remain a farce and fraud.
"The illegal connections cannot be installed automatically. So, if they want to bring transparency in this sector, they need to involve the state's detective agencies in the process of detecting and removing illegal gas connections," he added.