- More than 3,000 garments factories in Gazipur
- Gas pressure drastically down since 6 April
- Expected pressure 15 PSI
- Pressure fluctuating between 2 to 8 PSI
- Production down by 30-40%
- Most of the machines have to be shut down
- Authorities not taking any steps
A sudden drop in the pressure of gas has caused severe disruption in production in garment factories of Gazipur, one of the main industrial hubs in the country.
The crisis has reduced yarn and cloth production in these export-oriented factories by 30 to 40 percent.
Factory owners said they are facing losses as most of the machines have to be shut down during the day time due to low pressure of gas supplied by the
Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Limited.
They cannot use alternative fuel as that will increase production cost.
They say that despite the acute gas crisis, the authorities concerned are not taking any initiative to solve the problem and the gas company is reluctant to talk about the crisis.
According to the industrial police, there are more than 3,000 ready-made garments factories in Gazipur. Among the factories, textile, spinning, weaving and fabric processing or yarn-producing factories are mostly gas dependent.
Although gas pressure is expected to be 15 PSI per square foot, it has recently been fluctuating between 2 and 8 PSI.
Mosharaf Spinning Mills Limited in Sreepur upazila of Gazipur uses generators to operate machinery. The factory was already running at about half its capacity, shutting down 40-50 percent of its machinery due to interrupted gas supply. However, on 6 April, gas pressure suddenly fell to a record low and the factory had to shut down 75 percent of the machines.
The factory is now using alternative fuels to continue production and meet their export order deadlines. But this has increased production cost and decreased the quality of products. Other factories in the area are also facing the same problems.
According to people concerned, the gas pressure in the area remains very low from 8 am to late at night. During this time most of the machines in the factories have to stop production.
They said many garments factories are not able to take new orders as their production has been disrupted due to the gas crisis.
Factory owners complained that the authorities are not paying any attention to the problems. There are many illegal gas connections in the area which exceed the number of legal connections and some factories have to run on diesel generators at higher costs.
Meanwhile, workers at these factories have to sit idle due to a decline in production. Those employed on the basis of production contracts are earning less in salaries and allowances, and are also afraid of losing their jobs.
Shanti Akhter, an operator at Mosharaf Composite Textile Mills, said, "The machines remain shut down a lot due to problems in gas pressure. That is why we have to sit idle and if we do not work, our salaries and attendance are cut."
Rajib Ahmed Saikat, in charge of sampling in the factory, said, "Production has declined due to low gas pressure. The machines are kept off most of the time which damages the clothes inside. This has a bad effect on the whole production process."
Biswajit Chakraborty, executive director of Mosharaf Composite Textile Mills, said, "Most state of the art yarn factories operate 24 hours a day with captive power generation. Gas is used as fuel in this process, but due to low gas pressure, we have to shut down production equipment."
"Gas pressure is a little better on Friday and Saturday compared to other days of the week when the pressure goes down by 1-2 PSI. Our production has decreased by an average of 30 percent," he added.
Biswajit Chakraborty continued, "There are other sources of fuel besides gas, such as electricity supply from Palli Bidyut Samity and diesel generators. We are somehow continuing production with this support but it is increasing our production costs by 40 percent."
Zahirul Islam Liton, executive director of MN Dyeing, Printing and Washing Factory, said, "We mainly do dyeing and printing work here. Here, we do 30 tons of fabric dyeing, and 5 tons of fibre dyeing. It is a project with a total production of 75 tons. But we have to shut down many machines due to low gas pressure. If we cannot give all kinds of support to the dyeing project regularly, then we face losses."
"A lot of clothes remain in the vessel of a machine. If the machine is shut down the clothes get damaged. It is hard for us to overcome this loss. I am drawing the attention of the authorities to keeping the gas pressure normal. Otherwise, we will not be able to run our factory well, which will hamper the economic growth of the country," he added.
Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) has more than four hundred small and large scale industries in Gazipur and the severe gas crisis has negatively impacted these factories. Leading factory owners and workers' organisations have demanded immediate action to solve the problem.
Rajib Kumar Saha, deputy general manager of Gazipur Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company, declined to comment when contacted about the low gas pressure crisis. He said the matter could not be discussed right now due to the Covid-19 situation in the country.
However, he advised talking with the public relations officer of Titas Gas and the ministry.
Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Manager (Public Relations) Mirza Mahbub said, "Our total demand is 2,200 mmcf. After the introduction of LNG, we got 18,00-1,900 mmcf which could cover the demand fairly. Now it has come down to 1,600-1,700 mmcf."
"Our LNG is coming but sometimes there is a gap. Work is also being done on the LNG terminal. But now the problem is that a gap has been created. However, if the LNG supply is normal, this problem will not exist," he added.