The government's directive to stop oxygen supply to industries may greatly impact shipbuilding and steel industries while several sectors, including automobiles and construction, could be in crisis.
Industry players say steel and re-rolling mills will close if there is no oxygen supply while housing and construction may be hampered by rising rod prices.
On the other hand, as oxygen is used in assembling chassis and automobile parts at factories and car workshops, the industry may also face a crisis. This will directly and indirectly threaten the jobs of several lakh workers.
Rod is an essential material in the construction sector. Local companies meet the complete demand for rod in the country.
They say oxygen is used in the welding section in rod production. Otherwise, the machines get stuck and production is disrupted.
Industry owners say there are more than 400 re-rolling mills in the country, of which over 20 are big brands. These mills produce more than 80 lakh tonnes of rod a year.
If there is no oxygen supply, it is feared that the whole production will be disrupted.
But some factories may be able to continue production for 10-25 days using their existing stocks of oxygen, says Shahidullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Steel Manufacturers Association.
He said steel production would be hampered.
"Many sections of the machines get stuck during steel production. Washing requires oxygen during welding. The gas is needed at each stage. Production at the factories that do not have stocks will stop immediately."
The shipbreaking industry will be affected the most. Industry owners say much of the work in the industry, which employs more than two lakh people, is largely dependent on oxygen.
Oxygen is used in crushing large pieces of iron in ships. Industry owners say they cannot work even for a day without oxygen but some yards may be able to continue work using their own stocks.
Md Abu Taher, president of Bangladesh Ship Breakers and Recyclers Association, said, "We have our own oxygen factory. We sell oxygen to other yards after meeting our own demand. We are still selling."
The shipbreaking industry has great potential in Bangladesh. According to the Review of Maritime Transport 2020 report, Bangladesh in 2019 recycled 54.7% of the ships in the world.
There are about 120 shipbreaking yards along the north coast of Chattogram. At least two lakh people work at these yards. The yards claim they are paying revenues of around Tk1,500 crore annually to the government.
On the other hand, the shipbreaking industry supplies 70% of the total raw materials for steel mills. The steel that comes out of these mills is their main source.
Other major areas where industrial oxygen is used are the automobile industry and car workshops. Oxygen is used in welding to assemble and repair various parts, including car chassis. Several lakh people work in automobile and at car workshops in the country.
The demand for oxygen in hospitals increased in Bangladesh after Covid-19 infections spiked early this month. India has recently stopped supplying oxygen to Bangladesh. The Department of Explosives then directed stopping oxygen supply to industries for the time being.
About 20% of the country's total oxygen demand is met by imports from India. In normal times, the demand for oxygen in the country, including medical and industrial, is about 220-250 tonnes per day.
The daily demand for medical oxygen is 100-120 tonnes. Now the entire production will be used in hospitals.
But the current demand for medical oxygen has exceeded 150 tonnes, according to the health directorate.
Farid Hossain, director (hospital and clinic) of the health directorate, said the maximum demand for daily oxygen stood at 150-160 tonnes during the second wave of the pandemic.
"The number of patients has slightly fallen and now hospitals need 140-150 tonnes."
Linde Bangladesh supplies about half the oxygen needed in the country.
Saiqa Mazed, an official of the company, said, "We have already stopped industrial supply and are providing oxygen to hospitals. At present, we are supplying 90-100 tonnes to hospitals daily."
Oxygen imports from India through the Benapole land port increased on 13 April amid the surge in infections in Bangladesh.
Until imports were stopped on 21 April, four companies had brought in about 500 tonnes of liquid oxygen through the port.