Compromised safety led to piped gas mishap

While GAIL has blamed BWSSB for not following SOPs, BWSSB officials said it was the first time such an incident had come to light wherein a gas pipeline passed through a manhole.
File image of pipelines to carry gas used for representational purpose only. (Photo | AP)
File image of pipelines to carry gas used for representational purpose only. (Photo | AP)

BENGALURU: The supply of piped gas to homes for cooking in the absence of strict adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure safety has made houses vulnerable to fire accidents. 

The Thursday gas leak in HSR Layout, which injured two women, is an incident that has opened the eyes to this vulnerability — especially when cracks in the pipes are sealed without proper protocols being followed, as has been revealed to be the cause of this fire accident.

Although Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) has filed a complaint against Bangalore Water Supply & Sewerage Board (BWSSB) engineers over the incident, the latter said it will be asking GAIL for a list of locations where gas pipelines are passing through BWSSB manholes.

While GAIL has blamed BWSSB for not following SOPs, BWSSB officials said it was the first time such an incident had come to light wherein a gas pipeline passed through a manhole. Officials in the Infrastructure Development Department (IDD) and Urban Development Department (UDD) have said this raised concerns about the SOPs to be followed. “Using piped natural gas is the future and the government is working on this.

But such incidents do raise safety concerns. It is thus important that not just the citizens, but also the agencies and the contractors follow due safety procedures listed out,” said a UDD official. 

‘Pipeline passing through manhole is dangerous’

“In this case, both the agencies (BWSSB and GAIL) are at equal fault and a detailed report will be sought from both,” the UDD official added. GAIL has been operating in Bengaluru since last eight years. They have laid around 2000 km of gas pipelines in the city connected to around 1.5 lakh homes, of which 67,000 are already using piped gas.

In 2019, when a major blast occurred inside a home in Agrahara due to a gas leak, the government had directed setting up SOPs to be followed, holding all civic agencies and GAIL responsible and parties to it. As per the SOPs, every digging work is to be undertaken, if there is a gas pipeline around it, GAIL has to be informed and involved in the work.

“In this case, we were not informed. This was the first mistake. The other was when a crack occurred in the gas pipeline, we should have been informed and let the crack be left open. The contractor should not have covered it with soil. This shifted the pressure of around 2-3 kg gas from one location to the nearest opening and that’s why the blast occurred. To avoid such incidents, citizens can also help by informing GAIL immediately, when they see any digging happening around any gas pipeline,” said a GAIL official.

Meanwhile, BWSSB Chief Engineer (South), Venkatesh SV, said they will be asking GAIL to give a detailed list and points of where their gas pipelines pass through manholes, or near manholes. “I have never come across a gas pipeline passing inside a manhole. This is dangerous. Both the parties are at fault,” he said.

The IDD official said the government was also writing to GAIL to undertake safety awareness campaigns. GAIL has also been directed to increase its staff strength for patrolling teams to immediately reach sites and take up self checks in the areas where digging and repair works are taking place.

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