Madurai

LPG godowns in residential areas pose threat

Flouting norms: LPG cooking gas refills stored in front of a house in Balarangapuram by a distributor whose godown is situated 50 metres away from main road.  

The district administration is contemplating serious action against LPG dealers (handling cooking gas distribution) in the city and peripheries if they are found to be flouting safety rules while handling refills from their godowns.

Highlighting the unsafe methods practised by many of the dealers at the grievance redressal meeting held here on September 28, consumers and representatives of consumer organisations appealed to the District Revenue Officer R. Gunalan, who was in the chair, to take action against erring dealers.

The LPG distributors not only carried on their loading/unloading activities round-the-clock from the trucks to their godowns, but also left hundreds of refills on the roads, thus posing danger to the public. “The PESO (Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation) authorities should regularly inspect such godowns and if needed, conduct surprise checks and not just remain passive after giving NOC to these godowns,” consumers said.

Officials of Indane, HP and Bharat Gas refused to speak on record as they were authorised to speak only on CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities. An official in the IOC, who was rude, also agreed to respond only through e-mail. When The Hindu asked for the officer’s e-mail id, he refused to share and suggested to check the company’s website.

When the issue was taken up with Collector K. Veera Raghava Rao, he assured to take stern action against erring dealers. “When there is a threat to lives of people, we cannot remain calm or mute spectators. The authorities concerned from the oil companies would be told to check on erring distributors. We will also take it up with the PESO - the licensing authorities,” he said.

There are 30 distributors in the 100 wards of the city, supplying domestic cooking gas refills to two million consumers through the three major companies - Indane, HP and Bharat Gas.

When The Hindu team visited godowns in the city and peripheries, the impression was that except for a few, others flouted safety rules. It looked like danger was waiting to happen any time, especially in Balarengapuram (near the government hospital), near Wakf Board College and near Law College in KK Nagar, along the Chinnakadai Street and in Villapuram areas, consumers and residents in the localities claimed.

The distributors left the 14.8-kg-weighing refills on the roadside and pavement, thus exposing them to all types of weather conditions. Of course, there are a few distributors, who owned their premises, strictly adhered to norms.

A former oil company official said that PESO was responsible for issuing the licence. “Oil companies usually don’t interfere in the licence procedure and process. The cooking gas agencies are divided into Madurai Main, Periyar bus stand area, K. Pudur, Tallakulam and Tirunagar. Once the PESO inspects and finds compliance to its satisfaction, licence for the godown to store LPG refills is issued.”

Oil company officials do visit the godowns and strongly recommend use of wheels while moving the refills as per the MDG (marketing disciplinary guidelines). The officials, during inspection, do take action, supported with evidence, the ex-official said.

A few LPG distributors said that due to rising costs, they had to find space within the city limits. Admitting that there were some violations, they, however, said that they were minor and negligible.

A resident, K. Chandrasekar in KK Nagar, said that he had repeatedly objected to the cylinders being lined up on the pavement, with the oil company officials, but there had been no action. “I will take it up through my residents’ welfare association with the Collector and suggest that oil companies can examine alternatives by building permanent structures outside the city limits for loading and unloading activity, thus ensuring safety of residents.”

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2021 4:16:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/lpg-godowns-in-residential-areas-pose-threat/article19783825.ece

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