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From gas explosions to ‘fertiliser blasts’

Friday 10th December, 2021

It looks as if some fireworks factory owners had taken over the local gas companies. Gas explosions continue, but the government is said to be still conducting investigations. Time was when the people feared explosions in public places, but felt safe at their homes. Today, they are living in fear of blasts in their kitchens thanks to the irresponsible gas companies that do not seem to care two hoots about the safety of their consumers. The colour usually associated with death is black, but, in this country, it could be blue or yellow, depending on the company one is dependent on for cooking gas.

Having striven to pass the blame for gas explosions on to the public and the manufactures of gas cookers, regulators, hoses, etc., the government has bowed to the inevitable; it has admitted that the cooking gas composition has been changed. The question is why it took so long to do something that should have been done weeks ago.

No sooner had the first few gas explosions been reported than some Litro Gas officials held a press conference, where they insisted that the butane-propane ratio had not been changed, and there was absolutely nothing wrong with the cylinders they sold. Thus, they sought to mislead the public instead of taking action to prevent explosions. What they should have done was to recall all cylinders containing the volatile gas mix immediately. Instead, they allowed their gas to be distributed and used, exposing their consumers to danger.

All gas company officials responsible for the failed cover-up and endangering the lives of gas consumers must be severely dealt with; criminal proceedings must be instituted against them. They are a danger to society; there is no guarantee that they will not introduce changes to the gas composition or compromise safety measures to maximize profits again.

Blasts have apparently become the order of the day. As if the spate of gas explosions were not enough, now there are reports of cans of liquid fertiliser exploding in some parts of the country. Thankfully, no casualties have been reported, but urgent action must be taken to find out what has gone wrong and ensure the safety of farmers. The government is groping in the dark again.

An irate farmer, interviewed by a television channel was heard saying the liquid fertiliser was of inferior quality, and was of no use. He said it was emanating such a foul smell that he wondered whether what should have been in cesspits had found their way here in cans with price tags. Anything is possible in this country, where powerful crooks are above the law. Where there’s muck, there is brass.

Former President Maithripala Sirisena, in a television interview a few weeks ago, said he suspected the current fertiliser shortage to be part of a sinister plan to ruin the domestic agriculture sector systematically and drive farmers to sell their lands to wealthy businesses. Robber barons are already here, acquiring vast extents of land for banana cultivation, etc., we are told. It will be interesting to know Sirisena’s take on the fertliser explosions, as it were. Is it that someone has lined his pockets by importing substandard liquid fertilizer, as farmers claim?

The incumbent government came to power by exploiting the Easter Sunday explosions (2019) and promising to prevent blasts. But it has failed to get its act together and prevent gas explosions.


Chandana Sesath Jayakody

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