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Heedless nation

January 24, 2013

THIS is a country where putting in place and getting the public to adopt even the most obvious of safety measures often presents formidable challenges. Yet some hazards pose such a serious risk to the public that it is imperative that the state exert every possible effort to develop safety mechanisms and inspection systems, ensuring that they are adhered to. It should also initiate a large-scale awareness campaign about such dangers. As such, the explosion of a liquefied petroleum gas cylinder in Lahore’s Defence Housing Authority on Wednesday afternoon should be taken as a dire warning. Reportedly, the cylinder was lying in the kitchen of an eatery, and it exploded with such force that nearly three dozen people were injured and no fragment of the container could be found.

While some laws regarding safety mechanisms are in place, there is hardly any oversight in terms of standards regarding pressurised LPG cylinders, even though they are very commonly used across the country for heating and domestic purposes. Compressed natural gas cylinders, too, have become a ubiquitous feature in motor vehicles, but is each and every filling station checked for safety? There have been some instances where CNG kits are said to have been the reason behind fires. The developed world has adopted extremely stringent conditions under which these, and LNG cylinders can be used. The manufacture and maintenance of the cylinders themselves involve exhaustive and extreme tests, a far cry from the footpath industry that their repair and filling has become in Pakistan. Anything containing pressurised, flammable gas must be kept away from heat and fire; but LPG cylinders next to an open barbecue are a common sight. While we can argue that the state must do its bit, what will it take to make people concerned for their own safety?