The government has taken an initiative to install 24 lakh more prepaid meters estimated at a cost of taka five thousand crore to prevent wastage of gas and reduce system losses.
Economic Relations Department (ERD) official said they have approached three foreign lenders so far to finance the project. Meanwhile, the World Bank has given preliminary approval to the proposal by ERD and has issued a 'Project Information Document' to expedite further discussions.
The installation of prepaid gas meters is going on at a snail's pace even though the system comes with many perks, including cuts in customers' cost and a reduction in gas wastage. There are allegations that if the theft can be stopped, the illegal income of the dishonest employees of the gas distribution companies will be reduced. Due to this, they are reluctant to install the prepaid meters.
According to experts, if the gas distribution companies could ensure prepaid meters for all domestic gas users, around 40 percent less gas would be burnt as consumers would be frugal. Since it was not implemented, the country loses a huge quantity of gas, mainly through the burning of excess gas unnecessarily. Secondly, gas is being stolen through illegal connections.
According to the World Bank document, installation of the prepaid meters will eliminate wastage and losses of gas and reduce pressure on consumers.
To this end, ERD has asked for taka three thousand crores from World Bank, one thousand 281 crores from Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and taka 942 crores from Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the implementation of three projects.
Of this, financing of Tk 1,087 crore has been requested from ADB for the installation of 5,49,000 meters. Besides, taka 1, 473 crores has been requested from JBIC for installation of another seven lakh meters.
On the other hand, US$30 crore has been sought from the World Bank for 'gas sector efficiency and decarburization projects'. This loan includes a sub-component of $ 27 crore for installation of 11 lakh 86 thousand meters.
Md. Shafiqul Islam, General Manager (Planning and Development) of Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Limited (TGTDCL) said that the implementation of these projects will start after getting finacial support from the donors.
TGTDCL official said that Titas has already installed about 300,000 prepaid meters in its gas distribution area, which was approved by ECNEC in 2015. The project was supposed to be completed by 2018. However, it was later extended to December 2022. At the same time, another one lakh meters will be set up under this project.
TGTDCL will get 23.5 lakh meters if the proposed projects are approved. Through this, the country's largest gas distribution company will be able to bring about 93.44 percent of household customers under prepaid meter coverage.
The remaining 86,000 meters will be provided by Paschimanchal Gas Company Limited (PGCL), which has about one lakh household consumers.
The government decided to install pre-paid meters to stop theft, waste and illegal use, along with establishing discipline and good governance in the gas sector. But the gas distribution companies are doing this very slowly.
Due to the slow pace of the meter installation, the consumers are paying extra bills using less amount of gas. For this, Titas is taking around taka 2.5 thousand crore extra from the consumers every year. One expert says that a whole amount is being stolen.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources has expressed dissatisfaction several times at a slow pace of installation of prepaid gas meters.