The country’s largest state-run natural gas distributor is seeking funds from two major donor agencies to implement its plan to install 1.25 million more prepaid gas metres domestic customers in the capital city.
The financing is being sought from the Asian Development Bank and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), official sources told UNB without specifying the amount as the proposals are still at a discussion stage.
If the move succeeds, more than half the total consumers of the state-run Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company will come under the prepaid gas metre coverage, the sources said.
This will also increase the number of Titas Gas prepaid metre customers to about 1.710 million from the existing 460,000, said the official sources speaking on condition of anonymity.
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Titas Gas, the oldest and largest downstream gas distribution company, has been responsible for supply of natural gas to Dhaka and its adjoining districts including Mymensingh, Netrokona, Sherpur, Jamalpur, Norsingdi, Manikganj, Munshiganj, Gazipur and Narayanganj since its founding in 1964.
“But currently the company has been focusing on just Dhaka city in installing the prepaid gas meters for household consumers where it has the largest network”, said a top official of the company. Over 70 per cent of the total 2.874 million consumers live in the city, he added.
Official sources said that the government has been trying to obtain required funding from Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).
“We’ve been discussing with the ADB for long to secure financing for a project to install 549,000 pre-paid meters while similar move is in progress with JBIC to get a support for installing 700,000 prepaid metres”, said a top official of the Titas preferring not to be quoted.
About the move, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said his ministry has forwarded its proposals on the issue to the Economic Relations Division (ERD) of the finance ministry.
“If they clear our proposals, we’ll move further to receive the financial support from ADB and JBIC to implement new project for the prepaid gas metering”, he told UNB.
Official sources noted that so far the Titas Gas installed prepaid gas metres in a number of phases.
They informed that initially, some 13,100 prepaid metres were installed in Dhanmondi-Mohammadpur in 2013-14 area under a pilot project and then 320,000 prepaid meters were set up under a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-funded project in Dhanmondi, Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara, Uttara, Mohammadpur, Badda, Tejgaon, Cantonment, Kafrul, Khilkhet, and Mirpur area during 2016-2019.
Again the JICA-funded project was extended by another 120,000 metres which are now being installed in different areas in central city areas, including Paltan, Ramna, New Market, Khilgaon and Segunbagicha under the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC).
IICA provided funds worth Tk. 752 crore for implemention of the project.
Faizur Rahman, director of the prepaid metering project of the Titas Gas, informed that the extended project will be completed by December this year.
Many consumers of these areas said they are glad to get the prepaid metres as their monthly gas expenditures are less than one-third of the amount paid under the non-metering system.
Officials said prepaid gas metering system’s biggest advantage is that it checks gas pilferage and a consumer pays a bill for what he actually consumes per month.
On the other hand, in a non-metering system, a consumer has to pay a fixed monthly bill even if he does not consume any gas for the entire period.
Hasna Hena, a consumer at the city’s Niketon area said she pays Tk 1000 to recharge her prepaid meter and uses gas for about 3 months, while her cousin, who lives in Nakhalpara pays Tk 950 every month for the same quantity of gas as he has no prepaid metre.
As per official data received from Titas Gas, the company has about 2.874 million consumers in its command area of which 2.855 million are household customers.
Titas Gas authorities took up the prepaid gas metring project mainly to check gas pilferage as there are widespread allegations that huge illegal gas connections have been given across the city.
"Even some illegal consumers pilfer gas through muntiple ways. They use one connection to use gas in so many unapproved ovens," said a top Titas official adding that prepaid metres have stopped such pilferage.