Unof­fi­cial ten­ants warned to move off ex­plo­sive gas pipe­lines

The Myanmar Times - - News - Trans­la­tion by San Layy and Win Thaw Tar za­yarlinn@mm­times.com ZAY YAR LINN

SEV­ERAL unof­fi­cial shanty towns erected around Yan­gon are at risk of trig­ger­ing an ex­plo­sion as they were built above old, un­re­li­able gas pipe­lines, according to a govern­ment of­fi­cial.

Shwe Pyi Thar town­ship’s Danyin­gone Mar­ket is con­sid­ered to be on par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous turf. Hun­dreds of makeshift dwellings and shops have popped up above the Shwe Pyi Thar gas lines sup­ply­ing nearby fac­to­ries, according to state-run Myanma Oil and Gas En­ter­prise. Be­cause some of the pipe­lines are old and de­te­ri­o­rat­ing they are at risk of start­ing a fire or ex­plod­ing.

“There are 104 huts tres­pass­ing around Shwe Pyi Thar’s Danyin­gone Mar­ket in the area of a gas pipe­line,” U Hla Win Htay, gen­eral man­ager of Myanma Oil and Gas En­ter­prise (Yan­gon Re­gion), told The Myan­mar Times on Novem­ber 9.

But he also es­ti­mated that more than 1000 peo­ple may be at risk in the coun­try’s largest city and com­mer­cial cap­i­tal, which is es­ti­mated to have more than 200 miles of pipe­line feed­ing gas into the city’s power plants, petrol sta­tions, and gas-fired fac­to­ries.

“Ex­plo­sions can oc­cur be­cause some of the pipe­lines are old,” U Hla Win Htay said. “Ac­tu­ally, there were some weak­nesses when the pipe­lines were in­stalled. Al­though pipe­lines must be sub­merged in the ground by about 2 me­tres [6 feet], some pipes have emerged above ground.”

He blamed the is­sue on a lack of proper tech­nol­ogy and a dearth of funds. Myanma Oil and Gas En­ter­prise said it has dis­trib­uted pam­phlets warn­ing the pub­lic not to build on top of the pipe­lines or in the sur­round­ing vicin­ity within a 50-foot ra­dius.

Last month, the Yan­gon Re­gion govern­ment, the Min­istry of Elec­tric Power and En­ergy, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from pri­vate busi­nesses held a meet­ing at the of­fices of the Yan­gon govern­ment to in­form the pub­lic not tres­pass over the live wire pipe­lines.

“The tres­passers had been told that they must in­form the au­thor­i­ties if they smell gas or if there are any other signs of a leak. It is not easy to re­move the tres­pass­ing huts, and they will not will­ingly leave,” said U Hla Win Htay.

In Fe­bru­ary, res­i­dents of Shwe Pyi Thar’s Bo Shwe Gone ward got a first­hand look at the dan­gers MOGE has warned about.

“The gas ex­plo­sion at Shwe Pyi Thar’s Bo Shwe Gone ward hap­pened be­cause a tea shop was opened on top of the gas pipe­line. Peo­ple were hurt,” said U Hla Win Htay.

Three peo­ple, in­clud­ing chil­dren, were in­jured in the Fe­bru­ary 28 blast, he said.

But Daw Khin, who lives atop a 10-inch pipe­line go­ing through East Dagon town­ship, said she re­ceived the warn­ing pam­phlet, but has nowhere else to go.

“We live here in this il­le­gally con­structed hut be­cause we have no place to live. But we don’t start a fire on the pipe­line. If any part of the pipe­line is vis­i­ble, we cover it with dirt,” she said. “If we had an al­ter­na­tive place to live we would move from here at once.” –

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