Unofficial tenants warned to move off explosive gas pipelines
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.” –