Industrialists say if the government provides cylinders, they will supply sufficient oxygen.
KATHMANDU, May 7: As the number of COVID-19 infections continue to surge, the lack of oxygen cylinders has affected the supply of oxygen to hospitals. Gas industries don’t have enough cylinders to fill in the oxygen. Although the industries have refilling capacity, there are no cylinders, according to the Oxygen Industry Association.
Gaurav Sharda, president of the association, said that the industries have not been able to operate in full capacity because of the lack of cylinders. “The refilling industries outside Kathmandu are running at 50 percent capacity,” he said, “The industries are not able to refill because there are no cylinders.”
Industrialists said that if the government can provide cylinder cans, they can supply oxygen. According to the association, there are about 70,000 oxygen cylinders in Nepal. Although one of the reasons for oxygen scarcity is because people are stocking up the oxygen cylinders, industrialists say that the main reason is the lack of cylinders.
There are about two dozen private oxygen industries in Nepal: eight in the Valley, 18 in Chitwan, Butwal, Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj, Birgunj, Biratnagar and Sunsari. “There is shortage of oxygen as the COVID-19 cases continue to surge,” Sharda said, “Industries outside the Valley have not been able to operate due to lack of cylinders.”
Private sector industries have the capacity to fill 17,000 cylinders daily. Eight industries in the Valley can fill 8,000 cylinders per day. Some government hospitals also have oxygen plants. In the past, industries did not buy many cylinders because there was not much demand for oxygen. Demand has risen sharply as oxygen is essential for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
President Sharda said that the government should make arrangements to bring empty cylinders. Oxygen cylinders are imported from India, China and other countries. The private sector industries have been filling 47-liter and 10-liter capacity cylinders.
Shiva Ghimire, operator of Everest Oxygen Industry, said, "If we want to save the lives of the people, we have to fly in empty cylinders from abroad.” He said that cylinders could be brought from China with the help of the government. The government has stated that it is preparing to import gas cylinders due to shortage.
Spokesperson of the Ministry of Health and Population, Dr Jageshwor Gautam, said that the government is preparing to bring in 20,000 oxygen cylinders from China. The government has stated that discussions are underway to send a widebody aircraft of Nepal Airlines to bring in 2,000 cylinders in the first consignment.
The oxygen gas cylinders were previously used 60 percent by the hospitals and 40 percent by industrial. Oxygen is used in industrial sectors, including in hydro, grill, cement, glass industry, and in workshops. The government has instructed to stop the sale of oxygen for industrial purposes. As some of the cylinders are still found to be used in industries, a request has been made to make them available to hospitals, Dr Samir Kumar Adhikari, joint spokesperson at the ministry said.
Sharda warned if the infection rate continues to go up at its current rate, there will be a shortage of oxygen in the next 10-15 days.