Essay Topic: Shortage of oxygen in India during second covid wave
The second wave of Covid-19 has brought a lurch in the lives of Indians. Daily cases are surging rapidly and the death toll is also rising due to lack of oxygen supply. Breathlessness is one of the symptoms when a person is contracted with coronavirus. This is due to a drop in the level of oxygen, which is below 92 in the case of elders. However, the negligence in arranging sufficient medical oxygen by some states has left the patients helpless.
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The current devastating situation of India in the second wave of Covid-19 is not only because of the rates of contagion and the severity of disease but also due to the dearth of resources that are paramount to save lives, especially, Oxygen that is vital to survive. Insufficient oxygen supply in India has hit the country hard and now, India has become the second-worst hit country, after the US.
With nearly 4 lakh daily Covid-19 cases on May 21, nearly 52% of people rush for hospitalization, and hence, the oxygen demand has skyrocketed to eight times from normal levels. The state governments seem to be helpless and are seeking help from other states and nations. The carcasses of the deceased are piled up in the crematorium, just because of lack of medical oxygen. In a state like Delhi, nearly 30 patients succumb in a hospital just because of shortness of breath and crunch in the supply of oxygen.
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The unavailability of oxygen is not the only fault of the central government, but also states and districts are equally responsible for poor management. PM-CARES funded money to build 162 pressure swing adsorption oxygen (PSA) plants in the States. Contracts were given to contractors in December for installation of these plants within 45 days but only 33 plants have been set up till now. People are dying because of the lack of oxygen. To deter this situation, the union government has promised to introduce PSA plants to nearly 550, which will be functional in the next three months. It will lead to an adequacy in the capacity of oxygen to nearly 500 MT each day. To meet current needs, higher authorities are left with no other option than importing 50,000 MT of medical-grade oxygen.
Does India lack in production of sufficient oxygen?
No, there is enough production of oxygen in India, a little over 7,000 tonnes a day. 78% of total production is for industrial purposes and the rest is for medical usage. However, the supply of oxygen for industrial use can be diverted for medical purposes. On April 24, most of the industries produced 9103 MT of liquid medical oxygen. The obstructions are transportation and storage of oxygen. Most of the plants are located in eastern India. There is a need for cryogenic tankers to transport liquid oxygen to various cities. There, it has to be converted to the gaseous form and further has to be piped to the emergency rooms.
Some of the hospitals are not capacious enough to store liquid temperature. They also lack the pipes to distribute it to patients. Ultimately, they need oxygen gas cylinders to meet the demand. However, these cylinders come with shortcomings:
- There is wastage of oxygen as each cylinder loses around 5-10% when it empties due to pressure.
- The dearth of cylinder manufacturing capacity to fulfil the current demand.
The current focus of higher authorities:
- The government is focusing on procuring cryogenic tankers from countries like Singapore, Saudi Arabia, etc.
- Industries are being asked to manufacture oxygen to meet the hospital’s demand.
- Special train services and even military transport planes are being used to transport oxygen to worst-hit cities like Delhi.
- Setting up more than 500 new plants to ramp up the production of oxygen.
Delhi’s oxygen situation:
As per the order of the Supreme court, the centre has to supply 700 metric tonnes of oxygen to Delhi on a daily basis keeping into account the devastating situation due to the surge in deaths. The centre is supplying less oxygen to Delhi ever after the strict order from the supreme court. Delhi received 730 MT of oxygen for the first time on 5th May. But the supply dipped to 577 MT the next day and further to 487 MT. On 7th May, only 499 MT was received over 700 MT. According to the data shared by the Delhi government, 24% less oxygen is being provided to the state by the centre.
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As per the government officials, eight government hospitals in Delhi now have pressure swing adsorption oxygen plants as compared to just one plant on 24th April. 40 more PSA plants are to be set up soon in Delhi.