Work on fabrication and building the Kurla bridge has been delayed due to lack of industrial oxygen

Oxygen sucked out of infra work in Mumbai

By Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

Updated: 29 September, 2020 07:00 IST

As 80 per cent of capacity is dedicated to management of the pandemic, contractors are hit by industrial oxygen shortage

Here's why many ongoing infra projects have slowed down despite the lockdown, minimal traffic, and the so-called best opportunity to do so — lack of oxygen! Yes, a number of contractors working on projects have begun complaining about the lack of enough industrial oxygen cylinders required for welding and fabrication, as medical oxygen cylinders are now being given priority.

Experts said the contents of welding oxygen cylinders and medical oxygen cylinders are the same. Only, medical oxygen cylinder apparatus and tanks are sanitised, cleaned and certified, while welding oxygen is sold without that certification and put into tanks that are not that clean.

However, as conservation of sealed oxygen is the need of the hour, companies with infrastructure projects are also finding newer ways to counter the problems. Central Railway, for example, said they have adopted plasma cutting, a parallel method for limited use, to bypass oxygen cylinders as much as possible, to keep the works going.


Plasma cutting, an alternative to using oxygen cylinders for the work, at the CR Parel Workshop

Still, some projects are delayed. The girders at the newly-extended Kurla foot overbridge are finally in place, but work on fabrication and building the bridge has been delayed despite the required material reaching the site, and the local contractor said that the delays have been due to the problems in procuring industrial cylinders required for the work.

'Trying hard to find them'

Similar examples have been found across major infra projects. A contractor said, "There have been serious problems with availability of industrial oxygen cylinders which has been hampering work. We are trying our best to procure them from available resources, but it seems the sudden spike of demand for COVID-19 treatment and lack of enough medical oxygen cylinders could be the reason for this."

"A shortage of oxygen is being faced for COVID-19 patients. So, there is immediate need for conservation of oxygen, specially in industrial use, hence the Parel Workshop of Central Railway has taken the initiative of using plasma cutting in place of oxy cutting of coach body panels and other cutting applications.


MLA Amin Patel had, a while back, rented oxygen cylinders to housing societies with prescriptions in emergencies. Pic/Suresh Karkera

"Though practically it is not possible to totally replace oxy-cutting with plasma, it is being used wherever possible. Plasma cutting is a process that cuts through electrically conductive materials by means of an accelerated jet of hot plasma," Central Railway's chief public relations officer Shivaji Sutar said.

National Railway Users' Consultative Committee member Subhash Gupta said, "I was wondering why the construction of the bridge at Kurla station was not moving ahead as the material had arrived long ago and even the girders had been put in place over rail tracks," he said.

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First Published: 29 September, 2020 06:59 IST

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