Oxygen Crisis and Supply Demand
Why is India facing an oxygen shortage?
Oxygen is the most vital gas seen in the context of sustaining all kinds of life. The gas is must for every living creature on the planet Earth. The gas is colorless, tasteless and odorless.
The life-saving possesses high reactivity due to which it can bind most of the elements except noble gases. The highly reactive gas aids combustible though in itself it is not combustible.
The vital gas constitutes 21% of the planet’s atmosphere. In medical applications we give oxygen therapy to patients from an external source. It is mostly due to underlying health disorder.
Oxygen the patients breathe through cylinders has purity equal or greater than 95%. Generally, industries use processes such as pressure swing adsorption (PSA) and cryogenic distillation for producing high purity oxygen for medical applications.
Oxygen Crisis in the 2nd Wave of the Pandemic
During the 1st wave, there was strict lockdowns in most of the countries. In India, the lockdown was particularly hard. This step helped to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
And, there was no wide-spread oxygen crisis in supply demand. Government of India directed all industrial oxygen units to start producing medical oxygen to meet the growing demand because of the pandemic.
This diversion of industrial oxygen helped a great deal to tide over the rapidly increasing demand. Notwithstanding the diversion of industrial oxygen for medical use there were many cases of shortage of oxygen during the 1st wave.
Hospitals & COVID Center –
Hospitals and COVID centers were swarming with patients. They refused to take new patients as they had no space to spare. It was a time when it was a horrifying experience to visit hospital.
And if someone close to you had caught the virus, the nightmarish experience of trying for hospital admission and securing oxygen supply (medical oxygen plant) is too awful to narrate. Everybody was living in a mental siege torn apart from fear of dying from the infection by the deadly virus.
Most of the people born after seventies had never seen a health crisis like this. No doubt, the unprecedented nature of the crisis did not help in the efficient management as no one sitting in the upper echelons had seen such a crisis.
There is no denying the heart-wrenching effect of the pandemic but mismanagement of oxygen supplies and health infrastructure made it worse. .
2nd Wave: Worse oxygen demand supply
As the 1st wave waned there was smugness in the people tasked with the containment of the global pandemic. Normal activity resumed to a great measure after the month of September.
Lockdown measures progressively loosened until it started to climb up in the month March 2021. This was the start of the 2nd wave of the pandemic.
This time around the government was not keen on enforcing strict lockdowns because of the economic cost. In the month of April, there was exponential increase in the COVID-19 cases.
There was huge rush at hospital and health centers with multitudes of people struggling outside the hospitals trying to get their near ones admitted. It was awful scene to see; imagine how hard it must have been for those experiencing the nightmare.
Scenes outside the hospitals were heart-breaking with so many people dying because of the viral infection. In the 2nd wave there was total collapse of oxygen supplies. Simply there was no place where you could go and get oxygen cylinder.
There was such a wide gap between demand and supply of oxygen cylinders. In the first place you would not be able to secure an oxygen cylinder.
Even if you did manage to find a cylinder it was prohibitively priced. The cylinders normally selling for Rs 10,000(USD 133.49) were also sold for prices as high as Rs 43,000(UDS 574.02).
Just imagine how helpless ordinary citizens were feeling at the time, particularly, those with a family member infected from the COVID-19.
Such a scenario between demand and supply developed because the government was not proactive. There was no foresight due to which the country faced such a bad oxygen crisis.
Between May and June if you remember Indian TV news was full of burning pyres in the crematoriums. There was overwhelming feeling of fear and death everywhere.
India has got a developed oxygen industry yet there was such a colossal oxygen crisis oxygen gas plant. In part, there was no adequate infrastructure in place. Worse, the administration did a poor job of managing the crisis.