With the nation reeling under a medical oxygen shortage, India is planning to set up temporary hospitals with 10,000 oxygenated beds near industries that produce gaseous oxygen, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said on Sunday.
Also, around 1,500 pressure swing adsorption (PSA) oxygen plants are being set up through contribution of PM-CARES Fund and state-run firms, among others. In addition, the government is also working on repurposing existing nitrogen plants to produce oxygen.
“In line with his direction of exploring innovative ways to ramp up supply and availability of oxygen, PM Modi today chaired a meeting to review the usage of gaseous oxygen,” the statement said.
The meeting was also attended by principal secretary to prime minister P.K. Misra, cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba, home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, road transport and highways secretary Giridhar Aramane, among other senior officials.
“The strategy being used is to identify industrial units which produce gaseous oxygen of requisite purity, shortlist those which are closer to cities/dense areas/demand centres and establish temporary Covid care centres with oxygenated beds near that source. A pilot for five such facilities had already been initiated and there is good progress on this,” the statement said.
With India facing a massive surge in covid cases, the Union government has been facing increasing criticism over its mishandling of the second wave.
“Many industries like steel plants, refineries with petrochemical units, industries using rich combustion process, power plants etc. have oxygen plants that produce gaseous oxygen. This oxygen can be tapped for medical use,” the statement added.
This assumes significance given that of India’s installed power generation capacity of 382.15 gigawatts (GW), thermal power projects fuelled by coal and gas account for 202.67GW and 24.92GW, respectively. Also, steel plants and oil refineries have been supplying medical oxygen to different parts of the country.
“Considering the requirement of medical oxygen amidst the covid-19 pandemic situation, the Government of India explored the feasibility of conversion of existing nitrogen plants to produce oxygen. Various such potential industries, wherein existing nitrogen plants may be spared for production of oxygen were identified,” the PMO said in another statement.
“On deliberation with the industries, so far 14 industries have been identified where conversion of plants is under progress. Further 37 Nitrogen plants have been also identified with the help of industry associations,” the statement added.
The second wave continues to rage across the country, with 392,488 new covid-19 cases registered in the last 24 hours. According to ministry of health and family welfare data, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan accounted for 72.72% of the new cases.
India has a total active case load of 3.3 million.