Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bangladesh envisage regional power trade with India, Burma to ease electricity crisis

SALEEM SAMAD

BANGLADESH HAS undertaken an ambitious plan to augment the energy starved nation through import of 4500 megawatt of electricity by 2030, subject to setting up of interconnectivity regional power grid.

Experts, however, describe the mega plan as unrealistic and impractical. They said the ambitious plan needs huge investment for cross border electricity trade through difficult areas for construction and transmission of power.

Bangladesh oil and natural gas fields are quickly depleting for power hungry export industries. The government is under immense political pressure from the investors and entrepreneurs’ apex body to augment power transmission or provide compensation package for their export losses.

The government led by Shiekh Hasina is contemplating to import power from neighboring India and Burma. The prime minister’s representative held parleys with the two neighboring governments in the last two years.

The government is planning to import 500 MW of electricity from India by 2013. Another 500 MW of electricity would be imported through north-west route by 2018. Other imports of 250 MW, 750 MW, and 1000 MW would be made possible from north-east Indian states.

Presently, Burma does not have enough facility to export power. However, Burma has agreed to install two hydropower plants aiming to export 500 MW of electricity to Bangladesh from the troubled Rakhine state by 2017.

Meanwhile, the import of 250-MW of electricity from India has already missed the schedule in last March. The signing of the deal with India will be furthered delayed as the governments of the two countries failed to reach any settlement over the dispute regarding transmission of electricity.

Professor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) Professor M. Tamim, also former energy adviser to an interim government, said the import of electricity depends not only on good regional relationships, but for budget crunch for establishment of infrastructure for import of electricity from other side of the border.

He told English newspaper The Daily Sun, “The government could not implement some crucial power projects due to fund constraints.”

Professor Izaj Hossain of BUET said the 4500 MW electricity import is possible through regional power exchange agreement by 2030. The purchase of electricity would be expensive from neighboring countries, as it would be costly for construction and maintenance of the grid, he remarked.

Power Division secretary Mohammad Abul Kalam Azad told The Daily Sun, that once the regional power grid connectivity is ready, it would be possible to import 4500 MW by 2030.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and politics. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com