Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Despite protests, India, Bangladesh agrees to generate power

SALEEM SAMAD

IN MAJOR breakthrough India have agreed to help Bangladesh to generate coal-fired power station and pens another deal to generate additional power by private companies.

The state owned Power Development Board (PDB) on Sunday penned an agreement with the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) of India to build a 1,320-megawatt coal-fired power plant at Bagerhat, near the southern coast.

The environmentalists and senior citizens have protested against the construction of coal-fired power plant, which they argue would jeopardize the fragile mangrove forest. It is feared to drown at the time of sea-level rise caused from global warming, environment advocate Rizwana Hasan lamented.

However environmentalists say the proposed site for the power plant is too close to world heritage Sundarbans. They argue that discharge from the power plant, like sulphur dioxide and fly ash, will have disastrous consequences for the fauna and flora of the mangrove swamps.

Environmentalists and senior citizens have protested against construction of the coal-fired plant, which they argue would jeopardize a fragile mangrove forest. It is feared to drown at the time of sea-level rise caused from global warming, lamented environment advocate Rizwana Hasan in a joint statement with senior citizens.

ASM Alamgir Kabir, chairman of PDB, and Arup Roy Choudhury, chairman and managing director of the New Delhi-based company, signed the deal to install two units of the plant with 660 MW generation capacity each.

The PDB chief said the plant would use supercritical pressure technology that offers high efficiency and less coal consumption in order to keep the emission level as low as possible.

Bangladesh energy starved nation of 150 million has gradually developed hundreds of export industries, which has caused hiccups due to acute power shortage. The traditional natural gas based power generation faced setback due to gas shortage.

The country's present power production is slightly more than 5,000 MW against a daily demand of 7,000 MW.

The deal would cost $1.5 billion and it will start supplying electricity to the national grid by 2016. The coal imported from India, Australian Indonesia and South Africa will be shipped to its location more than 12 miles north of the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest, the plant will be the country's largest power plant.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh and India are working together to draw the contours of the proposed South Asia Power Grid. India and Bangladesh were preparing the draft concept papers for the proposed regional power trading regime.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes on Islamic terrorism, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile from Canada after return of democracy. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com