Sherpa Hossainy's Blog

Muhith vows to stamp out North Bengal energy woes

Posted in Bangladesh, Business, Dhaka, Economy, Energy and power by Sherpa Hossainy on May 18, 2011

Published in The Independent on May 18, 2011

Read this on The Independent website

Digital print edition

The impoverished northern region of Bangladesh will be brought under gas-connection network urgently in a bid to eliminate its existing regional inequity, said Finance Minister AMA Muhith Tuesday.

“We have not been able to use the available energy sources in the North Bengal nor have we been able to deliver adequate energy there,” Muhith said. He was speaking at a seminar on “North Bengal’s development and budget” organised by the North Bengal Development Forum (NBDF) at Hotel Ruposhi Bangla in Dhaka.

He said the most important issue on focus about North Bengal is ensuring gas supply there. He blamed Petrobangla for its failure to provide enough gas supply for the region.

“It is unacceptable that Petrobangla has not been able to add significant gas supply to the North Bengal in two and a half years,” Muhith lamented.

Speakers at the seminar said there is a coal reserve of 3 billion tonnes in four coal mines of North Bengal that could be used for producing 10,000 mega watts of electricity over the next 50 years. But they said a group of environment activists is trying to daunt the region’s progress by misguiding people about the effects of coal mining.

The minister said, “The complaints and criticisms on coal mining are only theoretical.

The practical benefit is much greater if we can mitigate the environmental and social problems arising from mining.”

Coals are mined all around the world such as in Australia and the USA, but the effects are contained so far as possible, he said. “No one sits on such a huge energy source, while, most importantly, Bangladesh’s coal quality is very good.”

He said the decision to start coal mining, whether by open-pit or underground mining method, depends on the people of North Bengal.

Muhith assured there would be no obstruction from the government if people want coal mines. “The electricity generated by furnace oil fuelled power plants is very costly and unsustainable.

There is no way but to use the huge coal resource.” “But it will take time, and it could be seven to ten years, to be practical,” the finance minister said.

M Asaduzzaman, research director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), said: “There can be no provision of ‘no’ in the case of coal mining. The issues are only technical.”

Although Muhith rejected the idea of starting coal mining by Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) method saying the technology is still not viable.

The finance minister also snubbed the idea of a federal government in the northern region saying the integrated economy of the country does not allow such system. But he proposed a district-based government system, as there are 20 lakh people on an average in a district, which is bigger than the population of many countries like Sri Lanka and Bhutan.

He said the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also expressed her interest in forming such government. Muhith also said providing loans without interest is impossible but subsidies and lower interest rates for the loans for the development of the Northern region could be arranged.

The minister assured that the government will focus on the development of the silk farming (sericulture), warehousing and cold storage facilities.

Md Shahriar Alam, member of the parliament, presented the seminar’s proposals. Some of them were: building warehouses, surface water irrigation project, development of tourism in the Northern region, resuming operation in the airports in the North Bengal.

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