Awami League's Pro People Development Activities


Published on December 28, 2019
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Engr. Khondkar Abdus Saleque

Bangladesh is riding on a rough terrain of development highway over the past decade . One of the main reason of achieving impressive economic growth at the annual rate of around 7% is made possible for significant improvement of power generation and supply over the past decade . The development partners, donor agencies and international community have acclaimed this achievement in unqualified terms. Bangladesh was South Asian leader in achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and is now on the right track of Sustainable Development Goals(SDG). SDG7 mandates supplying power to all at affordable cost by 2030 . Bangladesh now has attained over 22000 MW power generation capacity and has provided access to 94% population access to electricity . Various large power generation and infrastructure projects are now at different stages of implementation for achieving 40,000 MW generation capacity by 2030 and 60,000 MW by 2041 . Bangladesh is well oncourse for achieving mid income country status by 2021 and developed economy by 2041 . For own primary resource constraints and associated capacity constraints of exploring and exploiting own resources government has diversified primary fuel resources opting for imported Coal, LPG and LNG. A modern technology based Nuclear Power plant is also under construction. Bangladesh has also benefitting from power trading. In all these project required techno economic feasibility studies , risks analysis have been carried out prior to adoption of these projects . Vigorous monitoring is being done at every stages of project implementation by specific group of experts.

Some academicians claiming as environment activists and energy experts in Bangladesh media raised uniformed debates about various initiatives of the present government for achieving long term sustainable energy security. They have raised questions about coal fired power generation, Nuclear Power plant construction, Offshore exploration through engagement of IOCs through PSC, LNG import.Readers have reasons to get puzzled and confused as these persons always create controversy and confusion about any and all development activities the government take up frustrating and barricading their endeavours. For the sake of clarity it is considered appropriate to respond these uniformed arguments.

The particular write that is responsed here is “ Want development ensuring safety and well being of the people.” Well Bangladesh was in the grip of diabolic power and energy crisis in 2009 when Bangladesh Awami League led government was voted to power . 8-10 hours power load shedding brought economy to stand still. People of all walks of life were suffering immensely. Power supply could not even meet 50% of the demand. From that situation confronting many challenges government in 2019 has massively turned around ensuring power supply security and comfort for all. It required short term relatively expensive contingency power generation options for depleting own fuel resources and other constraints. This achievement must not miss the attention of any responsible citizen.

Let us now deal with specific areas . Some so called intellectuals have raised questions about coal based power generation ,Rampal Power Plant in the proximity of Sundarban Mangrove forest in Bagerhat and Matarbari in Cox’s Bazar .

Why Bangladesh required opting for coal power and opting for imported coal? We all know that Bangladesh for years relied almost exclusively on its own cheap and easily available natural gas resource. Major gas fields were discovered by leading IOC Shell BV and after independence acquired for nominal price by Bangabandhu Government. Bangladesh could afford generating and supplying power at very cheap price as the gas supplied was priced well below economic price. Getting gas and price at very cheap cost industries mushroomed in Bangladesh . Economy grew exponentially . Gas demand surpassed supply manifold. Government other than Awami League failed to keep the exploration for petroleum going creating rapid depletion of proven gas resource. Government in 2009 had to resort to fuel diversification. Despite of concerns of environmentalists Coal still remains the most abundantly available and the cheapest fuel option . Bangladesh in PSMP 2010 rightly planned for 50% of its planned 40,000 MW power generation on coal . However, for different technical challenges and also uninformed controversy and debate Bangladesh delayed exploring and exploiting its own coal resources . This situation led Bangladesh reviewing PSMP 2010. In PSMP 2018 the planned fuel mix for 60,000 MW power generation target in 2041 is 35% coal (34% ) imported , 35% ( own gas and LNG) and 30% from Nuclear , Imported Power and Renewables .

Bangladesh Adopted The Best Available Technology

Unlike developed countries Bangladesh does not have any obligation for limiting emission as its carbon footprint is still negligible . Still while opting for new coal fired power generation Bangladesh adopted “ Ultra Super Critical Power Generation Technology “ and prescribed for using superior quality high heating value low sulphur, low ash coal. In plant design special attention has been given for removing suplfur, nitrogen and ash . Special attention is given for minimum water use ensuring use in closed loop. As far as technology is concerned such power plant would meet the stringent requirements of regulatory organizations. Hence the concerns of activists and so called experts are unrealistic. Thousands of people are living safely in and around large coal fired power plants. Hardly any person suffered from cancer caused from exposure to power plant emissions.

Location Controversy

For imported coal fired power plants Bangladesh had to set up import enabling infrastructures (Coal port, coal terminals) . Bangladesh does not have a deep sea port. Coastal areas are the only such locations .Still Bangladesh coastal areas does not have enough draft for providing access of standard coal carriers. Matarbari for proximity to Bay of Bengal is the most suitable location. For large power plants and coal port development less utility land area is also required. For that consideration Matabari in Cox’s Bazar ,Payera in Patuakhali and Rampal in Bagerhat were considered the most ideal locations. Right from the very outset a group of local and international activists wilfully targeted Rampal Power plant located about 14 KM away from the outer periphery of Sundarban and 70 KM away from UNESCO world heritage. Time again with credible technological interpretation responses have been given to unwise arguments of the activists about Rampal Power plant. The plant has not displaced any community ( apart from few shrimp cultivators ) , due care and attention has been taken in design , engineering of the plant , prescribing coal to be used , inclusion of additional units for removing sulphur and extraction and collection of dust , optimum use of water and completely covered transportation and storage of coal. Even UNESCO has withdrawn its objection being convinced with the Bangladesh actions for limiting emissions below international standard . Bangladesh India JV of BPDB and NTPC is implementing the 2x660 MW capacity power project. NTPC has wealth of experience for constructing and operating such power plants.

On the other hand Bangladesh Company Coal Power Generation Company (CPGCL) is with Japanese assistance is setting up 2X600 MW at Matarbari . A 14 KM long 250 meter wide and 18 meter deep canal is being developed linking Matarbari plant area with deep water of the Bay of Bengal. This Matarbari port in due course is going to be a major deep water port of Bangladesh . One large land based LNG based terminal is being set up there . The concern some academics raised about too many coal based power plants at Mahreskhali and coal power plants causing concern are unrealistic and baseless.

Concerns Over Rooppur

Nuclear Power Plant: Bangladesh following its PSMP 2018 is constructing 2X1200 MW capacity VIVER1200 technology ( 3rd generation plus) nuclear power plant at Rooppur ,Ishwardi in collaboration with and with the financial Russian Government . Russia is global leader and VIVER 1200 is the safest technology. This robust power plant in design has incorporated all the safety devices and is being constructed under strict supervision and monitoring of BAEC , Russian Regulator and IAEA. Indian experts are assisting only in some capacity development. From our research on such plants recently constructed elsewhere and being constructed now it appeared that Bangladesh managed to work out the best deal. Nuclear power plants are the best option now as world tends to move towards non fossil fuel based power generation. Once commissioned it will provide base load for Bangladesh power sector . Russia making special consideration would also take away the spent fuel . Bangladesh is training and developing its manpower under a program so that right from the day one competent manpower resource will be ready for operation.

Off Shore Exploration and Gas Export Myth:

Bangladesh not commencing offshore ( deep water ) exploration by now even after resolving maritime boundary disputes with India and Myanmar is definitely a lapse. However , an updated Model PSC 2018 has now been approved which among others has included conditional export provision. Off shore exploration is a gamble and requires billion dollar risk investment which is well beyond the capacity of Bangladesh .Moreover , Bangladesh national company BAPEX has no experience or expertise . Bangladesh has no option but to engage IOCs through PSC . In the past IOCs did not respond for not having required fiscal and financial incentives in the model PSC . The PSC of India , Myanmar and Vitetnam have greater and more attractive incentives . A known activist always talk about about 100% ownership of resources contesting PSC . Well PSC retains ownership of host government without risking any investment in exploration. IOCsonly becomes operator in the event it makes a commercial discovery. Bangladesh has not created provision for gas export . If there is a commercial discovery it will take 8-10 years to develop this deepwater prospect and deliver. Petrobanglahaving first right of refusal will definitely not allow export as there will highly demanding domestic market . Hope this negates and clarifies the concerns raised by the academician.

Despite of commendable achievement Bangladesh power and energy sector encounters challengesof arranging sustainable primary fuel . The same activist group with ulterior motive frustrated all efforts of exploiting own coal resources. They created myths against IOCs exploration of Petroleum resources. They appeared over enthusiastic with BAPEX capability. In Bangladesh 90% of major gas resources has been discovered by IOCs . The marginal gas fields discovered by BAPEX with government support is mostly depleted .BAPEX having exclusive rights for exploration in onshore areas for years failed to live upto expectation. The uninformed debates and agitations of the academics and activists is also responsible for domestic fuel resources failing to continue making major contribution. Government has to adopt expensive exported fuel options.
Government is very much alert and conscious about its obligations to people. All major energy and power projects are directed towards achieving sustainable energy security and achieving SDG7. Yes there are challenges and government is doing its best in confronting those. It must also be noted that despite various concerns fossil fuel (Gas, Coal and Oil) would continue playing its role as significant contributor to fuel mix.