Despite ruins of indepence war in 1971 Bangladesh, under the visionary leadership of Bangabandhu, launched a tremendous journey in the world of energy. Think of the overall situation of 1972. Bangladesh government started almost from ruins. Defeated forces and their beneficiary local meerjafars were very much active to destroy our glorious achievements. Yet within a little over three years the Bangabandhu-led government could achieve the following milestones in the Energy Sector.
- Creation of Oil, Gas and Mineral Corporation (Now Petrobangla) with similar mission and vision as of PETRONAS and PERTAMINA. PETRONAS was pioneered by another visionary leader Mahathir Mohammad. No ungrateful Malaysian killed Mahathir but we ungrateful Bangladeshis killed our dreamer. We know PETRONAS is the symbol of Malaysia. It is an international Energy Company of Choice. Petrobangla is fighting for its survival. Visionary Dr Habibur Rahman was the CEO Petrobangla and concurrently Secretary Energy. Can we compare our present energy sector leader with Dr Habibur Rahman?
- Acquisition of 5 major discovered gas fields (Titas, Habiganj, Bakhrabad, Rashidpoor and Koillashtilla) from Shell BV Holland at nominal prices. These gas fields are still the backbone of Bangladesh’s gas and energy sectors. After Bangabandhu we handed over our discovered Haripoor Oil Field to unknown oil Company Scimitar and later handed over major gas region block 12, 13 and 14 including Petrobangla owned Jalalabad Gas Field to a little known company Occidental. Later on two so-called democratic governments handed over Petrobangla Gas Fields to NIKO against unsolicited offers.
- Formulation of PSC, Engage 6 IOCs for 8 blocks in the Bay of Bengal and commencement of exploration. Bangabandhu made Bangladesh the first country of the region to enter the Bay of Bengal. Since that black August, Bangladesh has failed to award any PSC in deep water. Due to failure of the nation to carry forward good works of Bangabandhu government our neighbors have aggressively engaged in exploration campaign in the Bay of Bengal squeezing us from both directions. Bangladesh has to unlock its potential in the deep water after resolving the serious challenges of maritime boundary disputes.
- Set up primary gas distribution network in Dhaka city.
- Set up major power generation unit at Ghorashal.
The greatest traitor Khondkar Mustaque Ahmed lowered the status of Petrobangla during his short tenure as the Chief Executive and then military autocrats General Zia and General Ershad militarized the energy sector and encouraged corruption and misgovernance.
It is not that the development of energy sector remained static since 1975, but the control of the sector gradually drifted from the hands of committed professionals to army and civil bureaucrats, as well as to the energy mafia syndicate who made a fortune out of it. Massive corruption and mismanagement made the sector a happy hunting ground for fortune seekers. Committed professionals, finding the situation unhealthy, left the sector creating a huge brain drain. Still, the creation and development of Bakhrabad Gas Systems Ltd (which again owes its origin to Bangabandhu) , the National Gas Grid and the extending of gas transmission system to the western side of Jamuna River are our notable achievements over the last 35 years. However, during this period the nation witnessed major scandals in the gas and energy sector.
Scimitar Scam, Saipem Syndrome, Mismanagement of Magurchra Blow Out, Mishandling of Shangu Offshore Gas Field Development, Ignoring Chevron, Exxon Mobil and PETRONAS in second-round bidding for coveted block 9 for petty gains, Niko Scandal, many scams in award of Power Plant Contracts have made our energy sector stinky. We must accept these as our national failure. We must be ashamed considering that Bangabandhu in three and half years could achieve milestone successes while we ruined it over the years.
Bangladesh now has to digest the highly expensive liquid fuel power plants and actively consider the import of LNG and coal, leaving our significant petroleum and coal resources under-utilized.
The present government is led by the daughter of the greatest Bangladeshi soul. She must take a lesson from her illustrious fathers. Bangabandhu did not care about the warnings of strong neighbors against entering the Bay of Bengal. Bangabandhu set up a very accomplished Petrobangla management and set Dr Habibur Rahman, a leading geologist, as its CEO. He authorized the gentleman, credited as one of the persons to draft the 1972 constitution, to formulate the first PSC. I wonder why the daughter of Bangabandhu is not working towards a professional, dynamic and committed energy sector, and why she is hesitating to give a green signal for the extraction of coal and offshore petroleum resources. We expect that as a mark of respect to her illustrious father , PM Hasina should take some milestone decisions in the energy sector in the Month of August.