Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led Grand Alliance Government is on the verge of completing its second year in office. People voted massively for Grand Alliance getting attracted to their election pledge of Change- Digital Bangladesh.After about 36% of its present tenure citizens have started critically analyzing the pains and gains of the government of their choice. Law and order situation remains in a spot of bother. Student front, youth front of the ruling party is engaged in all sorts of anti-social activities. Price spirals of essentials have made living for limited income group unbearable. Energy situation has deteriorated to all time worst.Despite of so called extensive pre-election home works and high sounding energy sector mega plans Crisis is compounding in the Energy Minister Hasina led Energy Sector. Chronic power crisis is triggering panic, gas crunch has created situation where government is forced to choose between power generation and fertilizer production. Situation could not be comforted even after shutting down almost all Urea fertilizer plants during the month of Ramadan. Gas supply to CNG filling stations requires being restricted. The objectives of Dhaka Clean Fuel project to create enabling infrastructure for smooth supply of gas to booming CNG industry requires to be compromised
Investment – both local and foreign has drastically gone down. Several investors investing borrowed capital in energy consuming industries are starving for energy. Existing industries continue to suffer production loss. Allthese are bound to impact on GDP growth. Frustration has started creeping in. Desperate governmentinitiated several contingency actions to set up expensive liquid fuel power plants and implement load management.Most of these have already fallen behind schedule .All these appear to create ripples in the big sea. Nothing appears to bring tangible benefits.
Failing to conclude some major power project contracts following traditional process Government has enacted controversial indemnity bill for managing power and energy sector contract awards on unsolicited offers. In this chaotic situation another dry season, another period of intensive irrigation round the corner may deepen crisis. Government in its soul searching must have started realizing that it failed miserably in mitigating energy crisis in two years for its unrealistic beauracratic actions. In choosing sector players government followed the chosen path of predecessors- incompetent party loyal.
With two of the five years term almost gone nation hates to listen to lame excuses of nadequate actions of previous regimes specially when present government repeatedly talked about plans and mega plans to confront and overcome impending crisis. Government is still juggling with unnecessary coal policy formulation. After prolonged delay Government approved Cairn/ Santos proposal for third party gassales from future development of block 16. If this could be approved a few months earlier some gas could be expected for gas starved Chittagong market by April 2011. After protracted delay government has just signed PSC with Conoco Philips for deep water exploration. It may take another 5 -7 years to get any benefit from it. It is apprehended that Conoco Philips deal has some hidden mysteries which may create future uncertainties.
Coal policy is not required to let Asia Energy Commence mining at Phulbari and commences setting up mine mouth power plants.Existing mines and minerals act and policy are more than enough. Yet to serve vested interest government is wasting time.It is very much possible to review AEC Scheme of Development by a team of true mining professionals. Underground mining has already proved disastrous at Barapukuria.Leaving our coal high quality coal buried underground Government has initialed MOU with India to setup tw large plants at Chittagong and Khulna based on imported coal. All knows Bangladesh will take several years to set up enabling infrastructure for coal import. The imported coal based power will be very expensive. Government is also pursuing very expensive LNG import route. This will also take several years and huge investment.There were tall talks about Nuclear power generation. But very little progress has been made so far.
Situation in Chittagong is all the more critical. Gas demand in Chittagong is now about 350MMCFD.Petrobangla can supply about 250MMCFD The 100MMCFD deficit has created gas draught. Government has to choose between Fertilizer and power for preferential supply. Even then rest of the end users suffer. Many industries in Chittagong are perspiring for Gas Supply for a long time. The situation aggravated since drastic depletion of supply from Offshore Shangu field. Shangu showed ominous sign of depletion from 2002 still Petrobangla did neither make any alternate arrangement for diverting gas supply to Chittagong from national grid constructing a Bakhrabad –Chittagong Loop linenor steering Cairn to carry out further development of Shangu nor develop Magnama and Hatiya gas fields. It could not support BAPEX to develop Semutang or settle dispute with Niko to develop FeniField. Rather Petrobangla and EMRD sat on Cairn legitimate proposal of allowing third party marketing right of its share of gas in Chittagong. If approved by July 2010 Cairn could carry out required development works to partially mitigate Chittagong crisis by April 2011. But for lapses of PB/EMRD that opportunity may not come.
Government is playing a broken record that 4 party alliance government in 5 years and Interinm care taker government in two years created crisis. But whatever addition to power and gas have been made so far are basically due to ground actions initiated earlier.But what the present government achieved in almost two years? What situation required them to enact a highly controversial indemnity bill for resorting to unsolicited offers entertaining in energy sector? Why democratic government actions cannot be challenged in thecourt? Why transparency and accountability will not be there?
Government is still drum beating that by 2012 load shedding will be eliminated. By 2012 Chittagong will get LNG supply. 2010 is almost over. In 2 years it will be impossible to achieve these unrealistictargets. All persons involved in the process will not turn angels overnight. .People behind indemnity bill in Energy Sector will make their fortune and leave government orphan by 2012 when energy crisis will continue to remain standstill.Government will be exposed to people’s hatred and mistrust.
Government must do soul searching as to why investments in Energy and power sector could not be attracted after much hyped Raod Shows in December 2009 and January 2010? Why contract for Bibiyana 450 MW power plant deal could not be firmed up? Why GTCL Compressor stations contract award could not be made after 5 years of conceiving the project? Why GTCL cannot operate its gas transmission assets professionally? Why transmission pipelines cannot have routine on-stream pigging for retaining design efficiency? How condensate and Sludge can travel to KAFCO and Patenga south? Why Dhaka Clean Fuel project could not achieve its desired objectives? Present Energy Advisor is a smart person. He must be made to respond these questions? Why a democratically elected government should continue to get embarrassed for internecine activities of some opportunist few?
Government will start getting panicked if the present diabolic situation in power and energy sector persists. An all-out concerted effort is essential. There must be meaningful action plan and implementation drive. Arrangement of sustainable fuel supply must be ensured. Our domestic coal and natural gas must be professionally exploited. Our economy cannot sustain the impact of highly expensive, liquid fuel, LNG and imported coal over longer terms.
Government will feel the punch from frustrated energy users if it fails to demonstrate positive actions soon.