Bangabandhu’s Vision for the energy sector



Photo: Bangladesh Power development board (PDB) has been installed wind power project at Kutubdia near to Bay of Bengal with cost of TK. 9.5 crores. At least 1,000 consumers have been under taken this power supply project. Kutubdia, Bangladesh. June 09 Mohammad Islam, Coxs Bazar.DrikEWS.


Every year when August comes Bangabandhu is remembered, in Bangladesh and all over the world where ever Bangladeshi community lives, for his unparalleled contribution to the cause of Bangladesh. His contribution for Bangladesh liberation is unmatched and undisputed. He not only led a peace loving innocent Bangladeshi nation to the glory of Indepence but he was also the trend setter in almost all facets of national life. He started building castles in ruins. Do we all know or realize how he dreamt about the energy future of Bangladesh? What led him to acquire major Gas Fields from world reputed Shell BV? Have we realized his vision of Petrobangla? Or how he managed to inspire the country’s energy sector at its infancy preparing PSC and commencing offshore drilling in the Bay of Bengal?

Bangabandhu often used to say: “In the country of Shekh there has to be huge gas and petroleum resources. Brilliant Bangladeshis must learn the art of exploring and exploiting the resources. Bangladesh must go for rapid industrialization based on its own energy resources, cheap labor and abundant raw materials. Bangladesh needs golden Bangladeshis to create Golden Bengal”. He was aware that only professional exploitation of one’s own energy resources would create long term energy security of Bangladesh. The conspirators and cold blooded killers not only killed the greatest Bangladeshi of all times but they made Bangladesh’s energy sector orphan. Bangabandhu could be the same inspirator for Petrobangla what Mahathir was for PETRONAS. Just imagine the charisma, farsightedness and determination of the great man. What he achieved in a war ravaged country in three and a half years, the rest of us failed to achieve in 35 years.

Bangladesh cannot enter deep water to access its resources for maritime boundary disputes. Petrobangla and Gas sector management has been taken over by bureaucrats, its status has been decimated. Bangladesh managed to acquire 5 large discovered Gas Fields from a Major IOC almost at throw away price. Over the years we have allowed tiny IOCs like Scimitar, Occidental and Niko to grab our discovered gas resources. Like all other areas Bangladesh misses Bangabandhu in Energy Sector in confronting serious energy crisis.

Energy security of any country now is equally important as food security. It is long term energy security that created all confrontations, insurgency and terrorism in the world. Major Powers despite having enough resources, reserves and technology are constantly using or misusing their might to take over the energy resources of energy rich countries. The politics of countries like USA, UK and Australia is dominated by major Energy Companies.

In our opinion, energy security and food security complement each other. Many countries of the world like Japan and South Korea do not have any basic fuel resource to feed power generation. They exclusively depend on imported fuel .But they utilize it properly and are industrial super powers. Countries like Sudan, Nigeria and Angola have enormous fuel resources. But they do not have good governance and rely on foreign companies to explore and exploit their resources. Corruption and mismanagement of resources have resulted in poor economy and massive poverty.

Countries like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE have huge oil resources. They were once not much aware of its importance. But now utilizing the oil and gas resources these countries have developed massive infrastructures, set up good world class education institutions and have turned into leading economies. But absence of democracy in most of these countries has failed to provide the benefits of petroleum resources to all citizens. Countries like USA, UK and EU Countries have enough resources and technical and financial resources of their own. But they access overseas resources to ensure their own long term energy security; in some cases to preserve and protect their own resources for future use. The case of countries of former Soviet Union is different. They have huge unexploited resources which alone can feed the rest of the world for several decades. But oil diplomacy fails to make economic use of their resources. Countries like China and India have substantial resources. But their rapidly growing economies have created energy-hungry markets. Both of them are hunting for reliable energy resource all over the world.

Countries like Bangladesh where too many people live on a small piece of land, energy and food security go hand in hand. Bangladesh needs optimum production of food grains and vegetables from rapidly diminishing agricultural land. That is only possible if there is an ensured supply of fertilizers at affordable and subsidized price to farmers and uninterrupted power supply for irrigation. Bangladesh also needs rapid industrialization to employ is growing population for economic growth and poverty alleviation. Bangladesh would not have to bother so much about power for irrigation if hundreds of rivers and tributaries could retain water through the year as was the case even till a few decades back. Climate change causing infrequent draughts, unilateral withdrawal of water on the upstream of common rivers, massive siltation and pollutions of all rivers and streams, unauthorized occupations of rivers, canals and streams have made use of surface water for irrigation scanty. In irrigation season power and diesel demands are a burden on our energy system. Power requires to be diverted for irrigation load; fuel supply requires to be diverted to meet power generation demand.

Bangladesh has substantial unexplored petroleum resources both offshore and onshore. It has huge discovered but mostly unexploited coal resources. There is tremendous opportunity for expanding various forms of renewable energy .It has Energy Policy, Power System Master Plan, Gas System Master Plan, Mines and Minerals Acts and Policy, and Independent Energy Regulatory Commission. Petroleum industry in the region is more than 55 years old. There are many well groomed professionals. Yet its energy security is extremely vulnerable. The reasons are poor sectoral governance, lack of political will and commitment, bureaucratic legacy, poor energy pricing, unbridled corruption and lack of proper incentives in energy industry to attract and retain competent professionals. All these factors have, over the last 35 since the unfortunate killing of Bangabandhu in August 1975, have had a combined adverse impact on the energy scenario. Bangladesh is now suffering from the worst energy crisis of its history which beggars description.

To be continued, Episode-TWO in 24 hrs, Keep an eye on