Monday, April 17, 2017

Bangladesh to invest $1Mi for construction of hydro-power in Bhutan to import 1,000MW electricity

SALEEM SAMAD

Bangladesh will finalize the negotiation to import 1000 Megawatt (MW) hydro-power from Bhutan, during the official visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to reach Thimphu this morning by Druk Air VVIP flight for a three-day state visit to Bhutan from April 18. Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay will receive her at the airport. Hasina will be presented a ceremonial Khadhar (scarf).

Later, Hasina will be given a guard of honor and she will also inspect the guard. From the airport, a ceremonial motorcade will take her to her place of residence, where she will be received by the chairman of Royal Privy Council of Bhutan.

While in Bhutan, the prime minister will sign six agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoUs), most importantly an investment and import of electricity from a planned hydro-electricity project in land-locked country. 

Both sides will sign deals on removal of double taxation, agriculture, cultural affairs, use of Bangladesh's inland water by Bhutan, standards of products and land given to Bangladesh for establishing a permanent embassy.

Diplomats said that Sheikh Hasina's visit would unveil a "regional power trade" a trilateral cooperation among Bhutan, Bangladesh and India.

She will also hold bilateral meetings with the country's top leaders on the sidelines. Hasina will hold meetings with Bhutan's King Jigme Wangchuck and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay to discuss bilateral and regional issues. During her fourth visit to Bhutan, Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the three-day International Conference on Autism and Neuro-Developmental Disorders on April 19.

Saima Wazed Hossain Putul, member of World Health Organization (WHO) expert advisory panel on mental health and chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Autism, has taken initiatives to hold the conference in Thimphu.

The conference is being jointly hosted by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh and Ministry of Health of Bhutan with the technical support of Shuchona Foundation, Ability Bhutan Society and WHO South-East Asia Regional Office.A draft memorandum of understanding on the trilateral collaboration is being circulated among the three friendly countries.

Bangladesh's foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali told journalists said, Bangladesh will invest in the 1,125MW Dorjilung hydro-power project in Lhuentse.

The proposed hydro-electricity dam will be located about seven kilometers downstream of Autsho at a place called Rewan, said a top official with Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources (MPEMR).

He also said India has agreed to Bangladesh's proposal to invest in the project and provide transit for transmission of electricity from Bhutan. Government of Bangladesh recently approved USD 1Billion for the project.The International Finance Corporation (IFC), an enterprise of the World Bank Group, has already assured the government of financing regional power trade involving Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan.

A trilateral cooperation among Bhutan, Bangladesh and India that will enable Bangladesh to invest in the Bhutanese power sector to re-import the electricity could soon be a reality, said Mahmood Ali.

The foreign minister told journalists that the money will be equity investment in the project, and Bangladesh will get a proportionate share of the production from the project.

In fact, power in both Bangladesh and India will keep increasing its demand, which will contribute a big economic opportunity for Bhutan.

Currently, Bangladesh imports around 500 MW of electricity from India. Import of another amount of 100MW electricity from India's Tripura state may start in March.

Early this month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, announced that it would provide further electricity to Bangladesh during Sheikh Hasina's visit to New Delhi
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Implementation of this project will not only uplift the relation between Bhutan and Bangladesh but also the trilateral relation. "We are poised to take a big leap in the trilateral cooperation," the foreign minister said.

In addition to Bangladesh's share of production from the project, the foreign minister said his country is keen on importing either from the same project or other projects. That will be subject to negotiation among the three countries.

In 2014, member states of SAARC signed a framework agreement for energy cooperation with the declared objective of creating a regional energy market and enhancement of cross-border electricity trade.Meanwhile, the Power Division under the MPEMR has examining the MoU with Bhutan.

Earlier, Bhutanese Economic Minister Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk had visited high-voltage direct current (HVDC) back-to-back station of the state-owned Power Grid Company of Bangladesh Ltd (PGCB) at Bheramara in Kushtia last October to see the electricity-import infrastructure in Bangladesh.

First published in The Asian Age, April 18, 2017

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow (USA), is an award winning investigating journalist and is Special Correspondent, The Asian Age, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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