India begins power export to Bangladesh; PM says ‘historic moment’
Bangladesh’s first ever energy deal with any country
New Delhi/Dhaka: India and Bangladesh today embarked on energy cooperation with the inauguration of two collaborative power projects, a step described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a “historic moment” in the partnership between the two countries.
The projects, a transmission line for exporting 500 MW from West Bengal and a 1,320 MW thermal power project in Bangladesh, were inaugurated by Singh and his counterpart Sheikh Hasina through video conferencing.
The Maitri thermal power project is being developed by Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company, a joint venture between NTPC and Bangladesh Power Development Board.
Inaugurating the projects, Singh said it was a “historic moment when we embark on a new partnership for prosperity between our two countries”. Observing that the destinies of the two countries are “inter-linked”, he said, “The initiatives being undertaken today strengthen the bonds of friendship between India and Bangladesh and add a rich new dimension to our bilateral relations.” Sheikh Hasina, present at a sub-station in western Bheramara, 240 km from Dhaka, was joined by India’s New and Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah.
“The inter-grid connectivity is part of an immediate solution which would go a long way to alleviate the power deficit in Bangladesh. Such cooperation will allow the two sides to embark on more ambitious projects,” she said.
The formal opening of the transmission line came a week after India launched a test transmission of electricity. The inauguration began with the supply of 175 MW to Bangladesh’s National Grid.
Bangladesh will import 250 MW from the Indian government’s “unallocated quota” and another 250 MW will be supplied by a private firm. However, groundbreaking for Bangladesh’s biggest ever joint venture coal-run power project came against the backdrop of protests by environmentalists, who fear the venture near the Sundarbans, also shared by India, will endanger the world’s largest mangrove forest.
However, the Bangladesh government said modern technology used in the plant would ensure the protection of the forest and a lot of money would be spent on environmental management. Singh asked project authorities to observe the highest environmental standards in its execution, “given that the Sunderbans are our common heritage”. State-run Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) will purchase electricity from India under a deal signed in February 2012 with NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Ltd (NVVN), a subsidiary of National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC).
Noting that economic development is the biggest challenge for all South Asia countries, Singh pitched for interlinking of the regional economies.
He said, “Prospects for economic development in South Asia will be enhanced by a partnership for shared prosperity among countries of the region,” he said.