Rampal plant to start operation in 2016, not 2014

Sadrul Hasan, UNB Staff Writer Dhaka, June 24

Facing serious hurdles from different sides, both the Bangladesh and Indian authorities have deferred the implementation of the proposed 1320 MW coal-fired power plant by two years.

“Now, the power plant will be set up by 2016 instead of 2014,” a top official of the Power Division told UNB.

সুন্দরবন থেকে বিদ্যুৎ কেন্দ্র সরাও

Fighting for the survival of the Sundarbans

কয়লা নিয়ে হুড়োহুড়ি!

Bangladesh’s state-owned Power Development Board (PDB) and Indian state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) signed a joint-venture (JV) deal in January this year to set up the proposed power plant, having two units of 660 MW each, in Rampal upazila of Khulna region.

The proposed plant site is about 15 kilometres off the world heritage site, the Sundarbans.

When the deal was signed, it was announced by both the sides that its implementation will start immediately and the plant will come into operation in last part of 2013 or early in 2014.

“But last month both the sides agreed to defer the timeline by two years,” said a joint secretary of the Power Division, wishing anonymity.

He also admitted that the time-table for implementation of the mega power project was deferred following the hurdles that both the parties have been experiencing.

Sources, however, said so far a joint-venture company was formed comprising six directors from both sides under registration with the office of the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies in Bangladesh on 50-50 equity basis.

Power secretary Abut Kalam Azad was appointed as the chairman of the “Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company” while the managing director of the company was appointed from the Indian side.

“But no physical progress, other than setting up of the company, was done in implementation of the power plant project which will be run by imported coal,” said a source.

Sources said that an initial feasibility study was conducted by the NTPC, but there is no further follow-up and no final feasibility study was done.

An Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was supposed to be completed shortly, but has not been done yet. As a result, no green signal is received from the Department of Environment.

While signing the JV deal, the Indian and Bangladeshi officials had given an idea that the plant will be run through coal to be imported from Indonesia or Australia or South Africa. But so far no move is visible in striking any deal with any company in such countries.

The Power Division has long ago completed the acquisition of about 1400 acres of the land. But the land development work is yet to start.

Rather, a tussle is going on between the Power Division and the National Board of Revenue (NBR) regarding the tax incentives for the joint venture company. The Power Division wants the company to receive 15-year tax holiday and other tax exemption on import of its equipment and coal. But the NBR is unwilling to provide such extraordinary facilities to the Bangladesh-India JV company.

However, sources said that the Power Division has been pursuing the Prime Minister’s Office to make the NBR agree to provide such facilities.

There are still some ambiguities about the sharing of profits and losses by both sides regarding the project. Both sides will have 50-50 equity in the new joint venture.  “But as a sponsor, Bangladesh will give its land for the project and face the environmental hazards. But in return, what it will get for the extra sacrifices is not clear,” said a PDB official dealing with the project.

Meanwhile, the environmental groups have started campaign against the proposed power plant, fearing that it will be serious blow to the ecology and environment for the world heritage site, the Sundarbans, as the plant’s site is very close to the biggest forest in the subcontinent.

The main opposition BNP has already raised its voice against the joint venture power project considering it an anti-state deal against the country’s environment and ecology.