Dhaka, Bangladesh
Getting hydro-electricity from Bhutan

Getting hydro-electricity from Bhutan

All eyes were set on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s three-day visit to Bhutan on one account: use of hydro-electricity from the Himalayan kingdom. But at the end of her trip, a joint statement only mentioned that a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Bangladesh, Bhutan and India has already been proposed for cooperation in hydro-electric power on the principles of agreed regional framework. But the MoU would ‘hopefully’ be signed at an occasion when leaders of all three countries would meet next. It means only a MoU will be signed first paving the way for signing of an agreement. But when will it happen? The joint statement did not mention any date. It only said it will be inked when the top leaders of Bangladesh, India and Bhutan will meet. But when? We, however, congratulate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her ceaseless efforts to have hydro-electricity from Bhutan as Bangladesh will need more power to meet the country’s multifarious purposes. The trilateral cooperation among Bhutan, Bangladesh and India that will enable Bangladesh to invest in the Bhutanese power sector to re-import the electricity could be a reality. Bangladesh will invest in the 1,125MW Derailing hydropower project in the Lunettes district. India too has agreed to Bangladesh’s proposal to invest in the project and provide transit for transmission of electricity from Bhutan. Bhutan has a target of harnessing 10,000MW of hydropower by 2020. Currently four mega projects are underway with the 1,120 MW Punatsangchu project expected to commission by 2018. Most of the projects are built with Indian support and the energy exported to India. The trilateral cooperation will provide an opportunity for both the countries to diversify their energy markets. Bhutan is dependent on the Indian market for sale of its surplus power, as does Bangladesh for electricity import. Happily, a detailed project report is almost complete. The project is estimated to cost about $1.24 billion at the November 2015 price. The Sheikh Hasina government recently approved $1 billion for the project. The money will be equity investment in the project, and Bangladesh will get a proportionate share of the production from the project. The fact that demands for power in both Bangladesh and India will keep increasing presents a big economic opportunity for Bhutan. Bangladesh currently buys 500MW from India. Execution of this project will not only uplift the relation between Bhutan and Bangladesh but also the trilateral relation. In addition to its share of production from the project, Bangladesh is keen on importing either from the same project or other projects. That will be subject to negotiation among the three countries. It is time for Bangladesh to immediately begin the process of negotiation given the fact that the country’s ties with India were greatly improved after Hasina’s recent visit to Delhi. We must remember that India did not allow Bangladesh land transit rights with Nepal although the Banglabandh land port was opened with much fanfare.

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