Energy adviser to the interim government Tapan Chowdhury confirmed yesterday that the new national coal policy would be finalized within July. This comes as the pressure increases from foreign investors and experts inside Bangladesh to further energy sector development, which has been stagnant for the last five years.
USA, UK,Chinese and Indian investors are keen to invest in the energy sector. However, absence of a national coal policy meant that each time an investment opportunity arose, different social and political groups would allege non-transparent and shady deals between the investors and the government. It is difficult to see how Bangladesh aims to replace it’s current dependency on natural gas with coal without a concrete policy.
Last year, lives were lost when organized protesters clashed with security forces in the Phulbari Coal Mine area. The protesters sought termination of the agreement between the government and Asia Energy. They also wanted a ban on open pit mining method. Both the then ruling and opposition parties blamed each other for the incident. What ever the case may be, it does not help attract foreign investors.
There is a sharp division between experts regarding using open pit mining and underground mining methods. The energy adviser is yet to confirm on that. It appears from the drafts that the government is more inclined to adopt open pit mining to maximize output.
In any case, this policy will determine the success or failure of the energy sector for decades to come.