Open-pit coal mining to be suicidal for Bangladesh: PM’s Energy Advisor

Originally posted in The Business Standard on 26 February 2022

“Open pit mining will not only affect the country’s large aquifer, but also destroy our topsoil of valuable lands,” he said

Open- pit mining for coal extraction will be suicidal for the country, Prime Minister’s Energy Advisor Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury has said.

“Open pit mining will not only affect the country’s large aquifer, but also destroy our topsoil of valuable lands,” he said.

He was addressing a webinar titled: “Appropriate Fuel Mix for Sustainable Energy Security – Bangladesh Perspective” on Saturday.

The PM’s energy advisor was defending the government’s position on not allowing any open pit mining in the country though some speakers spoke in favour of coal for power generation.

Dr Elahi termed the government’s decision to cancel 10 coal-fired power plants, having a total capacity of 8451 MW, as the right decision towards protecting the environment.

Bangladesh Energy Society (BES) organized the virtual seminar with its president and Special Envoy of Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) Abul Kalam Azad in the chair while it was conducted by former power secretary Monwar Islam.

The function was addressed among others by Energy Secretary Mahbub Hossain, Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) Chairman Mahbubur Rahman and Dr Mohammad Tamim, dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology(Buet).

Khondkar Abdus Saleque (Sufi) made a keynote presentation on the topic of the seminar.

Energy secretary Mahbub Hossain said the country’s energy sector has been facing different challenges in the volatile global market situation.

He said implementation of the energy sector’s projects is time consuming.

“If we go to implement a floating terminal for import of LNG, it will take at least 2-3 years time while land-based terminals will take further more time,” he added.

He said the global technologies in the energy sector are changing fast and selecting the appropriate technology is another challange.

BPDB chairman Mahbubur Rahman said the liquid fuel-based power plants are the costliest power producers which shares 34 percent of the total generation.

“Despite huge efforts, it was not possible for BPDB to stop these power plants,” he added.

He also noted that renewable energy, especially solar power, has good potential in the country. But unless there is an affordable storage system available, it will not be competitive in the tariff.

Dr Mohammad Tamim said there should be an integrated energy and power sector master plan.

He mentioned that the country has to pay a penalty of Tk 130 crore per month for failing to take power from Payra power plant as infrastructure is not ready.

The cost will further escalate when Rampal power plants will come into operation, he observed.

Khondkar Abdus Saleque said an appropriate fuel mix to get affordable and reliable energy has been the biggest challenge for the country.

“The recent war between Russia and Ukraine has created further volatility in the global energy market that will have a big impact on the local market as well.