Ambassador C. M. Shafi Sami
Former Foreign Secretary & Former Bangladesh High Commissioner to India
Md. Sayef Uddin
Former Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, Bangladesh
General Manager, Business Development Department NTPC India Ltd., New Delhi, India
Additional Secretary & Member (Energy Efficiency and Conservation), Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA), Bangladesh.
Senior Fellow, ORF, New Delhi, India.
Ambassador Shafi Sami started the session by mentioning that India-Bangladesh relations are bound together by shared natural resources and potential for harnessing water resources and despite commendable socio-economic progress, the vast majority of the people of both the countries still suffer from abject poverty. So, cooperation between these two countries in the vital areas of energy and water is essential
Mr. Praveen Saxena opened the initial remarks by mentioning the success stories in cross-border power sharing in South Asia. He mentioned that India has a capacity of 330 Gigawatts and a peak demand of 164 Gigawatts. He shared the exponential growth curve of energy consumption as well as energy capacity additions. He mentioned that NTPC, a state owned Indian thermal power company primarily dealing with coal is currently looking forward to reaching 46% cycle efficiency. He also mentioned that every 1% increase in efficiency yields 2.5% CO2 emission reduction. NTPC’s first international foray was in Bangladesh, where they invested in Maitri Power Station in Rampal, Khulna, which is a 1320-megawatt coal-based power station. He concluded with mentioning the challenges associated with sustaining the bilateral relationships including a favorable tax and duty structure, connectivity for power flow and a strong cross-border policy framework.
Mr. Siddique Zobair opined that Bangladesh is facing depletion of domestic gas supply and needs to improve its power quality for the forthcoming high-tech industries, and the discipline of operation and maintenance for power plants needs to be addressed holistically. In his opinion, a meticulous analysis is required to find the best pathway for the sustainability of the energy and power sector in balancing the economic growth. Mr. Zobair also mentioned that to reach the target of Vision 2041, Bangladesh requires continuous growth of 7.4% annually from 2016-2020. With this economic growth, the primary demand for energy in the industry sector and the transport sector is expected to make a sharp increase in both volume and efficacy of business transactions and energy efficiency.
He stated that the country needs to undergo major changes to meet the increased demand, from the existing dependency on domestic natural gas to dependency on various imported elements. Infrastructural improvements including domestic facilities as well as interactions with neighboring countries are necessary. He also highlighted the importance of the need for policy and systematic improvements including the strategic positioning of various energy resources and the legal system that promotes efficient use of energy.
Ms. Joyeeta Bhattacharjee initiated her remarks by highlighting the importance of Indo-Bangla connections. She mentioned not only India-Bangladesh, but that the whole Indian subcontinent is part of a big geographical hole sharing natural resources. The Indo – Bangla relation is recently trying to change the narrative and engage in cooperation and rather than only focusing on the conflicts and disputes. The focus should shift from water related conflicts to how India and Bangladesh can cooperate to resolve the conflicts. Water sharing can create a lot of opportunities and India and Bangladesh have already signed a plethora of agreements, but it is time to put those into effect and share the resources.
Mr. Sayef Uddin stated that, of the 57 trans-boundary rivers of Bangladesh, 54 are with India, highlighting the importance of bilateral water cooperation between India and Bangladesh. A very effective and active cooperation is required so that it is possible to judiciously and effectively use the water for the wellbeing of the people of this region. He stressed the importance of an integrated water resource management system and how water can be best used for the management of the region, as a whole. There is shortage of water, especially from January-March, and it is necessary to augment the supply of water during that time. He further stressed the importance of commitment required from all the countries involved.
During the Panel discussion, Mr. Zobair commented that the energy sector has had cooperation with India for a long time which is useful in resolving the energy crisis. This also contributes in furthering the bilateral relationship between the two countries. He also stressed the importance of going beyond the bilateral cooperation into the multilateral cooperation.
Mr. Praveen Saxena suggested that in addition to coal, Bangladesh and India could start projects on solar power. On the issue of regional hydropower sharing with Nepal and Bhutan, Mr. Saxena mentioned that India already has a large monolithic grid and any import of power, or export from there, has impact on India’s own grid. He encouraged the policy makers of India and Bangladesh to engage in discussions regarding this and take measures to facilitate the construction of a cost-effective grid.
Ms. Joyeeta Banerjee agreed that while water sharing is important, both Bangladesh and India should give more priority to using their combined efforts to share technological knowledge and flood control issues to which Mr. Sayef Uddin countered by saying that in addition to sharing of technological knowledge, it also is important to equitably share the resources.