‘An opportunity to loot public money’

Eminent citizens on extension of law for purchasing power from rental plants amid overcapacity

 

At a time when the country is producing surplus electricity, the recent government decision to extend a controversial act would only create opportunities for some quarters to loot public money, said eminent citizens at a webinar yesterday.

They also said it will compromise accountability in the energy and power sector.

Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) organised the webinar titled, “The Extension of Electricity and Energy Supply (Special Provision), Changing the BERC Act, Extension of the Period of Agreements with Rental Power Plants and Crisis of Good Governance”.

The government has decided to extend the Quick Enhancement of Electricity and Energy Supply (Special Provision) Act 2010 for another five years even though the country has overcapacity in power generation and there is no emergency situation, they said.

The law was enacted in 2010 when the government wanted to produce more electricity within a short period as a matter of national emergency. According to energy ministry, the deadline is being extended to ensure reliable, uninterrupted and affordable electricity throughout the country.

The tenure of the special provision was extended thrice before — for two, four and three years respectively.

“An emergency situation occurs for a certain period, not for an unlimited time, but that seems to be the case for the country’s power and energy sector,” said Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela).

Prof Dr Badrul Imam, professor of Geology at Dhaka University, said, “We have surplus power now. Why, then, will we extend the agreement with rental power plants?”

Terming the act a ‘black law,’ CAB member, Syed Raju, in his keynote speech, said, “Through this law, the government is purchasing power from rental plants without tenders, extending agreements to buy power at an excessive price, making decisions to import and building infrastructures without being held accountable.”

Eminent rights activist Sultana Kamal said it’s a “black law” because it does not allow anyone to raise questions even when the actions may be anti-people.

She questioned whether the government is running the state for the interest of the people or for someone else.

Buet Prof Dr Ijaz Hossain argued, “The extension of the special act must mean that the crisis situation is still going on. In that case, the government should apologise to the nation for failing to manage the crisis for the last nine years.”

The country has power generation capacity of 21,000-22,000 MW when at most 13,000 MW is being used in a day, he highlighted, pointing out that for this overcapacity, the government is paying more than Tk 14,000 crore as rent to quick rentals.

“It is absurd,” he said.

Architect Mubasshar Hussein, CAB adviser (energy) Prof Shamsul Alam, Barrister Tureen Afroz and DU professors MM Akash and Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan also spoke at the event.

CAB chairman Ghulam Rahman conducted the webinar.

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