Tri-nation gas pipeline project needs political will to be implemented
M Azizur Rahman
The over US$ 1.0 billion proposed tri-nation gas pipeline project involving Bangladesh, India and Myanmar requires political will among the involving countries to ensure its successful implementation.
"The prevailing 'mistrusts' needs to be removed and strong political will must be established to set up the much-talked-about gas pipeline in a win-win situation of all the parties," Energy and Mineral Resources Division (EMRD) Adviser Mahmudur Rahman told the FE Sunday.
He said Bangladesh sees the project economically viable if the issues raised by it are fulfilled.
Pointing to a newspaper report where the Indian external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was quoted to have cautioned the Indian government saying it would be "a serious mistake" to consider Bangladesh as a transit territory for the tri-nation gas pipeline on security ground, he said: "the security issue should be dealt with the security personnel."
Rahman, who is also the Executive Chairman of the Board of Investment (BoI), said that India should play the pioneering role to make the project work.
He also said that no significant headway is yet to be manifested regarding the project.
The EMRD officials under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources (MPEMR) said under the proposed tri-nation gas pipeline project India wants to get Myanmar gas through Bangladesh territory to meet the increasing demand of domestic gas.
Bangladesh has already agreed in principle to allow using its territory provided that several issues like use of the Indian corridor for Bangladesh's bilateral trade with Bhutan and Nepal, supply of electricity from the two Himalayan kingdoms and reduction of Bangladesh's huge trade imbalance are taken into consideration.
A draft memorandum of understanding (MoU) among these three countries was also signed in February this year for construction of the proposed tri-nation gas pipeline to carry Myanmar gas to India through the Bangladeshi territory.
The tri-nation techno-commercial meeting with representations of all the three countries signed the draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) in its first-ever meeting held in Yangon on February 24-25, 2005.
As per the proposal the 950-kilometre pipeline is expected to run through the Arakan state in Myanmar via the Indian states of Mizoram and Tripura before crossing Bangladesh to Kolkata.
The MPEMR sources said the project cost includes involvement of $350 million on the part of Bangladesh for the pipeline.
Bangladesh may earn $125 million annually as transit fees from both India and Myanmar.
Sources said there are gas reserves of around 5.0-6.0 trillion cubic feet (TCF) in the block under discussion in Myanmar from which gas is to be transmitted to India.
India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd (ONGC), GAIL India Ltd and Myanmar hold 30 per cent stake each in the gas field while Korean Daewoo Company has 40 per cent stake.