Advisory committee submits coal policy to government today: policy forbids coal export but allows open-pit mining as test case

NewAge, January 8, 2008. Dhaka, Bangladesh The high-powered advisory committee, formed to finalise the coal policy, will today submit to the government the coal policy that discourages coal export. Most of the members of the committee, headed by the former BUET vice-chancellor Professor Abdul Matin Patwari, signed the finalised draft coal policy and the committee’s report on Monday evening. The rest of the members, who were outside Dhaka, will sign the document today before the committee submits the draft to energy adviser Tapan Chowdhury.
 The committee finalised the much-talked-about draft coal policy in 21 meetings, some of which were 12 hours long, that started from the last week of July last year after taking the opinions of people of all walks of life.
    Officials said that if the Energy Division approved the finalised draft, it would be sent to the law ministry for vetting before being sent to the council of advisers for the final approval.
    The BNP-Jamaat government took the initiative to formulate the coal policy in 2005 as it realised that the country’s gas reserves were being depleted fast and coal was the only other important energy source. Besides, a number of foreign companies showed considerable interest in developing the coal-fields.
    But the then government could not finalise the draft because of severe criticism by different quarters of the first few versions of the draft that allowed coal export and the environmentally destructive open-pit mining.
    The interim government formed the advisory committee to finalise the draft and made respected professionals its members, apparently to avert criticism.
    The finalised draft discourages coal export as the country does not have adequate coal and gas reserves to meet its own demand.
    The policy recommends awarding coal exploration and development licence to a state-run entity that can go for joint venture with local private-sector and foreign companies through competitive bidding and mandatory installation of power plants at mine entrances.
    The policy recommends one attempt at open-pit coal mining as a test case, and is forming a coal sector development committee to set the royalty rate on extracted coal from time to time. It says a holding company titled ‘Coal Bangla’ will be formed which, along with other government entities like Petrobangla, will also get coal-field exploration and development licences.
    The members of the committee are University Grants Commission’s chairman Professor Nazrul Islam, BUET’s Professor Nurul Islam, Dhaka University’s Professor Badrul Imam, Bangladesh Army’s engineer-in-chief Major General Ismail Faruque Chowdhury, senior journalist Ataus Samad, Centre for Policy Dialogue’s executive director Mustafizur Rahman, Petrobangla’s director Maqbul-E-Elahi, Petrobangla’s former director Ehsanullah and IIFC’s executive director Nazrul Islam.


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