Violent power protests break out in Bangladesh

Energy-starved Bangladesh today warned that strict action would be taken against violent protesters as angry people took to streets.

Last Updated: Aug 11, 2010, 23:15 PM IST

Dhaka: Energy-starved Bangladesh today
warned that strict action would be taken against violent
protesters as angry people took to streets, vandalising power
stations in the past two days, amid an acute electricity
crisis during the extreme summer heat.

"Attempts to destabilise law and order by protesting
about issues of power, gas and water will be dealt strictly,"
home minister Sahara Khatun told newsmen after an emergency
inter-ministerial meeting.

She said during the meeting it was decided to make
maximum efforts to ensure uninterrupted supply of water,
electricity and gas, particularly during the fasting month of
Ramadan beginning tomorrow "although it would depend on the
capacity of relevant departments".

The comments came as newspaper and television channels
reported a series of violent protests whereby people besieged
electricity offices and blocked roads and rail tracks, turning
violent at places, protesting frequent power cuts.

Power officials said the country is witnessing a
record high 2,000 MW shortage against a demand for at least
6,000 MW.

At least 50 people, including policemen, were injured
in clashes between the protesters and law enforcement agencies
after hundreds of people attacked a power office at suburban
Narayanganj river port city earlier today.

Dozens of people, including several police and
electricity officials, were wounded as angry residents
attacked two power distribution offices in northwestern
Rajshahi yesterday.

The Met office recorded the highest temperature of 39
degrees Celsius in the region, where the humidity exceeded 100
per cent.

TV channels also reported violent protests from
central Tangail and Chandpur, northern Mymensingh and
Jamalpur, southwestern Jhalakathi and northwestern Dinajpur.
Protesters at these places blocked highways and rail
lines and set on fire tyres.

"We are currently faced with at 2,000 mw shortage
while the demand is 6,000 mw," state minister for energy
Enamul Haque told newsmen.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina`s Energy Adviser Toufiq
Elahi Chowdhury, however, told the same briefing that the
government was trying to ensure efficient "load management" of
power so that people of different areas could equally share
the existing quantum of electricity.

But Hasina yesterday asked power sector officials to
effective steps to address the power and gas crisis including,
if needed, by amending laws so that "rules cannot be an
obstruction to setting up power plants or for gas production".

At a meeting with high-level officials of the energy
and power ministry on Sunday, Hasina also ordered "to take all
necessary measures to ease the sufferings during Ramadan".

Bangladesh last month signed a landmark 35-year power
transmission agreement with India paving way for import of 250
megawatt electricity starting from late 2012 in line with a
deal reached during Hasina`s New Delhi tour this year.

Only around 40 per cent of Bangladeshis currently have
access to electricity with 48 public and private sector plants
having over 100 units with de-rated capacity of 3,423 mw.

132 state-run and private units could now produce as
high as 4500 mw with their de-rated capacity.

But dwindling reserves in existing gas fields, the
main source for the country`s power generation, and expensive
petroleum for electricity production prompted experts and
policymakers to explore solar and other renewable energy
sources.

PTI