Industrial buzz, domestic fizz: Bangladesh’s gas gamble

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Industrial buzz, domestic fizz: Bangladesh’s gas gamble

Jisan Al Jubair:

In a move with significant implications for energy security and household budgets, the Bangladeshi government has announced it will halt new natural gas connections for homes, prioritizing allocation for industries and power generation. 

This decision, unveiled by Housing and Public Works Minister R.A.M. Ubaidul Moktadir Chowdhury, aims to accelerate industrial growth but raises concerns about its impact on affordability and living standards for ordinary citizens.

While existing households retain their pipeline connections, the freeze on new domestic allocations leaves future residents and those seeking upgrades in limbo. “This puts our plans on hold indefinitely,” lamented Aminul Islam, a young professional whose family awaited a gas connection for their new home. “Alternative options like LPG cylinders are simply not feasible for many due to cost and accessibility, especially in rural areas.”

Minister Chowdhury defended the move, citing similar consumption rates between households and industries and the need to fuel economic development. “Gas resources are finite, and directing them towards power generation and factories will create jobs and boost exports,” he stated. 

However, critics argue that the economic benefits remain uncertain while the immediate challenges are tangible.

“The government must provide a transparent roadmap for managing this transition,” urged Mehedi Hasan. “Concrete support measures for existing and future households facing limited fuel options are essential, we use pipe gas and we pay for it.” 

Potential disproportionate impact

Geologist Badrul Imam echoed this sentiment, highlighting the potential disproportionate impact on low-income families. “Ensuring affordability of alternative fuels is crucial, especially for vulnerable populations who may struggle with higher costs associated with LPG or electricity dependence. Govt should implement gas extracting from country’s gas wells”

Environmental concerns also loom large. “Increased reliance on biomass fuels like firewood could exacerbate deforestation and air pollution,” warned environmental expert Faruq Hossain. “The government needs to prioritize sustainable solutions alongside industrial development.”

Anwar Hossain said, “They are saying that all houses abroad use cylinders. I am an expatriate and I use pipeline gas at home. How are they covering up the failure?”

The Bangladeshi government’s decision to prioritize industrial gas allocation over new household connections presents a complex equation with economic and social ramifications. 

While the long-term economic benefits remain to be seen, ensuring a just and sustainable transition requires a clear communication strategy, concrete support measures for affected households, and careful consideration of affordability, accessibility, and environmental concerns. Only then can the government navigate this shift in a way that balances economic growth with the well-being of its citizens.

Several key concerns cloud

While Bangladesh grapples with the immediate impact of halting new domestic gas connections, the government is simultaneously pushing forward with an ambitious plan for the future: a 295km pipeline to boost the supply of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to the national grid.

This multi-billion dollar project, currently awaiting approval by the Planning Commission, promises to significantly increase the country’s LNG import capacity. However, several key concerns cloud this grand vision.

The estimated cost of 1.4 billion USD remains a major hurdle. The government has yet to secure concrete financing, raising questions about the project’s feasibility and potential delays. Even if construction starts this year, completion is unlikely before 2029, further extending the wait for its benefits.

Despite the pipeline’s uncertain timeline and funding, state-owned Petrobangla has already signed three long-term LNG supply contracts. This raises concerns about potential financial losses if LNG imports and pipeline construction fall out of sync. Efficient coordination between these aspects will be crucial to ensure the project’s success and avoid burdening Petrobangla with unnecessary costs.

This LNG gamble comes amidst growing anxieties over the recent decision to prioritize gas allocation for industries over new household connections. While the pipeline aims to address future energy needs, many families currently face the immediate challenge of finding affordable and accessible cooking fuel alternatives.

The government’s ambitious LNG plan holds the potential to enhance energy security and economic growth. However, the lack of clarity regarding funding, potential for financial losses, and looming concerns over household energy access paint a complex picture. Only by addressing these uncertainties and ensuring a coordinated, transparent approach can Bangladesh truly navigate its energy future with confidence.

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