The Daily Star’s take on Bangladesh’s power purchase agreement with India’s Adani group has raised eyebrows and triggered criticisms, raising questions about the leading English-language daily’s agenda.
Two of its reports — ‘Heads Adani wins, tails Bangladesh loses’ and ‘Adani power purchase against ‘public policy’: How could such a deal be signed?’ — on Feb 27 and Feb 28 flayed Dhaka’s initiative to import power from the Godda plant. They come just before Bangladesh is scheduled to receive 750MW from the plant.
The government is working hard to ensure uninterrupted supply of power and energy even as the global recession, coronavirus pandemic, Russia-Ukraine war and rising prices are making life difficult for countries around the world.
Bangladesh, cautiously navigating the murky waters, has kept the supply power and gas stable by readjusting the prices, giving people some reprieve. Even as a power and energy crisis disrupt the production of food and other essential items in many developed countries, the government is trying to maintain uninterrupted food production and the flow of essential commodities.
Local stakeholders say an uninterrupted power supply has helped keep the agricultural production normal, ensuring that people do not face food shortage. Experts say there is no alternative to a continuous supply of power and energy to maintain this stability.
Daily Star’s Feb 28 article claimed that the Power Development Board inked a memorandum of understanding with Adani Power in 2015, two months after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden Bangladesh visit. Nothing “explains the government’s rationale” for signing the power purchase agreement for the deal two years later which was “exceptionally expensive” and “overtly favouring Adani Power”, it said.
It claimed that there is “virtually no scope” for BPDB to get out of this contract to purchase the entire power generated by the plant for the next 25 years and noted that it is “highly unlikely that Bangladesh would be able to consume the 1,496 megawatts of electricity that would be produced by the Godda plant”.
State Minister for Power Nasrul Hamid rejected the allegation, saying that the cost would be determined by the power purchase agreement. “We’ll pay in accordance with the agreement. Power prices will fluctuate based on coal prices on the international market,” he said.
“We’re trying to make sure that the situation does not deteriorate in the March. Several coal-fired power plants are coming into production and we’re getting [energy] from Payra, Rampal and SS plants. Things will get better,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Adani Group says it will supply power at competitive rate. Its Managing Director Anil Sardana has said that Bangladesh will get power at cheap rates from the Godda plant. An Adani spokesperson told the media that per unit price would become clear once they start supplying electricity to Bangladesh.
Although The Daily Star claims that the electricity purchased from Adani will end up costing more than the others for BPDB, its report does not clarify if Bangladesh can purchase power at cheaper rates from other sources.
The power division says power from the Adani plant will cost less than electricity from oil-fired plants. Once Bangladesh starts getting electricity from Godda plant, it can reduce its reliance on oil-fired plants which will save the government money it spends on subsidies.
Industry insiders say Bangladesh is now spending more on power production. For example, it costs Tk 30 to produce one unit of electricity using diesel, Tk 20-22 using LNG, Tk 18-20 using furnace oil and Tk 14-15 using imported coal.
“It will be cheaper than oil-fired plants,” said Power Secretary Habibur Rahman. “It will not only cut production at oil-fired plants but also help meet the power deficit triggered by gas crunch, particularly for the northern region.”
Energy expert M Tamim concurred. “It’s a good thing that Bangladesh is getting power without any investment,” he said.
Stakeholders say The Daily Star’s misleading reports at this time is presenting the government’s efforts in wrong light, noting that there has been no change in the power price as mentioned in the agreement.
Nasrul said discussions over Adani power are baseless. “There’s no uncertainty over the fact that they will start supplying power to Bangladesh in the first week of March. We’ll initially get 750MW from the first unit and another 750MW from the second unit will come from April,” he said.
The government has also started procuring LNG from the spot market to increase supply.
Meanwhile, the PDB and Adani group had discussions on Feb 23 over the coal price and supplying power at competitive rates.
Daily Star’s ‘agenda-based journalism’
Bangladesh’s leading English-language daily stirred criticisms with its agenda-based journalism practice in the past. When asked about its Feb 27 and Feb 28 reports, journalist leader Quddus Afrad said he felt that they were aimed at fulfilling certain agenda.
“We need power but at the same time we have to ensure that businesses don’t make exorbitant profits exploiting our demand,” he said, adding that the utilisation of power warrants specific planning and concrete steps.
Afrad suggested the government to move ahead slowly without falling into any trap.
Political analyst, weekly Bangla Bichitra and ABNEWS24.com’s Chief Editor Suvas Singho Roy said that The Daily Star claimed that the government had signed a “clandestine” power purchase agreement with Adani. “If that’s the case, where did they get contents of this agreement?”
Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam did not respond to requests for comment for this article which was originally published on somoynews.tv