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No coal extraction from new field now: PM

She says food security comes first

Staff Correspondent

Workers load coal onto a truck at the Barapukuria coal field in Dinajpur recently. The government has decided that it would not go for coal extraction from any new field. — Indrajit Ghosh Workers load coal onto a truck at the Barapukuria coal field in Dinajpur recently. The government has decided that it would not go for coal extraction from any new field. — Indrajit Ghosh

The government has decided that it would not go for coal extraction from any new field.
Officials of power, energy and mineral resources ministry said that prime minister Sheikh Hasina at a meeting with the senior officials of the ministry at its conference room on Thursday gave the instruction.
Sheikh Hasina, who also holds charge of the ministry, said that the government would have to ensure food security first, before deciding on extracting coal from any field, the officials said.
She, however, emphasised on importing coal from abroad by taking lease of coal fields and implement coal-fired power plants including 1320MW Rampal power plant, they said.
Hasina gave the responsibility of setting up the country’s first floating Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal to Petrobangla and asked the state-run agency to expedite the implementation of the project.
She also reiterated her commitment to provide electricity to every household as pledged by her party in its election manifesto, officials said. 
‘Prime minister instructed us to wait for new and modern technology in extracting coal and leave the issue for future decision,’ state minister for power and energy Nasrul Hamid told reporters after the meeting.
‘The government’s first priority is to save agricultural lands and increase crops production to ensure food security and then decision would be taken regarding coal extraction,’ Nasrul said, quoting the prime minister.
She also gave directives for conducting further research on this issue, he said.
Prime minister attended office at the ministry and stayed there for around three hours from 10.30am to 2pm for the first time after assuming office for the second straight term.
Nasrul Hamid said that the prime minister attended office as head of the ministry and instructed the officials to work hard to achieve the goals set for the next five years.
Prime minister’s power and energy adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury said that Sheikh Hasina asked the officials for continuing their efforts as they did in last five years to achieve the targets in the sector including electricity generation.
She also instructed the officials for expediting the implementation process of prioritised development projects including installation of coal-based power plants and setting up LNG terminal, he said.
Officials said that prime minister stressed on taking coal field lease abroad as it reduces the cost of coal than that of direct import.
They said that currently the government was lifting coal only from Barapukuria coal field while planning to lift coal from Phulbari field in open-pit mining method.
Open-pit coal mining destroys huge lands in and around coal fields. That is why the government decided not to go for further coal mining for now, they said.
At the meeting, the prime minister said that the government would take steps for implementing long-term projects apart from exploring new sources including renewable energy in a bid to reach electricity to every household, they added.
PM’s principal secretary Sheikh Md Wahid Uz Zaman, power secretary Monowar Islam, energy secretary Mozammel Haque Khan, head of different agencies of the ministry, among others, were present at the meeting.




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