Kathmandu: Nepal and Bangladesh have identified two potential routes for a dedicated transmission line between the two countries via India.
Nepali officials say that on Monday official level talks with their Bangladeshi counterparts had drawn a dedicated power line between the two countries on the agenda.
Once it materialises the project can set a precedent for rapid sub-regional integration in South Asia.
Anarmari (Nepal)-Panchagarh (Bangladesh), and Anarmari (Nepal) to Thakurgaon (Bangladesh) are the two routes that have been identified by the two sides. The total length of the first route is 49km, of which a 24km section falls within the Indian territory. The second route has a 83km length, of which a 33km section falls in Indian territory.
Despite being relatively closer by distance, Nepal and Bangladesh don’t share borders and taking India on board is essential to construct a dedicated power line.
“Discussion on constructing a dedicated line via India is one of the agenda of the talks during the bilateral meeting,” Madhu Bhetuwal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation who is also a member of the Nepali delegation told India Narrative before his departure to Bangladesh. “We will discuss how to take India on board to construct the dedicated line along with other topics.”
The two sides are holding the fifth meeting of the joint-secretary-level Joint Working Group and secretary-level Joint Steering Committee. These bilateral mechanisms were formed based on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in the Field of Power Sector signed by two countries in 2018.
As per the MoU, both parties will take necessary steps to establish adequate national and regional grid connectivity to explore the power trade between the two countries.
During the third meeting of these two mechanisms held in September 2021, the sides had agreed to construct a dedicated transmission line.
Both sides had agreed to build the dedicated power line through trilateral agreement among Nepal, Bangladesh and India, Nepal’s energy ministry had said in a press statement after the third meeting of joint mechanisms.
“The two routes were identified during the bilateral talks in the past,” said Dirghyu Kumar Shretha, chief of transmission directorate at the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), state-owned power power utility body which has a monopoly in transmission infrastructure in Nepal. “Joint technical team of experts from two countries have also discussed the proposed routes.”
Even though these two routes were identified by the Joint Technical Team (Transmission) in the past, Bangladesh had also stated earlier that establishing transmission connectivity through Purnea (Bihar) would be the most suitable point from which power transmission to Bangladesh is feasible due to the short distance of about 105 kilometres only, according to the NEA. Purnea is close to the Nepal border.
Though Nepal and Bangladesh identified the two potential routes for dedicated power lines, the two are yet to receive a firm approval from the Indian side paving the way for building a dedicated power line on its territory.
India has, however, been keen to broaden grid connectivity and energy trade particularly at the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) sub-region.
Nepal and India intend to widen collaboration in the power sector and include partner nations under BBIN, according to the Joint Vision Statement on Power Sector Cooperation between the two countries issued in April last year.
“If India agrees on allowing construction of a dedicated transmission line between Nepal and Bangladesh via India, a company may have to be established in India to construct such a power line on the Indian territory,” said Shrestha. “But the modality of how such a power line will be constructed has not been determined yet.”
Besides dedicated lines, the two sides want to export 40-50 MW of Nepal’s power to Bangladesh by using the existing transmission infrastructure of India too.
The discussions are taking place at a time when Bangladesh is making serious efforts to bolster its energy security. In April India’s Adani Power Ltd. Started exporting 748 MW of power, produced in Jharkhand, to Bangladesh. India and Bangladesh also recently opened a diesel pipeline, beefing up Dhaka’s energy security.
During the fourth Joint Working Group and Joint Steering Committee meeting held in August last year in Kathmandu, Nepal and Bangladesh had decided to request the neighbouring giant to allow the export of 40 to 50 megawatts of electricity from Nepal to Bangladesh in the initial phase by utilising the high-voltage Baharampur-Bheramara cross-border transmission line.
During the 10th meeting of a similar bilateral mechanism between Nepal and India held in February this year, India had agreed to grant its approval once Nepal submits the proposal along with the project whose power will be sold to Bangladesh, according to Nepal’s energy ministry.
Based on an understanding reached between Nepal and India, the NEA has sent a request to the Indian authorities to allow the power generated by the 52.4MW Likhu-4 project to Bangladesh through India’s existing transmission infrastructure, according to reports in Nepali media.
Nepali officials say that more power could be exported to Bangladesh via India’s existing infrastructure provided Bangladesh improved its transmission substations at Bhermara.
Shrestha of the NEA told The Kathmandu Post this week that there is a scope for Bangladesh to add capacity in its substation based in Bheramara.
“We have known that the Bangladesh substation has two blocks with a capacity of 500MW each,” Shrestha told The Kathmandu Post. “But the capacity of the transmission line is 3000MW.
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