Inner containment construction at unit-2 of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant
UNB file photo

The businessmen have been saying about not being able to open a letters of credit (LC) for imports due to the dollar crisis for a long time. Now, the power division itself is saying that the banks are not opening any LCs even for them due to the ongoing crisis.

As a result, they are not being able to import the necessary machinery for the construction of the transmission line connecting the Rooppur power plant with the national grid.

Therefore, the construction of the transmission lines is yet to be started. In such a situation, the power division now has approached the finance ministry to make an arrangement for opening the LCs.

The power division said that the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh Limited (PGCB) has approached several banks over the last two months. However, none of the banks agreed to open LC of Tk 52.40 billion.

Even state owned Sonali Bank was reluctant to open the LC. Therefore, they had no other way than approaching the finance ministry to ensure that the BB will supply the dollars. Otherwise, the Sonali Bank will not open the LC.

An official in the finance ministry said that they have received a letter from the power division regarding opening a LC. They have taken the matter seriously as the construction of the transmission line in Rooppur is a sensitive project and the amount is big. Discussions are ongoing to hold a tri-partied meeting in this regard, he said.

According to PGCB sources, the project for the construction of the infrastructure of the transmission line to connect 2400 MW electricity produced at Rooppur to the national grid got approval at the ECNEC (Executive Committee of the National Economic Council) in 2018. There are seven packages under this project. Works on six of these packages are underway.

However, there are complications with one package (package No 6).

A total 14 towers in the Jamuna river and two in the Padma river are to be installed under this package for the construction of the transmission line.

Transrail Lighting Limited of India got the contract of package No 6 on 17 August as the lowest bidder. The contractual value of this package is $ 520 million (Tk 52.4 billion).

A 16-km transmission line of 400 KV and 200 KV will be constructed on the Jamuna and Padma river respectively under this package. Seven kilometres of this transmission line will be constructed on the Jamuna river and two kilometres on Padma.

However, the equipment needed for installing the towers on the two rivers has to be imported. The contracting firm signed agreements with Germany, Netherlands, and Turkey to import the equipment.

However, the procedures to import the necessary machineries are yet to be started due to the complications regarding opening the LC. Pankaj Patel, chief executive officer (CEO) of Transrail Lighting Limited, is now staying in Dhaka to resolve the problem. Notably, there is no import-related complication in the other five packages.

In the letter sent to the finance ministry, the power division said they had obligations to pay the contractor in dollars. Therefore, opening LC is essential to clear the dues of the contractor. However, none of the banks is willing to open LC. The contracting firm is unable to start work at the moment due to the non-payment of dollars as per the contractual value.

An official of the Power Division said the PGCB officials had held several meetings with the Sonali Bank officials several times. At the meeting, the Sonali Bank officials asked for assurance from the Bangladesh Bank that they would provide the dollars. The letter was issued to organise a meeting among the finance division, power division and the Sonali Bank.

Officials of science and technology ministry said work on 2400MW nuclear power plant in Rooppur was supposed to be completed by next year, but dollar crisis has delayed the construction of this power plant’s transmission line connecting to the national grid. As a result, uncertainty looms large over connecting the transmission line to the national grid

Speaking to Prothom Alo, project director Shafiqul Islam said, “We have reached out to various banks to open LCs and no banks agree to do so. Sonail Bank wants guarantee of supplying dollars by Bangladesh Bank before opening the LC.”

“We want a guarantee of Bangladesh Bank,” he said and import of machinery will not be possible unless the dollar crisis eases.

The Atomic Energy Commission of the science and technology ministry is implementing the Rooppur Power Plant project. Russian contractor company Atomstroyexport is constructing two 1200MW units of the power plant and PGCB is building the power transmission line.