Was there any specific reason for choosing the southern region of the country for constructing such a big power plant?

Padma bridge is directly connecting 19 districts of this region with Dhaka. Port, industries and new housing projects are being built in the Southern region. A slew of investments is being made there and more investment is on the cards. Payra power plant has already changed the living standard and economy of the region and people are inclining towards small and large investments. There were, however, many objections from bureaucrats and experts. Prime minister had selected the underdeveloped southern region for the project considering everything.

The government has made an announcement about 100 per cent electrification in the country. How could this be pulled off?

The prime minister ordered 100 per cent electrification within 2021. This was important for the country's graduation to a developed one. The prime minister herself holds the portfolio of power, energy, and mineral resources ministry. All the workforce of the ministry and organisations of the ministry have worked as a team under the PM’s leadership. This concerted effort has made 100 per cent electrification possible. This ministry had already been in the top position in terms of implementing the Annual Development Plan (ADP). Now the feat of 100 per cent electrification is yet another example of the ministry’s success.

Every upazila of the country has come under electricity coverage. Does that mean that electricity has reached every village of the country?

Of course, the electricity facility has reached every corner of the country. Initially, we planned to supply solar power to remote chars and hill areas. The solar home system was installed in 6 million houses. But solar power is dependent on the sun and that’s why those houses could not get an uninterrupted power supply. They wanted an uninterrupted supply of electricity to make their respective areas business hubs. So, we decided to supply electricity to those areas by setting up submarine cables beneath the sea and river. This is massive work. Yet, we’ve completed 100 per cent electricity coverage before the stipulated time.

Installing submarine cables under sea-river, extending electricity connection to inaccessible hills are costly and complex. What is your thinking about this?

This is not commercially profitable at all. But the government is not supposed to do business. The government’s duty is to think about the human development index. The Rural Electrification Board’s (REB) investment would not return through collecting bills for even 100 years. But the students of these areas are now studying at night after getting electricity, small businesses have got a leg up. These factors are contributing to the nation’s overall development.

Private sector has more than half the contribution in power production capacity. But this has created many controversies. What will you say about this?

The prime minister envisioned 100 per cent electricity coverage after coming to power in 1996. She planned to involve the private sector in the power sector back then. There were a lot of obstacles but it was impossible without the private sector. A massive opportunity has been created in the sector after private investors came out. An efficient management system has been created in the sector with participation from both government and private sectors. This has created scope for comparison in works and accountability.

Uninterrupted power supply at an affordable price is still elusive. What do you think about it?

The challenge now is to ensure an uninterrupted power supply at affordable prices. We have to ensure a fair price of electricity in keeping with people’s income. It must be ensured that the power supply is uninterrupted. We’ve already started forming a coordinated mega plan for electricity and energy sectors.

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