Energy secretary’s dangerous decision

Update:

A front page story of Prothom Alo on Wednesday has highlighted how, based on a unilateral decision of the energy secretary, 300 auto gas refuelling stations as well as a factory to supply LP gas to these stations are being set up in the country in violation of  rules and regulations. Higher authorities in the government need to pay attention.

According to the report, a private company Energypac has begun setting up the 300 auto gas refuelling station all over the country. They do have the required government approval. The company has taken up the work based on the sole decision of the energy secretary Nazimuddin Chowdhury. The secretary has given them the approval, ignoring objections from Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC). The approval that he has signed does not even have the countersignature of the state minister, which is also required.  State minister Nasrul Hamid has not signed the approval document. Prothom Alo on Friday published the Energypac rejoinder to report, but this does not disprove any of the information given in the report.

According to the rules, in order to set up auto gas refuelling stations, a company has to submit a map of the proposed site and other documents to BPC and the explosives department. After carrying out on-the-spot surveys, these agencies will send their reports to the energy department. BPC has submitted an objection to the energy secretary regarding Energypac’s proposal to set up the auto gas stations.

The energy secretary ignored the BPC objection and signed his approval for the 300 auto gas stations on 14 January this year, when the state minister for energy was abroad. Upon his return, the state minister refused to sign the approval and reminded the secretary that it was necessary to first submit the file to the relevant authorities.

The factory set up by Energypac in the vicinity if the Sundarbans by the river Pasur, to supply LPG to the gas stations, is also an unlawful structure. They got the initial approval for this structure in 2012 and, according to the rules, were required to get the final approval within two years as well as sign an agreement with BPC. But Energypac did not bother about the final approval, nor did they sign the agreement with BPC.

The factor has been set up just 11 km away from the Sundarbans. As it is, this world heritage mangrove forest is facing serious environmental harm due to industrial activities related to the Rampal coal-fired power plant. This will worsen now with the increase in vessel movement in the waterways. It was not prudent to have given the initial approval to set up the factory there. As it does not have either the final approval or any agreement with BPC, it should be relocated. Energypac must stop work on setting up the 300 auto gas stations.

The energy secretary’s over-eagerness to approve of these stations in violation of the rules, brings his professional ethics into question. The anti-corruption commission should look into the matter.

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