Bangladesh to ex­plore gas in restive hill re­gion

The Pak Banker - - 6i Nternational -

DHAKA: Bangladesh has in­vited some of the world's lead­ing state-owned gas giants to help ex­plore its in­sur­gen­cy­hit south­east­ern hill tracts re­gion, an of­fi­cial said Tues­day.

The Chit­tagong Hill Tracts (CHT) re­gion makes up one­tenth of the South Asian coun­try's land­mass but has been largely left un­ex­plored due to a decades-long in­sur­gency in­volv­ing mainly Bud­dhist tribal groups.

Fol­low­ing the sign­ing of a peace deal in 1997, the cen­tral govern­ment is now mov­ing in to ex­plore for gas, said Murtaza Ahmed Faruq Chisti, head of state-owned ex­plo­ration com­pany, Bapex.

"We are cur­rently hold­ing talks with Gazprom to see if they can join us in a joint ex­plo­ration work in the CHT," he told AFP. "We have also in­vited Sinopec and CNOOC of China, PTTEP of Thai­land, Petronas of Malaysia and ONGC of In­dia to talk on the is­sue," he said.

"We want to sign deals as quickly as pos­si­ble to start ex­plor­ing for gas in this po­ten­tial en­ergy-rich re­gion," he said, adding that An­glo-Dutch en­ergy gi­ant Shell had done pre­lim­i­nary ex­plo­rations in the re­gion decades ago.

The move comes as Bangladesh has been strug­gling with an acute en­ergy cri­sis with do­mes­tic de­mand far out­strip­ping sup­ply amid rapid eco­nomic growth.

Last year three off­shore gas blocks were awarded to oil giants Cono­coPhillips and Ir­ish Tul­low, but the govern­ment could not strike fi­nal deals due to own­er­ship dis­putes with In­dia and Myan­mar.

Bangladesh now faces a 20 per­cent short­fall in daily gas sup­ply and has stopped sup­ply­ing gas to en­ergy-guz­zling state fer­tiliser plants and new fac­to­ries. The in­sur­gency in the CHT has claimed more than 2,500 lives since it be­gan in the early 1980s, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures.

De­spite the for­mal treaty and the with­drawal of most troops last year, low-in­ten­sity un­rest has con­tin­ued as tribal groups de­mand key clauses of the deal be im­ple­mented, in­clud­ing dis­man­tling set­tlers' vil­lages and army camps. -Afp

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