It is a good augury that Dhaka and Kathmandu at their fifth Joint Steering Committee (JSC) meeting held at the Payra Power Plant office at Patuakhali on Tuesday last agreed to pursue efforts to implement deals on purchasing power from Nepal using the existing interconnecting transmission lines through neighbouring India. Notably, the JSC is a bilateral secretary-level body for cooperation in the energy sectors between Bangladesh and Nepal. It may be recalled that at the fourth JSC meeting held in August in Kathmandu last year, both countries decided to request India to allow the export of 40 MW to 50 MW electricity from Nepal to Bangladesh using the high-voltage Baharampur-Bheramara cross-border transmission line.
Tuesday's JSC discussions also included the prospect of setting up a joint venture hydropower plant in Nepal as well as importing 500 MW electricity from the Indian company GMR's 900 MW Upper Karnali Hydropower Project situated in western Nepal. The power secretary of Bangladesh and Nepal's power, water and irrigation secretary who led the JSC talks also viewed that the issue of importing 500 MW electricity from GMR through installing a new, dedicated cross-border transmission line should be settled through a tripartite deal between Bangladesh, Nepal and India. In fact, the absence of direct land connection between Bangladesh and Nepal necessitates such a tripartite agreement among the three countries for any Dhaka-Kathmandu power deal to take effect. It would be worthwhile to note that deals on clean energy, hydropower, to be specific, between Bangladesh and Nepal hold immense potential. It is in view of such possibilities that the two countries discussed in detail at the JSC meeting the construction of hydropower plants in Nepal under Bangladesh-Nepal joint venture projects. On this score, the two sides are learnt to have concurred on the development of the 683 MW Sunkoshi 3 hydropower project in Nepal.
As the Nepali foreign minister last Saturday told a meeting in Dhaka that Nepal is practically an inexhaustible source of about 60,000 MW hydropower. India has been making investments in Nepal's hydropower sector. As a next-door neighbour, Bangladesh can meet its growing need for power through extending cooperation with Nepal on a wider scale, especially in the area of climate-friendly, green hydropower. However, for any major breakthrough in this regard, the concurrence of India would be crucial. Hopefully, India's transnational green power grids initiative to supply power in its neighbourhood would be of help to promote also Bangladesh-Nepal hydropower deals.
There are also other aspects of cooperation in the power sector that the two countries can work together. For instance, Bangladesh has institutional facilities like the Bangladesh Power Management Institute (BPMI) that can be utilised for training human resources thereby building capacity of the power sector personnel of both the countries. Other areas of knowledge sharing in the power sector may include the experience of solar home and net metering activities. In particular, private sector investment from Bangladesh in Nepal's hydropower sector should be seriously explored. The good news is that all these issues figured prominently in the said secretary-level meeting between the two countries. It is not just the hydropower sector that holds the entire prospect of business cooperation between Bangladesh and Nepal. There are in fact a whole raft of sectors where the two countries can work together to draw mutual benefits.