The government has not paid due attention to extracting gas from its own fields intentionally as they have created scope for a vested group to loot, energy experts and rights activists have said.
The present fuel crisis has not happened out of the blue. It is due to the inaction of the government in building capacity to explore fuel despite having huge potential in the gas sector with an intention to facilitate a vested group for looting money, they said at a seminar titled "Power and Fuel Crises: Citizen's Thoughts" on Wednesday at the National Press Club in the city.
Professor of geology at Dhaka University Badrul Imam presented the keynote paper at the seminar organised by Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan).
In his paper, Badrul Imam said that the main reason for fuel crisis is lack of initiative to explore energy and extraction of fuel from own sources and increased dependence on foreign fuel supplies.
The annual gas production and supply has been falling since 2017. Although Bangladesh has more potential in the gas sector, the number of explored gas wells is less than many other gas basins in the world.
"The situation of off-shore gas drilling is even more frustrating. Although Myanmar has explored many gas fields in its off-shore areas after the maritime boundary dispute was resolved in 2012, it has not been the case for Bangladesh," Badrul Imam said.
In his comment, former professor of economics at Jahangirnagar University Anu Muhammad said that the lion's share of the subsidy to the tune of Tk90,000 crore given during the past 12 years went to a few private power companies, not to generate electricity, rather to pay their rent. Of the total amount, Tk60,000 crore was paid to 12 local and foreign companies.
"Who is getting the subsidy?" he asked, adding: they are imposing the burden on the public.
Energy expert BD Rahmatullah said that there was hardly any attempt to meet 5% of the total energy demand from renewable sources despite commitment since 1995.
"More money can be swindled and laundered through the setting up of coal-based power plants. That's why they are paying more attention in this sector instead of undertaking any people-friendly projects in the energy sector," he said.
Chief Coordinator of Janasanghati Andolon Junaid Saki said that the government earlier used to say that there are electric poles but no electricity. Now there are power companies but no fuel and transmission.
"The government has created such a situation that no question should be asked and without ensuring minimum accountability," he said.
Shujan General Secretary Badiul Alam Majumder termed the present development as a purposeful one which is taking place under a dynasty which facilitates only the family members and relatives.
"People have been suffering as more than four crore people belong to the low-income group. They will fall in an even worse situation due to fuel crises," he added.