Wednesday, 13 August 2014 13:00 Written by AFP

BANGLADESH has approved a $4.6 billion project to build coal-fired power plants and a deep-sea port in the Bay of Bengal with Japanese funding, as it seeks to ease a chronic energy shortfall.

Despite major investment in new plants that has seen electricity production double in the last seven years, impoverished Bangladesh continues to face major power shortages.

The National Economic Council on Tuesday approved the project, which includes two 600-megawatt coal-fired power plants and a deep-sea port to bring in coal.

“In future, we’ll construct two more power plants and a LNG (liquified natural gas) terminal here,” Planning Minister Mustofa Kamal said, adding that the first power plant would go into operation in 2018.

A statement from the planning ministry said Japan’s state-run aid agency would provide $4 billion of the estimated 359.84 billion taka ($4.6 billion) needed.

The Japanese International Cooperation Agency, however, said only that the agency had given a $406 million loan for the first phase of the project and was “considering” further financing.

In a statement emailed to AFP, it said Bangladesh had asked for its help in a project to develop the southern Bay of Bengal region as an economic and trading hub, with the deep-sea port at its centre.

If it goes ahead, it will represent Japan’s biggest investment to date in Bangladesh, where China has also been putting money into infrastructure development.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina discussed the initiative with her Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe during a visit to Tokyo in May.

From my techie-cloud to yours,
Michelle Wilson