Criminal cases to be filed against culprits for coal shortage: minister

United News of Bangladesh | Published at 08:18pm on July 23, 2018

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Barapukuria coal-fired power plant

State minister for power and energy Nasrul Hamid said on Monday that the ministry will file criminal cases against the guilty persons after receiving report of a probe committee, formed to investigate causes of unusual shortage of coal supply from Barapukuria coal-mine.

The probe report is expected to be submitted to the ministry on Tuesday.

Nasrul Hamid also said that there is a huge lapse in the monitoring of the Petrobangla on the supply, production and reserve of coal from Barapukuria coal-mine.

The state minister said these after attending a special meeting on the issue held at the cabinet division following the cabinet meeting there.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina called the meeting on an emergency basis to discuss the situation with top officials of the power and energy ministry.

The state minister said that the prime minister has given some directives to immediately take some measures.

Nasrul Hamid informed that the prime minister has expressed her anger for the unusual shutdown of Barapukuria coal-fired power plant. She has instructed to form a top level committee to improve the power supply situation.

The state minister said the power and energy ministry will take action against the persons found to be guilty in report of the investigation committee formed by Petrobangla to investigate the causes of the unusual shortage of coal supply from the coal-mine.

The move comes at a time when the Anti-Corruption Commission also on Monday formed a three-member probe committee to look into the 'disappearance of coal' from Barapukuria coal mine.

According to an ACC unofficial note, managing director of Barapukuria Coal Mining Company Habib Uddin Ahmed and others allegedly sold 1.16 lakh tonnes of coal and embezzled Tk 200 crore.

Meanwhile, state minister Nasrul Hamid assured that the power supply situation in the country's northern region will be improved within a month as the government is taking necessary measures in this regard.

The power supply situation drastically deteriorated in the districts of the northern region after the shutdown of the Barapukuria coal-fired power plant on Sunday night due to shortage of coal supply from the nearby Barapukuria coal-mine.

The country's northern region started experiencing unusual power cuts or low voltage problem following shutdown of the last unit of Barapukuria Coal-fired Thermal Power Plant. The plant went out of operation around 10:20pm on Sunday.

Officials at the PDB, which operates the plant, said they had to completely shut down the plant because of the short supply of coal from the nearby Barapukuria Coal Mining Company Limited.

The districts which are facing power crisis due to the shutdown of the plant include Rangpur, Panchagarh, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Gaibandha, Dinajpur and Thakurgaon as they receive power supply mainly from the Barapukuria plant.

Meanwhile, the power and energy ministry in a statement expressed sorrow for the unusual power crisis in the northern region and assured that the situation will be improved soon as necessary measures are being taken.

Officials said the authorities were trying to ensure power supply to the districts from alternative sources like power plants in other districts —Sirajganj, Khulna and Rajshahi.

Officials said the shortage of coal suddenly came to their notice a few days back when a team from PDB visited the coal mine and found that there was no adequate reserve of coal in the yard of the mine.

They found that there was only 6,000 tonnes of coal reserved in the yard which would meet the requirement of only 2-3 days.

The coal production in the Barapukuria coal mine was suspended for about one and half months under a programme to change the mining shaft.

But the PDB was assured by the BCMCL authorities of continuing the coal supply from the reserved coal during the closure of the mine operation.

PDB officials said the power plant requires about 4,500 tonnes of coal a day when all the three units are in operation. But now two units remain off and only the third unit with 275MW capacity was operating to a tune of 130 MW.

The issue was immediately communicated with Petrobangla, they said.

Meanwhile, Petrobangla top officials identified inconsistency in the coal reserve at the coal mine yard.

As per the official investigation, the stock was found to have a shortage of 148,000 tonnes of coal and finally Petrobangla has formed a three-member inquiry committee, headed by its director (mining) Quamruzzaman, to investigate the issue of the coal shortage and suspended a number of BCMCL officials.

The officials who were suspended or removed include managing director of the company Habib Uddin Ahmed, secretary-cum-general manager Abul Quasem Prothania, general manager ATM Nuruzzaman Chowdhury and deputy general manager (store) Khaledul Islam.

It was apprehended that a huge quantity of coal was smuggled from the coal reserve in connivance with the top officials of the mine for which the unusual shortage was created in the supply.

Contacted, Quamruzzaman told UNB that the inquiry committee has already started its work.

He said the committee was given three days to complete its job and submit its report. ‘But we need a few more days as we've to physically visit the spot and identify the irregularities,’ he said.