Dhaka to revive talks on Myanmar-India gas link


Bangladesh will restart negotiations over a long standing proposal for a pipeline across its territory that would take natural gas from Myanmar to India, a senior energy official said on Thursday.

"We have received a green signal from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and forwarded the proposal to the foreign ministry to resume negotiations with New Delhi and Yangon in this regard," said Mohammad Mohsin, secretary for the energy and mineral resources division.

India has in the past proposed building the 290-km (181-mile) pipeline to import gas from Myanmar, but the proposal did not get immediate approval from Bangladesh.

"Now we have received the green signal from the head of the government to revive the discussions regarding the construction of a regional gas pipeline as it will benefit our country," Mohsin told Reuters.

Bangladesh, which faces gas shortages of up to 250 million cubic feet a day, hopes to use gas from the link and to gain from fees, the official said.

In January 2005 energy ministers of the three countries met for the first time in Yangon to discuss construction of a tri-nation gas pipeline with a total length of 950-km, and signed a draft memorandum of understanding.

The pipeline was expected to enter eastern Bangladesh through the Brahmanbaria border point and enter India's West Bengal state from the northern Rajshahi area of Bangladesh.

The draft had a provision for hydropower transit from the Himalayas to Bangladesh through India, and a corridor across India for trade between Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.

Progress on the project has been delayed due to differences between Dhaka and New Delhi over trade and corridor issues.

India and Myanmar in 2006 considered redesigning the gas pipeline so that it skipped Bangladesh altogether.

Analysts said there were gas reserves of up to 6.0 trillion cubic feet in the blocks off Myanmar from which gas is to be transported to India.

Investors in the relevant gas fields off Myanmar include South Korean Gas Corporation (KOGAS), India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC), GAIL India and Daewoo International.

If the plan is implemented, about $350 million would be invested in Bangladesh and it would expect to get nearly $100 million as a carrier fee per year, energy officials said.

Bangladesh would also get another $100 million as a one-off "right of way" charge and $25 million each year for sharing in its management, the officials said.