The government has decided not to provide any new gas connection to industries set up outside planned industrial zones from April next year.
However, the industries that receive approval for getting gas outside the economic zones until next March will, however, get gas access.
The decision came after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued a directive to protect the country's agricultural lands and stop wastage of gas, an official said.
The Energy and Mineral Resources Division under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources has recently issued directives to all state-run gas distribution companies to carry out the energy ministry's directives on new gas connections to industries. Energy experts have welcomed the government decision.
Energy expert, Professor Dr Badrul Imam told Bangladesh Post, “It’s a very good initiative. Unplanned industrialisation eats up agricultural land posing a threat to the country's food security, and is also harmful for the environment.” Besides, haphazard gas connections increase costs of both the government and entrepreneurs to lay the pipelines and build other necessary infrastructures.
Supporting the government decision, he said ‘Once the decision is implemented, it will prevent unplanned industrialization, and waste of gas.’
An energy division official said, ‘It will help supply natural gas with satisfactory pressure to industries. In order to discourage unplanned industrialisation, all utility services, including power and gas connection will have to be stopped in phases except for that inside the economic zones."
The officials said they will now supply electricity and gas to the new industries set up only in planned industrial zones.
Sources said, a huge amount of agricultural land is being destroyed in the country for setting up industrial units beyond planned areas.
A meeting presided over by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was held on October 20 last year. At the meeting, the Prime Minister directed the authorities concerned to discourage industrial factories in unplanned areas. Moreover, decisions were also made not to give gas and electricity facilities in unplanned areas. On January 12, the Prime Minister's directives were conveyed in a letter to various organizations regarding this issue.
State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, Nasrul Hamid also said, the government will ensure uninterrupted gas and electricity supply at affordable prices for the industrialists in schematic industrial zones.
The minister called upon industrialists to invest in the Economic Zones. He said at a meeting recently, “Industrialists establish factories in unplanned ways overnight, destroying crops. They ask for gas and electricity supply. It poses a real problem.”
“Gas and electricity can’t be availed in this way. If anyone wants to have uninterrupted gas and electricity they must build their factories in industrial areas only,” he added.
The government is now paying more attention to building industrial establishments in planned areas. Tanneries were running their business for years at Hazaribagh in Dhaka. But all the tanneries were shifted to Savar. The government has long-term plans to shift the pharmaceutical, chemical and other industries as well to the designated places gradually.
Officials said the government wants to transfer factories to industrial zones. But there are some challenges. Gas and electricity connection costs are high due to infrastructure problems. Besides, there is a risk of theft and systems loss. The major challenge is knowing the actual amount of gas and electricity to be supplied. So, it is sometimes difficult to provide uninterrupted gas and electricity to the factory owners.
According to the directive of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, state-owned Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) was formed in 2010 to establish 100 economic zones by 2030. On the other hand, there are around 80 BSCIC industrial parks under Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation for small and medium enterprises in the country where around 6,000 industries are available.