ONGC to use Bangladesh waterways to transport machinery

May 29th, 2009 - 6:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Agartala, May 29 (IANS) Bangladesh has agreed in principle to allow India to use its waterways to transport heavy machines for Oil and Natural Gas Corp’s (ONGC) upcoming 740-MW power project in Tripura, officials said here Friday.
The gas-based project, the biggest ever of ONGC, is coming up in south Tripura’s Palatana, about 60 km from here, and is expected to be operational by 2012.

“Responding to New Delhi’s request, Dhaka has in principle agreed to allow India to transport heavy machineries for the power project through its waterways using Ashuganj port,” Tripura Chief Secretary Sashi Prakash said.

The fate of the mega power project was bleak as transportation of heavy machinery, including turbines, by surface through the mountainous northeastern states was extremely difficult.

If Bangladesh gives permission, ONGC can ship power generation equipment from the Haldia Port in West Bengal to Bangladesh and then to Tripura.

“The distance between Ashuganj port and Agartala is just 31 km and if necessary India is ready to provide Rs.100 million to Dhaka to improve the poor road (linking Agartala) on the Bangladeshi side,” Prakash told reporters.

Ashuganj is in Brahmanbaria district of Chittagong division in eastern Bangladesh. It is located in the Meghna river delta.

“Dhaka and New Delhi are now considering adding Ashuganj as the ninth port of call for easy transport of Indian goods from other parts of the country to the land-locked northeastern region through Bangladesh,” the official said.

Tripura and other northeastern states are surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China on three sides and the only land route access to these states from within India is through Assam. But this route passes through hilly terrain with steep roads and multiple hairpin bends.

“India is also keen on railway connectivity between eastern Bangladesh and Agartala,” Prakash said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had laid the foundation stone in October 2005 for the Rs.5,000-crore Palatana power project, ONGC’s first major commercial project.

“Power from the Palatana project was initially meant to be allocated for Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi (100 MW each) in the northern region and for Assam and Tripura (100 MW each) in the northeastern region,” said Tripura Power Minister Manik Dey.

According to an ONGC official, to evacuate the power from the Palatana project, the state-run Power Grid Corp of India would set up a transmission line at a cost of Rs.1,800 crore to hook Palatana with the national grid at Bongaigaon in southern Assam.

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