Narinjara news

Burmese gas through Bangladesh

Dhaka, 15 January 03
:  Addressing a weekly meeting of Rotary Club of Metropolitan Dhaka at a city hotel on 12 January the State Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources, A K M Mosharraf Hossain said that a proposal for the cross-border Tripura – Bangladesh gas pipeline for Burmese gas was sent to the Prime Minister on 11th January, according to news agencies here. The government of Bangladesh has been reported to be planning to privatize the problem-ridden losing petroleum sector gradually for ‘effective management’, the sources said.   

The proposed gas pipeline will carry the gas from
Burma’s Rakhine State to West Bengal through a pipeline entering India through its north-east frontier and cross Bangladesh.  The discovery last October stirred a lot of high hopes in the circle of multinational energy giants.

In a report on the discovery of an offshore gas field near Burma’s border with Bangladesh the weekly Myanmar Times cited Daewoo International last October that, the gas reserve in the new field could be more than double those found at the Yadana or Yetagun gas fields that have reserves of 6,7 and 3.2 trillion cubic feet respectively.   It also added that the gas could eventually be piped to

H D Lee, deputy managing director of Affiliate Myanmar Daewoo told the weekly that the gas reserve in the new findings could be around 13.4 to 47.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  Though the official did not disclose the exact location of the new site, it is clear that the said gas field lies at a point between
Kyaukpru Island and Sittwe in Rakhine State in western part of Burma.

The company has been reported to have signed a production-sharing contact with
Burma’s Ministry of Energy in August 2000 and in the following January assigned 20 percent and 10 percent stakes respectively to India’s Oil and Natural Gas Commission and Gas Authority.

The issue of the construction of gas pipeline in
Burma is controversial since the ruling junta have been using large scale forced labour in construction of gas pipelines.  France’s TotalFinaElf and its American partner Unocal have faced accusations that they used forced labour in the construction of the Yadana pipeline, which carries Burmese gas to Thailand,

An estimated 150 million dollars
Burma receives annually from the Yadana pipeline is used by the ruling Burmese junta for violations of human rights, it is alleged.  In the western part of Burma, the use of forced labour has been seen as state-sponsored slavery, said a retired judge at Sittwe while our correspondent from there was talking to him.  There is a wide fear for the use of forced labour in the ‘proposed pipeline’.  Even at present there is large-scale use of forced labour across the western state. 

For the people of
Rakhine State, the poorest state in Burma not because of lack of resources but because of systematic campaign of neglect and repression by Burmese juntas since the Burmese independence in 1948, the gas pipeline will only bring sufferings, the judge added.  Though Rakhine State has a large highly-potential waterfall at Sandin, in the northern area, there is no hydro-electric project and 99.8 percent of the state goes without any source of electricity – so though there is an uproar among governments and multinational oil giants there will be nothing left for the people of the state, not even a gas-powered generator except getting squeezed dry, he concluded.  #