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6 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Securing non-renewable natural resources in Bangladesh

Institutional and technical capacity is essential for the exploration and extraction of natural resources
Securing non-renewable natural resources in Bangladesh

Resources are indispensable for economic growth and development of human society. Natural resources ensure economic development in any country by providing labour, capital and materials for the production of modern technology. Non-renewable resources are a resource of economic value that cannot be readily replaced by natural means on a level equal to its consumption. Bangladesh has various non-renewable natural resources – coal, gas, minerals, ceramic soil, stone and boulder. But her institutional and technological ability is not yet advanced enough to properly explore and manage these resources. The people of Bangladesh are the actual owners of the natural resources but a neo-liberal pattern has created a platform which is elitist and class oriented ̶ not general people oriented.

Bangladesh is bestowed with a number of non-renewable natural resources such as natural gas, oil, coal, hard rock, limestone, brick and white clay, boulder, gravel, glass and mineral sand. It’s economic development, urbanisation, industrialisation, transportation and communication systems all greatly depends on proper utilisation and management of natural resources particularly non-renewable ones. Bangladesh is the seventh-largest producer of natural gas in Asia. Natural gas plays a major role in the energy matrix of Bangladesh, since 90 per cent electricity of Bangladesh is produced by natural gas. Presently, 2330 million cubic feet gas is being consumed by power (41 per cent), fertiliser (7 per cent), industry and tea-estate (17 per cent), CNG (5 per cent), captive power (17 per cent), commercial (1 per cent), domestic sectors (12 per cent) per day respectively. Natural gas is the main natural resource in our country. There are total 26 gas zones in Bangladesh. According to the economic census of 2014, the total amount of gas reserve from 26 zones is 27.038 tcf (trillion cubic feet). Coal is another natural resource in Bangladesh. The total amount of discovered coal is 2700 million ton which is equal to 37 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. We have five main coal mines such as Jamalganj and Joypurhat (reserve 1050 million tons), Barapukuria and Dinajpur (reserve 390 million tons), Khalaspir (reserve 685 million tone), Dighipara (reserve 500 million tons), Phulbari and Dinajpur (reserve 572 million tons).

In our country, there are three major marine mineral deposits including sulphides, nodules and crusts. Sulphides usually found in shallow water anywhere from 800-2500 meters deep, are rich in silver, lead and zinc. Nodules are rich in copper, nickel, cobalt and manganese and are found in deep waters, crusts are rich in platinum, cobalt, nickel and manganese. We have 308 million tons of calcium carbonate, 9 million tons silica sand. There are about 0.8 million ton of ceramic soil. The amount of hard rock in our country is 1235 million tons. We have also sand such as zircon, rutail, zeolite, elmonait, monazite and magnetite, copper, ammonia, salt and other minerals. The amount of mineral sand is 25 million tons.

Mineral resources fall in three broad categories such as metallic mineral ores, non-metallic minerals and fossil fuel minerals. Metallic mineral ores includes iron, copper, lead, zinc, bauxite, silver, gold, bornite, covelline, galena, chalcocite etc. These are available at Cox’s Bazar, Teknaf and Kuakata sea beach. Besides, there are some construction and beach sand in our country. The amount of different minerals is: Zircon (158.117 ton), Rutile (70.274 ton), Ilmenite (1,025,558 ton), Kyanite (96,709 ton), Garnet (90,745 ton) and Magnetite (80,599 ton). Ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene is used in slag, welding and melting of metal. Zircon is used to make foundry, sand, and refractory brick. Monazite is used to make catalyst, television tube, thermal insulator, computer disk and line printer. Non-metallic minerals are mica, asbestos, graphite, sulphur, diamond, phosphate, potash, gypsum etc. These are playing a vital role in the development of fertiliser and coal fired power plants in our country.

There are some hard rock zones in Bangladesh such as Maddyapara in Dinajpur district and Mithapukur in Rangpur district. Hard rock is essential material at construction section such as highways, road, railway, dam, river bank management. It is also used as a mosaic stone. In Sylhet, Joypurhat, there are some areas of lime stone zone. It is an important mineral resource which is mainly used in cement, ispat, sugar, glass industry. White clays are available in Dinajpur, Netrokona, and Chittagong district. It is a very important element especially used in making sanitary materials, tiles, paper and cement industries. 0.

Institutional and technical capacity is essential for the exploration and extraction of natural resources. Various research studies have noted that the implementation of the natural resources exploration policy and the Environmental Protection Act have been bogged down due to some institutional and technical limitations. Petrobangla, a fully state owned corporation and its subsidiary companies – BAPEX, BGFCL and Titas Gas are responsible for the exploration, production, transmission, distribution and development of oil, gas and mineral resources of the country. Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources oversees gas, mineral, petroleum and power sectors in policy, regulatory and operational matters. Various operational rules for effective implementation of the Policy and Act require complementary and detailed operational rules, many of which have not yet been formulated in Bangladesh.  Lack of Inter-agency coordination is one of the major causes of poor and inefficient use of the existing policy outline and rules on environmental protection and natural resource management. Neither the policy nor the law presents clear operational guidelines for such inter-agency coordination and synchronisation of approaches.

It is important to mention that, oil; gas and mineral exploration are the sources of environmental pollution, drilling accidents, tanker catastrophes, equipment failure and extreme level of natural impacts – seismic activity, ice fields and hurricanes. The main hazard is connected with the spills and blowouts of oil, gas and numerous other chemical substances and compounds.

The concerned authority need to consider assessment costs, prevention costs, mitigation costs, reclamation costs and compensation costs. The natural resource sectors such as gas, oil, minerals etc. are the worst sufferers in this context. On the other hand, institutional capacity for implementing the various measures identified in the resources exploration policy is still at rudimentary stage. Coordination among the Bangladesh petroleum exploration company, geological survey in Bangladesh, Department of Environment, Planning commission and line ministries is not satisfactory. Most of the concerned ministries and departments lack institutional capacities in terms of human, technological and financial resources needed for proper implementation of the policies. They have a shortage of adequate and trained manpower.

There is lack of an information management system supported by a strong data bank to back up planning, policies and monitoring activities. Department of Environment is a regulatory and enforcement department but it is highly centralised and lacks significant presence at regional and local level. The infrastructures of the BAPEX are not enough to operate the whole identifying and exploring process. Government should concentrate to increase the strength of BAPEX. The security can be ensured of our natural resources if we keep all the process with our own organisation BAPEX. The government of Bangladesh should emphasise the development of our institutional or technical abilities, rather the dependency of multinational companies with agreements that do not favour the society and people of Bangladesh.

Non-renewable natural resources help to develop GDP growth in Bangladesh if government comes forward to take healthy steps to eradicate the culture of rent-seeking, Dutch-disease and corruption from natural resources sector. At present, the whole poverty-ridden country of Bangladesh is still struggling hard with its development, cannot afford to make mistakes regarding the utilisation of natural resources. We need huge amount of gas for producing the electricity. Government should increase funds and provide facilities so that relevant organisation can stand as sustainable, viable and effective. In order to ensure electricity in rural areas, uninterrupted domestic energy supply, exploration and management efficiency of gas, oil, minerals, environmental and social objectives as well as sustainable economy, government should conduct integrated non-renewable resources planning.

Bangladesh is now considered to be a lower-middle income country and has set goals to reach the middle income status by the year of 2021. We need a creative and industrial workforce as well as proper and effective collective approach to face the challenges of national energy security. We have to develop our institutional and technical abilities and train more people in natural resources sector, particularly in the areas of mining and refining, petroleum and gas processing, gas engineering, transmission and distribution, environmental management and pollution control, environmental cost analysis as well as geological and economic studies. Bangladesh have no other option but to make deep-seated changes in their approach towards development to break out of the “Resource-Curse” and “Rent-Seeking” model, and survive, develop and ensure energy security for sustainable development.      

The writer is environmental

analyst and

Associate Member of Bangladesh Economic Association



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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