As city authorities are struggling to catch up with the growing waste management problem, the government is trying to handle it shifting its focus on waste-to-energy projects, but the projects taken so far failed to make any breakthrough.
Two much-sought waste-to-energy projects – one in Dhaka and another in Narayanganj – could not start the ground work even after getting the approval from the Cabinet Committee on Public Purchase a year ago.
The 42.5MW Aminbazar project, aimed at using the garbage of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), got the clearance from the committee on November 12, 2020 while the 6MW plant received its nod on September 16, 2020 to be set up at Jalkuri, Narayanganj.
Both the build-own-operate (BOO)-basis projects will generate electricity using the incineration technology where the garbage will be burnt to create heat for the power generation.
the projects, the state-owned Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) will purchase electricity under long-term agreements. But no such power purchase agreement (PPA) has so far been signed with any of the sponsor companies.
According to official sources, both the projects were awarded to two Chinese firms — China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) got the Aminbazar plant while a joint venture of Consortium of UD Environmental Equipment Technology Co Ltd, Everbright Environmental Protection Technology Equipment (Changzhou) Limited and SABS Syndicate got the Narayanganj plant.
As per the proposal, the Aminbazar project will be implemented under a tripartite agreement where DNCC will supply a certain quantity of solid municipal waste and lands.
The government will have to spend Tk 15,325.43 crore to buy electricity from the project over a period of 25 years.
On the other hand, the Consortium will set up the 6MW power plant at Jalkuri in Narayanganj. Narayanganj City Corporation (NCC) will collect garbage from its areas and supply it to the power plant for power generation.
BPDB will purchase electricity for a period of 20 years from the plant at US 20.91 cents per kilowatt hour (each unit) which is equivalent to Tk 17.60.
The government will have to pay Tk 1665.48 crore to the private sponsor of the plant for the total purchase of electricity.
After the cabinet body approval, BPDB moved to sign the PPA with two firms to facilitate them to start the physical works to implement the projects, official sources said.
But in the last one year, the two projects have run into bureaucratic red-tapism and ultimately failed to make any breakthrough in their implementation process, according to the sources.
They said the Aminbazar project was recently sent to different ministries and entities, including the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Law, National Boards of Revenue (NBR) and Bangladesh Bank for their vetting.
“We think this vetting process will take several months and we don’t know exactly when we’ll get back the files,” said a senior official at the Power Division.
About the unusual delay in the implementation process of the two projects, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid expressed his frustration.
He said this is very unfortunate, some of the ministries take too much time in the vetting process which ultimately delays the implementation.
Nasrul, however, said the sponsor companies were asked to meet some compliance before the start of their works for which they have to take permission from their own government.
“This issue sometimes makes the process delayed,” he told UNB.
Nasrul said once the PPA is signed with the sponsor companies, the government will move towards taking similar projects in Gazipur, Chattogram, Mymensingh city corporation areas as well.
Earlier, a Waste-to-Energy project was undertaken by BPDB in Keraniganj municipal area on pilot basis. But it was cancelled because of the high cost of electricity tariff - Tk40 per kilowatt hour - offered by the interested private firm.
Dhaka’s waste management challenge
Municipal solid wastes have been a great challenge all over the world today for their huge volumes. Bangladesh faces many challenges due to its large, rapidly growing population in urban areas. Bangladesh is the ninth most populous and 12th most densely populated country in the world. With this population growth, there is an increasing problem of waste management, particularly in larger cities.
Currently, according to an UNFPA report, Dhaka is one of the most polluted cities in the world and one of the issues concerned is the management of municipal waste.
Official sources said the idea for a waste-to-energy plant came into the forefront as the two dumping stations of DNCC and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) at Aminbazar and Matuwail are going to be filled within two years.
The Department of Environment also raised concerns about the existing waste management system because of environmental issues.