If they don't sell us gas, they'll have to inhale it!"

Vol 4, PW 10 (21 Jun 00) People & Policy

India might appear to be bending over backwards to secure gas from Bangladesh.

But later this decade, the situation could change dramatically as several hydel power projects begin to come on stream. In May this year, India's Central Electricity Authority (CEA) and environmental bodies gave the go-ahead to two hydel projects in the frontier state of Arunachal Pradesh on the border with China.

These projects - with a total installed capacity of 21,400-MW (see below) - have the potential to upset any plan to import Bangladeshi gas to India. More, Indian power minister, Rangarajan Kumaramangalam, on a trip to northeast India this month, said the projects all have his full backing and will be completed by 2012.

Analysts predict that if the projects are completed to Kumaramangalam's deadline, Arunachal Pradesh could provide up to 40% of India's predicted national shortfall in electricity by 2012. Add to that Bhutan's hydel power plans (an additional 3,000-MW by 2010), other projects in the northeast and Nepal, and India's power starved industries and consumer sector could have access to some 30,000-MW of cheap hydel power.

Analysts in India are unanimousthat unless Bangladesh decides to export gas to India soon, Delhi will be forced to plan its future power strategy around the massive hydel potential of the Himalayan mountain range. That would be bad news for Bangladesh - particularly for two multinational that have sunk huge amounts ofmoney developing gas reserves: Unocal and Shell.

One politician tells this report: "If Bangladesh doesn't sell us its gas soon, they'll have to inhale it!"

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