India’s commercial export of power to Bangladesh commenced on Saturday with the inauguration of the Bangladesh-India Power Transmission Centre at western Bherampura, adjacent to West Bengal.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Power Minister Farooq Abdullah attended the ceremony in Bheramara of Kusthia district while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the event through video-conference from New Delhi. The power is being imported under a memorandum of understanding signed during Ms. Hasina’s visit to India in 2010.

India will export 500 megawatts of electricity a day to Bangladesh over a period of 35 years. A 125-kilometre transmission line, 40 km of it in Bangladesh, connects the two substations. The test supply began on September 27. Officials said it would go up to 250 MW every day and reach 500 MW by November-end. Bangladesh officials believe the export would greatly ease the national shortage once 500 MW flows into the national grid.

The two Prime Ministers also unveiled the plaque of the 1,320-MW coal-fired Rampal power plant, a joint venture between the two countries that has already drawn wide protests from environmentalists and political activists. The protesters alleged that the plant would harm the ecology of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest. Dr. Singh lauded the progress Bangladesh had has made under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership. “The initiative we took during your [Hasina’s] historic visit to India in January 2010 is being realised today,” Dr. Singh said and assured that India would remain “a steadfast and long-term partner” in Bangladesh’s development efforts. Dr. Singh called upon the Bangladeshi authorities to maintain environmental standards in the Rampal power plant, pointing out that the Sundarbans were a common heritage. Socio-political organisations have argued that it would spell disaster for the mangroves at Sundarbans.

Terming power export as “a shared aspiration of both the countrymen” that has been “translated into a concrete outcome”, Dr. Singh said the India-Bangladesh grid interconnection would serve also to strengthen the bonds of friendship between the two countries.

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Bangladesh begins import of power from IndiaSeptember 27, 2013