Category Archives: Nations Matters

India and Bangladesh to Construct a Bridge Over Khawthlangtuipui River

Bridge Khawthlangtuipui River

To ensure enhancement in trade and ease in the connectivity of the two neighboring countries; India and Bangladesh, the decision to construct a bridge over Mizoram’s Khawthlangtuipui River has been given a green signal.

Karnaphuli River
Karnaphuli River

With Bangladesh, India shares the largest international land boundary; 4096 km, most with any of its neighbors.

Ms Sheikh Hasina
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Ms. Sheikh Hasina

Rowshan Ara Khanam, an official from Bangladesh shared, “The proposed bridge would be an important linkage between India and Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government has taken a number of steps to make it a reality. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Ms. Sheikh Hasina has given the approval to construct the bridge and link roads.”

It has been suggested to construct the bridge nearest to the land customs station in Bangladesh. The effort aspires to strengthen ties between the working of both the countries; hassle-free road connectivity and smooth communications.

The meeting to roll out this decision was arranged at the Tlabung town, Mamit district in Mizoram which lies in close proximity to the Khagrachari district of Bangladesh.

World’s First Floating LNG Terminal to be Constructed in Bangladesh

Floating Terminal

The Moheshkhali Floating LNG project will be Bangladesh’s first LNG import terminal, located off Moheshkhali Island in the Bay of Bengal. The project’s purpose is to meet clean energy demands of the country by generating natural gas in enhanced capacities; by up to 20%.

US$ 179.5m has been secured by IFC (International Finance Corporation) and Excelerate (Excelerate Energy Bangladesh) to fund the project.

Excelerate’s Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Nick Bedford, believes, “Excelerate takes great pride in helping bring sustainable energy solutions to countries with high energy demand, and we expect this project to have a great impact on the wider Bangladeshi economy.”

On implementation, the project anticipates an increase in the natural gas supplies of the state-owned energy company – Petrobangla, by up to 3,000MW.

The construction of the terminal has been slated to begin in the later months of 2017 and shall be put to practice in the succeeding year of 2018. Excelerate shall be responsible for the project in its entirety; development, designing, construction, installation, finance, and operations. The Moheshkhali Floating LNG terminal is being regarded as the first fully integrated turnkey floating LNG terminal of the world.

Excelerate Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Rob Bryngelson remarked, “Excelerate is the only FSRU provider capable of delivering a comprehensive end-to-end floating LNG import solution and we look forward to a long and productive relationship with Petrobangla in Bangladesh.

Post 15 years of providing its services, the project’s ownership shall be transferred from Excelerate to Petrobangla.

The structure of the terminal shall encompass Excelerate’s Floating Storage and Regasification Units (FSRU), port service vessels and subsea buoy system.

The development of the LNG terminal seeks to strengthen and support the power industry by tapping into diverse sources of natural gas reserves present in the global market. This may enable utilization of domestic natural gas reserves in a manner more efficient and sustainable and also aid in elevating economic growth levels through the creation of job opportunities and infrastructure in the region while shielding the Bangladeshi economy from the drastic impacts of climate change.

China to Bolster Bangladesh’s Development Projects

Bangladesh Map

To accelerate business and bilateral relations between China and Bangladesh, an Investment Forum highlighting the business climate of Bangladesh underscoring potential investment sectors, policy regulations, trade opportunities and expansion possibilities, will take place in the last quarter of August.

Sponsored by Bangladesh’s leading bank- The City Bank Limited and the Standard Chartered Bank, and organized by one of the most premier financial publications across the globe – Euromoney, the China-Bangladesh Investment Forum will be an attractive and a promising business crusade, bringing together institutional investors, portfolio managers, multilateral financiers , government officials, and global asset managers to explore potential business opportunities in Bangladesh and bolster the ChinaBangladesh trade relations as an outcome of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Bank Bangladesh Mr. Abrar A. Anwar shares his view with regards to Bangladesh’s massive economic capacity, “There are a lot of investment opportunities coming out in Bangladesh, Asia and also around the globe. China is a major economy, so we believe that private sectors in China would be looking at opportunities outside China.”

Bangladesh plans to promote itself as an avid investment destination and welcome China’s investment interests while acknowledging China’s continued business cooperation with them.

An informative podium engaged with discussions pertaining to capital and financial markets, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), infrastructure and the like are anticipated. It has been highlighted that participation by Chinese private business companies will considerably push Bangladesh’s development strategy. However, to increase and ensure continued Chinese investments in Bangladesh, incentive generation and elimination of procedural bottlenecks have been insisted upon.

This forum is monumental in attracting investments from China, which is being credited as the world’s largest source of FDI. This economic conference also aspires to deepen economic cooperation between the two countries, fueling long-term business impact and bilateral relationship.

Bamboo Technology Park : Inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Assam in Guwahati

Mr Sarbananda Sonowal
Assam Chief Minister Mr. Sarbananda Sonowal

The North-East of India is considered a paradise abound with unique and exquisite natural resources. Recently, Bamboo Technology Park was instituted at Chaygaon in Assam with an investment of Rs. 62.28 crore.

Bamboo is an abundant and a highly valued natural resource found in the North-East of India, particularly in Assam. Its anti-erosional and renewable property makes it a multipurpose resource. Due to its varied usage, it is copiously cultivated in the homesteads, village gardens, and agricultural lands and even in the field boundaries.

While inaugurating the Bamboo Technological Park in the vicinity of Guwahati, Chief Minister of Assam, Mr. Sonowal stated, “There are hundreds of MSME’s that produces incense sticks and bamboo handicraft products. Two very large paper plants are in Assam that uses bamboo as the raw material.”

The park has been equipped with the modern Common Facility Centre for producing creative and innovative bamboo products. The facilities include vacuum pressure treatment plant, bamboo stick and resin making facility, to name a few.

The cumulative efforts of private entrepreneurs, the Assam Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC), and the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion helped in establishing the Bamboo Technology Park, with the view to ensure optimum utilization of bamboo at the commercial level.

North-East India Builds Energy Cooperation Mechanism with Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal

Free LPG Connections
Free LPG connections being distributed to the beneficiaries

On a majestic mission to build a smooth and seamless energy cooperation mechanism, massive pipelines connecting Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal, shall be strategically laid out by India to put off the challenges caused by the treacherous terrains of the North-East of India.

The scope of the project is integrative and ambitious in nature as the aforementioned neighboring countries have united to commence the initial operations. This mechanism would facilitate convenience in transporting petroleum products such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), diesel and other variants.

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister, Mr. Dharmendra Pradhan envisioned the ‘North East Hydrocarbon vision 2030’ with the aim to augment the hydrocarbon production in the North-East of India, proposing an investment of Rs.1, 30,000 crores over 15 years. About 6, 900 km of pipeline shall be stretched across the regions of Sitwe (Myanmar), Chittagong (Bangladesh), North-East of India, and the Siliguri and Durgapur regions of West Bengal.

This geographical connectivity across regions is a strategic and a well-planned move to steer away from wastage, inflammation, and most crucially, benefit the masses by meeting their essential needs for clean cooking gas and fuel. Aligned to this goal, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) scheme was introduced by the Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi to aid the women beneficiaries populating the Below Poverty Line strata. The Free LPG connections being distributed to the beneficiaries scheme has managed to distribute LPG connection to about 2.7 crore beneficiaries, post its launch in May 2017.

Remarking on the foundation stone laying ceremony for an LPG bottling plant at the industrial park of Bodhjungnagar, Mr. Pradhan further shared, “The proposed bottling plant at Bodhjungnagar would be able to cater to the rising demand of cooking gas in Tripura. Existing Silchar (in southern Assam) bottling plant’s capacity would also be augmented by 60 metric ton per annum ensuring smooth supply of LPG in the Northeastern states.”

With the aspiration of adding 10 crores new LPG connections by 2019, in order to attain maximum coverage of the households of India, the energy mechanism has been put in place.

Japan to Aid North-East India’s Infrastructural Interests

PM Modi and Mr Shinzo Abe
Prime Minister of Japan and India – Mr. Shinzo Abe and Mr. Narendra Modi respectively

Japanese involvement in India’s keystone infrastructural projects has significantly contributed in supplementing India’s growth stories. Its efforts and interest remain relentless and persistent as it embarks upon developing and boosting infrastructural prospects in the North – East of India while leveraging on the North-eastern pool of resources and its proximity to the South-East Asian countries.

With India being weighed as the gateway to the South East region, and also actively interested in pursuing its Act East policy, Japan’s interest in providing its technical know-how, expertise and experience in the realm of connectivity based infrastructure: roads, railways, electricity, disaster management, forest resource management and so on, is loud and clear.

Against this backdrop, the Coordination Forum for Development of North – East has been set up by India and Japan to expedite infrastructural development in the North Eastern part of India, after the Ministry of Development of NorthEastern Region (DONER) recognizes the priority areas that require immediate attention and operations.

The India – Japan Cooperation Forum for Development of NorthEast included officials from external affairs, finance, road transport, power as important participants, along with Japan Embassy’s ambassador, Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu and DONER Minister, Mr. Jitendra Singh, who inaugurated the forum.

The relationship between Japan and India has strategically gained significance and both the countries look forward to an engaging people-to-people and cultural exchange platform to seek, supplement and strengthen developmental opportunities while maintaining and building historic relations.

As per the International Community, Japan and India have the potential to be mutually-giving partners, with the surfeit of North-Eastern manpower available to boost Japan’s economy and Japan’s intrinsic and engaging interest in developing the NorthEastern part of India.

Mizoram Embarks on Solar Power Projects

Mizoram Solar Power

In the quest to provide sustainable power solutions and meet its 10.5 % renewable purchase obligation by 2021-22, the state of Mizoram has articulated and given a concrete shape to its Solar Power Policy, advocating 80MW worth solar projects in 2017.

With the ambitious plan of scaling investments in the solar sector, multiple incentives have been ensured, encouraging the development of solar projects, with special emphasis on the rooftop and ground-mounted placements.

Apart from focusing on decentralized and off-grid power projects; solar street and solar home lighting system, solar water pumping and solar power plants, Mizoram’s solar power policy’s range of incentives involve – Rs.115 per Watt for a microgrid of up to 10 kW, Rs. 99 per Watt for a mini-grid of 10 kW to 500 kW. An installation of 1 kilowatt to 500 kilowatts qualifies for an incentive of 70% of the benchmark cost and an incentive of Rs. 20 lakh /MW can be received for emplacing a project in a solar park. The Government of Mizoram has shown interest in issuing incentives worth 50 lakhs / MW to the farmers and the jobless on account of their participation in developing a project in the solar park.

The policy has strict stipulations with regard to all official state departments and institutions, along with the government of Mizoram, in installing solar rooftop systems. The policy formulates the setting up of grid-connected rooftop solar projects in all the buildings of the state, within the contracted capacity of 1KW and above.

Further incentives are in the form of 100% refund of the stamp duty on land purchased for the purpose of development of solar projects in the state. All facilities vis-à-vis manufacturing, production and other ancillary engagements have resorted to electricity duty exemptions.

North-East’s Largest ISBT Ready to be Operational

Arunachal Pradesh

Another milestone has been clocked in the North-Eastern region of India: development of largest and most comprehensive Inter-State Bus Terminal (ISBT) in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Its operations are slated to begin by mid-August post its official inauguration by the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Mr. Pema Khandu.

Spaciously structured to deliver multiple amenities, the ISBT in the Lekhi village, Naharlagun has been constructed by the Department of Urban Development (UD) at a cost of Rs.2039 lakhs.

Translating this project into a holistic model of convenience and easy accessibility, this space is laden with special facilities such as private areas for breastfeeding mothers, special attention has also been paid to differently-abled people. Apart from this, segmented sections catering to taxis, private and government bus services have also been taken care of in an organized manner, along with neatly spaced out areas allotted for the parking of inter and intercity vehicles.

With the area spread of 86460 square feet, this inter-state bus terminal is being regarded as the largest ISBT in the Rainbow States of India.

Assistant Urban Programme Officer Mr. Yumlam Alam said,” We have constructed 5 rooms fitted with modern facilities which will function as tourist lodge. Besides, a dormitory room along with the office for tourist information officer has been constructed. Also, there will be restaurants, food courts, two ATM counters, newspaper/magazine shops, separate toilet facilities for ladies and gentlemen.”

The inauguration of ISBT would be a retreat from congested traffic ailments and aid in sculpting efficient transport services in the state of Arunachal Pradesh.

IFFCO Signs MOU with Sikkim to Diversify its Business

Dr U S Awasthi
Dr. U S Awasthi, Managing Director, IFFCO

With wide-ranging business interests and models, India’s biggest processed fertilizer cooperative – IFFCO has expressed its plans to explore business possibilities and opportunities across the organic food market segment and food processing sector. Constantly striving to expand, diversify and mature its business canvas, IFFCO has inked an agreement with the Government of Sikkim with an initial investment of Rs.200 crore, which shall increase to Rs.500 crore gradually.

In this joint venture, IFFCO shall hold the majority stake of 51 percent equity and 49 percent equity shall be held by the Government of Sikkim.

For this venture, the superlative technological expertise and innovative knowledge of Aquagri Processing Private Limited have been leveraged by IFFCO and Aquagri’s 50 percent shareholding has also been acquired for Rs.11 crore for the purpose of creating value additions in the food processing sector.

Reputed for harvesting natural sea plants, with particular emphasis on seaweed cultivation, Aquagri’s innovative solutions, apart from adding values to the industries of animal husbandry, food processing, and agriculture, are also a potential source of ameliorating community living through employment generation.

One of the significant engagements of Aquagri revolves around the development of organic product portfolio by making use of humic substances, bio actives and alternate sources of nutrition.

One of the pivotal products – a biostimulant – SAGARIKA, developed collectively by Aquagri and IFFCO, has been appreciated and valued by the farmers for espousing qualities that enhance crop productivity and is capable of resisting stress.

Capitalizing on this union, IFFCO is all prepared and energized to exhibit a variety of organic and nonchemical based products for crop nutrition. With the vision to enrich the entire northeastern region as a mega organic agricultural zone, Sikkim’s MOU with IFFCO has led the state in being responsible for facilitating the industrial level mass production and packaging of the organic products.

The accessibility and the reach of the products within the length and breadth of the northeastern region shall be taken care of by two IFFCO e-bazar centers in all the RainbowStates as planned by IFFCO.

Dr. U S Awasthi, Managing Director, IFFCO remarks, “Nobel ventures and good ideas which don’t result in profitable enterprises are quickly forgotten, as they are not sustainable. We are looking forward to exploring the organic opportunities across the country.”

Myanmar Caught in the Trap of Climate Change

Swati Prabhu
Doctoral Candidate, Centre for European Studies,
School of International Studies, JNU

Myanmar Climate Change

With talks about climate change and sustainable development doing the round these days, the entire global fraternity is bearing the brunt of it and Myanmar is not left alone. With nearly 75% of the country’s population depending on agriculture, threats of water shortages, drought, heat waves etc, could easily take a toll on the livelihoods of people. The country’s anatomy is peculiarly shaped in the form of a kite with a long tail that runs south along the Malay Peninsula. It is also the northernmost country in the Southeast Asian region with China situated towards the north and northeast and India to the northwest. However, the country is not untouched by the damaging effects of the changing climate and fears of the worsening environment. According to the recent Asian Development Bank (ADB) report released earlier this year, climate change could prove to be disastrous for Asia, especially for Myanmar. President Trump’s appalling decision to withdraw support from the Paris Agreement, it may appear to have caused massive repercussions on the Asian dream of curbing emissions. However, with China taking a positive stance to press ahead with emissions reduction, countries like Myanmar hope to get some positive encouragement and assistance.

Myanmar Climate Change - PagodaThe report produced by the ADB and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) makes for grim reading, should the predictions eventuate. Under a “business as usual” scenario, a 6 degree Celsius temperature rise is projected over the Asian landmass by the end of the century, with an increase as high as 8 degrees C forecasted in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and northwest China. “These increases in temperature would lead to drastic changes in the region’s weather system, agriculture and fisheries sectors, land and marine biodiversity, domestic and regional security, trade, urban development, migration, and health. Such a scenario may even pose an existential threat to some countries in the region and crush any hope of achieving sustainable and inclusive development,” the report said. In addition to this, according to the 2016 Climate Risk Index, Myanmar is the second-most vulnerable country in the world to the effects of climate change. According to the latest projections, Myanmar faces more extreme weather events as temperatures rise: more cyclones, more storms, more floods and more droughts. Before 2000, cyclones made landfall along Myanmar’s coast once every three years. Since the turn of the century, cyclones have made landfall every year.

In spite of this, the picture is not that bleak. The plethora of economic opportunities offered to the Asian countries, specifically Myanmar, is headed by a ‘firming recovery’ in the form of major industrial economies and the government’s continued reforms. As per the Myanmar Climate Change Alliance (MCCA), a joint initiative of the UN-Habitat and UNEP, Myanmar is one the fewest countries in the LDCs who take climate change seriously, especially when it comes to adaptation. Climate change is a reality which needs to be addressed urgently and Myanmar is doing relatively well in this regard. To take the issue in an optimistic manner, the country’s economy is expected to accelerate at around 7.7% in 2017 and to 8.0% in 2018, while the current account deficit will widen the imports, growing faster than the exports. The recent government effort in strengthening the legal and regulatory framework has also helped in enhancing the conducive environment for private businesses and investments, which will, in turn, drive further economic growth. Consolidating the country’s legal and regulatory framework is crucial to develop a vibrant private sector and tap Myanmar’s huge growth potential, the report says.

The link between economic opportunity and climate change is something that has to be given immediate attention by the Asian countries, especially Myanmar. The job of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by subsiding the global temperature to below 1.5 degrees Celsius is undoubtedly a herculean task but it would result in various opportunities for the international community. According to various reports released by leading media agencies, Asia has already become a leader in clean energy investment, with the lead was taken by China investing humongously in renewable energy. This raises the question of funding for climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. Myanmar is already receiving external assistance from a couple of entities, such as Global Environment Facility, the EU, and bilateral development partners. It is also said that the country will have access to future funding through the Green Climate Fund, which distributes the annual $100 billion contributions made by advanced economies, agreed at COP21 in Paris last year.

The country also offers a plethora of opportunities for investors, stakeholders and private sector involvement. Vast natural gas deposits, innumerable suitable locations for hydropower generation, and unexplored potential for solar and wind power generation are some of the key areas which would definitely attract investment in the coming years. In this regard, Myanmar’s power sector puts forward a plethora of opportunities to both foreign and local investors. According to the government reports, the installation of considerable additional capacity to the current 4,422 MW as well as the rapid construction of transmission lines are national priorities. In order to reach the objective of full national electrification until 2030, the power sector of Myanmar needs to evolve and develop in an efficient manner. The participation of both public and private sector is essential in this regard. It could also be stated that the country needs to build an effective mitigation strategy which involves not only the state but also contributions from the non-state actors, in order to procure finance and maintain coordination, at the time of financial drip.

However, the recent shift in geopolitical trends with the prominence gained by emerging economies, like China, India and Brazil certainly provides a positive push to Myanmar for constructing their economy in a sustainable way.