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Northerners brace for power cuts as Barapukuria power plant closed

The country’s northern region is likely to experience unusual power cuts or low voltage problem as the authorities concerned shut down the third and last unit of Barapukuria Coal-fired Thermal Power Plant on Sunday night.

Director of Power Development Board (PDB) Saiful Hasan Chowdhury told UNB that the plant went out of operation around 10:20pm.

Officials at the PDB, which operates the plant, said they had to completely shut down the plant because of the short supply of coal from the nearby Barapukuria Coal Mining Company Limited (BCMCL).

The districts which may face such problems include Rangpur, Panchagarh, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Gaibandha, Dinajpur and Thakurgaon as they receive power supply mainly from the Barapukuria plant.

Earlier, Abdul Hakim, chief engineer of the power plant, told UNB on Sunday that they may have to shut down the plant from Monday morning for the shortage of coal. 

Saiful Hasan said the authorities were trying to ensure power supply to the districts from alternative sources like power plants in other districts -- Sirajganj, Khulna and Rajshahi.

“The PDB has urged Petrobangla to ensure adequate gas supply to the gas-fired power plants in Sirajganj and other districts so that the generation could be enhanced and supply could be available in the northern region,” he added.

Officials said the shortage of coal suddenly came to their notice a few days back when a team from PDB visited the coal mine and found that there was no adequate reserve of coal in the yard of the mine.

They found that there was only 6,000 tonnes of coal reserved in the yard which may meet the requirement of only 2-3 days.

The coal production in the Barapukuria coal mine was suspended under a programme to change the mining shaft. 

But the PDB was assured by the BCMCL authorities of continuing the coal supply from the reserved coal during the closure of the mine operation.

PDB officials said the power plant requires about 4,500 tonnes of coal a day when all the three units are in operation. But now two units remain off and only the third unit with 275MW capacity was operating to a tune of 130 MW.

The issue was immediately communicated with Petrobangla, they said.

Meanwhile, Petrobangla top officials identified inconsistency in the coal reserve at the coal mine yard.

As per the official investigation, the stock was found to have a shortage of 148,000 tonnes of coal and finally Petrobangla has formed a three-member inquiry committee, headed by its director (mining) Quamruzzaman, to investigate the issue of the coal shortage and suspended a number of BCMCL officials.

The officials who were suspended or removed include managing director of the company Habib Uddin Ahmed, secretary-cum-general manager Abul Quasem Prodhania, general manager ATM Nuruzzaman Chowdhury and deputy general manager (store) Khaledul Islam.

It was apprehended that a huge quantity of coal was smuggled from the coal reserve in connivance with the top officials of the mine for which the unusual shortage was created in the supply. 

Contacted, Quamruzzaman told UNB that the inquiry committee has already started its work.

He said the committee was given three days to complete its job and submit its report. “But we need a few more days as we’ve to physically visit the spot and identify the irregularities,” he said.

The probe body chief said they will visit the mine soon.

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