Speakers at a virtual seminar today urged the government to scrap the speedy energy supply act, officially known as the Quick Enhancement of Electricity and Energy Supply (Special Provision) Act 2010, terming it "unconstitutional".
They also urged the government to immediately cancel all coal and gas-based rental, quick rental and coal-fired power plant projects.
Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED) and the School of People's Law today jointly organised the seminar titled "Challenges of Energy Sector Immunity in Bangladesh", says a press release.
While speaking at the seminar, eminent environmentalist Syeda Rizwana Hasan criticised the government's plan to build 29 coal-fired power plants without having a coal policy in place.
"In the last 14-15 years, a number of coal policies were drafted, but none was finalised. Without finalising a policy, how did the government go on building 29 plants?" asked Rizwana.
Rizwana, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela), also criticised the government's intolerance to opposition voices.
"In the past, people could protest against the open pit coal mining and power plant. But now it's impossible for even 200 people to gather and protest against a power plant. They will be beaten by the police. No exceptions, [not] even for university professors," Rizwana said.
The speedy power supply act was enacted in 2010 for two years. The law was first extended by two years until 2014 and by four years until 2018. In 2018, the tenure of the act was extended for the third time, until 2021.
Supreme Court lawyer Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua presented the keynote speech at the seminar. He said, "This law is a clear violation of the constitution. It has unfettered power and is being used against public interest."
He also criticised the law as it protects officials from prosecution for awarding contracts without tender.
In late June, former Power Division secretary Fouzul Kabir Khan also demanded that the act be revoked, saying it had turned out to be a reason for the power sector's inefficiency. The law has been renewed multiple times which is no longer necessary.
The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports also recently asked the government to scrap the law. They demanded a transparent, pragmatic and pro-people power policy for ensuring the country's energy security through full utilisation of domestic resources.