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Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 16:45 GMT
Bangladesh gas row causes strike
Bangladesh gasworks
The size of Bangladesh gas reserves is unknown
A general strike gripped Bangladesh ahead of official discussions regarding the export of natural gas to India taking place in Dhaka on Friday.

There is strong public opposition to a plan to export the gas, amid disagreement as to how large Bangladesh gas reserves really are.

Oil and gas companies - which have invested heavily in the country - claim that Bangladesh has some 50 trillion cubic feet in reserves, while the government favours a more conservative estimate of some 10 trillion cubic feet - an assessment which suggests that Bangladesh should not export its natural gas.

One of the companies proposing to build a pipeline to transport the gas is Unocal, which has already lodged plans with the state oil company Petrobangla.

Rusty Antrican, Unocal's vice president for South, Asia told the BBC's World Business Report that there was enough gas for 120 years of consumption.

"A conservative estimate for the amount the Bangladesh government will make is $3.7bn in revenues and taxes," Mr Antrican said.

Some analysts argue that unless Bangladesh seizes the opportunity soon, it may find that India imports gas from elsewhere.

The nationwide strike was enforced by the Left Democratic Front (LDF), an alliance of eleven left wing parties.

Schools and businesses closed in Dhaka and some 60 other towns and cities.

"The strike has been a success. The protest shows that our people are against the export of our natural resources," said LDF spokesman Mujahidul Islam Selim.


The Bangladesh Economic Association has asked the government to hold a referendum on whether the gas should be exported.

"We will have to make a quick decision. A delay will frustrate the international oil companies and disrupt foreign investment," A.K.M Mosharraf Hossain, the junior energy minister, told the American Chamber of Commerce.

"Bangladesh for India is just one option," Deepak Mehta, editor of the energy bulletin Petrowatch told the BBC's World Business Report.

Rusty Antrican, Unocal
"Concerns have been met but must be dissiminated to the public."
Deepak Mehta, Petrowatch editor
"Bangladesh is just one option for India"
See also:

22 Oct 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bangladesh
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