Benefits of electrification through submarine cable in Shariatpur chars
- Cost of electricity dropped from Tk30 to Tk12 per unit
- Markets remain open for a longer period after sunset
- Reduced cost of electricity yields bigger profits for traders
- The shipbuilding industry eyeing a huge progress in the area
- Students can study comfortably at night
- New computer training centres were set up
- Farmers use electricity for irrigation
- New cold storages can be set up to preserve the crops grown on chars.
The electricity through the submarine cable has changed people's lives in the chars (shoal area) of Shariatpur as agriculture, trade, industry and education there have gained momentum, giving a boost to the local economy.
These chars – surrounded by the Rivers Padma and Meghna – are isolated from the mainland of the district. Waterways are the only means of transportation in these chars. Local people did not even think that electricity could ever reach there, but now it is playing an important role in their lives and they are dreaming of a brighter future.
Electricity is now supplied to Kachikata, Char Atra, Kunderchar and Nawapara unions in the district through submarine cable drawn under the Padma River. A sub-station has been set up in the char area to distribute electricity.
Sources at the Munshiganj Palli Bidyut Samity said power connections have already been provided for 4,459 customers. By 26 March, 2021, all residents of the chars in Shariatpur will get electricity.
Mafia Begum, a resident of the area, said electricity saves her money. "Previously, using kerosene lamps cost me Tk100-150, But now using a light bulb costs Tk50-60," she said.
There are 10 haats and markets in the chars, where businesses have enhanced immensely due to the availability of electricity. Thirteen computer and photocopy shops, four television and refrigerator showrooms, six electrical and electronic equipment shops, three mobile accessories and repair shops, five tailoring shops with electric sewing machines and three ice factories have been set up in the area recently.
Mojibar Khan, a trader in Nawapara market, said, "There are at least 200 traders in the market. All of them have got electricity connections. Earlier, they used solar power and people would stay at the market after the sunset. Now people stay in the market till late at night and trading is on the rise. I am also making a bigger profit."
He added that there were no refrigerators in this market before, but now many traders are buying them. Electricity is benefitting the residents of the chars in many such ways.
Although a number of ice factories have already been developed for fish conservation in the chars, the owners used solar energy at a high price. Now the owners of the ice factories are happy to get electricity as their cost has come down significantly.
Shaheen Mollah, owner of Sabbir Ice Factory in Joybangla Bazar, said, "I used to pay Tk30 per unit for solar power, but now per unit of Palli Bidyut's electricity costs only Tk12. I can produce more now. The cost has come down while business is expanding."
Eight shipbuilding dockyards have developed around the chars. These dockyards, which were running on diesel powered generators, are benefitting from the electricity connection too.
Sanaullah Dhali, owner of Satata Dockyard in the Charmandal area of Nawapara, said previously he spent Tk50,000-60,000 on diesel per month, but now the electricity costs Tk10,000-12,000.
"Many people are thinking of setting up new docks here," he said.
Other than traders, students in the chars are getting the benefits of the new electricity connection. Students of these remote char areas have always lagged behind in education because of a crisis in educational institutions and teachers. Moreover, gaining technical knowledge was a nightmare for them due to lack of electricity.
Studying late into night in the light of a kerosene lamp was a luxury. But now students can study till late night. Many of them throng the newly set up computer training centers in the area.
Yasmeen Akhter, a ninth grader in Nawapara High School had a light bulb just above her desk in her room.
Asked how her study was going on, she said, "The school is closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. I study at home. We received electricity three months ago. Now we do not have to worry about oil. My mother sleeps while I study."
As the chars are surrounded by rivers, there is a lot of potential for agriculture and fisheries businesses in the area. The lands of the area become fertile due to siltation in monsoon, so the yield is very good. Vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers and rabi crops are produced in large quantities there.
Now the agriculture sector has started getting benefits in electricity. Farmers will not have to rely entirely on diesel-powered engines for irrigation during the Boro season this year, because they will be able to use electricity.
Ujjal Sikder, a farmer from the area, said, "Many farmers gave up farming due to high cost, but now they take it up again. Two or three crops can be cultivated on the land where earlier only one could be cultivated. And if there was a cold-storage on the char, more crops could be kept there."
According to the Munshiganj Palli Bidyut Samity, the work of electrification of the chars by setting up 1km of submarine cable beneath the Padma River started on 22 April, 2019. A substation with a capacity of 10MVA was constructed. Deputy Minister for Water Resources Enamul Haque Shamim inaugurated the electrification programme of Nawapara and Char Atra on 8 February, 2020.
AHM Moubarak Ullah, general manager of Munshiganj Palli Bidyut Samity, said, "This is the first submarine connection for electricity in the Dhaka region. The socio-economic situation in the char area has changed after the connection was provided."
"The shipbuilding industry is eyeing a huge progress. New areas of business in the markets have been created too. The agriculture and fisheries industries of the chars are advancing further as a result of electrification. If this trend continues, the chars will buzz with economic, commercial and industrial activities," he added.
Local Member of Parliament and Deputy Minister of Water Resources Enamul Haque Shamim said, "The region had been lagging behind economically and socially for decades due to lack of electricity. One of my first important tasks after getting elected was to bring electricity to these chars."
"The Padma and Meghna Rivers surrounding the chars posed a difficulty, but we did not give up. Now agriculture, industry, trade and commerce are expanding. People's way of life is changing," said Enamul Haque Shamim.
The deputy minister of water resources also said the Padma and Meghna Rivers and the chars are endowed with natural beauty. The government has a plan to develop the area as a tourist spot.