The government has a monopoly in the petroleum import and distribution business in Bangladesh
Be it the development of high-speed carriageways or wayside amenities, investment in highway infrastructure is always considered crucial to the economic development of any nation.
While highways strengthen the road network across a country by facilitating the smooth and fast movement of goods and people from one part to another, wayside amenities like rest areas for drivers and commuters help promote road safety by curbing accidents due to incessant driving.
On the lines of developed countries like the US and Australia, Bangladesh is also all set to market its highways as a global brand by setting up what it claims model refueling stations with spiffier rest areas to welcome motorists looking for a break from the road.
According to State Minister for Power, Energy, and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid, the initiative comes at a time when the government is developing several high speed corridors across Bangladesh, including the Dhaka-Khulna highway.
“These model refueling stations will be set up on at least 2.5 acres of land along the country's highways. These stations will have petrol, diesel, CNG, and LPG refilling facilities as well as electric vehicle charging points," a top official at the Energy and Mineral Resources Division told UNB.
“But the main attraction of these refueling stations would be modern amenities for highway drivers and passengers such as separate dormitories for men and women, washrooms, ATM kiosks, a cafeteria, a parking area, and a prayer room," he added.
Motorists and commuters can use the dormitories at night for a small fee, the official said.
“An investment of at least Tk15 crore is needed to set up a model refueling station," said Mir Saifullah Al Khaled, the managing director of Meghna Petroleum Limited, a subsidiary of the state-owned Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC).
At present, officials said, there are about 5,200 refueling stations in Bangladesh. Of these, only 550 have CNG refilling facilities. However, most of these stations lack even basic facilities like washrooms for drivers and passengers.
Official sources said that, on May 30, the Energy and Mineral Resources Division of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources sent its latest letter to BPC and its three oil marketing companies: Padma Oil, Meghna Petroleum, and Jamuna Oil — in this regard.
Monopoly in petroleum import, distribution
The government has a monopoly in the petroleum import and distribution business in Bangladesh. And BPC is the primary state-owned entity responsible for the same.
In its letter, the Division asked BPC and its three subsidiaries not to permit to set up new petrol pumps in the country until a policy guideline is prepared and all other statutory compliances are complied with.
BPC and its three subsidiaries have also been advised to prepare a detailed plan on the requirement of new fuel refilling stations by analyzing the GPS locations of the existing ones.
The Division said that though there are some conditions to set up petrol pumps in city corporation areas, upazilas, and districts as well as at bus terminals, ferry ghats, and highways, there is no basic layout model to ensure modern amenities.
“So it is necessary to prepare three separate layout plans for the model refueling stations," the Division said in its letter.
Md Sher Ali, joint secretary (operations) at the Energy and Mineral Resources Division, said the BPC and its marketing companies have already submitted a set of guidelines and layout plans for the proposed model refueling stations.
“Energy and Mineral Resources Division has also approved the guidelines and the layout plans, and now they are working on it," he told UNB.
According to the Managing Director of Padma Oil Masudur Rahman, his company is working on three separate layout plans for setting up new petrol pumps on highways, in districts and city corporation areas, and at the upazila level.
“As per the highway plan, 2.5 acres of land is the minimum requirement for setting up a model refueling station with all modern amenities," he added.
Mir Saifullah-Al-Khaled, managing director of Meghna Petroleum, said that permission was already given for setting up a couple of model refueling stations on the highways.
"Construction of some model refueling stations is already in full swing. Sitakunda on the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway, the Dhaka-Sylhet Highway, and Hatikumrul on the Dhaka-North Bengal Highway are among some areas where the development of model stations is underway," he added.
President of Bangladesh Petrol Pump Owners Association Nazmul Haque welcomed the ambitious initiative but urged the government to accommodate their views on the issue "as we are also a vital stakeholder".