Bangladesh to explore gas in restive hill region

DHAKA, December 28, 2010 (AFP) – Bangladesh has invited some of the world’s leading state-owned gas giants to help explore its insurgency-hit southeastern hill tracts region, an official said Tuesday. The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region makes up one-tenth of the South Asian country’s landmass but has been largely left unexplored due to a decades-long insurgency involving mainly Buddhist tribal groups.

Following the signing of a peace deal in 1997, the central government is now moving in to explore for gas, said Murtaza Ahmed Faruq Chisti, head of state-owned exploration company, Bapex.

“We are currently holding talks with Gazprom to see if they can join us in a joint exploration work in the CHT,” he told AFP.

“We have also invited Sinopec and CNOOC of China, PTTEP of Thailand, Petronas of Malaysia and ONGC of India to talk on the issue,” he said.

“We want to sign deals as quickly as possible to start exploring for gas in this potential energy-rich region,” he said, adding that Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell had done preliminary explorations in the region decades ago.

The move comes as Bangladesh has been struggling with an acute energy crisis with domestic demand f