Govt fails to convince critics of Rampal power project

Manjurul Ahsan . Rampal

The government failed to convince the critics of the controversial Rampal coal-fired power project near Sundarbans as they reiterated their stance that coal-fired power plants, industrialisation and urbanisation near Sundarbans would destroy the world’s largest mangrove forest.
While visiting the project site for Rampal 1,320 MW coal-fired power plant in Bagerhat with the state minister for power, energy and mineral resources Nasrul Hamid, they also demanded to suspend the project and examine the environmental impact assessment report by a third party.
After a presentation on different aspects of the project, Sharif Jamil of Sundarban Rakkha Jatiya Committee and Abdul Matin of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon told reporters that the proposed coal-fired power projects within four kilometres of Sundarbans would encourage industrialisation and urbanisation in the area which would destroy the forest.
They said that there was nothing new in the presentation which could convince them to speak for the project.
In response to an invitation of Nasrul Hamid, Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftekharuzzaman, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon general secretary Abdul Matin, Sundarbans Rakkha Jatiya Committee member Sharif Jamil, and energy experts M Shamsul Alam and Ijaz Hossain visited the site.
Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Limited, owner of the proposed Rampal power plant and a 50-50 joint venture of Bangladesh Power Development Board and India’s National Thermal Power Corporation, also arranged a three-day tour for the reporters at the project site and adjacent areas.
Nasrul Hamid, however, once again claimed that the coal-fired power plants would not affect the Sundarbans as the BIFPCL would use the latest technology for the plant.
BIFPCL has so far completed three per cent of the total task while it was expecting to begin power generation from 2019.
Iftekharuzzaman said that TIB had repeatedly requested the government to suspend the project and review the environment impact assessment report by an independent body where experts from UNESCO and Ramsar should be included.
He said that TIB would hold a press conference in Dhaka soon to explain the findings of his visit to the Rampal project site.
Shamsul Alam said that BIFPCL had obtained environmental clearance certificate from the Department of Environment without assessing the impact of coal handling at Hiron Point and Akram Point in the Pasur river, which was not acceptable.
He also said that the government had taken a contradictory stand by inviting the critics for discussions on the power project in one hand and in the other it was carrying out the implementation of the project.
Earlier, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports turned down the junior minister’s invitation as the government did not suspend the project and stop the ‘propaganda’ about it.

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