Implementation of the controversial Rampal 1,320MW coal-fired power project near the Sunderbans has made significant progress in the past few months ignoring the request of UNESCO and protests from local and international experts and green activists.
Last week, Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company, a 50-50 joint-venture between Bangladesh Power Development Board and India’s National Thermal
Power Company, completed the piling test and was ready for civil construction and boiler erection for the power plant, the friendship company spokesperson Anwarul Azim told New Age on Monday.
The company was hopeful of beginning the boiler erection, a major component of a thermal power plant to produce steam, by July this year and that of commissioning of the power plant by 2020, he said.
On April 25, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited officially began construction of the power plant at a cost of $1.49 billion.
In the past one year, the friendship company spent over $300 million in the $2 billion project and the government carried out campaigns using social and mass media to justify the power project near the Sunderbans while green activists held a series of protests and intensified their campaign against the project at home and abroad.
The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port on Monday held nationwide protest rallies and campaigned for cancellation of the project citing that emissions from the power plant and coal transportation through the River Passur would severely affect the biodiversity of the Sunderbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest.
Addressing a protest rally in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka, the committee’s member secretary Anu Muhammad said that they would hold a Sunderbans convention involving activists from the southern districts, particularly those adjacent to the forest, on March 9.
‘Projects like Rampal and Rooppur nuclear power, will one day become synonymous to projects of corruption, repression and destruction,’ Anu said.
Mohammad Hossain, director general of the government’s Power Cell, criticised the protesters terming their stances ‘self-contradictory’ as they had continued demonstrations against the project despite being assured by the government with scientific data and studies reports that the emissions would not affect the Sunderbans’ biodiversity.
National Committee for Saving Sunderbans convener Sultana Kamal, however, said that experts and green activists at home and abroad were opposing the project since its inception in 2011 because emissions from the power plant and transportation of coal through the River Passur would severely affect the biodiversity of the forest and the river.
‘Public interests, experts’ arguments and green activists’ demands have been completely ignored, and the government is exercising its powers in carrying out the project implementation,’ she said.
Sultana Kamal termed the government’s stance on the project ‘self-contradictory’ as it celebrated UNESCO’s recognition of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s March 7 speech, Mangal Shobhajatra on Pahela Baishakh and Shital Pati as world’s heritage while it neglected UNESCO recommendations on the project.
‘Each of the UNESCO recognitions made me proud but I am ashamed of the government’s duality regarding the recommendations made by the same organisation on Rampal power project,’ she added.
Bangladesh received all the three recognitions and the request for suspending the power project implementation from UNESCO in 2017.
On July 5, 2017, during its 41st session, UNESCO requested the Bangladesh government to suspend development of all large-scale industries and infrastructures in and around the Sunderbans unless a Strategic Environmental Assessment was done.
Following a two-day conference in Berlin, Germany, the international community against the Rampal power plant on August 20 demanded cancellation of the project and urged all to raise their voices to save the forest.
The Berlin conference and at least 13 research papers stated that the Rampal power plant would emit 7.9 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide and 0.94 million tonnes of ashes per annum contaminating environment of the adjacent areas and putting the ecosystem into perilous condition.
In June 2017, the government announced a three-year plan to garden mangroves on 20,000 hectares of land for afforestation, conservation of environment, preservation of wildlife and prevention of natural disasters.
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