A coal-fired death is in store unless government acts sensibly

Published: 00:00, Nov 08,2019


A RESEARCH of the Australia-based Market Forces and the United States-based 350 saying that Bangladesh is on course to become a carbon bomb by 2041 with 29 large coal-fired power projects that are under way, running on sponsorship from China, the United Kingdom, India, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan, has once again brought to the fore the fears that the government has so far failed, or has chosen not, to act on and people in general have largely been vocal against. The research, published globally on Wednesday, says all the plants at hand together would emit 115 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2031 and release 4,600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in their lifetime of 40 years. The estimated carbon emissions are feared to worsen climate disaster to which Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries. With the cyclone intensity feared to be increasing by 130 per cent by 2050 if the global temperature rises by 2.4 degrees Celsius this century, Bangladesh could top the UNDP list of countries vulnerable to tropical cyclones. The volume of fly ash that the Rampal power plant would emit could cover the sky of Dhaka and the sky overcast with fly ash could stretch up to Kolkata in 30 years of the operation of the plants.

All the coal-fired plants that are under way have been planned by the rivers or close to the coast with three ‘power hubs’ in the south coast at Payra, Matarbari and Maheskhali — all riding on the wings of the power indemnity law — to increase generation from coal-fired plants to 33,300MW, 63 times the current capacity of 525MW which accounts for 3 per cent of the current installed generation capacity of 19,000MW. Bangladesh would need to spend $2 billion a year on coal import to run 25 of the plants, which could add to the risk of trade deficit inflation unless exports rapidly increase. The research, on surveying 15 of the 29 project, says that the majority of engineering, procurement and construction contracts have gone to China’s state-owned companies and their enterprises. Other companies selected for technical support are from Japan, the United States, Germany and South Korea. Transparency International, Bangladesh, which is a co-publisher of the research along with Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan and Waterkeepers Bangladesh, says that China, India, Japan and the United Kingdom pursue an aggressive investment policy in Bangladesh to promote coal consumption, with Bangladesh authorities giving in to their pressure. Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan says that a nexus of foreign governments, private companies and banking institutions, as the report shows, fund these coal-fired projects to their gains which would ‘bury Bangladesh under coal.’

All this could irreparably harm the environment, kill the rivers and coastal water space, add to Bangladesh’s climate change vulnerability and severely strain the economy. In view of such risks of greater magnitude, the government must, therefore, reconsider its power generation strategy and revise its plans so that all this could be saved. People in general and rights and green campaigners in particular must also stand up against the government’s current coal-fired power plant scheme and speak up loudly enough to defuse the bomb in the making much before it builds up.

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