The government is facilitating the implementation of a 307MW coal-fired power plant in coastal Barguna surrounded by reserved lands having wildlife and fish sanctuary.
Amid world-wide concerns over climate change, the government continues promoting coal-fired projects along the climate vulnerable coastal zone in Bangladesh, violating its own promise to reduce carbon emission, said environment experts.
Bangladesh Power Development Board on April 12 inked power purchase agreement with Barisal Electricity Company Limited for 25 years from the commissioning of the Barguna power plant.
The company, a multinational venture of China-based Power China and local ISO Tech Electrification Company Limited, would install the supercritical coal-fired power plant at a cost of about $540 million on about 300 acres of land at Angujan village of Taltali upazila in Barguna in 45 months from the signing of the power purchase agreement.
The company earlier proposed three locations – Taltali and Patharghata of Barguna and Dhankhali of Patuakhali – for the project, but the government approved Taltali surrounded by Tengragiri Wildlife Sanctuary, Laldia reserve forest and the River Payra linked to a Hilsha fish sanctuary in River Andharmanik, commany officials said.
It is now constructing cofferdam for the project without obtaining environmental clearance from the Department of Environment.
Local people expressed concern fearing hazardous impact of the coal-based project.
Gazi Chan Miah, president of Taltali unit of Bhumihin Samiti, an association of landless people, said that the project would damage the reserved forest, the natural shield against cyclone.
He also expressed fear that effluents from the power plant would contaminate water of the fish hubs and arable lands.
On August 2, villagers submitted a public petition to the prime minister urging the government to stop the project.
Rafiqul Islam Jomaddar, local Nishanbaria Union Parishad panel chairman forwarded the petition on behalf of the villagers.
Rafiqul alleged that the company was purchasing lands with the help of illegal brokers suppressing the land owners.
Gazi said that politically influential brokers had forged documents to sell the lands to the company.
ISO Tech, however, denied the allegation, saying
that they purchased the lands from the real owners.
ISO Tech managing director Md Moinul Alam said that land development work for the project was launched after getting site clearance as per a ‘no objection’ certification by the government.
On September 10, 2017, Taltali upazila land office issued a ‘no objection’ certificate for the use of 310 acres of land for the project.
Taltali range office of the Department of Forest on March 30, 2018 issued another NOC to ISO Tech stating that the ‘already purchased’ 230 acres of project land had no forestland.
Moinul said that company purchased 160 acre lands spending Tk 25 crore till August 2.
Assigned by the power company, private consultancy firm Environmental Quality and Management System completed an Initial Environmental Examination.
According to the examination, the power plant would be constructed 6.38 kilometre north of Tengragiri Wildlife Sanctuary, 9.83km east of Laldia reserved forest and on the bank of River Burishwar-Payra estuary in the Bay of Bengal.
The prefeasibility report by the company shows that the plant would require 1.2-1.5 million tonnes of coal per year.
Moinul said the coal would be imported from Indonesia and Australia.
He said that at least nine covered-vessels with 7000-tonne carrying capacity would transport coals from freighter anchored in the Bay to a coal unloading jetty of the project.
Sharif Jamil, joint-secretary of environmental NGO Bangladesh Poribesh Andolan, told New Age that the power plant was being installed at the place on one of the three channels of the Ganges downstream for sea fish migration to the mainland water bodies.
Citing that ‘supercritical power plant’ became obsolete in the developed world, Sharif said that such plant could not check pollution totally.
He said, ‘The power plant would badly affect the surrounding forest areas and Hilsha sanctuary as the particular fish species is pollution-sensitive.’
Barguna district fisheries officer Shahed Ali said that more than 72,000 tonnes of Hilsha were caught in 2017 in two major rivers crossing over the district.
He said that industrial installations on the shore of river systems must put negative impacts on the aquatic biodiversity.
According to Carbon Brief map, the power plant would emit 1.23 million tonnes of carbon in the air annually.
Carbon Brief is a United Kingdom-based website covering the latest developments in climate science, climate policy and energy policy.
US-based CoalSwarm’s Global Coal Plant Tracker estimated that all the announced coal-fired power plants in Bangladesh would emit minimum 56 million tonnes of carbon in the air annually.
According to a Power Division meeting on September 12, 2017, 21 new coal-fired power plants, including controversial 1320MW Rampal Power Plant at the close proximity of the Sunderbans despite protests in home and abroad, were being implemented in Bangladesh.
Thirteen of the plants would be installed in five coastal districts, including Barguna.
M Shahidul Islam, Dhaka University geography and environment professor, said that the government’s spree to install coal-fired power plants to boost electricity generation went contrary to its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution 2015 to check greenhouse gas emission, in which it promised to cut greenhouse gas emission by 5 per cent by 2030 in the power, transport and industry sectors.
‘All the coal-based projects need to be abandoned immediately,’ he said.
Environment, forest and climate change minister Anisul Islam Mahmud admitted negative impacts of such projects, but said that the government favoured coal-fired power generation as economically viable choice.
‘Carbon emission from the coal-fired power plants would be negligible,’ he claimed.