China and India were using Bangladesh as a dumping ground for coal as the country opted to increase its dependence on coal to 30 per cent in 2041 from less than 3 per cent at the moment for power generation, experts said at a webinar on Sunday.
‘China and India are pledge-bound to reduce their coal consumption and they are choosing poor neighbours like Bangladesh for dumping their coals,’ said Ahmed Badruzzaman, ANS fellow at University of California, Berkley, as he presented the keynote paper.
Experts at the webinar, hosted by Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, also observed that Bangladesh rather moved backwards by relying more on coal while refusing to embrace renewable energy sources for the expansion of the power sector.
Badruzzaman showed if Bangladesh sourced 17,160 MW from coal by 2023 as planned it would emit 3 lakh tonnes of sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide each, 115 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, 38 million tonnes ash and 60 million tonnes sludge annually.
The emission of mercury would depend on the quality of coal and Chinese coal emits more mercury compared to US coal.
‘1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury deposited in 25-acre lake would make it’s fish unsafe to eat,’ said Badruzzaman.
Bangladesh’s power generation capacity almost tripled in 2019 compared to 2010 and nearly 98 per cent of the expansion was depended on gas or diesel or furnace oil, said S Nazrul Islam, founder of Bangladesh Environment Network, as he presented another keynote paper.
‘Strangely, Bangladesh plans to increase its dependence on coal rapidly showing a complete lack of interest in renewable energy sources,’ said Nazrul.
Bangladesh generates only 0.4 per cent of its power from solar and a little over one per cent from hydro though neighbouring India sources 7.5 per cent from solar and 6.6 per cent from wind, said Nazrul.
He said that renewable energy technology advanced so fast over the last decade that per kilowatt power generation from solar and onshore wind now costs less than that of fossil fuel.
Nazrul said that there was no need to go for expensive nuclear power when the country could use only a third of its power capacity.
‘This is a rare kind of government which lacks the will to protect life and nature to benefit businesses,’ said Anu Muhammad, member secretary, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports.
He said that the government planned over two dozen coal-fired power plants along the coast, which are now threatening the existence of the Sunderbans that protect the coast against cyclones.
Anu said that Bangladesh was importing LNG with four times higher than the market price showing its commitment to serve the interest of businesspeople.
Centre for Policy Dialogue distinguished fellow Mustafizur Rahman said that Bangladesh was paying millions of taka every day to power plants without using any power.
Energy expert Badrul Imam said that Bangladesh continued to import costly LNG keeping the huge potential for offshore gas exploration untapped though neighbouring India and Myanmar kept detecting new offshore gas fields close to the country’s border.
‘We are taking Bangladesh to suicide. Bangladesh has been used as a dumping ground for imported coal though it is considered as an untapped energy mine,’ said solar energy expert Sajed Kamal.
Former Bangladesh Bank governor Atiur Rahman and BAPA general secretary Sharif Jamil also attended the webinar among others.