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Demand for Rampal power plant relocation

February 24, 2013 00:00:00

Khalilur Rahman Country's leading environmentalists have once again voiced concern over the proposed coal-fired power plant to be set up at Rampal in Bagerhat and urged the government to relocate it to save the Sundarbans. The Power Development Board (PDB) had signed a deal on January 29 last year with the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) of India to build the power plant. The proposed project, on an area of over 1834 acres of land, is situated 14 kilometres north of the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest. It will be the country's largest power plant. Green activists have been expressing concern over the probable adverse effect on the biodiversity of the Sundarbans for quite a long time with a call to shift the proposed plant at a distant place from the forest. The Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) that represents the environmentalists, said in a statement issued a day before signing of the agreement on the joint venture power project that the plant would release toxic chemicals harming biodiversity of the Sundarbans. According to them, the power plant which is supposed to dump hot water into the river will gravely affect a variety of species of marine life at adjacent water bodies throwing them on the verge of extinction. The BAPA statement had also said that the project 'runs contrary to environmental laws now in force'. On January 30, 2012, a day after the deal on power plant was signed, the National Committee to protect Oil, Gas, Mineral resources, Power and Ports said that the proposed thermal power plant will expose the forest and its adjoining rivers to severe pollution. The committee viewed that the setting up of the power plant has been undertaken at Rampal contrary to experts' opinions. The civic body at that time had alleged that the government did not conduct an environmental assessment though it was necessary before selecting the site for such plant. The committee also said that the Sundarbans is an asset of the whole world. The thermal power plant may put the forest in danger, the committee viewed. Later on an environmental assessment was conducted by the government. But on February 15 last, the leaders of the environmental organisations outright rejected the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on the proposed power plant prepared by the state-run Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB). The Financial Express in a report published in its issue of February 16 quoted the environmentalists as saying that the proposed 1320-megawatt coal-fired power plant will cause human and environmental disaster. The environmentalists told journalists at a press conference, as appeared in the FE, the BPDB report on the power plant has been prepared to protect the interest of a vested group which is bound to destroy the world's largest mangrove forest. They said that people want electricity, but not at the cost of the Sundarbans and asked the government to form a committee with experts, scientists, intellectuals, human rights activists and eminent citizens to prepare a correct report. Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa), Centre for Human Rights Movement, Save the Sundarbans, Bagerhat Development Commission, and Green Voice jointly held the conference. Dr. Abdul Matin, general secretary of BAPA, told the press conference that the government appeared to be determined to implement the thermal power plant at Rampal without taking into consideration its adverse impact on the environment. He said the government has already acquired 1834 acres of farm land for the project. Dr. Matin informed that scientists of Bangladesh Agriculture University and Khulna University had earlier made public two separate EIA reports showing the power plant's harmful effect on the forest. According to the BPDB report, the power plant will not affect the ecosystem of the forest which is 14 kilometres away from the proposed site. But the locals said the distance is only nine kilometres. Dr. Abdul Matin said the proposed coal-fed power plant would emit about 142 tonnes of toxic sulphur dioxide and 85 tonnes of toxic nitrogen dioxide everyday. He alleged the EIA report did not project the actual emission level to obtain approval. He also observed that normal life of tigers, deer, dolphins as well as mangroves would be affected for frequent movement of water vessels carrying fuels, wastes and machineries and it would also result in water and sound pollution. In view of the strong opposition by the experts, the government should immediately conduct a thorough study on the impact of the proposed power plant on the Sunderbans. The experts should be selected from the independent organizations and necessary actions, be taken in strict conformity with their valuable opinions. It should also be taken into consideration that thousands of people in Rampal will be affected if the project is implemented hastily without conducting proper environmental impact assessment. (Email: khalilbdh@gmail.com)

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