COAL-BASED RAMPAL THERMAL POWER PLANT PROJECT SET TO ROLL
The government has decided to lay the foundation of the coal-basedRampal Thermal Power Plant -ecology plant in Bagherhat, near the Sundarbans, on Oct 22 despite vehement and widespread opposition by environmental activists and other social groups..
The Prime Minister’s Energy Adviser Tawfiq-E-Elahi Chowdhury made the announcement at a press conference held at Bidyut Bhaban in the capital on Wednesday.
He said it was not yet final whether Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would herself lay the foundation stone.
“The people of the country want power. We are focusing on people’s demand,” he said.
“The foundation stone will be laid on Oct 22. All journalists are invited,” Chowdhury said.
Bangladesh singed an agreement with India in January last year to set up the 1,320MW facility named ‘Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Limited’. The neighbouring countries will be equal partners in it.
Environmentalists, political activists, and the local people of Bagherhat’s Rampal fear the plant will endanger the very existence of the world’s largest mangrove forest.
Members of the National Committee on Protection of Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, and Power-Port are heading for the plant site, barely 14km off the Sundarbans, in a Long-march in a bid to stall the project.
The government has been claiming that the environment would not be harmed, as there would be enough checks to prevent pollution.
Regarding the opposition and widespread fear of environmental harm, Chowdhury said, “The matter has to be understood with a scientific outlook, not emotion.
“Their criticism is not based on information and technological knowledge. Our decision is based on real terms, and not emotions,” he said.
Power Secretary Monowar Islam argued that coal was used to produce 41 percent of the world’s electricity. It accounted for 68 percent of India’s power generation, while its share in Bangladesh’s electricity production was less than one percent.
The government plans to raise the daily power production to 24,000MW by 2021 and to 40,000MW by 2030.
Islam said there was no alternative to the use of coal to achieve this target.
He said Rampal had been chosen after considering population density, coal transportation facility, availability of land, and the rehabilitation of the local people.
“We also considered industrial development in the [southern] area,” said the Secretary.
He said more power plants would have to be set up at various coastal points like Anowara and Maheshkhali to boost power production to 40,000MW within 2030.
Those out on long-march say smoke from the plant will destroy the Sundarbans. Transportation of coal will contaminate rivers, and vessel movement on rivers inside the Sundarbans will disrupt the wildlife habitat.
Islam, former Director General of the Department of Environment, said: “The Rampal plant, which is 14 kms from the Sundarbans and 72 kms from the world heritage site, will not have any negative impact on the environment.
“Sundarbans is our safeguard [against natural disasters] and no power plant will be set up jeopardising the Sundarbans,” he said.
He said those dependent on the mangrove for their livelihood, will get alternative employment opportunities once the plant’s work starts.
Around 1,800 acres of land has been acquired for the plant and its development is almost complete.
Islam said a part of the plant’s profit would be spent for the welfare of the locals.
The Prime Minister’s Energy Adviser said there are protests against coal-fired power plants because of the amount of carbon-dioxide they emit.
“We’ll use superior quality coal containing less sulphur to produce power at Rampal to ensure the minimum amount of carbon-dioxide is emitted,” he said.
Chowdhury said the plant chimneys, planned to be nearly 275 metre tall, would help keep emission away from the Sundarbans.