Environmentalists demand relocation of proposed 1,320-megawatt coal-fired power plant project to be set up at Rampal

Environmentalists have demanded relocation of the proposed 1,320-megawatt coal-fired power plant project to be set up at Rampal in Bagerhat. The Power Development Board (PDB) signed a deal on January 29 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-km north of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest. It will be the country’s largest power plant.

Green activists who have been expressing concern over the probable adverse effect on the biodiversity of the Sundarbans urged the government to shift the proposed plant to a distant place from the forest. The Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) in a statement issued a day before signing of the agreement on the joint venture power project said that the plant would release toxic chemicals harming biodiversity of the Sundarbans. 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 also said that the project runs contrary to environmental laws now in force.

On January 30, 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 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.

We pointed out earlier in this column that the world’s largest mangrove forest – the Sundarbans – already faces serious threat to its ecosystem following dumping of huge industrial and household wastes into the river Bhairab that flows through it. Burnt oil from all sorts of vessels plying in the Bhairab has further aggravated the situation. Moreover, the government plan to set up a coal-run power plant at Rampal in Bagerhat, a shipyard and a silo at Chandpai area will cause considerable damage, according to Green activists, to the forest.

Gross human interference and natural calamities continue to deal serious blow to the Sundarbans which covers an area of 6,017 square kilometres south of Khulna, Bagerhat and Satkhira districts along the Bay of Bengal. Untreated wastes from various industries, garbage from hospitals and disposal of sewage from Khulna city into Bhairab river are taking place round the clock. On the other hand, huge quantities of solid and liquid wastes from the costal districts of Khulna, Satkhira, Bagerhat and Mongla sea port are damaging the ecosystem.

Salinity and river erosion have started taking their tolls on the green belts that surround the Sundarbans. Environmentalists fear that if corrective measures are not taken right now, the green belts around the mangrove forest will face serious threat to their existence. Already excessive salinity has resulted in the deaths of a large number of trees and vegetations at the coastal areas including Sarankhola and Morrelganj. Vast tracts of land along the coastal areas of the forest have been devoured by river erosion. Excessive saline water and heavy deposit of sand at the roots of trees following Cyclone Sidr and Aila in 2007 and 2010 have destroyed a large number of plants and trees such as Kewra, Huila, Palm and coconut.

We suggest that if the observation made by the experts on probable environmental hazards to Sundarbans has any basis, it should be measured urgently by the competent authority before work on the proposed thermal power plant begins at Rampal. It is not difficult to find out a suitable alternative site for the power project in the country. True, we need electricity badly for country’s overall development, but surely not at the cost of our precious wonder of nature – the Sundarbans.
Source:Financial Express

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