Government to go ahead with Rampal power plant

Dhaka,  Mon,  25 September 2017
Published : 10 Jul 2017, 00:50:53

Government to go ahead with Rampal power plant

UNESCO lifted objection on deft persuasion over project impact: Tawfiq
FE Report

The government will go ahead with the coal-fired Rampal power plant as it announced Sunday the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO withdrew its objection.

Prime Minister's Adviser on Energy issues Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury told newsmen that the panel of the UN agency lifted its previous objection last week following a successful move from the government.

"Construction of the Rampal 1320-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant would be carried through with this new UNESCO stance," he said at a press briefing at Bidyut Bhaban in the city.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) also spared the Sundarbans from being relegated onto the 'List of World Heritage in Danger', he added.

The committee, however, requested the government to carry out a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) study on the Sundarbans and its adjoining areas and submit the report by next year, said Mr Chowdhury, just back from the Committee meeting.

It also suggested ensuring adequate flow of fresh water into the Sundarbans and preventing poaching and over-extraction of its resources.

"We shall carry out the study for our own sake to ensure sustainable development of the Sundarbans and the surrounding areas," the PM adviser told reporters.

He defended the Foreign Ministry statement delivered a couple of days before over the issue as correct.

The Power Division under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources arranged the briefing against the backdrop of different environmental and right groups' claim that the foreign ministry's statement was 'not correct'.

A reactive monitoring mission from the UNESCO had recommended stopping the construction of the power plant and relocating it considering probable knock-on impact on the world's largest mangrove forest, he added.

A high-level inter-ministerial delegation led by Mr Chowdhury took part in the 41st session of the UNESCO committee in Krakow of Poland to convince it to change its initial stance against the plant, to be built under joint venture with an Indian company.

Bangladesh has successfully argued before the UNESCO committee with detailed technological and scientific aspects of the project showing government's special measures to check environmental impact on the Sundarbans, said the premier's adviser.

"The government's target to achieve a sustainable environment- friendly economic growth was the crux of our presentation before the UNESCO," he said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's global image along with achievement of UN's environmental accolade - Champions of the Earth -- also helped Bangladesh gain the confidence of the UNESCO to carry on with the project, he added.

He said Turkey moved Bangladesh's issue in the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee held in Krakow, Poland, as Bangladesh was an observer in the session.

A total of 12 member-countries, out of the total 21, including Turkey and Finland, voiced in favour of Bangladesh and that finally convinced the World Heritage Committee of the UNESCO to withdraw its objection from Rampal power plant, Mr Chowdhury informed the press.

He said the government has a plan to undertake a project named 'Sundarban safety project' to ensure its protection from hazards.

An environmentally critical area (ECA) has already been declared surrounding the Sundarbans within 10 kilometres where the setting up of any infrastructure has been banned, said Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forest Istiaque Ahmad.

Some 180 industries have already been installed inside the ECA boundary and 150 of them are currently operational, he added.

These industries were installed before declaring the area as ECA, he said, adding: "The government is not renewing licence of those industries."

The Sundarbans was included in the World Heritage List in 1997 in consideration of its outstanding universal value as a unique ecosystem.

Responding to a query, Power Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus said the first unit of the Rampal power plant will go into production in June 2019 while the second by December 2019.

Notice to proceed with the project has already been issued to India's Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the Rampal project, he said about the latest status of the much-debated power project.

State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid, chairman of Bangladesh Power Development Board Khaled Mahmood and director-general of Power Cell Mohammad Hossain were also present at the press conference.
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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