Rampal power plant gets environmental clearance
Environmentalists condemn the approvalFerdous Ara
The proposed 1,320-megawatt Rampal power plant near the Sundarbans now has no obstacle as the environment department approved its environment impact assessment report.
Environmentalists and civil society actors condemned the approval, saying that it would destroy the world’s largest mangrove forest Sundarbans as the project lies only 10 kilometres away from the environmentally critical area of the Sundarbans.
Department of environment director (environment clearance) Md Shahjahan said that Bangladesh Power Development Board submitted the final revised EIA report on July 10 to DoE and on 5 August DoE sent the approval notice to the concerned authority.
‘After that DoE has no restriction in setting up power plant at Rampal,’ he said.
This is the only project where EIA report was reviewed for the last three years and DoE conducted different types of query before the approval, said Md Shahjahan.
Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company, a joint venture between the PDB and the NTPC with 50:50 shares, is implementing the power project at Rampal in Bagerhat district near the Sundarbans.
On April 20, the power board signed a power purchase agreement with the BIFPC to buy electricity from the proposed plant for 25 years.
The authorities concerned, however, did not fix the price of electricity as its cost of production was yet to be ascertained, officials said.
According to the EIA report released, air standard of the proposed plant will not exceed the standard of environment conservation rule 1997 and World Bank guidelines; they will not discharge
untreated or heated water into the river.
To check air pollution as a mitigation measure there is provision of ESP, low NOX burner, FGD (optional), 275 meter high chimney, installation of effluent treatment plant, settling pond, waste water treatment plant and API oil water separator.
The report also said to check pollution from coal they will use coal dust suppression system, closed conveyor belt, covered cargo and they will take adequate measure to utilise fly or bottom ash.
DoE director Shahjahan said, ‘We will form a monitoring team comprising experts of DoE and BPDB. We will monitor everything during construction and operation… if they violate any commitment we would definitely bring them under enforcement’.
He said that they had earlier rejected the EIA of PDB for seven times.
Giving his reaction, National Committee to save oil-gas-mineral resources and power-port member secretary Anu Muhammad said, ‘We are not surprised at the EIA approval as from the very beginning the government’s aim was to provide more benefit to the Indian company’.
He said, Indian president Pranab Mukhopaddhaya during his visit to Bangladesh said that India-Bangladesh jointly should take the responsibility to save the Sundarbans. The reality is that the two countries did not take decision to save the Sundarbans… they just did it to destroy the Sundarbans forever’.
It is not acceptable that the Indian company would invest less money but they would get more benefit, they have got tax waiver and even they would fix power price, said Anu Muhammad.
He said that the estimated cost of the project is US$ 201 crore of which 70 per cent would come as credit and 30 per cent would be given jointly by power development board and National Thermal Power Corporation of India.
The Sundarbans acts as a safeguard for the country during natural disasters and the mangrove forest is famous for biodiversity. Different species of flora and fauna in the Sundarbans would be destroyed for this power plant, he said.
Anu Muhammad, who is also a professor of Economics of Jahangirnagar University, urged people to join in their long march from 24 to 28 September which they have declared to protest setting up the power plant in the vicinity of the Sundarbans.
Besides, he pointed out, the Indian environment authorities had rejected a similar project of NTPC in India as the plant was set to be established near a forest.
National Committee to Save Sundarbans member secretary and Bangladesh Poribesh Andalan secretary general Md Abdul Matin also condemned the approval of EIA for the propose Rampal power plant.
He said that it is very unfortunate that while the Indian state-owned national thermal power corporation is not allowed to set up any thermal power plant within 25 kilometres of any of India’s forest reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, agricultural plots and others, the Bangladesh government has allowed Bangladesh power development board to set up a coal-fired plant at Rampal in Bagerhat, just four kilometres off the ecologically sensitive area of Sundarbans.
He said that the EIA report made by Centre for Environmental and Geographical Information Services is nothing but an eyewash study to get environmental clearance.
The government is imposing the project on people which would not bring any good output for the country as well as for the Sundarbans, said Matin.
The ministry of power, energy and mineral resources joint secretary (development) Md Anwar Hossain told New Age, ‘We are planning to organise ground breaking ceremony for the Rampal power plant in September though we are yet to fix any particular date’.
‘Prime minister Sheikh Hasina would lay the foundation stone of the power plant project… so everything depends on her schedule’, said Anwar.
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