Sundarban which is the world’s largest mangrove forest covering an area of 6,000 square km in Bangladesh is our national asset. Recently, the proposed Rampal coal-based power plant raised the alert that it may put Sundarban in danger. In Bangladesh, disasters like natural calamity like cyclone occurs repeatedly and the coastal area people are victims. The effects of cyclones Sidr and Aila which displaced many people would be four or five times more if Sundarban didn’t exist. This forest guards the people like a mother against natural disasters but it can’t bear the man-made disasters under the name of so called development.
India’s Wildlife Protection Act 1972 states that within a 15-kilometre radius of reserved forest and, according to the revised act of 2010, within a 25-kilometre radius of reserved forest, there can be no power plant. India, facing massive protests and legal barriers, discarded three proposed coal-powered electricity plant projects in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh. It now seems that the Indian government wants to have a coal-powered plant installed in Bangladesh as an experiment.
Obviously electricity is our crying need and it is imperative to have a power plant for the development of a country but not by destroying reserved forests. This project will encompass about 1,834 acres of land at the proposed location. In spite of this massive area and the possible destruction of eco-system of Sundarban, India will get an equal share of the ownership of the power plant that will emit carbon mono-oxide, carbon dioxide, sulphuric acid, which are perilous to biodiversity. Apart from these harmful substances, the power plant will also release huge volumes of hot water, which will destroy the flora and fauna of Sundarban.
The environmentalists and social activists are protesting against the Bangladesh government’s plan to build a coal-based power plant so close to Sundarban, which is also a World Heritage Site. The government has not considered the negative impact of the plant on the Sundarban and its role as a valuable coastal defence against life-threatening catastrophes.
Electricity can be generated at any other location; it doesn’t have to be so close to Sundarban. It could be a death spell if we overlook the risks in the name of development.
When the country’s distinguished environmentalists are protesting against the Rampal project, the government should not ignore their voices and public demand. It’s our constitutional right to protect Sundarban from destruction.
Md. Safayet Hosen
University of Dhaka
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