Published:  12:00 AM, 11 January 2017

Should the govt rethink Rampal power plant

As part of save the Sundarbans movement, protests were held on Saturday in Dhaka as well as USA, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Indonesia, India, Nepal, Germany, Norway, Finland, Italy, France, Canada and South Korea. The Civil Society members in Bangladesh and from across the globe were protesting the joint project of PDB (Bangladesh) and NTPC (India) for 1320 MW Rampal coal-fired power plant, urging all development works of coal plants near the Sundarbans to be stopped immediately.  This proposed power plant is going to be built just 9km away from reserved sections of the forest. This, it is believed will have a devastating and irreversible adverse impact on the Sundarbans, its ecology and biodiversity.

 Sundarbans is the world's largest mangrove forest in one patch and UNESCO's world heritage site. The 1320MW Rampal coal-fired power plant is to be built within 9km of the Sundarbans, home to thousands of members of indigenous communities as well as endangered species, including the Royal Bengal Tigers and Irawaddy dolphin. A recent census shows that the number of Royal Bengal Tiger is only 100 in Bangladesh part the Sundarbans though it was home to 440 tigers in 2004. The number of Sundari tree is also decreasing. Environmentalists say degradation of environment of this largest mangrove forest designated as the world heritage site for mankind is the principle cause of decline of its plant and animal species. According to sources, if the coal power plant is built, it will need 4.72 million tons of coal per year to operate the plant, those too to be imported mainly from Australia, South-Africa and Indonesia. The coal will have to be shipped 40 kilometers through the Pasur River, which flows through the Sundarbans. 

Already there are massive impacts of environment pollution on the Sundarbans due to several incidents like oil spill following the capsize of oil tanker and coal-laden vessels in the Pasur River and the Shela River the recent past.  Such incidents threaten the unique biodiversity and ecosystem of the Sundarbans. The greenhouse gas emitting Rampal project will also have harmful; impacts on livelihoods and health of million local people of the adjacent area.  A country needs at least 25 percent of forest out of its total land area. But Bangladesh has 12 percent forests. Among these the Sundarbans covers the 50  percent of the green forests. If Sundarbans is destroyed the country's ecosystem will be threatened. Considering this UNESCO has recently asked Bangladesh to abandon the project. Knowledgeable people believe that there is reason for the government to evaluate all the requests, protests and demonstrations and rethink the Rampal Power plant.  There are many alternatives like solar, wind and wave to generate power, but Sundarbans has no alternative.

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