Protests over Bangladesh power plant near tiger reserve

 

Dhaka

The Bangladesh government is pressing ahead with the construction of a £1m coal-based power plant 14 kilometres from the world’s largest mangrove forest.

Environmental activists are concerned that the plant will damage the Sundarbans National Park, a Unesco world heritage site and one of the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger.

An official from the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) told The Independent that the project, which is being developed in partnership with India, is currently evaluating a consultants for the final stages of the project before construction begins – adding that a firm would be appointed “by end of this year”.

Kallol Mustafa, an engineer and delegate of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, said besides sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions, the plant will also generate significant quantities of fly ash. It is anticipated that the plant will generate 1,320 MW per year for Bangladesh over the next 25 years. “Coal being transported and loaded from and to the ships on the river Passur will always pose a risk to wildlife in the area. There is also a risk of fuel being leaked into these waters,” he said.

Local residents have also protested against the project, and more than 4,000 have already been displaced around the 1,834 acre plant site.

“We have already lost our lands,” said Shusanto Das, president of the Agricultural Land Safeguard Struggle Committee in Rampal. “As we lived through farming and fisheries in this area, we do not know how we will survive after our dislocation,” he added.

Environmental experts and locals are hoping that a forthcoming environmental impact assessment (EIA) report on the project by the Bangladesh government will help attract more attention to their case. But critics say an initial EIA assessment published in January this year, which was approved by the Bangladesh Department of Environment last month, lacked detail and glossed over their main concerns.

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