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Monday, January 26, 2015, Magh 13, 1421, Robi-Us-Sani 4, 1436 Hijr

Power Plant At Rampal
Keep Sundarban out of harm?s way, experts say
Banani Mallick
Published : Monday, 26 January, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 130

Government is still considering pursuing the 1320 MW Rampal Coal Fired Power Plant project at Bagerhat near whereas popular demand and expert opinions favour relocating the plant somewhere far removed from Sundarban.
The government, until now, has decided to pursue the largest coal-based power  plant project to be constructed on 1,834 acres of land, 14-km north of the Sundarban despite warning from noted environmentalists.
Some of the prominent environmentalist expressing their concerns on conservation of the world's largest mangrove forest - the home of the Bengal tigers, said that the establishing the proposed power plant would endanger lives of the native animals, many species of birds, fish, insects and vast families of the plants that make up the rich forest.
Under a joint venture project Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) and National Power Corporation (NTPC) of India proposed to construct the 1320 mega watt (MW) Rampal Power Plant.
Conservation experts and similar groups raised their voices against such initiative saying the proposed project would do more harm to the Sundarban than contribute to the development of the nation.
The campaigners pointed out to the recent incident (December 9) of the oil spill in the Shela River in Sundarban that caused a huge blow to the environment of the largest contiguous tidal mangrove forest in the world which is a haven for a spectacular array of species, including the rare Irrawaddy and Gangetic dolphins and the highly endangered Bengal tiger.
The Rampal power plant, according to a study, will need 4.72 million tonnes of coal a year and as many as 60 ships will be required to bring the coal to Rampal. Even if no accident occurs, the shipping of coal uncovered will release harmful toxins like coal dust, sulphur and other chemicals detrimental to the forest and its ecosystem.
Professor Ainun Nishat, Water Resource and Climate Change Specialist, while sharing his views on the proposed power project with The Daily Observer, said, "Government should not stop development work in the name of conserving nature, but simultaneously they should not continue any project that may be harmful for the environment too."
Asked about the solutions, Dr Nishat said, "Government must consider the adverse impact of the project first. Once a feasibility study is done the next step becomes clear."
"Solution is very simple. Instead of bringing coal through Akram and Hiron point in the Sundarban, government can consider other safer river routes like, using Paira River and from Paira River to Rampal. I do not think that to do that government would face any problem," Dr Nishat suggested.
He also suggested practicing extra caution while transporting the raw fuels to the plant site. He said, "During transporting of the coal, it should be maintained that no boat can over-load their boats, making proper marking in the important places of the river to avoid unnecessary collision."
Stressing on proper management of storage of coal, and introduction of high technology, he said that, there should be right place for it to preserve so that any dust, smoke or ash would not fly out to cause damage to other living beings around.
"This technology will be very expensive. And some fly ash will remain there just after burning. How do we dispose it? No way to dispose it in the river or forest. It should be collected and it should be fill up in the low land or use it as cement after modification," he pointed out. 
Other experts suggested the government not to stop any development works in the name of conservation. They justified it saying that if government does not develop, the average income of the local people will not go up, economic activities will not flourish, unemployment would not be solved and poor people will remain poor.
They suggested there is always a balance between development and conservation and protection of nature which is called sustainable development.
Anu Mahmud, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports said that government's move to set up coal-fired power plant near the Sundarban will seriously affect the mangrove forest destroying its environment, ecosystem and biodiversity.
Pavel Partha, a Botanist and Ecology Researcher, said that before doing any project, a feasibility study called Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), is a must and before that the study titled Initial Environment Examination (IEE) should also be conducted. He preferred moving the proposed plant to some other place away from Sundarban.
"In the issue of Rampal coal-fired power plant in Sundarban, people always said no to the project. It is the question of habitat of rare species such as the tigers and the dolphins which would be seriously affected. So before considering such programme it is always safe to consider the impact first."

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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