Running almost a year behind schedule, the Bangladeshi-India Friendship Power Company is going to float a tender in late October to build the proposed 1,320-megawatt coal power plant in Rampal close to the Sundarbans.
The company would ask bidders to arrange financiers to build the power plant. The project would need $1.7 billion investment, 30 percent of which would be funded by the friendship power company, while the rest to be derived from single or multiple international financiers.
“We have appointed German consultant Fichtner as the owner's engineer,” said VS Kamrakar, managing director of the company. Fichtner has already finalised the project design memorandum.
Kamrakar said within late October, Fichtner would complete the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) tender documents and an international open tender would follow.
The consultant would also guide the company in finding cost-effective coal sources for the ultra super-critical coal power project. It would suggest countries from which coal could be imported or if the power company purchased a coal mine in Indonesia or any other coal exporting country.
The contact for construction of the Rampal power plant was expected to be awarded by January to February next year, said Kamrakar.
The Indian National Thermal Power Company (NTPC) and the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) hold equal stakes in this joint venture company.
Located 14 kilometres northwest of the Sundarbans and four kilometres from the declared ecologically critical area (ECA), selection of the Rampal site for the plant drew huge flak from the public. The government has been defending its selection saying the plant would not affect the world's biggest mangrove forest.
An environment impact assessment (EIA) for the project prepared by the Centre for Environment and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) was approved by the environment ministry last year.
The plant would use surface water from the Passur river so that the project does not affect underground water table.
It also includes residential and social facilities, water treatment plant, sub-station, jetty, coal handling system and coal silo, ash handling and disposal facilities, and switchyard, including sub-station. The project area spreads on more than 1,834 acres of land, all of which has been acquired.
As per a government decision, for every kilowatt power sale from this plant, the Rampal locality would get Tk 0.03. This roughly totals Tk 27 crore or more a year. This fund would be used for building roads, hospitals and other infrastructure in Rampal.
Other than fears of emission of harmful chemicals from the plant, experts say transport of imported coal through the Passur river would also harm the forest environment. Akram Point of the Sundarbans, where the Passur is two to three kilometres wide, would serve as the anchor point for mother vessels of the imported coal.
The plant would need 3.2 million tonnes of coal a year. Imported coal on 80,000-tonne capacity ships would anchor at Akram Point. From there, lighter ships would load coal containers with maximum 10,000-tonne capacity and transport it to the power plant's jetty on the Passur. In other words, several smaller vessels carrying coal would ply the river every day all the year round.
When the coal would be loaded on lighter vessels from mother vessels, some coal dust is likely to spread in the river and the adjacent forest. Although it might look insignificant on a day-to-day basis operation, in the long run it would pollute the river.
That would affect the adjacent mangrove forest, according to geologists.