Rampal Plant: Campaigners to write to Indian PM | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 07, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:11 AM, October 07, 2016

Rampal Plant: Campaigners to write to Indian PM

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports will write an “open letter” to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to take initiatives to scrap the Rampal power project near the world's largest mangrove forest -- the Sundarbans.

On behalf of the people of Bangladesh, it will hand over the “open letter” to the Indian high commissioner in Dhaka after marching in a procession from the Jatiya Press Club on October 18.

Prof Anu Muhammad, member-secretary of the committee, a major platform campaigning against the 1,320-megawatt coal-fired plant, announced the programme at a press conference at the capital's Mukti Bhaban yesterday.

Being jointly implemented by Bangladesh and India some 14 kilometres off the Sundarbans, the project has drawn widespread criticism and protest from different quarters at home and abroad.

Recently, the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco) urged the government to relocate the plant to a “more suitable location” where it would not have a negative impact on the Sundarbans.

Expressing concerns, the UN body said the World Heritage Site and its biodiversity will be dangerously affected if the thermal power plant is built at Rampal.

It also requested the government to conduct a revised Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) before going ahead with the plant.

Prof Anu said they wrote an “open letter” to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on July 28 but did not get any positive response from the government. 

“India is the main partner in the project. For this, we felt it necessary to announce a programme addressing the Indian government,” he said, explaining the reasons behind the plan to write to the Indian prime minister.

If the Sundarbans on Bangladesh part is damaged, the other part in India will also be affected, he added.

The campaigner further said India's state-run energy conglomerate National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), Exim Bank, construction company BHEL and coal supplier Coal India are playing vital roles in the project and they will be benefited at the cost of the Sundarbans.

On NTPC, he said there were protests against the company for causing pollution and breaching promises, and several of its proposals were rejected by the environment ministry and the green tribunal of India.

Sri Lanka last month announced cancellation of an agreement signed with NTPC to build a coal-based plant in its coastal area.

The Rampal project is a joint venture between NTPC and Bangladesh Power Development Board.

Prof Anu alleged that the government, being defeated in terms of scientific information and logic, is now using force to serve the interest of some foreign and local quarters, and to destroy the Sundarbans.

The government has used police, administration and Chhatra League to obstruct several programmes, including a cycle procession, in different parts of the country recently, he alleged. 

On September 30, Chhatra League activists scuffled with demonstrators who had organised a cycle procession protesting against the power plant. At one stage, police fired water cannons to disperse the protesters.

About the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP) project in Pabna, Prof Anu said the government is pushing the country towards a grave danger with the project which is supposed to be implemented incurring a huge debt.

Referring to media reports, he said the government has signed agreement with Russia to build the nuke plant without specific provision about disposal and treatment of radioactive waste. “It's a dangerous project; we are protesting against it and have already given an alternative proposal.”

Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah, convenor of the committee, said there is a conspiracy to hand over the country's gas resources to foreign companies, instead of empowering Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company (Bapex).

Prof Anu said they will hold rallies with divisional representatives from October 13 and will arrange other programmes ahead of the Dhaka March programme scheduled to be held on November 24-26.

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