Green activists and left political parties demanded that the government scrap the agreement of installing a power plant in Rampal as it is likely to destroy the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest.
The Rampal coal power plant agreement, which was signed on Tuesday, would be remembered in the history of Bangladesh as a “milestone for the destruction” of the Sundarbans, said Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman.
Asking the government to ditch the project, advocate Sultana Kamal said whenever the question of environmental hazard came up, the government “blackmailed people emotionally” saying they were pro-liberation forces and would not do anything harmful for the country.
“But they have yet to give any proper answer as to how the coal power plant won't do any harm to the Sundarbans,” she said, wondering how a pro-liberation government could cause such “huge destruction” of the country.
They were addressing a press conference protesting against “the Agreement on Setting up of Coal-Based Power Plant in Rampal adjacent to the Sundarbans.” The briefing was organised by the National Committee for Saving the Sundarbans (NCSS) at the Jatiya Press Club yesterday.
Earlier on Tuesday, a Bangladesh-India joint venture company -- Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Ltd -- signed the agreement with India's state-run Bharat
Heavy Electricals Ltd to begin construction of the much-debated Rampal coal power plant. The project location is just 14 kilometres upstream the Sundarbans Reserve Forest, the world's largest remaining contiguous mangrove forest and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Challenging the government's presumption that nothing harmful would happen to the Sundarbans, eminent economist Prof MM Akash said India's EXIM bank would only give loan to the project related to the country's export.
“We don't know what items will be exported by India. If we have to import coal from India, then there remains the question of coal's quality,” he said. If other countries have good quality coal, why Bangladesh would import it from India, he asked.
The government's assumption is that fly ash would be transported to a cement factory and no pollution would take place as fly ash would be initially stored in a pond, he said.
Saying that the plant is situated on a low-lying area, Akash said if the pond was submerged by flood, fly ash would spread throughout the Sundarbans and jeopardise the flora and fauna.
Terming it an eyewash, Sharif Jamil, joint secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Bachao Andolan (Bapa), said cement manufacturing companies promote fly ash-free cement as a good one, so it is not an acceptable explanation.
Quoting tender documents, Sharif added the aqua life of the nearby Pashur river would be destroyed as fly ash would be channelled through it from the chimney.
Orion has also proposed to set up another coal-based power plant within 14km of the Sundarbans.
Sharif said though Orion has claimed that the US Exim Bank would fund their project, the bank has recently stated that they did not receive any such proposal.
“It means the nation is being made fool,” he added.
In a joint statement, Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) and Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal (BSD) have meanwhile expressed deep concerns over the agreement and asked the government to stop it immediately.