BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday termed the proposed Rampal coal-fired power plant “anti-people” and “unprofitable” and urged the government to pull back from the project for the sake of the country's ecological balance.
“On behalf of the 20-party alliance, I call upon the people from all walks of life to raise their voice against the move to implement the project near the world's largest mangrove forest Sundarbans,” Khaleda said, citing several disadvantages of the much-talked-about Rampal power plant.
Although different citizen organisations, rights bodies and environmentalist groups have been opposing implementation of the plant, this is the first time the BNP chief came up with strong opposition at a press conference at her Gulshan office.
In a written statement, Khaleda unequivocally protested against implementation of the power plant by an Indian company and placed information and data to substantiate her statement.
Terming the government “autocratic” and “anti-people”, Khaleda said the ruling Awami League is going to implement the project ignoring public interests. She alleged such interests of the government are not only doubtful but also a concern for the people.
“If the project is implemented, our beloved motherland will no longer remain a place worthy of living ... no citizen of the country will accept it,” said Khaleda, adding that it would reduce employment opportunities of the people who depend on the Sundarbans.
“There are many alternatives to generate power and there are many alternative sites as well, but there is no alternative to the Sundarbans ... it cannot be destroyed,” she noted.
On the project's financial aspects, Khaleda said the Bangladesh Power Development Board (PDB) and Indian company National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) would invest 15 percent of the total cost each. The rest 70 percent would come in the form of bank loan, she added.
But Bangladesh alone would have to repay the bank loan if the joint venture company is shut down or fails to pay it, Khaleda observed.
On the other side, the Indian company would count 50 percent profit of the project under tax-free advantage despite investing only 15 percent, she said.
Pointing to three other ongoing coal-based power plants, she said the PDB would buy per unit electricity at Tk 8.58 from Rampal, although it would pay Tk 4 per unit for electricity from local Orion Group's project at Mawa and Tk 3.8 for power from plants in Khulna and Chittagong.
To bring a balance in the price, the PDB would have to consider subsidy that would eventually cause a great loss to this company, she added.
“People want to know why the government is moving forward despite knowing that it is a loss-making project,” said Khaleda, alleging that the government is carrying out attacks on protesters upon finding no answer to their queries.
She further said the Indian government cancelled a coal-based power plant of the NTPC in Madhya Pradesh's Narhingshapur for three reasons, including the site being in a densely populated area and restriction on collecting 32 cusecs of water per hour from the river.
However, population density in Rampal is 382 per square kilometre, while it was 187 per square kilometre in Narhingshapur. Besides, the Rampal plant would collect 144 cusecs of water per hour, she added.
She also claimed that Indian Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has identified the NTPC as an organisation that pollutes the environment the most in India.
In an oblique reference to the Farakka Barrage, she alleged that the water level of the rivers has declined and several areas in the country have been experiencing serious drought.
“We cannot allow anyone to implement its plot to destroy the Sundarbans. It is a timely demand to resist the evil efforts of making profit and gaining unethical interests sacrificing the country's existence and interests,” she added.
For any coal-based power plant it is mandatory to follow the zero emission rule, but the NTPC is going to install the Rampal plant without that. But the same company had earlier committed to following this rule before setting up a plan Chhattisgarh in India, added Khaleda.
Apart from reading out the statement, the BNP chief neither talked about any other issues nor accepted any question from journalists. “This is a national issue. So, I request you [journalists] to properly highlight the Rampal issue without asking me any questions on any other matter.”