Power Generation Up To 100Mw: DoE eases curbs on coal, gas-run plants
The Department of Environment in its new Environmental Conservation Rules has exempted small coal and gas power plants from Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), raising concerns among environmentalists.
Under the Environmental Conservation Rules (ECR)-2023, gazetted on March 5, coal-fired power plants having a capacity of up to 50MW and gas-fired plants having a capacity of up to 100MW will no longer require EIA.
These two types of power plants have been put under the orange category.
In the previous ECR of 1997, all power plants were placed under the red category, meaning there was a legal binding for all electricity producers to prepare an EIA and an Environmental Management Plan (EMP).
With the introduction of the new ECR, plants will no longer require to put such mechanism in place to check pollution from their operations.
Under the previous ECR, any business placed under the red category must prepare a Terms of Reference for conducting an EIA, take stakeholders' opinion in preparing the EIA, assess the quality of air, water, and soil of its location, and fill up the form-06 for declaration that it will stick to its plan to check pollution.
Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, a Europe-based research platform which analysed pollution from coal-based power plans in Bangladesh, found that coal combustion releases toxic substances like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, mercury, and fly ash which can significantly harm the human respiratory system, trigger acid rain, and cause mercury deposition in the soil.
Bangladesh has already been enduring the worst air quality which is responsible for the deaths of 200,000 people every year, shows World Bank data.
DoE Director (environment clearance) Masud Iqbal Md Shameem, who was involved in preparing the ECR-2023 draft, said that there was no difference between the large and small power plants in the previous ECR.
"Though they [small plants] will not require an Environmental Impact Assessment, they will have to follow the emissions standard stipulated in the new Environmental Conservation Rules. The emission standards will remain unchanged, but they won't have to submit an Environmental Impact Assessment report," he added.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, said the new ECR is more elaborate and clearer on some issues than the previous one.
"However, there are some major flaws in it. I think those have been kept in it to accommodate the government's development narrative, which is not sensitive to environment," she told The Daily Star.
Rizwana said she found no reason for recategorising power plants.
"All power plants must be in the red category regardless of their production capacity. Hoping that power plants would comply with laws is surely an unreasonable expectation. The rules could have been stronger if the public grievances were redressed," she observed.
Prof Kamruzzaman Majumder, chairman of the Department of Environmental Science at Stamford University, said that mitigative measures are stronger for businesses in the red category, but those in the orange category enjoy a less stringent regulation.
The down-gradation of certain power plants' category would lower the emission standard, he added.
He said the DoE itself is reducing its power through formulating such rules, which would harm its effort to conserve the environment.