The government will respond within a week to Unesco's concern over the Rampal power plant close to the Sundarbans and recommendation for cancellation of the project.
Nasrul Hamid, state minister for power, energy and mineral resources, said this yesterday after inaugurating a workshop on research in power and energy sector at Bidyut Bhaban in the capital.
"We will send our replies to Unesco within a week, stating our position over its concern on the Rampal power plant," he said while responding to reporters' queries.
Nasrul hoped that getting the government response, the UN body would understand that there is no actual reason for concern over the Rampal plant.
All environmental issues will be addressed properly, he said. "The government assesses the environmental impact before setting up a new plant in the country."
The state minister said the government planned the power plant as part of its effort to ensure electricity supply to every household within 2018.
Nasrul further said the government had earlier clarified various queries of Unesco regarding some technical issues of the Rampal plant.
The state minister's comments came as some contents of a Unesco report titled, “Report on the mission to the Sundarbans World Heritage site, Bangladesh” were recently published in some newspapers.
Based on consultations with different parties, the three-member mission visiting Bangladesh from March 22 to March 28 prepared the report. It was sent to the government last month.
Expressing concern, the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco) demanded the government relocate the plant to a “more suitable location” where it would not have a negative impact on the Sundarbans.
The report stated that the Sundarbans was already facing serious shortage of freshwater flows as the sweet water flows dropped significantly following construction of the Farakka barrage. It led to the rise in salinity and siltation in the Sundarbans. Salt tolerant species are expanding replacing other varieties.
The mission identified four core potential threats to the Sundarbans from the construction and operation of the 1,320MW thermal power plant -- pollution from coal ash through air, pollution from wastewater and waste ash, increased shipping and dredging and the cumulative impact of industrial and related development infrastructure.
The report also said associated activities which are already going on around the Rampal power plant site will also harm the mangrove forest. It also warned against unplanned development in coastal area.
The Sundarbans World Heritage site has OUV (Outstanding Universal Value) and the government should introduce a system that allows management of the forest in a more integrated manner, it read.
The mission also recommended the government halt the site development for the Orion power plant in Khulna and any similar proposed development until independent, comprehensive and scientifically sound EIA is conducted.
Meanwhile, the BNP yesterday said the nation is shocked to see the government's rigid stance amid Unesco's recommendation for the plant's relocation.
“Unesco has recommended relocating the power plant to a safer place as there will be an irreparable loss if it is built at Rampal near the Sundarbans,” said senior BNP leader Shamsuzzaman Dudu at a press conference at the party's Naya Paltan head office.
“The nation is shocked as the government is showing its rigid stance ignoring public interest and threats to the Sundarbans,” he added.