Damage to Sundarbans obvious

Says national committee

Demanding the government scrap the Rampal power plant project, green activist Sultana Kamal yesterday said they were protesting against the plant as it will damage the Sundarbans.

People who favour the plant are “driven by their own interests”, she told a press conference at Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs in the capital.

“We can certainly understand who is talking in whose interest,” said Sultana, also the convener of the National Committee for Saving the Sundarbans.

The government claimed that the committee was not making statements based on science, she said. “But from the very beginning, we have been presenting scientific data and research findings. We have also shared those with government representatives.”

The former adviser to a caretaker government predicted that if the power plant was set up near the Sundarbans, there might be no immediate effect on the mangrove forest. “But the next generation will hold us responsible.” 

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The national committee organised the press conference to inform people about the scientific explanations and clarifications made by international experts on “10 questions and answers”. The questions were raised by Bangladeshi expatriate energy expert Arshad Mansoor and the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Ltd (BIFPCL) came up with the answers.

Arshad in his article in a national daily raised the questions. He later said he was happy with the BIFPCL's answers. 

Sharif Jamil, joint secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa), explained the international experts' response to the 10 questions.

“We know experts and consultants have been hired to talk in favour of the Rampal power plant. So we took those questions and answer to several international experts,” Sharif said.

“We could see from the explanations of international experts that most of the answers of the power plant authorities were either wrong, vague, half-truth or irrelevant to the environmental impact assessment of the power plant,” he added.

Prof Anu Muhammad said they were trying to give scientific explanations on how the power plant would damage the Sundarbans. But the government did not pay heed to their explanations, he alleged.

The government over the years could not save the rivers around the capital from industrial pollution. The rivers, including the Buriganga, were polluted severely. So it has been proved that it would not be possible for the government to save the Sundarbans if the power plant was constructed there, Prof Anu argued.

He expressed fear that the power plant would leave an adverse impact on the entire country.

Rasheda K Choudhury, another former adviser to a caretaker government, said they raised some questions about the power plant and also provided scientific data about the adverse impact of it, but the company never responded to the queries.

However, when the expatriate engineer wrote an article with 10 questions, the power plant authorities responded to those and the expert was satisfied, said Rasheda.

“It seems everything is stage-managed,” she said.