The government would go ahead with the construction of Rampal power plant near the Sundarbans and take measures to mitigate adverse effects, if necessary, upon the strategic environmental assessment (SEA).
Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, prime minister's energy affairs adviser, made the comment yesterday, a day after the Unesco made it clear that no large-scale industrial or infrastructural development should be allowed to proceed in the vicinity of the Sundarbans before Bangladesh carried out the SEA for its south-west region.
“…What happens now is [construction of Rampal plant] will continue. If we see that we need to take mitigating measures upon the environmental assessment, we'll do so," he said.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah and Anu Muhammad of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports have demanded the project be scrapped.
They said the government's “propaganda has become clear after the Unesco report came out.”
“Earlier, it was said by the government that the Unesco lifted its objection on the construction of the power plant. However, it is clear from the report that no commercial or industrial unit could be set up before the SEA,” they said in a statement.
Speaking at a press conference at Bidyut Bhaban yesterday, Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury said the construction of Rampal power plant would go on as “the Unesco has endorsed the government's scientific statement at the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee”.
“Necessary infrastructure will also be constructed at the site as per recommendations of the World Heritage Committee of Unesco,” he said, reports BSS.
He also aid that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) made it clear that no large-scale infrastructure should be constructed in the plant area before a SEA is conducted in the region.
The government is constructing a 1,320-MW coal-based power plant at Rampal aimed at improving the country's power generation capacity, he said.
“We will carry out the SEA in two years, while a progress report of the SEA would be prepared by 2018. We will also take mitigation measures based on the environmental assessment.”
He said the government is also aware of Sundarban's status as a world heritage site, adding, “We will monitor the project as well as the environment closely to take quick mitigation measures.”
The government submitted its scientific and logical statement at the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee as an observer of the session, the adviser said.
He also claimed member states of the session supported and raised voice in favour of the scientific statement and then the 21-member committee endorsed it by withdrawing the earlier objection for setting up the plant at its current site.
He added that reports published in many newspapers quoting Unesco and its 41st session's decisions were “confusing” and “misguided”.
Power Division Secretary Dr Ahmed Kaikaus, Chairman of Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) Khaled Mahmud and Director General of Power Cell Mohammad Hossain were present during the press conference.