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Rampal would harm aquatic resources of Sundarbans

Says Unesco report; environment minister dismisses concern

Hot water and chemicals to be discharged into water bodies from Rampal power plant would cause significant damage to aquatic life in the river and canal networks in the Sundarbans, said a Unesco report.

Expressing concern about the potential damage to the World Heritage site, the Unesco sent the report to the government last month and asked for explanations about its specific measures in this regard, Environment and Forest Minister Anwar Hossain Manju told The Daily Star yesterday.

READ: Unesco calls for revised EIA

He said the report raised concern about the impact the power plant might have on aquatic resources, ecology, biodiversity and wildlife in and around the mangrove forest.

The Unesco requested the government to examine and verify those issues.

“But it couldn't say anything specific about the impacts,” Manju said.

The UN body raised the concern without having correct information as it prepared the report largely on the basis of different studies conducted by other organisations. The Unesco itself didn't conduct any study, claimed the minister.

So there is no reason for the government to take the report very seriously. The government has answers to all the issues raised by the Unesco, he said.

Asked if the report contained any hint of excluding the Sundarbans from the World Heritage list or including it in the list of World Heritage in Danger, the minister said there was no such thing.

The Unesco prepared the report following the visit of its three-member team to Bangladesh in May. The report called for conducting a specific assessment of probable impacts of the thermal power plant and the dredging of the Passur river on the Sundarbans.

“Even if we don't set up the power plant there, we would have to dredge the Passur to maintain navigability of the Mongla port,” the minister told this correspondent.

He said the government would make the Unesco report public once the response to the report is ready. 

About the progress of preparing the response, Manju said he met the prime minister with the report.

“The prime minister saw the report and wrote almost a page on the answers. She also gave necessary instructions,” he added.

The government has formed a committee, led by the principal secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, to prepare the response. Secretaries of the ministries of environment and forests, shipping, and power have been made members of the committee. The response would be ready soon.

The Unesco expressed concern about the Sundarbans thrice in the last two years. Its report came at a time when Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company Ltd (BIFCL) is expected to ink a loan agreement with the Exim Bank of India and the physical work of the power plant is about to commence.