Rampal Power Plant: Production to start in December
Amid protests by environmentalists, Bangladesh-India Friendship Company Ltd has almost completed the construction of the first unit of Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant in Rampal, around 14 kilometres from the Sundarbans.
"Hopefully, we will start generating electricity in December and add it to the national grid," said Kazi Absar Uddin Ahmed, managing director of the company.
"We are supposed to get back-feed power through a 230-KV line in the second week of this month to test different types of machinery such as generator and boiler in phases," he told The Daily Star yesterday.
He claimed that they have completed more than 80 percent work of the unit and are almost ready to commission the test run.
In 2016, the World Heritage Committee (WHC) of Unesco slapped a set of conditions on Bangladesh government, saying it should not proceed with any "large-scale industrial or infrastructure developments" in the country's southwest region before completion of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the zone.
It also cautioned that the World Heritage status of the Sundarbans could be cancelled if the government did not comply with the conditions. The WHC is going to review the overall situation at a meeting slated for July 20.
The Rampal power plant authorities want to start the test run before the WHC meeting if the Covid situation permits.
"We were supposed to start the test run a few months back but it got delayed as technical support staffers who would help with the test run of machinery could not arrive from India due to the pandemic. They will be able to come after July 14 if the border opens," he said.
Asked about the import of 3,200 tonnes of coal from India, Kazi Absar said those will be used for constructing the floor of the plant's coal shade. Those will not be used for generating electricity. The power and energy ministry also issued a circular in this regard.
He said they will use only high-grade coal imported either from Indonesia or Australia, not any low-grade Indian coal.
Voicing concern over the development, environmentalists say the government was supposed to complete the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), not the plant, as per the conditions given by the WHC.
At its 44th session starting on July 20, the WHC is supposed to review the government's progress in completing the assessment, said Sharif Jamil, general secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa).
"The government recently scrapped 10 coal-fired power plant projects. It should have also cancelled the Rampal power plant because the Sundarbans is our saviour. No project that could harm it should continue."
It carried on the construction of the Rampal power plant though it is yet to complete the SEA, he pointed out.
"And it is importing coal through the Sundarbans, making the vulnerable mangrove forest even more susceptible… Unesco should play a role in saving the Sundarbans."
Contacted, Deputy Conservator of Forest Zaheer Iqbal, who is overseeing the preparation of the SEA, said the Covid pandemic has hampered their work.
"We hope to complete the draft of the SEA by the end of this month. We will share it with different government agencies, environmentalists, members of the civil society and the media. It will take a few months to complete the assessment."