A high-profile government delegation has returned home after holding a discussion with the Unesco authorities in France over the measures taken to protect the Sundarbans, a World Heritage site declared by the UN body in 1997.
“We did not have any discussion with the Unesco over the Rampal power plant. Rather, the discussion was on the Sundarbans,” a member of the delegation told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday wishing not to be named.
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The government updates the Unesco every year over the steps taken to protect the mangrove forest, the official added.
Earlier, the delegation led by Raisul Alam Mondal, director general of the Department of Environment, went to Paris on a four-day official visit on October 25, days after the Unesco asked the government to relocate the project site to somewhere else.
Meanwhile, a group of Bangladeshi students demonstrated outside the Unesco office on October 27 to protest against the visit of the delegation.
Rampal plant: Delegation visits France to convince Unesco
Before the visit, Power Cell Director Md Abdur Rauf Mia told the Dhaka Tribune that the team would try its level best to make understand the UN organisation from logical grounds that if the 1,320MW coal power plant was constructed near the Sundarbans, it would not make any negative impact on the largest mangrove forest of the world.
The delegation was supposed to urge the Unesco not to place the Sundarbans issue or not to declare the Sundarbans as a hazardous site in the upcoming 41st conference of the UN wing, he said.
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The Sundarbans mangrove forest is home to the famous Bengal Tiger and a hotspot for dolphins, turtles and birds. Meanwhile, millions of people depend on this labyrinth of tidal rivers for food, homes and flood protection.
Earlier, the Unesco World Heritage Centre and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) urged the government to relocate the project and review potential impacts from the construction of the plant, assess risks from climate change, and evaluate the overall management system of the Sundarbans, including provisions around shipping safety.
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Green groups and activists at home and abroad have been protesting against the project for the last couple of years expressing concern over the long-term impact of the coal project, but the government maintains that they would use modern technology at the plant to mitigate the extent of pollution.
Construction of the power plant, located about 14km from the Sundarbans, began in October 2013. It is being implemented by a joint venture of Bangladesh Power Development Board and the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited of India under the name of Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company.