The World Heritage Committee of Unesco has withdrawn its objection to the construction of a coal-based power plant at Rampal near the Sundarbans National Park, the government has announced.
The committee has also decided against adding the Sundarbans to its list of World Heritage Sites in danger, according to a press release issued by the Foreign Ministry on Thursday.
“After a long deliberation, the committee endorsed Bangladesh's decision to construct Rampal power plant at its current location with necessary mitigation measures,” the release read.
A government delegation led by the prime minister's energy adviser, Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, is participating in the 41st session of the WHC in Krakow, Poland, in order to defend Bangladesh's position on the controversial project.
At the request of the committee, Bangladesh has agreed to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the South-West region of the country, including the Sundarbans.
This follows a 2016 Reactive Monitoring Mission from Unesco which recommended the relocation of the Rampal power plant considering its likely impact on the forest reserve, which was inscribed on the World heritage List in 1997 in consideration of its "outstanding universal value as a unique ecosystem".
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In recent years, the World Heritage Committee had expressed its concerns over the state of conservation of the Sundarbans and called upon the government of Bangladesh to take a number of steps to improve the situation. These included ensuring adequate fresh water flow into the reserve and preventing poaching and over extraction of its resources.
The 21-member World Heritage Committee decides on whether a cultural or natural site should be inscribed on the World Heritage List, monitors the state of conservation of the inscribed heritage sites, and can place a site on the danger list if it is not being properly managed.
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As such the decision to construct a coal-based power plant at Rampal had come under the radar of the WHC, but on Thursday the committee welcomed a number of steps taken by the Bangladesh government since 2016 to help conserve the Sundarbans.