Bangladeshi students in Germany on Friday urged the Bangladesh government to scrap the coal-fired power plant project in Rampal to protect the ecosystem of the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, which is located close to the project site.
The protesting students as well as other members of the Bangladeshi community staged a human chain outside the venue of the ongoing UN climate summit, the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23), in Bonn, Germany.
“The proposed power plant will destroy the ecological balance of the country’s lone mangrove forest and its adjacent area as it will produce a huge amount of waste materials that is extremely harmful for the environment,” said Rasha Mohiuddin, who is studying environmental protection in University of Stuttgart.
She also expressed concern about the impact that the thermal power plant would have on the population of Irrawaddy dolphin in the Pashur River, which is near the power plant site.
The Bangladesh government is constructing the controversial power plant in Rampal, Bagerhat in collaboration with the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) of India to generate 1,320MW of electricity, expected to go into production by 2021.
The Sundarbans, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site, is merely 14km away from the site of the power plant.
The government has already acquired 1,834 acres of land in the area for the project.
According to the project plan, the hot water produced by the power plant during production will be released into the nearby Pashur and Moidara rivers, which will destroy the ecosystem of the rivers that support several aquatic species, some of which are endangered, said Rasha Mohiuddin.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a US-based non-profit-making advocacy group, a typical 500MW coal-fired power plant produces 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide, 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, 10,200 tons of nitrogen oxide, 500 tons of small airborne particles, 220 tons of hydrocarbons, 720 tons of carbon monoxide, 77kg of mercury, 102kg of arsenic, 52kg of lead, 1.8kg of cadmium, and other toxic heavy metals as by-products that are released in the air.
Considering the data, a 1,320MW power plant is likely to produce a much higher amount of toxic elements which is bound to damage the ecological balance of the Sundarbans, the protesters said.
This project will also hinder the government’s bold plan to protect the Sundarbans, which provides a unique ecosystem and a rich wildlife habitat for flora and fauna, they added.
In addition to the Rampal power plant, the protesters demanded cancellation of all coal-fired power plant projects in Bangladesh.
Still struggling to meet its growing power demand, Bangladesh aims to become a middle-income country by 2021, a major requirement of which is energy sufficiency.
According to the Power Division, Bangladesh currently produces about 14,500MW of electricity every day, which is much less than the daily demand of nearly 20,000MW.
To meet the target, the government has planned to establish at least five large-scale coal-based power plants, including the Rampal project.
The other four are: the 1,320MW Payra power plant, the 1,320MW Moheshkhali power plant with support from Malaysia, 1,320MW Bangladesh-Korea joint venture power plant in Anwara, and the 1,200MW Bangladesh-Singapore joint venture power plant in Matarbari.
Most of them are projected to produce electricity by 2021.
Apart from coal, the government is also installing a 2,400MW nuclear power plant in Rooppur, Pabna with technical and financial support from Russia.
In addition, both the public and the private sectors have taken initiatives to produce 500MW of electricity using renewable energy – i.e. solar and wind.