Fossil fuels don’t take us into the future -- we should be looking at renewable sources instead
While the whole world is advancing towards sustainability at a remarkably fast pace, we -- the South Asians -- have a trend of going backwards, especially in terms of energy consumption. The whole world is talking about sustainable development, spreading knowledge about the harmfulness of fossil fuel-based energy sources, and providing everyone with new ways of transitioning to clean energy. But, apparently, the governments in this particular area have decided to ignore all that and are continuing to depend solely on fossil fuel anyway.
Bangladesh, in particular, used to have fertile lands, rivers and pure water sources, seasonal diversity, and rich biodiversity. Despite having all these resources, we continue to lean on naturally devastating industries like ship breaking, leather, apparel, and fossil fuel based power sources. According to the World Bank, about 73% of energy consumption in Bangladesh comes from fossil fuels.
The government of Bangladesh has taken some impressive initiatives, like the Dhaka city metro rail or Padma bridge rail link projects. However, it is unfortunate that almost all the power supplied for these projects is completely fossil fuel oriented.
The major power stations we depend on are the Ashuganj power station, the Barapukuria coal mine power station, Matarbari power plant, and Payra power plant.
And yes, all of these use fossil fuel sources like, gas, oil, or coal. Present studies reveal that only 60% of people in Bangladesh have access to electricity, with 90% in urban areas and 42% access in rural areas; our government has committed to providing access to electricity to all people by 2021. This is a huge prospect for starting a movement towards renewable energy.
On the contrary, if we keep going like we are now, there is a great threat of massive destruction of the natural resources we rely on. Bangladesh is already struggling with only 7% forest area while the minimum required amount is at least 25% for any country.
We also managed to lose almost 60% of our biodiversity over the past century. At this moment, it is like we are standing on the verge of destruction and still moving towards the abyss.
Our natural gas will be exhausted within the next five to six years if no new gas fields are discovered. So, it is obvious that fossil fuels will not be sufficient for meeting our total energy demand. Without any doubt, supply of renewable energy will need to be expanded to generate electricity on a large scale in order to meet our increasing demand for energy. Massive expansion of renewable energy is not only desirable, but also necessary to achieve long-term goals.
Continuing at the current energy consumption rate, it will take up to 2088 to be completely depleted; oil, gas, and coal will run out by 2051, 2061, and 2081 respectively.
The Rampal coal-firing power plant has been one the most discussed future projects of Bangladesh. The project is expected to fulfill a major portion of our total energy demand. The international organization UNESCO has also raised concerns about the impacts of the Rampal plant on the Sundarbans.
The Sundarbans is one of the largest mangrove eco-systems in the world, rich in biodiversity, and a source of many more wonders.
The construction and operation of such plants there would result in air and water pollution that will threaten the eco-system and pose serious health risks to surrounding communities. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, these effects will introduce us to more hidden costs (including pollution control, ecology restoration, and medical treatment) than we actually think we will allocate.
Now, how wise would it be to fund these naturally destructive high budget projects? They might have short-term solutions to our energy requirements, but will definitely have long-term negative impacts on the country and the whole world. It is time for us to stop entertaining the idea of sustainable development in theory only and seriously act to transform this into reality.
Fossil fuels are not taking us forward. So, we have no other option but to transition to renewable energy while there is still time.
Farhana Sharmin is a climate justice activist. She can be reached at [email protected]