Rampal Project: ‘12 countries favoured Bangladesh at Unesco meeting’

A total of 12 countries including Turkey and Finland voiced in favour of Bangladesh which finally convinced the World Heritage Committee of Unesco to withdraw its objection about Rampal power plant near the Sundarbans, the prime minister’s energy adviser said today.

With the latest stance of Unesco, the international debate over the coal-fired power plant has been resolved, said Prime Minister’s Energy Adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury.

He also urged the activists protesting the construction of the power plant near the world’s largest mangrove forest to change their stance as well.

Photo courtesy: Sirajul Hossain

Tawfiq-e-Elahi came up with the remarks at a press conference organised to brief media about the outcome of the 41st session of the committee meeting of Unesco being held in Krakow of Poland.

The Unesco has changed its earlier stance on Rampal power plant due to Bangladesh’s successful argument and presentation on detailed technological aspects of the project showing its minimal impact on the Sundarbans, the PM’s adviser told journalists at the conference at Bidyut Bhaban in Dhaka.

“It is because of our goodwill and capacity, Unesco has lifted its objection on the construction of mega power plant,” Tawfiq said.

He also said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s global image as the winner of UN’s highest environmental accolade – Champions of the Earth also helped them to gain the confidence of Unesco to carry on with the project.

“We are not only concerned about the Sundarbans status as a World Heritage Site but also its overall conservation,” he said adding that “The Sundarbans saves us from natural disasters; we will do nothing that harms her.”

The 21-member World Heritage Committee on July 6 withdrew its objection to the setting up of Rampal power plant at its current site near the Sundarbans, claimed the Bangladesh foreign ministry.

The committee, however, requested Bangladesh to carry out Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of its south-west region, including the Sundarbans, before starting the project. Dhaka has agreed to it.

Bangladesh will carry out the SEA shortly, Tawfiq told reporters.

“Unesco was concerned with the World Heritage Site but we have successfully convinced them about the use of latest and most sophisticated technology which will have minimal impact on the mangrove forest,” the veteran diplomat also said.

“We are going to use the ultra-supercritical technologies at the Rampal power plant. It is not going to harm the Sundarbans.”

Refuting environmental activists’ concern with the dissemination of fly ash, he said the power plant will produce ash in solid form and later be used for other industrial purposes.

The role played by Bangladesh diplomats is highly commendable, Tawfiq said.

On the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports’ remark that the government convinced Unesco through “lobbying”, Tawfiq said, “if speaking for the country is lobbying then we did it.”

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Power Secretary Monowarul Islam said the first unit of the power plant will go in production in June 2019 while second unit in December the same year.

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