Bangladesh govt violates rules while acquiring land for two power plants

The government has violated some rules while acquiring land for two coal-fired power plants — in Rampal and in Matarbari — and those evicted from their land are still struggling to get compensation, the TIB said yesterday.

In a research, the anti-graft body found that victims had to bribe officials at least three to 10 percent of their compensation amount in advance to withdraw the money.

“The TIB looked into the process of environment impact assessment and land acquisition of the two projects. It was found in the survey that the victim people had to bribe between three and 10 percent of their compensation to officials,” said Iftekharuzzaman, the executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, at a press conference.

Once in operation, each of the two projects would produce 1320MW electricity. The Rampal plant is expected to start operation in June 2019 and the Matarbari plant in June 2021.

Mohammed Hossain, deputy programme manager of TIB, presented the findings of the research, done between November 2014 and February 2015.

He said, the government was supposed to follow the Environmental Impact Assessment (IA) Guideline for Industries 1997 while conducting the EIA for the two projects.

For the Rampal project, the EIA was done by a government agency but the assessment for the Matarbari project, funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), was done by a Japanese firm in violation of rules.

Beside, in case of both the plants, the government did not consider the views of the locals regarding the power plants. Moreover, locals were threatened and asked not to express any views that go against the plants, he added.

In Rampal project, the land was developed even before the EIA report was prepared while the government evacuated the people from the Matarbari project areas even before resolving the ongoing cases in the court.

In Matarbari, a vested quarter has withdrawn Tk 8 crore against an abandoned salt factory, he said.

Most victims of Rampal power plant are yet to get their compensation. So far, just 492 of the 3,681 evicted people got the money, Hossain showed in his presentation.

The Tk 14,510 crore Rampal project is being jointly implemented under India Bangladesh Friendship Company Ltd. The Matarbari power plant involving Tk 36,000 crore is being implemented by government-owned company CPGCBL.

Sultana Kamal, chairperson of TIB Trustee Board, said power generation was both very challenging and important for the country’s development.

 “We are not against these power plants. We need electricity but not at the cost of peoples’ lives and livelihoods,” said Sultana, also a rights activists.

She added the government should follow every rule while implementing power plants.

Source: The Daily Star

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