Dhaka – The UN agency for education, science and culture has once again issued warning over the construction of a power plant near the world’s largest mangrove forest by the Bangladeshi government.
The agency in a press statement said the forest, a world heritage site, may fall in grave danger if the planned coal-fired power-plant is established. Bangladesh and India are jointly setting up the project.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris, said the Rampal power plant project should be cancelled and relocated to a more suitable location as it poses huge threat to the largest mangrove forest in the world.
“The State Party of Bangladesh has been requested to provide a progress report to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2016, including a 1-page executive summary on the state of conservation of the property,” said the UNESCO.
It said the progress report will be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017, “in view of possible inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.”
UNESCO declared Sundarbans as a World Heritage List in 1997, and will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year.
The World Heritage Centre and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conducted a reactive monitoring mission in March 2016 to assess the conservation of this iconic area.
The mission was requested by the World Heritage Committee during its 2015 session in Bonn, according to the organization handout.
“The mission was tasked with reviewing potential impacts from the construction of the Rampal power plant, assessing risks from climate change, and evaluating the overall management system of the Sundarbans, including provisions around shipping safety. The mission visited the site of the proposed Rampal power plant, as well as the locations of a 2015 cargo vessel accident and 2016 oil spill.”
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN released a report on the mission. The report concludes that the proposed Rampal power plant, a 1320-megawatt super thermal power plant poses a serious threat to the site.
The mission team identified four key concerns related to the plant’s construction: pollution from coal ash by air, pollution from wastewater and waste ash, increased shipping and dredging, and the cumulative impact of industrial and related development infrastructure, the release added.
The report also concluded that the freshwater flow into the Sundarbans has been drastically reduced, resulting in substantial increases in siltation and salinity that are threatening the overall balance of the ecosystem. It further found that the site lacks a clear and comprehensive assessment of the combined effects from increasing coastal development.
The report recommended immediate action to secure adequate freshwater flow to the site, and calls for a new integrated management plan taking into account the carrying capacity of this fragile ecosystem that can secure a sustainable balance between socio-economic development and conservation.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that Rampal power plant is situated about 14 kilometers away from the outer boundary of the Sundarbans and 65 kilometers away from the world heritage site.
She added that it is permitted coal-based power plant beyond 10 kilometers area of a deep forest according to international law and legislature.
Former prime minister Khaleda Zia, chief of BNP, on August 24 at a press conference opposed the project saying that it was against the country.
A civic group in Bangladesh has sent a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him for measures to scrap the Bangladesh-India joint-venture near the Sundarbans.