Dhaka – Bangladesh Nationalist Party chief Khaleda Zia has asked the government to stop the construction of a coal-fired power plant at a controversial site near the world’s largest mangrove forest in southern Bangladesh.
Khaleda, a former prime minister, made the call at a press conference on Wednesday as civic groups have been asking the government to scrap all procedure to set up the Bangladesh-India joint-venture power plant.
She said there are other forms of fuel and so are other places to set up a power plant, but there are only one Sundarbans.
Moreover while other countries are moving away from coal-based power plants, Bangladesh’s decision to build one just on the biggest mangrove forest is hypocritical and irrational, she said.
Of the total cost for the Rampal power project, Bangladesh would bear 15 per cent, India 15 per cent and the rest 70 percent would be provided through bank loans, she said.
If the Indian company failed to repay its share of the loan, Bangladesh would have to take up the whole burden, observed the former premier.
Again, investing only 15 per cent of the project and taking 50 per cent of the total tax free profit was not fair as it was Bangladesh that would have to face 100 percent environmental adversity, Khaleda pointed out.
She proposed that Bangladesh should walk away from such suicidal move immediately.
Electricity is required for country’s development but if country’s interest is hampered, country’s ecology is destroyed due to the production of electricity then that decision is anti-state and anti-people.
“Rampal coal based power plant is such an anti-people decision.”
Khaleda alleged that the government was shouldering this anti-people project ignoring their opinions.
She also alleged that although the government has all the documents on the adverse impact of the power plant, it is denying to change its stance rather became desperate to implement the project hurriedly.
“The autocratic government does not care of public opinion and country’s interests.”
People are skeptical and concerned about the government’s desperateness to implement the project hurriedly though the project is economically not profitable, she added.
The BNP chief accused the government of implementing the project even ignoring the concerns by UNESCO that declared the forest a world heritage.
She accused that around 8000 families were evicted without giving any compensation from the project area.
Khaleda cited that Indian’s National Thermal Power Plant wanted to establish a coal based power plant in Maddhya Pradesh but the Indian government rejected the proposal as it will adversly affect the environment.
Comparing between that project and Rampal power plant, Khaleda said India did not allow such project in their territory but doing it in Bangladesh only for business interests. “And Bangladesh government, who is not responsible to people, has given approval.”
She also mentioned that in 2008 a coal based power plant project was taken near Rajib Gandhi National Park but the Indian government was compelled to scrap the project in the face of peoples’ movement.
Khaleda said the Rampal power plant near Sundarbans will have a long term impact on Bangladesh’s ecology and environment.