Contrary to govt claim, UNESCO reiterates concern over Rampal power plant

  • News Desk, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2017-07-31 10:59:16 BdST

bdnews24

UNESCO has reiterated concerns about the environmental impact of the Rampal coal-fired power plant near the Sundarbans, in a new report contrary to the government’s claim that the UN agency has withdrawn its objection.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee in a Jul 30 report insisted that no development should be allowed to proceed without a thorough assessment of the environmental impact.

It welcomes the government’s decision to carry out a strategic environmental assessment or SEA for the south-west region of Bangladesh.

The report “requests the state party to ensure that any large-scale industrial and/or infrastructure developments will not be allowed to proceed before the SEA has been completed, and to submit a copy of the SEA to the World Heritage Centre for review … as soon as it is available”.

The report also voiced concerns about the effects of air and water pollution, the removal of freshwater and the increase in shipping in the area due to the operations of the power plant.

UNESCO called on the Bangladesh government to ensure these aspects were adequately covered by the new assessment and that the necessary measures were adopted to mitigate their impact.

On Jul 9, the prime minister’s Energy Adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury claimed that UNESCO had reconsidered its opposition to the Rampal construction project after hearing arguments on mitigating measures by the government.

A similar claim was made by the foreign ministry on Jul 6. The foreign ministry had said a delegation led by Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury had convinced the World Heritage Committee about the government’s plans at a meeting in Poland.

The anti-Rampal plant camp platform, National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, had doubted the government claim.
 
After the UNESCO published its report, the committee’s Member Secretary Anu Muhammad said the government's statement "issued hastily on the back of false information" contradicts the report's findings.
 
"It doesn't specifically mention the Rampal power plant, but called on the government to drop all plans for infrastructure and industrial projects near the Sundarbans," he told bdnews24.com on Monday.
 
“We have been saying that the government is being dishonest and adamant over the Rampal power plant. Following the UNESCO report, we urge the government to drop the Rampal power plant and other planned infrastructure projects and formulate regulations to save the forest."