Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday allayed environmental concerns over the coal- fired power plant to be set up jointly with India near the Sundarbans and warned opposition BNP that attempts to create anarchy on the issue will be scuttled with an “iron hand”. “Let me tell you one thing, I would have been the first person to oppose the power plant had there been a slightest chance of damage of the Sundarbans,” she told a press conference at her Ganobhaban residence here.
Hasina issued a stern warning against attempts to create anarchy by “making a non-issue an issue”, saying “we will not hesitate to control it with an iron hand”. The Premier’s comments came three days after Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief and ex-premier Khaleda Zia termed the proposed Rampal coal-fired power plant “anti- people” and “unprofitable” as she asked the government to pull back from the project for the sake of the country’s ecological balance.
“If the project is implemented, our beloved motherland will no longer remain a place worthy of living…no citizen of the country will accept it,” Zia had said while expressing her fear that it would reduce employment opportunities for the people who depend on the Sundarbans mangrove forest, the largest such forest in the world. “We cannot allow anyone to implement its plot to destroy the Sundarbans. It is a timely demand to resist the evil efforts of making profit and gaining unethical interests sacrificing the country’s existence and interests,” Zia had said.
BNP earlier had said it would announce action programmes protesting the 1,320 MW power plant, “considering the behaviour of the government” and extended its support to a left-leaning national committee to protect mineral resources, petroleum, forests and ports. Bangladesh and India last month signed the landmark deal, paving the way for launching the construction work for the coal-fired plant, marking the transition in cooperation from electricity export to generation-level.
Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (Pvt) Limited (BIFPCL), a joint venture enterprise, inked the deal with state-run Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), which was selected under an open international tender for constructing the “ultra-super critical thermal plant” in Bangladesh’s southwestern Rampal near the Sundarbans. India’s Exim Bank would finance the USD 1.49 billion project, scheduled to start generating power in 2019. Bangladesh will share 50 per cent of the profit with India while the produced electricity would be used entirely by Bangladesh.
Hasina said the proposed plant would be a “ultra-super critical plant” having “all available ultra modern technology to prevent pollution” using “highest standard coal to be imported from Australia, Indonesia and South Africa” instead of low-grade Indian coal.