Sunday, November 19, 2017 | ePaper

UNESCO report and Rampal Power Plant

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THE government has been playing hide-and-seek with our citizens regarding the setup of the passionately protested Rampal Power Plant nearby the Sundarbans. The UNESCO has made it clear that no large-scale industrial or infrastructural development should be allowed to proceed in the vicinity of the world heritage site before a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is carried out which is in sharp contrast to what the government delegates said on July 9 involving the UNESCO. Despite protests from every nook and corner of the country and concern expressed by environmentalists, the government's adamancy to setup the environment threatening power plant is mysterious. The nation cannot but observe how the government's adamancy is destroying the pristine beauty and endangering its rich aquatic and animal diversity with the paradoxical progress of the project.
On July 9, Prime Minister's Energy Affairs Adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury briefed newsmen that the UNESCO had allowed the continuation of building at the site and asked to do a SEA. But in reality, the UN Organization has given Bangladesh until December 2018 to implement recommendations made by a UN monitoring mission for protecting the Sundarbans before it could start building the power plant and the conservation situation would be examined at the 43rd Session of the World Heritage Committee in 2019.   In contrast to UNESCO, when the 41st Session was in progress, a Bangladesh Foreign Ministry release said the World Heritage Committee of the UN body had withdrawn its objection to the setting up of the plant at its current site. We get a sense of something seeing the up-side-down policy shift of UNESCO.
The UNESCO had requested Bangladesh to put in place a management system for shipping to minimize negative impacts, including from associated activities such as dredging. It reiterated its request to Bangladesh to undertake the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for any future dredging of the Pashur River. It noted with concern that sea level rise, salt intrusion and reductions in fresh water flows were posing a threat to the Sundarbans' ecosystem and that the area was particularly vulnerable to impacts from these threats. It emphasized on the importance of trans-boundary cooperation between Bangladesh and India regarding the preservation of the Sundarbans and urged Bangladesh to fully implement the recommendations made by a UNESCO mission last year in relation to ensuring adequate freshwater inflows to the mangrove forest.
The UNESCO requested Bangladesh to ensure that these impacts were comprehensively assessed as part of the SEA and adequate technological measures were put in place to mitigate these impacts. It is a question to be solved as to why the government, despite protests from all social strata, is advancing to destroy the Sundarbans by setting up coal-fired plants. For whom the government is working? Who will be benefitted from the destruction of the mangrove forest?

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