TIB's call to stop Rampal plant in Sundarbans
190 industrial plants including 24-red category located in ecologically critical areas
Anisul Islam Noor :
The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has called upon the government to stop Rampal power plant and all other heavy infrastructures near the world's largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans.
TIB demanded visible and effective action before the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee, which is scheduled to be held in Baku, the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan from June 30 to July 10 this year.
Reflecting on the recent declaration of the Sundarbans as "World Heritage in Danger", it also called to stop all other controversial projects and movement of oil and coal carrying tankers through Sundarbans, which is posing threat to the forest.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently has included the name of Sundarbans in the proposed agenda of World Heritage in Danger to discussed in the 43rd session of the organization to be held in the capital Baku of Azerbaijan.
"The proposal to include Sundarbans in the 'World Heritage in Danger' list is concerning," the TIB said in a statement distributed to the media on Monday afternoon.
Ignoring the law, the Department of Environment (DoE) has permitted at least 190 industrial plants in the ecologically critical area (ECA) around the Sundarbans, claiming that those factories have taken enough precautions on pollution.
Contesting this, environmental experts and activists suggested that the factories significantly increase the risk to the ecology of the Sundarbans and should be immediately relocated from the ECA.
These factories include cement manufacturing plants, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) plants, gas cylinder manufacturers, oil refineries, betel nut processing plants, ship building factories, automatic rice husking mills, saw mills, brick kilns, cigarette manufacturing plants, ice factories, fish farms, hatcheries, crab farms, saline water refineries and an iron welding factory.
"We have only allowed those industries in the ecologically critical area that do not release any liquid waste. Before giving them permission, all those industries were measured properly whether they had taken all necessary precautionary measures," Sultan Ahmed, former Director General of Department of Environment (DoE) told The New Nation.
Out of the 190 industrial plants set up in the ecologically critical areas, there are at least 24- red category industries, meaning that those may cause great harm to the ecology, especially a fragile one like the Sundarbans.
As per the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act (amended in 2010) it is prohibited to set up any factories in the ECA without getting an environmental clearance. Certain activities such as the storage of hazardous waste, ship breaking and clearing forests are expressly forbidden.
The government announced a 10-kilometre periphery around the Sundarbans, the largest single patch mangrove forest in the World, as UNESCO categorised it as a World Natural Heritage site in 1997.
The issue came into focus again when the DoE submitted a list of 190 industrial units of which 181 had obtained environment clearance certificate (ECC) from the DoE, and the other nine had received site clearance.