The government’s insistence on building the Rampal thermal power plant near the Sundarbans despite waves of protests is intended to please India and ensure the Awami League’s stay in power, BNP leader Rafiqul Islam Mia has claimed.
He said this at an event in capital Dhaka on Monday, reacting to the unveiling of the Bangladesh-India joint venture’s foundation plaque on Oct 5.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday jointly unveiled the plaque at a function throwing open the import of electricity from India through the Bangladesh-India Power Transmission Centre in Kushtia.
Environmentalists, political activists, and Rampal’s local people apprehend the plant will endanger the very existence of the world’s largest mangrove forest located only 14 kilometres away from the proposed plant site.
BNP, the main opposition party, is also against the project.
“The government has agreed to this project to ensure India’s unconditional support to secure another term [in power]. We think they have overlooked the country’s interest,” said Rafiqul Islam Mia on Monday.
He also urged the people of India to create public opinion against this project for the sake of the environment.
“The government’s decision to set up the Rampal power plant is suicidal,” he said at the event arranged by Democratic Movement at the National Press Club.
“This project will destroy our Sundarbans. Bangladesh’s environment will be devastated,” he said.
“Environmentalists, experts and all the people are protesting against the building of the power plant near the Sundarbans,” the BNP Standing Committee member said, slamming the plan, which many believe will badly impact the reserved forest.
He said the government was not heeding the protests, showing that it did not care two hoots for people’s feelings.
Bangladesh inked an agreement with India in January last year to set up the coal-fired ‘1,320MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Project’ in a joint venture.
The two neighbours will have equal stakes in the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Limited that will run the Rampal project.
The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports says pollutants from the plant will wreck the Sundarbans fragile ecology, endangering its very existence.
The protesters have already held demonstrations and threatened to thwart the foundation stone-laying ceremony on Oct 22 at Rampal, if the project is not scrapped by Oct 11.
Rafiqul Islam Mia on Monday also blamed the Awami League-led government for the current crisis over the upcoming national elections.
“The government is afraid of being tried for its corruption and loot. That’s why they are trying to secure another term by planning a unilateral election,” he said.
The BNP leader urged the people to take to the streets after Oct 24 to bolster the opposition’s movement for a nonpartisan government to oversee the polls.
He also said the incumbent Election Commission was loyal to only the government. “Fair polls cannot be organised by this EC.”-bdnews24.com