Prime Minister’s Energy Adviser Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury on Sunday said Unesco has given its nod to Rampal coal-fired power plant near the Sundarbans after getting consent from 12 countries without vote in this regard. “The statement issued by the Foreign Ministry is absolutely correct. Unesco deleted the name of Rampal from its resolution and dropped the Sundarbans from its danger list. But it has asked Bangladesh government to submit a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) report by next year before its scheduled meeting,” he told reporters at a briefing at Biduyt Bhaban in the city.
The Power and Energy Ministry arranged the briefing against the backdrop of different environmental groups’ claim that the government’s claim is not correct. On Thursday last, a Foreign Ministry statement claimed that the World Heritage Committee of Unesco has withdrawn its earlier objection to the construction of Rampal power plant project at its current location. The decision was made at the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee being held in Krakow, Poland, the Foreign Ministry added. The PM adviser noted that the government will submit the SEA report to Unesco within the stipulated timeframe although it is not mandatory as per the country’s existing law. “Actually, Unesco wants to know the government’s strategic plan about the future mitigation measures once the Rampal power plant is built,” he said. He said Unesco has asked Bangladesh to ensure increased freshwater within the Sundarbans area for which the government will undertake dredging works in the rivers in the forest area. He said an environment impact assessment (EIA) is mandatory as per Bangladesh Law which was done earlier. But there is no contraction between SEA and EIA, he added. Tawfiq Elahi, however, admitted that Unesco in its resolution has asked the government not to build any large infrastructure in and around the World Heritage site of Sundarbans. But this call is applicable for future activities and the large infrastructures do not include the Rampal power plant. “It’s a clear shift by the world body from its earlier stance on Rampal,” he said. The PM’s adviser said the Rampal power plant project’s activities will continue. Power Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus informed Rampal power plant’s Indian EPC contractor has already started works and mobilised manpower. Power Plant’s first unit will come into operation by June 2019 and second unit by December 2019, he added.