Before getting the environmental impact assessment (EIA) clearance, the Power Division has moved to get approval from the Cabinet Economic Affairs Committee for signing a power purchase agreement (PPA) to buy electricity from the proposed power plant near the Sundarbans.
The Bangladeshi state-owned Power Development Board (PDB) and the Indian state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) have agreed to jointly develop the plant in very environmentally sensitive area in Bangladesh following a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Dhaka and New Delhi in 2010.
To implement the project, the PDB and the NTPC already floated a joint venture power company named Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (Pvt) Ltd (BIFPC) and got registration from the Office of the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms under the Bangladesh Companies Act.
The PDB and the NTPC have initiated the PPA recently in New Delhi during the visit of PDB officials. Besides, the PDB has been developing the land of the proposed plant before the EIA clearance.
Now, the Power Division has moved to get approval of the Cabinet Economic Affairs Committee for a proposed power purchase agreement (PPA) to facilitate the final signing of PPA between the PDB and NTPC to buy electricity from the proposed 1320 MW Bangladesh-India joint venture coal-fired power plant, said officials at the Power Division.
As per agreement, the PDB will buy electricity from the plant for a 15-year-tenure and tariff of the power will be fixed later considering the cost of the project.
The move by the Power Division has raised a big question as to how could it move for securing the Cabinet body’s approval before getting any clearance on the EIA from the authorities concerned.
Because, many environmental experts alleged that when the Indian Environment Authorities rejected a plan for setting up any coal-fired power plant near Indian part of Sundarbans, the PDB has selected a site in Rampal of Bagerhat district, just 15 km off the world’s largest mangrove forest.
The country’s environmental experts and activists have been vigorously opposing the 1320 MW coal-fired power plant near the Sundarbans expressing their grave concerns. In a recent seminar organised by the FBCCI, they said the proposed plant would invite a disaster to the ecology of the mangrove forest.
“We’ve only inherited one mangrove forest. The planned coal-fired power plant will definitely be a suicidal one for us. It’ll result in a terrible disaster for the environment,” secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (BAPA) Iqbal Habib told the seminar.
At the same function, Buet Professor Dr Ijaz Hossain said he has got a draft copy of EIA report. “But the EIA study done by consultant is totally incomplete and inadequate which failed to cover sensitive issues,” he told the recent seminar, adding that the study should be carried out again.
Power Division Secretary was not available for comment on the issue. But, PDB’s Member (company affairs) Abul Quasem told UNB that they have selected the Rampal site for the proposed power plant following an “initial Environment Examination Clearance” from the Department of Environment.
He informed that the PDB also conducted an EIA study by the Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS), a wing of the state-owned Water Development Board (WDB).
“But we’ve not received the clearance from DoE yet although we submitted the EIA report and required mitigation measures about the Rampal power plant,” he said.
Many power sector experts suggest that Bangladesh should conduct the EIA study by an internally reputed, recognised and acceptable independent environmental expert firm before moving for the coal-fired power plant near the Sundarbans.