The government will talk to the lawyers of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) and other experts and environmental activists over the implementation of the proposed 1,320-megawatt coal-fired power plant at Rampal in Bagerhat near the Sundarbans.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith told this to reporters after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Purchase and Economic Affairs(CCPEA) at the Cabinet Division of the Secretariat on Sunday.
The meeting also approved the draft Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to be signed between Bangladesh and India on buying electricity from the planned coal-fired power plant.
Muhith said that the final deal for power purchase would be signed soon.
The approval to the proposed PPA came as a big jolt to the country’s environmentalists who have been protesting against the initiative to set up the coal-fired power project fearing that it would be disastrous for the flora and fauna of the world’s longest mangrove forest.
But the go-ahead by the CCPEA has now paved the way for the implementation of the project although the Department of Environment (DoE) is yet to clear the project. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report is pending with the DoE.
“Different environmental bodies including BELA have been opposing installation of the coal-based power plant. But in the present circumstance, we’ve no other alternative,” he said.
Muhith said that the environment pollution in the country was within a tolerable limit due to the social forestation programmes of the government.
An agreement was signed on Jan 29 this year between the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) and India’s state-run National Thermal Power Corporation(NTPC) to set up the 1,300-megawatt plant at Rampal, 14 km off the Sundarbans.
Admitting the harmful effects of the coal-based power plant, Muhith emphasised that the government was taking preventive measures: “It’s true that coal-fired power plant isn’t environment-friendly. But pollution control technologies have been set up at Rampal coal power plant to make it environment-friendly.”
The Finance Minister pointed out that before independence, most of the power plants in the country were coal-fired, though the first one was hydro-electric power plant. Till 1968, coal-based power plants were the key tool in the power sector. Even, the USA, Australia, China and India are continuing the operations of coal-fired power plants still now.
He argued that the coal-fired power is the best option for Bangladesh as its production cost is cheaper than the liquid fuel-fired power.
Muhith said that the Cabinet body has approved it in principle as part of the government’s future plan of power generation for the next 20 years of which 50 percent will come from coal-fired power plants.
He mentioned that half of the coal-fired power plants would be run by imported coal while rest will be operated by the locally produced coal.
He said that the work for road construction and setting up of power transmission lines were on progress to implement the Rampal coal-fired power plant.
Muhith said that the agreement on supply of coals for the power plant project would be signed after the infrastructure development works were completed.
He said that though the draft Export Policy for 2012-15 was placed in Sunday’s meeting for endorsement, it was later withdrawn.