UNESCO again recommends relocating Rampal plant
UNESCO has once again recommended that the government cancelthe power plant project at Rampal and relocate it elsewhere for securing a better inflow of freshwater in the World Heritage site and a comprehensive integrated management plan for the Sundarban as a whole for avoiding inclusion of it in the list of World Heritage in Danger.
Following a meeting with the Bangladesh officials at Paris on October 28, the World Heritage Committee and IUCN asked Bangladesh to provide a progress report to the World Heritage Centre by December 1, 2016 with 1-page executive summary on the state of conservation of the property.
"On 28 October UNESCO World Heritage Centre and IUCN World Heritage Programme representatives sat together to chart a way forward in addressing core conservation challenges to the Sundarban, the world's largest unbroken mangrove system," a member of the committee told the Daily Observer.
The meeting set the stage for a constructive cooperation and dialogue toward implementation of the mission's recommendations, he added.
However, the report will be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017, in view of possible inclusion in the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Earlier this month, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN released a report of the reactive monitoring mission that took place in March 2016 and was requested by the World Heritage Committee. The mission was tasked with reviewing potential impacts from the construction of the Rampal power plant, assessing risks from climate change, and evaluating the overall management system of the Sundarban, including provisions around shipping safety.
Following the government's move to install a huge coal fired power plant near Sundarban, the UNESCO body expressed fourfold concern and visited the site once and repeatedly suggested the government to relocate the Rampal Power Project from there.
In reply, the State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said, "the project will continue as no decision has been made by the government to stop it."
However, to give reply of the queries of the World Heritage Committee and IUCN, on October 25, the government sent a five- member committee to Paris.
According to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project, the Rampal power plant will produce 7.5 lakh tonnes of fly ash and 2 lakh tonnes of bottom ash per year. About 15 percent of the ash will be generated as a result of burning coal.
Environment experts warns that the Rampal Power Plant project will bring more harm to the country than good, destroying the World Heritage site, since the climate, topography, land use pattern, wetlands, floral and faunal diversity and quality of air and water in the Sundarban will be affected due to the power plant.
The report concludes that the proposed Rampal power plant, a 1,320 megawatt super thermal power plant located just 65 kilometers from the World Heritage property, poses a serious threat to the site. The mission team identified four key concerns related to the plant's construction: pollution from coal ash by air, pollution from wastewater and waste ash, increased shipping and dredging, and the cumulative impact of industrial and related development infrastructure. The mission recommends that the Rampal power plant project be cancelled and relocated to a more suitable location.
The IUCN report also concluded that the freshwater flow into the Sundarban has been drastically reduced, resulting in substantial increases in siltation and salinity that area threatening the overall balance of the ecosystem. It further found that the site lacks a clear and comprehensive assessment of the combined effects from increasing coastal development. The report recommends immediate action to secure adequate freshwater flow to the site, and calls for a new integrated management plan taking into account the carrying capacity of this fragile ecosystem that can secure a sustainable balance between socio-economic development and conservation.
The Rampal Power plant site is located about 14 kilometers away from the Sundarban, a habitat to the Bengal tigers and endangered Irrawaddy dolphin. But the peripheral area of the forest begins within four kilometers from the power plant.