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Saturday, June 27, 2015, Ashar 13, 1422 BS, Ramadan 9, 1436 Hijr

Double-blow to Rampal power plant  project
Crisis over funds, fuel mounts
Published : Saturday, 27 June, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 7
Jannatul Ferdousy
The much-talked-about coal-based power plant planned to be implemented at Rampal in Bagerhar district in the country is facing a deep crisis over mobilization of funds.
The government initiated the process of setting up the 1320MW plant in 2012 but arrangements for funds and fuel were yet to be finalized.
On environmental and social standards the plan for the plant has drawn much criticism from environmentalists, economists and other stake holders. A section of citizens have already raised a public outcry against the power plant since the beginning on the grounds that it would tell upon the largest mangrove forest, Sundaraban, due to its proximity with the project site.
But the government was determined to establish the plant at Rampal near Sundarban. In 2012 Bangladesh Power Development Board (PDB) and the Indian National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) signed an agreement to set up the plant jointly. Since then the Power Division of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources has been struggling to mobilize funds. Three years have passed but the government is yet to ensure financing for the project.
According to the Guardian, a London based newspaper, on June 25, three French banks said no to fund it due to environmental and social ambiguity and they detected serious deficiency in the project design and planning.
Earlier, two Norwegian pension funds have withdrawn their investments from NTPC which was involved in the project. There is an allegation that the government entered into the agreement violating environmental laws.
The State Minister for Power and Energy and Mineral Resources did not respond to phone calls of this correspondent about the Rampal power project.
Recently, the government decided to launch a road show in Japan and South Korea to collect funds for it, official sources said.
The project would also not be allocated financing from the Annual Development Programme (ADP). The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are not interested to finance for the project.
According to sources, the government has decided to borrow export credit agency (ECA) loans which require interest at high rates, said some officials of the Power Division.
Environment activists have expressed serious concern that the plant, less than 10 miles from the protected Sundarban mangrove forest, would lead to environmental degradation due to possible increase in  ship traffic, dredging, and pollution of air and water.
To implement the project Indian NTPC and Bangladesh's PDB formed a company named India Bangladesh-Friendship Power Company (IBFPC) in 2012.
The IBFPC estimated Tk 14,000 crore for the project. An amount of  Tk 10,000 crore was supposed to be collected through floatation of (Engineering Procurement  and Construction) tender and the rest Tk 4,000 crore  by Bangladesh and India from their own sources.
The plant is also facing a crisis of mobilizing fuel. Only three countries now export coal. They are South Africa, Indonesia and Australia. Now Indonesia has stopped exporting coal.
Under the contract the project is supposed to go into power generation by 2018.
Related story on page 17

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