Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina once again defended the construction of Rampal Coal-fired Power Plant in Bagerhat as former US vice-president Al Gore raised the issue in a plenary session of the 47th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The prime minister also invited Al Gore, a globally famed environmentalist, to visit Bangladesh and see for himself that “what is happening in Rampal”. “Come to Bangladesh and see yourself whether it (plant) affects the environment,” she said.
Apart from Sheikh Hasina and Al Gore, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, CEO of the HSBC Stuart Gulliver, Cofco Agri CEO Jingtao Chi also took part in the plenary session titled “Leading the Fight against Climate Change” at Congress Hall here on Wednesday evening.
PM’s Deputy Press Secretary Md Nazrul Islam briefed reporters after the event.
Coming down heavily on those who are staging movement centering the Rampal power plant, Sheikh Hasina said a quarter was creating an “unnecessary issue” regarding the power plant.
“I don’t know exactly what they want and what their intention in mind . . . maybe they have a different intention in their mind,” she said.
The premier said that the people who were opposed to Rampal project could not point out any logical reason for why and how the plant would affect the environment and even did not respond to her call to visit the plant site either.
Sheikh Hasina said her government took all sorts of measures to protect environment.
“As I’m the prime minister of the country, nobody is more concerned than me in any issue . . . I won’t give permission for any project where there is a possibility of any type of damage,” she said.
The premier said that the Rampal power plant was being set up around 14 kilometers away from the outer boundary of the Sundarbans while it is about 70 kilometers away from the world heritage site.
Moreover, she said, Rampal power plant was going to be a “clear coal” plant where “supercritical modern technology” was being used.
“We’ve taken all kinds of measures to protect the environment of the Sundarbans and the surrounding areas as well as to protect the habitat and biodiversity of that region,” the premier added.
Explaining the preventive measures, Sheikh Hasina said coal would be transported to power plant site from deep sea in covered barges, while covered and low-sound engines will be used in the barges and therefore “there is no possibility of environment pollution”.
Referring to the construction of Barapukuria coal-fired power plant in Dinajpur, Sheikh Hasina said her government had started setting up coal-fired power plants in Barapukuria in 2000.
She said there was no negative impact on the densely populated and green area of Barapukuria though two “sub-critical” plants were constructed there. The land of the area has become more fertile and more rice is being produced there, she said.
The prime minister mentioned that now the work for constructing the 3rd coal-based plant at Boropukuria in Dinajpur.
“Barapukuria is a sub-critical power plant. There is a gulf of difference between a sub-critical and an ultra-supercritical power plant. Supercritical plants emit 40 percent less carbon, sulphur and nitrogen gas compared to sub-critical plants. It is possible to bring the level of pollution to zero in an ultra-supercritical plant,” she said.
The premier told the meet that as part of Bangladesh’s commitment for environment her government spearheads a massive afforestation campaign saying that when she first took office in 1996 the country’s forest coverage was only 7 percent while the figure now stood at 17 percent against a target to bring 25 percent of the landmass under forest cover.
Asked how she would tackle the situation if the sea level continues to rise and submerges a vast area of the country, the prime minister said that it is also their prediction that if the sea level rises by one meter, then a vast area of the country would go under water.
Sheikh Hasina said that her government has been taking various measures to face such adverse impacts of climate change like creating green belt in the coastal areas through afforestation, afforestation in the newly risen char areas, creating a Climate Change Trust Fund with own funding of $400 million apart from implementing various adaptation and mitigation programmes.
She said that the problem in regard to the sea level rise is not created by the countries like Bangladesh, rather by the developed nations as carbon emission is causing global warming and thus leading to sea-level rise.
“The rich and the developed countries have their due responsibility to assist these climate vulnerable countries like Bangladesh as well as island nations,” Sheikh Hasina added.
Besides, she said, that the global community alongside the big financial institutions also have responsibilities to extend support to these countries susceptible to climate change.
“We’re not emitter, but we’re the worst victim,” she said.