Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has lashed out at the anti-Rampal power plant campaigners saying those who are agitating ‘in Dhaka’ have no idea how far the site is from the Sundarbans.
She also asked the protesters to visit the project site to see how far the site is from the Sundarbans instead of ‘shedding tears’ for the Royal Bengal Tigers, ignoring the ‘benefit to the people’.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the 57th convention Institute of Engineers, Bangladesh (IEB) in Chittagong, Hasina reiterated that “the power plant will not harm the largest mangrove forest in the world.”
“Visit Rampal and see how far it is from the Sundarbans. I would advise the protestors to march from Rampal to Sundarbans then they will get an idea,” she said.
Earlier this month, when the issue was raised by environment activist and former US vice president Al Gore during a plenary session at the World Economic Forum, Hasina invited Gore to visit Bangladesh to see it for himself.
The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources and Ports, which is leading the protests, has observed an eight-hour general strike in Dhaka on Thursday.
The 1320 MW coal-based power plant in Bagerhat’s Rampal Upazila, a joint venture of India and Bangladesh, is currently under construction.
The proximity of the plant and likely damage to the Sundarbans prompted protests from several left-leaning organisations from the beginning.
Environmentalists say the plant would be a significant threat to the Sundarbans, which UNESCO designated a World Heritage site.
But the government has refuted the environmentalists’ concern and repeatedly said that the project would not affect the forest.
Hasina said on Saturday that the ant-power plant camp is not only campaigning in Bangladesh but across the world.
“But the power plant is being built in Rampal, not in the Sundarbans.
“It’s being built at a site besides the Pashur River, which turns out to be a ditch and an inaccessible site, far from the Sundarbans,” she said.
The prime minister said the site of the power plant, an ultra-supercritical one, is 65 km off the Sundarbans. “We are using cutting-edge technology, and we plan a plantation of 500,000 trees in and around the site.”
Referring to the recent capsize of a vessel with a thousand tonne of coal on the river near the forest, Hasina said, “Whether the environmentalists did any examination about the impact of the capsizing of the barge… they should have visited the site to verify its effect?”
She came down hard on the protesters. “You run your movement from Dhaka. You have never been to Rampal.”
Hasina claimed the anti-power plant camp ignores the ‘benefit to the people’ and shed tears for the tigers.
On a lighter note, she advised protesters to meet the Royal Bengal Tigers in the Sundarbans and ask whether they were facing the problem.