The proposed Rampal power plant project will bring more harm than good for the country destroying the world heritage Sundarbans, according to an independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
The EIA of physical, biological, social and economic environment indicates that most of the impacts of the coal-fired power plant are negative and irreversible, which can’t be mitigated in any way. So the climate, topography, land use pattern, air and water (surface and ground both) quality, wetlands, floral and faunal diversity, capture fisheries and tourism in the Sundarbans will be affected permanently due to the proposed coal-fired power plant.
Dr Abdullah Harun Chowdhury, a professor of Environmental Science Discipline at Khulna University, conducted the EIA titled ‘Environmental Impact of Coal based Power Plant of Rampal on the Sundarbans (World Largest Mangrove Forest) and Surrounding Areas’. The EIA is an assessment of the possible positive or negative impacts that a proposed project may have on the environment, consisting of the environmental, social and economic aspects.
The environmental impact of the Rampal power plant on the Sundarbans and surrounding areas was studied from August 2011 to July 2012 in Rampal, Mongla and the Sundarbans. The physico-chemical conditions of air, water and soil, and biological conditions of the proposed coal-fired area (Rampal), Mongla and Sundrabans were studied.
Increased water-logging, river erosion, noise pollution and health hazards; decreasing of ground water table; loss of culture fisheries, social forestry and health hazards, and major destruction of agriculture will take place due to the Rampal Power Plant, the assessment says.
These problems may be reversible after long mitigation process except agriculture. Mitigation of agricultural loss will be very difficult and many people will turn landless.
The EIA indicates the study area is not suitable for industrialisation and urbanisation. By establishing the coal-fired power plant, only electrification in the rural area, and a very few job and localised business facilities will be increased. But, the benefits of power plant is very poor than that of negative irreversible impact.
“So, the selected area is not suitable to establish any type of coal-based power plant in the contexts of economic, social, physical and environment,” the EIA report says.
Dr Abdullah Harun Chowdhury told that flora and fauna are indicating that some plants and animals are already on the verge extinct due to natural climatic hazards.
“Due to pollution of the coal-fired power plant, the rest of the flora and fauna will be destroyed changing the air, water and soil quality of the study areas.”
He said the wind flow indicates that the total study areas -- Rampal, Mongla and the Sundarbans -- will be affected by the toxic gases and ashes of the coal-based power plant in different seasons.
Dr Harun said about 0.75 to 1 kg of coal is needed to fire to generate one kilobyte of power and about 47 lakh tonnes of coal should be burned annually to keep the plant operational.
“The power plant will generate 7 lakh tonnes of sky ash and 2 lakh tonnes of bottom ash per year. As the ashes contain sulfur, carbon dioxide, arsenic, mercury, lead, chromium, and cadmium, it will bring harm to the environment,” he said.
The environmental scientist said the Sundarbans reserve forest is already facing threats from natural calamity, deforestation, rise in salinity and extinction of many species mainly due to human carelessness, ignorance and lack of implementation of laws, poaching and illegal wildlife trade and the power plant will welcome new kind of havoc for the forest.
The Rampal Power Plant will burn around 4.75 million tonnes of coal annually when more or less 0.3 million tonnes ashes and around 0.5 million tonnes sludge and liquid waste may be produced. It would also emit a good amount of carbon dioxide, the key factor for global warming; some other toxic gases and airborne particles, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a USA-based group.
Prof Dr M A Sattar in his study (2011) showed that the groundwater of the Poshur would be polluted by the huge amount of waste produced due to burning of the coal and the toxic substances can contaminate drinking water supplies and damage vital organs and the nervous system of people living around the place and the natural resources of the Sundarbans.
The proposed 1,320-megawatt thermal power plant will be a joint venture of Bangladesh Power Development Board and NTPC Ltd, India, under the name of Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company. Accordingly, Bangladesh and India in 2009 signed a deal to set up two power plants in Shapmari and Katakhali, 14-kilometer away from the Sundarbans.
On August this year, the Department of Environment under the Ministry of Environment and Forests approved its environment clearance following the findings of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report prepared by the Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) to set up the coal-fired Rampal power plant near the Sundarbans.