Preserving World Heritage

UNESCO to assess impact of 1320MW Rampal PP

Shamim Jahangir

22 March, 2016 12:00 AM printer

UNESCO to assess impact of 1320MW Rampal PP

UNESCO’s reactive monitoring mission will visit Sundarbans from March 23 to March 25, 2016, to assess possible impact of the proposed 1320MW Rampal Power Project on the world heritage site.
The mission set the schedule of the visit at a time when the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (BIFPCL) is taking preparation to sign Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract with Indian firm BHEL this month.   
A three-member team of UNESCO will visit the site and officials of forest and environment department, power division and shipping ministry will accompany the team. Two members of the team Monday arrived Dhaka and another member will land here today (Tuesday).
Earlier, the team was scheduled to visit Bangladesh on February 6-12, 2016 but the programme was deferred to the current month.
During the 39th session of the world heritage committee meeting regarding the state of conservation of the world heritage property in Bangladesh, the mission observed that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for dredging the Pashur River, adjacent to the Sundarbans, did not include a specific assessment of the potential impacts on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), and requested Bangladesh to submit an assessment of potential impacts on OUV to the World Heritage Centre.
In response, the government said, the Mongla port authority is responsible to maintain the navigability in the river.
The mission also requested Bangladesh for conducting a comprehensive strategic environmental assessment (SEA) in order to assess the indirect and cumulative impacts from the power plants and other developments in the vicinity of the property, including a specific assessment of the potential impacts on its OUV.
The Bangladesh Power Development Board in 2013 conducted EIA through CEGIS for implementing the project.                 
During the mission programme, they will visit biodiversity and wildlife of Karamjal areas of Sundarbans and the site of 1320MW Rampal power project.
The mission will discuss with officials of the BIFPCL and local officials about the Rampal power project on March 23, 2016. On March 24, 2016, the mission will visit coal accident site in the Sundarbans, that took place in October 2015.
In the same day, the team will visit Harbaria where cargo is transferred from big ships to smaller vessels as well as the oil tanker accident site in the Shella River in the mangrove forest.
On March 25, 2016, the team will visit the site at Bhola of the Sundarbans where a ship capsized. They will also discuss with Mongla port chairman, researchers, teacher of Khulna varsity in the same day. During their visit, the team will meet top officials of the ministry of environment and forests today.   
Earlier, BIFPCL Managing Director Ujjal Kumar Bhattacharya told daily sun that they are ready to meet UNESCO team on Rampal issue.
The BIFPCL has proposed to sign the EPC deal for the Rampal coal-fired power plant between March 25 and March 28, he said.  
“We have proposed to sign the EPC contract with Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd on March 25-28,” he said.
Bangladesh Power development Board and India’s National Thermal Power Corporation will jointly implement the power project in a 50-50 joint-venture.
The EPC deal will involve $1.39 billion, which will be provided by EXIM Bank of India as credit.
The first unit of the Rampal plant, having the capacity to generate 660MW of electricity, is expected to start feeding the national grid in December 2019.
The managing director of the power project said the actual electricity tariff for the power project would be determined after signing the coal procurement deal.