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Rampal Thermal Power Plant at Sundarbans, Bangladesh


Description:

Sundarbans is the natural habitat of famous ‘Royal Bengal Tiger' and the halophytic mangrove forest in the world. Due to its natural flora and fauna, UNESCO recognized Sundarbans as World Heritage Site in 1997. This nature’s wonder is under threat because of a recently proposed 1320-MW thermal power plant to be established near the Sundarban at Rampal. In 2010, the Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company Ltd, a Bangladesh-India joint venture between the state-run Power Development Board (PDB) of Bangladesh and India's National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), decided to set up the plant at Rampal at a cost of $1.5 billion; PDB and NTPC will implement the project on a 50:50 equity basis [2]. Of the total project cost, 70 per cent will arranged through loans and the remaining 30 per cent will equally be shared by the PDB and NTPC [2]. Land acquisition process was initiated in December 2010. Although the government is assuring that the coal-based project will be constructed using modern technology and will be less polluted, activists argue that as the power plant located very close to the Sundarban will certainly damage the natural habitat of Sundarban jungle [1].

Even before the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was done, 1,834 acres of land was acquired for the project. The land was mostly agricultural and for shrimp aquaculture pond (gher). The people of that locality solely depend on the agriculture and shrimp culture for their livelihood. So, people do not want to give their land for the project. The land acquisition was forcefully done by the government without the consent of the people [3]. The activists pointed out that the contract for the power plant is non-transparent and unequal many alleged that Indian government will be more beneficial than the Bangladesh. This is also one line of protest among the Bangladeshi people that Bangladeshi Government is sacrificing its people’s interest [3, 4] Also, different studies have observed that the project would severely affect the natural habitat of Sundarbans. Many scholarly studies found the proposed coal fired power plant as the destroyer of the largest forest in Bangladesh [3, 5]. The project is objected by people from different corner of both India and Bangladesh. In September 2013, many people from Bangladesh under the banner “National Committee on Protection of Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports” organized a long march to protest the construction of the thermal power plant [2].

UPDATE July2016: Despite the long protest march earlier this year to stop the Rampal coal plant, and protecting the Sundarbans forest, on July 12 2016 a contract was signed to finally install the plant. Since then, the protests have started again in Bangladesh. 

UPDATE 2017. In August 2017, a two-day conference titled Sundarbans Solidarity Action Networking and Green Energy Solutions for Bangladesh was organized in Berlin, Germany. It was organised by National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh (NCBD), European Network and was attended by  professors from universities with various international environmental organisation’s representative, specialists from Bangladesh, and Bangladeshi researchers, students and professionals from European Countries. More than one hundred- environment, nature and biodiversity based organisations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, 350.org., World Wild Foundation (WWF), Women Engage for the Common Future, Bank Truck etc. expressed their solidarity with the declaration of this Berlin conference to save Sundarbans and to promote renewable energy in Bangladesh. http://www.dailyfinland.fi/worldwide/1915/Cancellation-of-power-plant-demanded-to-protect-Sundarbans

 In India too, there have been protests and mobilizations against the construction of the thermal power plant in Rampal in different parts of the country. However, the strongest anti-Rampal Solidarity Network in India is in West Bengal, which will have a direct impact because the Sundarbans are a continuous stretch of mangrove forest, with 40% of it falling on Indian ground. In October 2017, during the 5th National Coal and Thermal Power Gathering in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, activists from West Bengal stressed the importance of Sundarbans as a shield against cyclones, and a source of subsistence for the local communities on both sides of the border.  Ironically, all the major players involved in the development of the Rampal project are Indian government-owned entities. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Rampal Thermal Power Plant at Sundarbans, Bangladesh
Country:Bangladesh
State or province:Bangladesh
Location of conflict:City-Rampal, Bagerhat
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Deforestation
Thermal power plants
Specific commodities:Land
Electricity
Coal

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Power generation: 1320 MW

The proposed power plant will use about 4.75 million tonnes of coal annually. It will generate about 0.3 million tonnes ashes and around 0.5 million tonnes sludge and liquid waste. It would also emit a good amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) [5]

However the government sources claimed that the power plant will use modern technology so that pollution level can be minimized. Also the plant authorities ensured the protection of the mangrove forest and environmental management [2].

The plant is promoted by the Indian government-owned NTPC Ltd. The loan component of the plant is set to be provided by the Indian EXIM Bank. The main order for the construction of the plant was reported to be given to BHEL, again owned by the Indian government. http://www.huffingtonpost.in/jai-sharda/the-indiabangladesh-rampa_b_10625552.html

Project area:742
Level of Investment:1,500,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company from Bangladesh
North-West Power Generation Co. Ltd (NWPGCL) from Bangladesh - Executor
National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) from India - Executor
Power Development Board (BPDB) from Bangladesh - Executor
Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) from India
Relevant government actors:Government of India
Government of Bangladesh
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:National Committee on Protection of Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, Bangladesh

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Women
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Strikes

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Strengthening of participation
Development of alternatives:The protestors request the government to explore alternative site and means to generate energy without destroying the Sundarbans [2].
According to the protesters, discharge from the plant like fly ash and Sulphur dioxide will have disastrous consequences for the fauna and flora of the mangrove forests. The protesters say the plant is not merely dangerous for the Sundarbans' ecology but it also poses threat to local livelihoods. They demanded the Rampal Thermal Power Plant project in Bagerhat, just 14 km away from the Sundarbans, be shelved forever [6].
According to the protestors that ‘there are many alternatives for power generation, but there is no alternative for Sundarban.' They also ask Indian People to join them to save this World Heritage Site [3].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Activists have pointed out that the project is a gross violation of Environment Conservation Act (1995) of Bangladesh. Also before the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was done, 1834 acres of land, that was mostly agricultural and shrimp aquaculture pond had been acquired for the proposed 1320 MW power plant project. That was done by the government without the consent of the people by using police force and local goons [3]. For the EIA local people experts and concerned citizens opinions were also not taken.
People also raised questions that NTPC being the main executing agency cannot set up large coal based power plant within 20 to 25 km distance of forest, agricultural land and residential area in India. So they will not allow NTPC to set up a power plant to close to Sundarban in Bangladesh [3]
UPDATE July2016: Despite the long protest march earlier this year to stop the Rampal coal plant, and protecting the Sundarbans forest, on July 12 a contract was signed to finally install the plant.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

The Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995
http://www.moef.gov.bd/html/laws/env_law/153-166.pdf

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Final Report on Environmental Impact Assessment of 2x (500-660) MW Coal Based Thermal Power Plant to be Constructed at the Location of

Khulna
http://www.bpdb.gov.bd/bpdb/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=280&Itemid=141

Environmental Impact of Coal based Power Plant of Rampal on the Sundarbans and Surrounding areas by Dr. Abdullah Harun Chowdhury
http://bagerhatsociety.com/apanel/admin/download/tdwn2573136.pdf

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Rampal power plant will threaten world's biggest mangrove forests: TIME
http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/old/index.php?ref=MjBfMDlfMjdfMTNfMV85MF8xODQ5NjY=

Rampal power station
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Rampal_power_station

[1] Rampal power plant violates environmental law
http://archive.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/rampal-power-plant-violates-environmental-law/

[3] Rampal Coal Fired Power Plant On Sundarbans: A Project Of Deception And Mass Destruction
http://www.countercurrents.org/muhammad190913.htm

[4] Who gains, who loses?
http://archive.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/who-gains-who-loses/

[5] Environmental Impact of Coal based Power Plant of Rampal on the Sundarbans and Surrounding areas by Dr. Abdullah Harun Chowdhury
http://bagerhatsociety.com/apanel/admin/download/tdwn2573136.pdf

[6] Activists launch march against power plant in Bangladesh
http://china.org.cn/environment/2013-09/25/content_30126359.htm

Daily Sun, 16th july 2016 - Fresh protests announced against Rampal coal power
http://www.daily-sun.com/post/151486/Fresh-protests-announced-against-Rampal-coal-power

Dhaka Tribune, 14th July 2016 - Activists denounce Rampal deal
http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2016/jul/14/activists-denounce-rampal-deal

[2] Protest over Indo-Bangla power project near Sundarbans
http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-09-24/news/42361199_1_power-development-board-power-project-power-plant

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Long Live Sundarban
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siEG6ZzNBCw

Meta information

Contributor:Swapan Kumar Patra
Last update23/10/2017

Images

 

Activists of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports protested against the Power Plant

Source http://observerbd.com/2014/09/14/43103.php#sthash.Sgw07JXg.dpuf