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PM defends Rampal power plant as Al Gore raises question
Davos (Switzerland), Special Report:
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina once again strongly defended the construction of Rampal coal-fired power plant project in Bagerhat when former US vice-president Al Gore raised the issue in a plenary session of the 47th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) here in Davos.
The Prime Minister also invited Al Gore, an environmentalist, to visit Bangladesh and see for himself what is happening in Rampal.
"Come to Bangladesh and see for yourself whether it (plant) affects the environment," she said.
Apart from Sheikh Hasina and Al Gore, HSBC CEO Stuart Gulliver and Cofco Agri CEO Jingtao Chi 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.
Blasting those waging a movement centering the Rampal power plant, Hasina said this quarter is creating an ‘unnecessary issue’ regarding the power plant.
"I don't know exactly what they want and what their intention... may be they have a different intention," she said.
The Prime Minister said those opposing the Rampal plant could not place any logic for why and how the plant would affect the environment saying that she had also urged them to see for themselves the power plant site, but they did not response.
Hasina said her government has taken all sorts of measures to protect the environment. "As I'm the Prime Minister of the country, nobody is more concerned than me over any issue ... I won't allow any project where there’s a possibility of any type of damage," she said.
The Rampal power plant is 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 she said adding that the Rampal power plant is a ‘clear coal’ plant where ‘supercritical modern technology’ is 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," she added.
Explaining the preventive measures, Hasina said coal will be transported to the 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, Hasina said her government 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 Barapukuria in Dinajpur has started.
"Barapukuria is a sub-critical power plant. There’s 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’s possible to bring the level of pollution to zero in an ultra-supercritical plant," she said.
Elaborating her government's steps for afforestation in the country, she said the forest coverage of the country was only 7 percent in 1996 when she first took office and the forest coverage is now 17 percent. "The next target is to further raise it to 25 percent," she said.
Asked how she would tackle the situation if the sea level continues to rise and submerges vast areas of the country, the Prime Minister said it is also their prediction that if the sea level rises by one metre, then a vast area of the country would go under water.
Hasina said 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 in the newly emerged char areas, creating a Climate Change Trust Fund with the country’s own funding of $400 million apart from implementing various adaptation and mitigation programmes.
She said the problem over the sea level rise is not created by countries like Bangladesh, rather by the developed ones 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," Hasina added.
Besides, she said, the global community alongside the big financial institutions also has the responsibility to extend support to these countries susceptible to climate change. "We're not emitter, but we're the worst victim," she said.