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Dhaka Sunday,  Jul 3, 2022

Rampal Power Plant And The Sunderbans

Anwarul Azim

Uninterrupted supply of power is considered to be precondition for development without which present world can’t move forward. Starting from agriculture to business, industrial production, office work, transportation, housing, human civilization, almost all the economic activities are now largely dependent on electricity. However, it becomes a big challenge to synchronize the increasing demands of modern life and production of electricity in underdeveloped and developing countries. This issue is more crucial in the context of Bangladesh as it has been putting best efforts to become higher middle income country through achieving the vision 2021. For Bangladesh, generation of more power is highly required to keep pace with its growing demands.
Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries of South Asia which is having large number of population. Paving the way for development, Bangladesh, a World Bank recognized lower-middle income country has been moving forward despite various limitations since inception. With a view to meeting the target of the present government to make Bangladesh, a middle-income country by the year 2021 and a developed country by the year 2041, it should increase power generation up to 24000 MW by the year 2021 and to 60000 MW by the year 2041.
Now, the question is how to generate this huge quantity of power? Bangladesh produces 62.38% of its total electricity from natural gas. Gas reserve will significantly go down in near future if this trend of producing electricity from natural gas continues. Oil price in the international market is so volatile that depending on that it is very difficult to go for large amount of electricity generation from oil. On the other hand, it is mere imaginary to produce required electricity from Hydropower to meet the country’s growing demands. In recent years, Bangladesh has laid emphasize on renewable energy to generate electricity. Power generation from Nuclear is relatively expensive and higher technology intensive. Therefore, Coal can be treated as reliable fuel which is also easily available as well as cost effective for larger production of electricity in Bangladesh.
Considering the future energy security, emphasis has been given on coal based power generation in the Power System Master Plan (PSMP)-2010 of mega plan of power sector. According to PSMP-2010, the target of electricity production has been set to 40000 MW by the year 2030 of which 50% (20000 MW) of electricity will be generated from coal. Construction of 1320 MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant at Rampal of Bagerhat district of Bangladesh is one of such initiatives.
Coal has been selected as primary fuel for electricity generation not only in Bangladesh but also in many countries of the world. It may be noted that United States of America (USA) generates 40% of its total electricity from coal whereas Germany 41%, Japan 27%, India 68%, South Africa 93%, Australia78%, Malaysia 33%, and China 79%. Bangladesh produces very nominal amount in this regard which is only 2.05% of its total electricity from coal. In order to accelerate the economic development of the country, it is the demand of time to increase the production of coal-based electricity at the present moment.
The environment friendly 1320 MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant is located14 km far away from the outer boundary of the Sundarbans and 69 km far away from the UNESCO world heritage site. Taking into consideration of the research findings and opinions of the economic, social and technical & technological experts, construction of this mega project is going on. It has been progressing by abiding all rules and regulations of the Department of Environment (DoE) of Bangladesh. Various aspects of environment friendliness of this power project are as follows:

Before construction of a power plant at any place, some issues to be taken in to account e.g. number of population to be shifted, amount of compensation required, whether the land is agricultural or not, the transportation system of that particular area, the environment, the socio-economic impact, the overall development of the area etc. In case of this power project, a minimum number of populations was shifted from the project site to other suitable area. A significant amount of acquired land for this power project was Govt. Khas land and it was barren wet land and unsuitable for agricultural activities. Considering the coal transportation, required sources of water and other important issues, this site was selected for the Maitree Super Thermal Power Project.
Modern Super Critical Technology would be used in this power plant. This highly efficient technology will generate more electricity by using less coal. Provision of Flue Gas De-Sulfurization (FGD) system has been kept in this power project. As a result, SOx will remain controlled in emitted gas, Sulfur dioxide (SO2) will be absorbed almost completely. In the same way, the modern burner will be designed to control the emissions of NOx. For this reason, there is no possibility to cross the safe limits of SOx and NOx emissions.
This power plant will use imported coal with low-ash and low-sulfur content. So, minimum use of coal will produce less ash as well as less sulfur which will be easier to control. The produced ash will be collected in the hopper of Electro Static Precipitator (ESP) and 100% ash will be utilized. As a result, ash emitted from this power plant will not cause any environmental pollution.
Coal handling e.g. transportation, storage and uses in this plant will be done in a fully covered manner. As a result, there is no possibility to contaminate the air or water during coal transportation or handling. So, there is nothing to worry about coal transportation by ships. Coal will be transported in a covered a mini ship (having capacity of 10-12 thousand tons) through a lighterage process. Therefore the possibility of spreading coal during transportation will be zero. Only one mother vessel will come to Hiron point or Akram point once in a week. In this regard, the Environmental Impact and Social Assessment (EISA) study has been conducted which unveiled a positive result.
Since the height of the chimney of Maitree Super Thermal Power Project will be more than 900 feet, the treated air coming out from the chimney will not cause any harm for nature and the environment. The power plant will not use any underground water during operation period. A negligible amount of water (0.05% of the lean period flow) of Pussur River will be used. The usage and wastage of water will be very less. The closed water recycle system through the modern cooling tower will be used for reducing the temperature. Therefore, same water will be re-used after cooling it. A small quantity of water will be discharged in the Pussur River which will be refined and controlled temperature. Unrefined and untreated hot water will not be discharged in the Pussur River from the power plant.
A green belt (carbon sink) is being created in and around the power plant so that it will absorb carbon dioxide emitted from Rampal power plant. This will significantly improve the environment of the region.

As part of this initiative, it has been planned that two lac trees will be planted gradually in and around the plant of which 9500 trees have already been planted. Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (Pvt.) Limited has already signed agreement with the Department of Forest for afforestation and its maintenance. Also a full-time environmental monitoring system has been introduced and will be continued.

Therefore, the plant will not have harmful effects on the forest and the area at all. No harm, rather after establishment of this power plant it will contribute to reduce the dependence of locals on the Sundarbans. Various economic activities e.g. deforestation and cultivation and housing, fishing etc. will be decreased. Moreover, Sundarbans is becoming victim due to some greedy and unscrupulous individuals to make profit. It has been noticed that due to this, incidents like setting fire in the forest are taking place frequently.
As the power plant based economic activities will be expanded and scope of alternative livelihoods of local people will be increased, their dependence on the Sundanbans will be reduced, which will contribute immensely to protect the Sundarbans.

Friendship Power project will strengthen the foundation of national energy security, reliable energy supply in low cost and industrial development will be possible. For ensuring food security of the country, reliable and uninterrupted supply of power for irrigation purpose would be provided.

Looking at the socio-economic aspect, employment opportunities will be created, infrastructures will be developed, health safety of the public’s will be increased, quality of livelihoods will be improved, educational and institutional development and improvement of transportation system and facilities of information communication technologies will be created.

Also the Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) of BIFPCL for the welfare of the local people will accelerate the development of that area. For example, in the project area of BIFPCL, free medical facilities to the local residents have been provided for last two years.

The government has decided to create a local development fund by levying 3 paisa from per unit of electricity generation of coal based power plants. Hence, for 1320 MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Project, about BDT. 30 crores will be deposited to that local development fund. This fund will be utilized for the development of the local people and protection of the forest. Therefore, Rampal Power Plant will not damage rather it will preserve the Sunderbans.

So, I request all that let’s work together for the development of the country, lets contribute to build a self-reliant and a developed nation.

Anwarul Azim
Author: Manager (Public Relations), Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (Pvt.) Limited. The author’s own opinions mentioned in the article.
e-mail: [email protected]

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