Don’t build dirty coal-fired Rampal plant, Al Gore tells Hasina

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina in a plenary session of the 47th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos of Switzerland. Photo: PID
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina in a plenary session of the 47th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos of Switzerland. Photo: PID

Green activist and former US vice president Al Gore has asked prime minister Sheikh Hasina to stop building the dirty coal-fired power plant in Rampal in close proximity to the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans. 

In a plenary session of the 47th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Al Gore said a “dirty coal-fired power plant” (Bangladesh India Friendship Rampal Power Plant) is being “built in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world,” according to a video-clip of Jamuna Television.

The plenary session styled "Leading the Fight against Climate Change" was held in the Congress Centre in Davos of Switzerland on Wednesday.

“...The last remaining tiger preserve. Thousands of people are demonstrating against it. My advice would be, don’t build that dirty coal plant,” Al Gore asked Hasina who was sitting next to him in the programme.

In response, Sheikh Hasina defended the dirty coal-fired power plant in Rampal claiming that the plant is being built far away from the Sundarbans.

According to a BSS report from Davos, the prime minister invited Al Gore, a globally famed environmentalist, to visit Bangladesh and see for himself as to "what is happening in Rampal".

"Come to Bangladesh and see yourself whether it (plant) affects the environment,” she said, addressing the former US vice president at a session of the meeting on Wednesday.

Local environmental groups have been protesting at the coal-fired power plant project in the vicinity of the Sundarbans, arguing that it might damage the world's largest mangrove forest.

Apart from Sheikh Hasina and Al Gore, CEO of HSBC Stuart Gulliver, and Cofco Agri CEO Jingtao Chi, also took part in the plenary session titled, "Leading the Fight against Climate Change."

Coming down heavily on those who are staging a movement against the Rampal power plant, Sheikh Hasina said a quarter was creating an "unnecessary issue" regarding the power plant, according to the prime minister's deputy press secretary, Md Nazrul Islam.

"I don't know exactly what they want and what their intention is. . . maybe they have a different intention in their mind," she was quoted to have said.

The premier said that the people who were opposed to the Rampal project could not point to any logical reason for why and how the plant would affect the environment and did not even respond to her call to visit the plant site either.

Sheikh Hasina said her government took all sorts of measures to protect the environment. "As I'm the prime minister of the country, nobody is more concerned than me about any issue . . . I won't give permission for any project where there is a possibility of any type of damage," she said.

The premier said the Rampal power plant was being set up around 14 kilometers away from the outer boundary of the Sundarbans.

Moreover, she said, the Rampal power plant is going to be a "clear coal" plant where "supercritical modern technology" will be 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," the premier added.

Explaining the preventive measures, Sheikh Hasina said coal would be transported to the power plant site from the deep sea in covered barges, while covered and low-sound engines will be used in the barges and therefore "there is no possibility of environmental pollution".