Do not ignore recommendations of experts

We believe the statements, recommendations and objections in the two-day international conference about fuel, climate and sustainable development arranged by Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) and Bangladesh Environmental Network are very significant. The participants did not wish to demean the development initiatives of the government. They said the development initiatives of the government should be adopted in a manner that it does not affect the environment and maximum people can reap the benefits of development.

Needless to say, just as the government wants development of the country, so do the researchers and experts. So where is the conflict between the demands of the government and the experts? One of the major areas of conflict is that experts believe that the environment must be taken into account in order to achieve sustainable development.

If the environment does not survive, that development will not bring any eventual benefit. It is often seen that the government ignores the issue of environment while responding to meeting the daily needs of the people or planning economic development of the country. Especially in a small but populous country like Bangladesh, it is not easy to balance the environment This is all the more difficult when the "vendors" of development are all bent on getting the government to approve all sorts of development projects.

When Awami League came to power in 2009, the condition of the power sector was deplorable. That is why the government had to give permission to set up rental and quick rental power plants to meet the demand for electricity. It is true that these power plants have met the urgent needs of the people, but at a high price.

Entrepreneurs have embezzled millions in the name of subsidies and the government has also granted them impunity. That was an emergency measure. Since then, the government has been setting up one coal-fired power plant after another, which experts and environmentalists have objected to from the beginning. The establishment of the Rampal Power Plant, which is particularly damaging to the Sundarbans, or the Payra Power Plant in a place known as the great sanctuary of hilsa, is not only a threat to the environment, but also may bring about catastrophic disaster in the future.

While developed countries are shifting away from coal and nuclear power plants to renewable power generation, the question arises as to how reasonable it is to rely on those coal and nuclear power plants. At the two-day conference, local and foreign experts said the environment could not be destroyed in the name of development.

Rehman Sobhan, a prominent economist and member of Bangladesh's first planning commission, has warned the government that the power and energy sectors have gone to the powerful quarters. The country needs electricity for its development, and it is the interest of a vested quarter that worked behind the generation more electricity than it needs.

The government should immediately rein in these powerful people in the energy sector and adopt an energy policy that is environmentally friendly and protects the interests of the masses in consultation with the people concerned. It is not enough to generate electricity only; we have to see who is getting the benefits of that production and how much these projects are endangering the environment.