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‘India’s coal dream turning into Bangladesh’s Rampal nightmare’
Monday, 15 August 2016

If the proposed new Rampal coal-fired power plant is a ‘dream project\' for India, then, as currently conceived, it stands to become a nightmare for Bangladesh.

The warning came in an article published in The Ecologist, a UK-based specialised magazine.

It said the recent signing of the contract to build the Rampal coal-fired plant, just a few miles from the edge of the world\'s largest mangrove forest, has re-triggered concerns about the controversial 1,320 megawatt power project.

Referring to the police’s maltreatment of ‘Save the Sundarbans’  demonstrators in Dhaka, the article mentioned that the Indian rights groups who also rejected the project condemned what they described as the use of \"brute force\" by the police.

Dwelling on the concerns, The Ecologist also quoted Ujjwal Kanti Bhattacharya, managing director of Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Limited (BIFPCL) which has undertaken the joint venture Rampal plant, as telling journalists, \"We respect the concern of the people of Bangladesh, we are set to maintain the maximum environmental standards for the plant\".

The article titled “Rampal coal plant: Indian coal dream fast becoming a nightmare for Bangladesh” authored by Greig Aitken mentioned that the principal secretary to the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, called Rampal ‘a dream project\' of the two countries\' leaders, and promised \"all sorts of cooperation will be provided to [BHEL] except time extension.\"

The BHEL now has until July 2019 to have the power plant installed and ready for operations.

“Scrutiny of the construction contract does indeed suggest that the Indian giant BHEL is on the receiving end of an awful lot of ‘co-operation\',” observed author Greig Aitken.

“It\'s becoming ever more apparent that if Rampal is a ‘dream project\' for India, then as currently conceived it stands to become a nightmare for Bangladesh.”

According to The Ecologist, BHEL won the tender for the $1.49 billion construction contract at the beginning of this year but the official signing of the deal dragged on to July due to the company holding out for \"extra sweeteners\" from the Bangladesh government including exemptions from taxes and duties as well as from the mandatory insurance process.

Delhi is running the Rampal show and putting Indian interests first, as negotiations are reportedly underway on the supply of 4 million tonnes of Indian coal per year to fuel the plant.

“If this materialises, then it would undermine some of the baseline calculations - on emissions and pollution - included in the project\'s already highly questionable environmental impact assessment (EIA), in which scenarios have been based on coal supplies originating from Australia, Indonesia or South Africa,” noted The Ecologist author.

The article claimed that Indian coal is generally reckoned to be of a lower grade than coal from the other countries referred to in the EIA, but the potential impacts remain vague since precise details on sulphur and ash content are unknown.