Maharatna major NTPC’s maiden overseas venture at Khulna in Bangladesh has now run into an environment hurdle due to its proximity to the world’s largest mangrove forest Sunderbans.
Environmentalists in Bangladesh have already moved court asking the project to be scrapped as it comes within 14 kilometres of Sunderbans. The 1320MW (2X660MW) project is a 50/50 joint venture between NTPC and Bangladesh Power Development Board and both the parties have signed a memorandum of understanding recently.
“Some environmentalists have approached the court as it comes within 14 kilo metres near Sunderbans. We have given the site clearance for the project. But the environment impact assessment report that the firm has submitted is not satisfying. So we have asked them for a detailed report. We want to know how the firms will mitigate the possible environment hazards,” said Tarun Kanti Shikder, director, Department of Environment in Bangladesh, Khulna division. The project was pegged at about $1.5 billion.
According to environmentalists, the plant Bagerhat district’s Rampal area in Khulna division, comes less than 10 kilo metres closer to the declared preserved zone. When asked about the development, a top NTPC official said, “It is a bilateral deal. We hope that the issues will be solved and the project will go through the environmental issues. Since MoU has been signed in February, our next step is to have a power purchase agreement in place and it would be ready with in two to three months.” Entire power generated by the project will be supplied to BPDB, to meet growing requirements of Bangladesh, as per the MoU.
Meanwhile, environmentalists in India are also getting ready to approach the court. “We have already sent a letter to the Centre, Prime Minister of Bangladesh and chief conservator of forest in that country. If things don’t work out, all the environmental organisations in the region will get together and may approach the court too. It may affect the entire flaura and fauna of Sunderbans, spread across India and Bangladesh,” said Biswajit Roy Chowdhury, secretary, Nature Environment and Wildlife Society.
The Bangladesh court has asked the country’s government to explain, “why it should not be directed not to set up the plant” in Khulna region. “If both the government’s are keen, then we may have to give clearance for this bilateral project. Everything depends on the EIA report,” Shikder said.
NTPC’s another overseas project in Sri Lanka is also not yet taken off.
However, sources confirmed that the Chittagong project is already on track.