A fresh round of propaganda campaign has been observed about the Rampal coal fired power plant in the electronic media. Little informed persons with ill motives have started brainwashing people with false information. Responses to the ill motivated propaganda of the vested quarters about location of the plant, technology to be used, emission and pollution restriction measures to be adopted during the plant’s operation and issues of coal transportation were given earlier. Detailed responses to UNESCO letters were also sent. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, responding to the concerns of the green activist Al Gore, invited him to visit Bangladesh.

More and more people have now understood the technology clarifications or debunking of the myths which the anti-Rampal activists created. Now fresh propaganda is being carried out that India is creating pressure through RPP for serving its own interests This is being targeted as a strategy for misguiding people against the backdrop of the Bangladesh prime minister’s upcoming visit to India. A few observers believe that Delhi may pressurise Dhaka into signing a defence pact between the two countries as according to them Bangladesh’s launching operations of two submarines recently procured from China has irked India. Some political elements create issues and correlate irrelevant issues to remain active in the media. The Rampal power plant matters require fresh clarification.

The power plant project is a joint venture initiative of Bangladesh and India. BPDB Bangladesh and NTPC India own 50:50 shares and interest in the Bangladesh India Friendship Coal Power Company. The Bangladesh government has selected the site at Rampal in Bagerhat District outside the exclusion zone of the Sundarbans mangrove forest 14 kilometres away from the outer periphery of the forest. Bangladesh environment laws prohibit a setting up of such establishments within 10 km of protected structures. The location is also 69 KM away from the UNESCO heritage site.

Many such coal fired power plants are being operated through maintaining environmental regulations and social balance in the proximity of reserve forests or in the heart of the city — in Australia, Germany, South Africa and Taiwan. In Gladstone, Queensland, Australia, a subcritical 1800 MW coal fired power plant has been under operation for 50 years in the city beside the waterway linked to the Great Barrier Reef. Coal is supplied to the plant by trains from mines as far as 400 km away. No air pollution or water pollution has been alleged. Two large coal ports handling 40% of Australia’s total coal export and three LNG plants are also located in Gladstone. Australia is the largest exporter of coal and all coal is transported through a narrow strip between the UNESCO world heritage Great Barrier Reef and the coast. The imaginary concerns of activists about the RPP the Sundarbans are not tenable.

The land acquired for the plant was mostly fallow, barren and was mainly used for shrimp cultivation. Only a handful of affected land owners were required to be rehabilitated. Being situated beside the River Poshur, from all aspects it was considered ideal for an imported coal based power plant. The Bangladesh government selected the location. India or NTPC had nothing to do here regarding selection of the site. The location is now connected by road also. Not much agricultural land was needed, not many people required relocation and the plant is situated beside a river linked to the Bay of Bengal. From all considerations from an engineering point of view, the present location of the Rampal power plant is most ideal for a large imported coal based power plant.

From the plant design parameters of RPP we are aware that high heating value coal (57000 -60,000 kcal/ton) low sulphur and low ash coal will be used for RPP. Deferring to to DOE conditions, the design has incorporated the provision for a Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) plant. This will take out 98% of sulphur from coal. Similarly, low knox burner will take care of 95% No2. Electrostatic Precipitator (ESP) will account for mercury and ash removal. Moreover, dry ash collection method and closed loop water recycling will minimise the requirement of water use (0.05% of the water of lowest flow of the River Poshur).

Multistage Effluent Treatment Plant will treat plant discharge to ph7 level and the temperature difference of intake and discharge will be restricted to 2 degree Celsius. All these will minimize emissions (SOx, Nox, HG and Ash) and pollutions (plant discharge ) well below acceptable limits. To top it all, a 275-meter tall chimney will further minimize emissions to a bare minimum even around the chimney. Air blows for only about 90-100 days of the year towards the Sundarbans from the plant direction.

Superior quality coal will be imported from Australia or Indonesia in Panamax vessels (80,000 -120,000 tons). These specialised covered coal vessels, to be anchored in the deep sea, will tranship coal through covered conveyor system in smaller Handy Max type (10,000 -12000 tons) vessels. Only two vessels will be required to traverse the waterway through the Sundarbans area. At least 200 vessels ply on the average through the channel. The addition of two low noise vessels may not an issue. The plant will have a completely covered coal storage for three months’ reserves.

The cement factories of the region will take away all the fly ash from the plant. Additionally, as a contingency measure, an ash pond will be there where a high density ash pump will store ash in semi-dry condition.

We note from the above that all the myths and propaganda disseminated by the vested groups are either borrowed from google or are academic research that is impractical. The RPP, located at a safer location outside the exclusion zone and adopting super critical boiler technology, using high heating value, low sulphur, low ash coal and incorporating all emissions and pollution restriction measures, pose no threat to the Sundarbans ecosystem of biodiversity.

The Rampal Power Plant is a joint venture initiative of India and Bangladesh. There is no reason for considering this as an Indian project. NTPC as the lead partner is doing most of the work in the pre-construction and construction stages. There is no reason why people should at all become anti-Indian as a result of the project.

Saleque Sufiis an expert in energy sector infrastructure development, planning, construction management and operation in Central and South Asia and Australia. He has served as an adviser to the petroleum ministry of Afghanistan.

5 Responses to “Myths and facts about Rampal power plant”

  1. Ryder

    I think, the myths and facts will be just like same! Scientist and researcher said that Rampal has no any side effect and not harmful for our environment.

  2. Jimbo

    There are other aspects to this site selection.
    Suppose there’s a supply glitch from India (ask Nepalese and they will tell a story or two), Bangladesh may be forced to use coal from alternative suppliers, for example, cheaper, and high-sulphur dirtier, coal from Indonesia. The location of the plant may not be suitable for such an alternative. So, either the plant stays idle, or we buy more expensive Australian and South African coal.
    One would hope India won’t play such brinkmanship, but from Bangladesh’s perspective it’s about risk management. Have we got a plan B for this and other such scenarios?

  3. Harun Rashid

    Using modern technology adverse impact could be eliminated but the issue is made politicized rather than focusing practical requirement. Multi-levels pressure will contribute to improve the quality of work and using sustainable technology as well.

  4. ateruzzaman

    The total coal electric power of S. Korea and Taiwan taken together is nearly 60,000 MW and the total land mass is also around 60,000 square km. Then they also have natural UNESCO heritage sites. According to these `environmentalists’ we will become like SK and Taiwan.

  5. Sattar

    Is there any power plant in India that is built and operated near such a critical ecosystem?
    “In Gladstone, Queensland, Australia, a subcritical 1800 MW coal fired power plant has been under operation for 50 years in the city beside the waterway linked to the Great Barrier Reef.”
    Do you know that large portion of Great Barrier Reef has been permanently damaged and considered dead by scientists?

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