Kolkata: Noted Bangladeshi economist and political activist Anu Muhammad on Thursday dubbed the proposed Rampal coal power plant in world's largest mangrove forest Sundarbans as "an illusion of development" and urged people in India to stand up against the project saying it would have a ripple effect on their side too. "Burning coal will cause smog, soot, acid rain, global warming, and toxic air emissions. It will impact water and the ecosystem. Around four crore people in the coastal areas are protected from natural disasters by the mangroves. Since the mangroves are connected, the Indian side will also face the threat," Muhammad said here. Rampal project is a proposed 1,320 MW coal-fired power station at Rampal subdistrict of Bagerhat District in Khulna, Bangladesh. It is a joint partnership between India's state owned National Thermal Power Corporation and Bangladesh Power Development Board. The joint venture company is known as Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company (BIFPC). The proposed project, on an area of over 1,834 acres of land, is situated 14 kilometres north of the Sundarbans, a UNESCO world heritage site. Given the climate change scenario, this shield is crucial, said Muhammad. "Once the mangroves are destroyed, people in coastal zones will start migrating to other areas including neighbouring India," said Muhammad, member secretary of the citizen's movement platform called National Committee to Protect Oil-Gas-Mineral-Resources-Port and Power, Bangladesh.
Environmentalist Soumya Dutta of Energy and Climate Group (Beyond Copenhagen Collective) said this would lead to conflicts. "This is just an opener. Once it is through, several such projects would mushroom," cautioned Dutta at a concerned citizen's meet organised by National Alliance for Peoples Movement. Muhammad claimed the transport of coal via waterways between the two countries would be detrimental to the mangroves as well, in addition to the burning of coal itself. "The authorities say the fly ash, which is a coal combustion product, would be diverted to cement factories while the cement factories advertise they are producing fly ash-free cement. The movement against Rampal is not just about saving the Sundarbans, but it has also instilled a perspective on development among people in Bangladesh," he said. "Now it is time for Indians to join hands and save the Sundarbans from Rampal," Muhammad added.