Bangladesh’s Power Plants Put Sunderbans On “Sites In Danger”: Report

DHAKA, Jun 15 (PTI): The official advisory organisation on natural World Heritage has recommended putting the Sundarbans on a list of natural sites in danger as Bangladesh has continued implementing a coal-fired power plant project near the forest, a media report said on Saturday.
The World Heritage Committee of 21 governments is scheduled to decide on the recommendations by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its annual meeting in Azerbaijan from June 30 to July 10, the bdnews24.com reported.
The Sundarbans mangrove forest, one of the largest such forests in the world (140,000 ha), lies on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal.
It is adjacent to the border of India’s Sundarbans World Heritage site inscribed in 1987.
The recommendation came after the UNESCO in July, 2017, withdrew a plan to inscribe the Sundarbans in the list of heritage sites in danger by 2018 in case of the failure to meet the mission’s recommendations.
A reactive monitoring mission, jointly conducted by the Centre and IUCN in March 2016, made detailed recommendations including the necessity of a strategic environmental assessment for the south-west region of the country.
After the mission, the World Heritage Committee had called for the Rampal power plant project to be cancelled and relocated.
The Bangladesh government had been allowed until December 2018 at the time to report on the conservation of the world’s largest mangrove forest to the World Heritage Centre, the website reported.
The committee had welcomed Bangladesh’s decision to carry out the assessment into the potential impact of a coal-based thermal plant at Rampal on the Sundarbans, besides the decisions to scrap the plant’s second phase and also the Orion power plant.
It cited severe threats from the coal-fired power plants and numerous industrial activities in close proximity, the report said.
However, despite the call for relocation of the project, its construction has continued without any assessment of its impact on the Sundarbans’ World Heritage values, the Union said.
Two additional coal-fired power plants are being constructed on the Payra River, which flows into the same bay as the Sundarbans, the website reported the IUCN as saying.
Over 150 industrial projects are also active upstream of the site, and their associated shipping and dredging activities further threaten its hydrological and ecological dynamics, it said.
“The hydrological systems, which drive this dynamics, are very large in scale and vulnerable to upstream impacts,” the report said.