Views & Reviews
Coal-Fired Power Plant Near Sundarbans: The Silence Depicts India’s Hegemony Over Bangladesh!
India has been given a tag as the Regional Hegemon of South Asia. India is Bangladesh’s giant neighbour, so for sure; it has its influence on Bangladesh. There are several throaty assertions that India cannot influence completely the mind-set of the people in Bangladesh. Unfortunately, a decade old, the fifty-fifty share Rampal coal plant or technically the ‘maitree super thermal power project’ near Sundarbans and the country’s prolonged silence over it has been massively criticised for the nation’s hegemony over Bangladesh. The environmental groups and social activists in Bangladesh have been fighting against the 1,320 MW coal-fired power plant that is 14 KM to the world heritage site of Sundarbans. Should this plant be a token for India to claim its big power status in Asia or in Bangladesh? “Sundarbans is known as the world’s largest mangrove forest, the whole eco-system will fall in danger if the plant is executed. Unfortunately, both governments are denying that fact. Most of the part of the forest land is in Bangladesh. So Bangladesh will face more consequences. But when one side of the forest suffers, other side can’t remain safe for long,” opined Ms. Shafinur Nahar, Senior Lecturer, University of Creative Technology Chittagong.
“The plant is expected to burn 5 million tons of coal every year and it will create a huge amount of air pollution. Emissions will elevate the toxic gases over the southwestern part of Bangladesh and West Bengal. Trees would be cut down to fulfil the demand of making coal-power, rivers will get poisoned by the waste of coal, animals and birds will either die or decline or may escape to another place to save lives due to not having drinking water or lack of breathing, people whose livelihood is dependent on the Sundarban will lose jobs and the local inhabitants’ health will be at risk,” she added.
As per the South Asians for human rights report, the project will be in operation for 25 years. This will have a huge damaging effect on the mangrove forest. Equipment for construction will be transported through the river route. The resultant emission of oil, disposal of waste and pollution of sound and air will perilously affect the wildlife and overall ecosystem of the forest. The plant will generate 0.94 million tonnes of ash, 80% of which is fly ash and the rest bottom ash. This ash contains various toxic metals including arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, chromium, selenium and radium which may cause serious damage to the environment.
Killing a whole eco-system will not help both countries to light up their homes or industries without the lives of human beings and other creatures. If both governments are adamant about sacrificing one side of the country for the sake of greater demand, then they are just building a castle in the air! “As per the reports, the land acquisition for the project, totaling 1,834 acres is already completed. The power department has a target to produce 20,000 MW of electricity from coal by 2030. India is going to be one of the larger exporters of coal for the power plant and it is expected to be transported through the ship. Large ships will ply continuously inside the delta, which will cause heavy waterway traffic through this ecologically-sensitive river. Both the country will suffer from its ripple effect. The final agreement between India and Bangladesh was signed and amidst of all the protest in Bangladesh the Indian environmental groups and social activists mere spectatorship is shocking,” said Tahsin Khan, a Law Professor from Dhakka.
The plant is globally criticised for violation of rules. It violates the environmental impact assessment guidelines. The plant is also criticised for the violation of provisions of the Ramsar Convention. Bangladesh is a signatory in the Ramsar Convention, which acts as an environmental treaty for the conservation of wetlands.
The thermal plant will create havoc in the Indian environment, slowly but surely. The gas and heat emitted from the plant will have an adversare effect on the flora fauna of the place as well as the adjacent populations of the area. If not immediately, in the years to come the effects of these lofty facades of development will actually wreak havoc on the environment, the pollution level as well as the temperature. Any thermal plant needs to be constructed only as a last resort and that too within strict procedures. Here in the case of India social audit is hardly done. The tribal area and the people will not benefit from the thermal plant at all. This is a capitalist model of development that cannot be applied in the indigenous regions of India. I am also surprised by the Indian environmentalists’ silence over the issue for almost a decade now,” said Dr. Sujata Mukhopadhyay, Head, dept. of Journalism and Mass Communication, Hiralal Mazumdar Memorial college for women Dakshineswar, West Bengal.
India has played a major role in the development of South Asia as a region of resources, technology and even as a global power to some extent. However, on several occasions the actions of our nation have been criticised as steps taken towards the goal of becoming the regional hegemon. If the project is executed without paying attention to the loud cry in Bangladesh might be largely denoted as India’s “hegemonic status” that was tough to survive. The future environmental crises in the South Asian region will be attributed to the country’s greed and we cannot deny its responsibilities of protecting the biodiversity loss in the region.
Dr Juby Thomas.
The author is an Indian Social Scientist, Columnist and an Academician, currently working as an Assistant Professor in Kristu Jayanti College, Bengaluru.