Sheikh Hasina defends Indo-Bangla power plant project near Sundarbans
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday lashed out at the protesters seeking relocation of an Indo-Bangla joint power plant project in Rampal, saying the agitators have no idea how far the site is from Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the 57th convention Institute of Engineers, Bangladesh in Chittagong, Hasina asserted that the plant will not harm the mangrove forest.
The protesters were "shedding tears" for the Royal Bengal Tigers, ignoring the "benefit to the people", she was quoted as saying by the bdnews24.com.
"Visit Rampal and see how far it is from the Sundarbans. I would advise the protesters to march from Rampal to Sundarbans then they will get an idea," she said.
The 1320 MW coal-based power plant in Rampal is a joint India-Bangladesh project currently under commissioning. The proximity of the project to the world's largest mangrove forest prompted protests from several leftist organisations.
Environmentalists say the proposed plant would be a significant threat to the Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage site. But the government maintains that it would not harm the Sundarbans, partly owned by India.
On Thursday, police in Dhaka lobbed tear-gas shells, fired rubber-bullets and used water-cannons to disperse protesters observing a half-day shutdown against government plans to build the power plant project.
Main opposition party outside parliament Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP) and several leftist organisations and environmental groups had extended their support to the protesters who staged street marches in Dhaka on Thursday.
"I would have been the first person to oppose the power plant had there been a slightest chance of damage of the Sundarbans," Hasina had said earlier.
The National Committee in October 2016 sent a letter to the Indian premier through the Indian High Commission in Dhaka seeking his intervention to scrap the project.
Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (Pvt.) Limited (BIFPCL), a joint venture enterprise, inked the deal with state-run Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), which was selected under an open international tender for constructing the "ultra-super critical thermal plant" at Rampal.
India's Exim Bank finances the $1.49 billion project, scheduled to launch generating power in 2019.