Govt tries to dispel Banshkhali fear | The Daily Star

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12:00 AM, April 11, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:24 AM, April 11, 2016

Govt tries to dispel Banshkhali fear

PM says imaginary talks cost some lives

The government has extended its full support for the coal-fired power plant to be set up in Banshkhali of Chittagong amid growing protests over the project and last week's clashes that left at least four people killed and scores more injured.

“There is no problem in setting up the plant in Banshkhali. The government has full support for it,” said Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, energy adviser to the prime minister, at a media briefing at Bidyut Bhaban in Dhaka yesterday. 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also spoke in favour of coal-based power plants.

"Some people in this country have some bizarre imaginations...I don't know how this crosses their minds, but some lives have been lost unnecessarily for such imaginary talks...I've no idea what's the motive behind this," she said, pointing to the Banshkhali incident, reports UNB.

The PM made the comment while inaugurating the newly-constructed Dhaka Central Jail in Keraniganj yesterday.

She said a section of people these days held protests in the name of protecting the environment when the government wanted to produce more electricity.

"You've already seen that this section of people won't allow constructing coal-based power plants [in the country]," the news agency quoted the PM as saying.

Hasina said during the Awami League government's first tenure of 1996-2001, the foundation for coal-based power plants in Dinajpur was laid, and now there were two coal-based power plants there.

"The construction work for the third one is going on there," she said, adding that there had been no adverse effect on the environment in that area, as paddy and trees were growing normally and people were living a normal life.

The energy adviser said the density of population was low where the Banshkhali plant was being set up. “Those who live there are getting compensation and are being rehabilitated.”

He also expressed deep shock at the killing of the four people during a clash between locals and police on April 4. 

He said the government was already probing the incident.

“After the investigation, we will come to know what actually happened in Banshkhali. We have to keep patience.” 

The adviser said all coal-based power plants would have to be built protecting public interest and environment.   

SS Power I Ltd and SS Power II Ltd, two joint ventures of S Alam Group and SEPCOIII Electric Power and HTG of China, will set up the power plant in Banshkhali by November 2019. 

Asked whether the plants got environmental clearance, Monowar Islam, the power secretary, said a survey was completed for giving approval to the project.

The approval will be given very soon, he said.

ASM Alamgir Kabir, consultant of S Alam Group, said 655 acres of land have been acquired for the project. Already, land registration with 600 owners has been completed.

Every affected land owner will get housing facility in addition to the price of their land, he added.

The government says Tk 0.03 per unit of electricity sold from all coal-based projects will be set aside for the socio-economic development of local population, including creating jobs and building medical facilities. Thus, the 1,320-MW power plant in Banshkhali will bring Tk 32 crore for the locals annually.

Meanwhile, the committee protesting against the plant has postponed its programme to lay siege to the upazila parishad, after divisional leaders of the ruling Awami League assured them of resolving their discontent within 15 days.

Many locals say they don't want to give up their land they have been living on for generations.

At present, coal-based power accounts for only 2 percent of some 7,500MW of power generated in the country, according to the Power Development Board.

Amid declining reserves of natural gas, which produces 70 percent of Bangladesh's electricity, the government is seeking to diversify energy sources by moving to coal and nuclear energy, apart from solar home system.

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