Even though Bangladesh scrapped 10 coal-fired power projects last year, the authorities now move to build a coal transshipment terminal with an annual capacity of 1.5 crore tonnes at Matarbari in Cox's Bazar.
The Coal Power Generation Company Bangladesh Limited has submitted a preliminary project proposal in this regard to the Economic Relations Division recently seeking a financing guideline, said officials.
According to the project proposal, the terminal will accommodate large imported coal shipments and ensure an efficient supply of the power generation raw material to plants across the country.
The transshipment terminal will have coal loading and unloading berths, coal stock yards and expanded inner harbour for Matarbari coal-fired power plants.
The terminal proposal envisages six coal-based plants in Cox's Bazar's Matarbari and Moheshkhali, although the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) recently cancelled financing in the second phase of the Matarbari Coal Power Plant owing to Japan's carbon pledges.
According to the power sector master plan 2010, 50% of the country's total power generation by 2030 will be from coal. In line with the plan, the country's public and private sector took up some 22 coal-based electricity projects in association with Jica, neighbouring India and China.
However, coal dependency for power generation was reduced to 35% in the 2016 power master plan. The government in June last year cancelled 10 coal power projects, which were in the land acquisition and land development stages.
The authorities are now implementing 11 coal-fired power plants with a combined capacity of 12,147MW.
Sources at the Power Division said the coal-fired plants to be implemented include electricity units in Payra, Matarbari, Rampal, Patuakhali, Mirsharai, Moheshkhali, Barishal, Chattogram and Dhaka.
According to the Coal Power Generation Company Bangladesh Limited, it is difficult to transport coal to each coal-fired power plant directly by large coal carriers since most of the coastal areas of Bangladesh have shallow waters. Transporting the imported coal by small vessels through the existing river channels to the power plants is also inefficient in terms of a stable supply.
The company argues that the coal terminal in Cox's Bazar will have limited adverse effects on the environment, while it will have easy access to the deep-sea shipments.
Abul Kalam Azad, executive director (Project) of the company, said the transshipment terminal will mainly supply coal to Rampal and Payra plants.
"However, the decision is yet to be finalised as we have just sent the preliminary development project proposal to the Economic Relations Division," he added.
Climate campaigners oppose the coal terminal plan, terming it "unnecessary" as the country decided to reduce coal-dependency for electricity.
Besides, they argued that the terminal proposal had been prepared in line with an old power master plan, which is invalidated by the Power System Master Plan 2016.
"As per the government plan, there will not be more coal-fired power plants in Matabari except the on-going one which would require only 42 lakh tonnes of coal annually. So, a coal transshipment terminal with 1.5 crore tonne annual capacity will be a waste," Hasan Mehedi, member secretary of the Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt, said.