Indian low-quality coal is going to be shipped to Bangladesh soon for the controversial Rampal power plant project at the Sundarbans, though the government earlier said it would import coal from Australia, South Africa, or Indonesia.
The first consignment is getting ready at the port in Kolkata and will be shipped to Mongla port in Khulna in the next two to three days, reports Press Trust of India.
The coal is being deported to the project site for a trial run scheduled to be held at the end of this year.
"The first full rake of coal has arrived at Kolkata docks from Dhanbad and is now getting unloaded. Each rake consists of about 3,800 tonnes of coal. It will be the first export of coal cargo from this port," Deputy Chairman of Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port Trust, formerly Kolkata Port Trust, AK Mehera told Press Trust of India.
Once the unit will run at full capacity, 20,000 tonnes of coal cargo will be transported per month from Kolkata port, sources said.
In September 2016, Director General of Power Cell Mohammad Hossain told the media the government would import coal from Australia, South Africa, or Indonesia for the Rampal project.
Environmentalists raised their voice after knowing that low-quality coal would be imported from India for the project.
Representatives of the civil society as well as national and international environment activists demanded cancelling the project and stopping coal import from India.
In an immediate reaction on behalf of the civil society, economist and environmentalist Professor Anu Muhammad said, "We demand that the governments of Bangladesh and India immediately stop the construction of the Rampal plant and also the unjust, secret initiative to import coal from India."
He said neither the Indian nor the Bangladeshi government had revealed the news of the coal import deal for the plant and it had not been reported in the media either.
"From the very beginning of the project, disastrous decisions have been made ignoring global public opinions, expert advice, and environmental risks. Such secrecy and non-transparency in the signing of an agreement involving the use of civilian resources and expenditure is against democratic principles and ethics and is also a sign of disrespecting citizens' right to know," he said.
He explained that Indian coal is one of the lowest-quality ones in the world. 70 grammes of fly ash is produced from per kg Australian or Indonesian coal while a similar amount of Indian coal produces 300 grammes of fly ash. Each unit of electricity requires 700 grammes of Indian coal compared to 450 grammes of American coal and 500 grammes of Indonesian coal.
"That is why India itself imports coal from Australia, Indonesia, and South Africa to generate electricity. Using Indian coal will require 40% more coal for the project while fly ash pollution will be five times higher," he said.
"We believe if the Rampal plant is built, the pollution caused by coal transport and that of the plant will heavily damage the Sundarbans and will lead to the destruction of the world heritage site," he added.
The 1,320MW Rampal plant, also known as the Maitree super thermal power project, is being built by BIFPC, a joint venture between India's NTPC Limited and Bangladesh Power Development Board.
Spread over 1,834 acres of land, the power plant is situated 14 kilometres north of the Bangladesh part of the Sundarbans, also a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) world heritage site.