The Ashuganj Power Plant project – being implemented by occupying agricultural land and filling natural waterways in Patuakhali's Kalapara Upazila – has imposed a negative impact on land fertility and agricultural production as well as biodiversity, according to a study published on Thursday.
Conducted by the Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa), the study said, due to the project, the health of the soil and the surface and groundwater water as well as the environmental quality is also deteriorating.
Further, it is impacting the local aquatic ecosystem, fisheries and above all human health, added the report on "A socio-economic analysis of the Ashuganj Power Plant project".
As per the report published by Bapa at a press conference in the capital, the grabbing of wetlands might be an issue to destroy the wetlands network and change the characteristics of water in the vicinity.
However, regarding this, further data collection and analysis are required to assess the community perspectives about the impacts of this massive construction, said Professor Md Ashikur Rahman of geometrics at the Patuakhali Science and Technology University, while presenting the report.
He added local people are also concerned about the possible discharge of hot and waste water impacting fish spawning and growing including the deterioration of the Andharmanik Hilsa Sanctuary.
Further, due to occupying water bodies, disruption of water drainage may occur resulting in a greater flood in the area, Professor Ashikur said.
The land acquisition process for the Ashuganj Power Station Company Limited (APSCL) was started in 2018 and an allegation of massive corruption by a nexus of local brokers and irresponsible actors is found, he added.
Professor Ashikur continued, that due to the construction of the project, local fishermen will have to migrate 5-6km away to the place where the proposed rehabilitation project will be constructed.
They fear that from that distant place, they might not continue their livelihood through fishing, as per the conducting survey among local people.
Further 79% of respondents replied that respiratory-related diseases may attack due to this project construction and 69% of them replied about the probable serious sound pollution issue due to the project.
Professor Ashikur also made some recommendations such as regular monitoring of the ecological health of that area, assessment of the socio-economic impacts periodically, preparation of an investigative report on the corruption allegations during the processes and monitoring of the implementation of the rehabilitation programs.
He added this is important to address the urgent issues on the ground about land acquisition, land development, rehabilitation, compensation, protection of livelihoods, agriculture, and fish production, including the surrounding ecology and biodiversity.
As part of the government plan to reach a capacity of 40,000MW of electricity by 2030, the Ashuganj Power Station Company Limited (APSCL) proposed a power plant project that will be located at Debpur-Dhankhali-Panchjunia-Chalitabunia Mouza, Dhankhali-Champapur Union, Kalapara Upazila in Patuakhali, said Professor Ashikur.
Expressing concern for the air pollution by the power plant, Bapa Joint Secretary Professor Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder said the country has already become a champion for air pollution in the world.
He urged the authorities to pay heed to the issue.