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Unesco endorses Rampal power plant project

The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO has withdrawn its earlier objection to the Rampal power plant project at its current location.

The decision was taken on Monday at the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee being held in Krakow, Poland, a foreign ministry statement said here on Thursday.

It has also spared the Sundarbans from being relegated to the List of World Heritage in Danger.

A high level inter-ministerial delegation led by Dr. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, BB, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Affairs, is participating in the meeting to defend Bangladesh`s position.

The 21-member World Heritage Committee decides on whether a cultural or natural site should be inscribed on the World Heritage List, monitors the state of conservation of the inscribed heritage sites, and can place a site on the World Heritage in Danger if found that the site is not being properly managed by the concerned State.

The Sundarbans was inscribed on the World heritage List in 1997 in consideration of its outstanding universal value as a unique ecosystem.

In recent years, the World Heritage Committee expressed its concern over the state of conservation of the Sundarbans world heritage property and called upon the government of Bangladesh to take a number of steps to improve conservation of the Sundarbans.

In addition to the issue of ensuring adequate fresh water flow into the Sundarbans and preventing poaching and over extraction of its resources, the decision of the government to construct a coal-based power plant at Rampal came under the radar of World heritage Committee.

Earlier in 2016, a Reactive Monitoring Mission from UNESCO recommended relocation of Rampal power plant considering its likely impact on the Sundarbans.

After a long deliberation, the Committee endorsed Bangladesh`s decision to construct Rampal power plant at its current location with necessary mitigation measures.

The Committee in its decision also welcomed a number of steps taken by Bangladesh since 2016 to ensure conservation of the Sundarbans World Heritage Property.

At the request of the Committee, Bangladesh agreed to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the South-West region of the country, including the Sundarbans.

Welcoming the Committee`s decision, Dr. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury thanked the Committee members for helping the government of Bangladesh in striking an optimum balance between economic development and heritage conservation.

He also assured the Committee of Bangladesh`s full cooperation in ensuring conservation of the outstanding universal value of the Sundarbans, a prized possession of the nation. The other members of the delegation include Power Division Secretary Dr. Ahmed Kaikaus and Ambassador to France and Permanent Representative to UNESCO M. Shahidul Islam.

Hailing UNESCO`s decision, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid in his instant reaction told BSS that with the UNESCO`s decision there is no barrier to construction of the Rampal 1,320 coal-based power plant at its current location.

"The UNESCO also understood the project value and withdrew its objection," he added.

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