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12 countries persuaded UNESCO over Rampal: Tawfiq

Twelve countries stood by Bangladesh`s Rampal power project in persuading UNESCO to lift its objection over the Rampal project while Dhaka earlier successfully convinced the UN organ in revising its stance, Prime Minister`s energy affairs adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury said.

"A total of 12 countries including Turkey and Finland voiced in favour of Bangladesh which finally convinced the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO to withdraw its objection from Rampal power plant," he told a press conference at Bidyut Bhaban on Sunday.

He said Turkey moved the Bangladesh issue in UNESCO World Heritage Committee`s 41st session of the World Heritage Committee in Krakow of Poland earlier this week when all these countries stood by the coal-fired project under Bangladesh-India joint initiative.

Bangladesh joined the session as an observer on the sidelines.

"Through lifting of the UNESCO objection, the international debate over Rampal coal-fired power plant has been resolved," Choudhury said.

The UNESCO committee, he said, however, requested Bangladesh to carry out Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of its south-west region, including the Sundarbans, before starting the project "to which we agreed".

Chouhdury said Bangladesh earlier placed its arguments to UNESCO in a presentation detailing technological aspects of the project highlighting government`s special measures to check environmental impact on the Sundarbans.

"Our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina`s global image along with achievement of the UN`s highest environmental accolade - Champions of the Earth also helped Bangladesh to gain the confidence of UNESCO to carry on with the project," he said.

State minister for power, energy and mineral resources Nasrul Hamid, power division secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, Bangladesh Power Development Board chairman Engineer Khaled Mahmood, Power Cell Director General Engineer Mohammad Hossain and director general of foreign ministry were present at the press conference.

"We are not only concerned about the Sundarbans status as a World Heritage Site but also its overall conservation. The Sundarbans saves us from natural disasters; we will do nothing that affects it," Choudhury said replying to a question.

He said that the government was set to use the ultra-supercritical technologies at the Rampal power plant to make it sure that the project could do little harm to the world`s largest mangrove forest.

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.

"UNESCO was concerned with the World Heritage Site but we have successfully convinced them about the use of latest and most sophisticated technology. Bangladesh will carry out the SEA shortly," the adviser said.

Refuting environmental activists` concern with the dissemination of fly ash, he said the power plant will produce ash in solid form which would be used for other industrial purposes.

Chowdhury said the government agreed to ensure necessary dredging along with adequate fresh water flow into the Sundarbans and preventing poaching and over extraction of its resources.

The power division secretary told the newsmen that the first unit of the power plant will go into production in June 2019 while second unit in December the same year.

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