Fresh writ petition over Rampal power plant

A fresh writ petition was filed with the High Court on Sunday seeking a stay on the government’s move to start construction of the Rampal power plant till an assessment of the environmental impact of the project is carried out. Apart from this petition, four separate writ petitions relating to the matter were pending before the High Court for disposal.The HC bench, comprising Justice Naima Haider and Justice Zafar Ahmed, will hold the hearing on the petition on Monday, Advocate Manzill Murshid, counsel for the petitioner, told reporters.
Four Supreme Court lawyers, including Advocate Asaduzzaman Siddiqui, filed the fresh petition today, seeking a stay on the construction of the Rampal power plant near the Sundarbans.
The petition stated that the government has reportedly permitted the Power Development Board (PDB) to construct the coal-fired power plant near the Sundarbans without properly conducting an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
It sought HC directives to form an independent committee, comprising national and international experts, to evaluate the environmental impact of the proposed power plant, which is going to be set up just 14 km from the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans.
The petition sought an HC directive to the government to transfer the proposed plant from the Sundarbans area and set up it in an area in the country which would not damage the environment.
It also sought HC intervention to take necessary steps to protect the environment and the lives of locals and to preserve the biodiversity of the Sundarbans.
Bangladesh and India had inked a deal on April 20 to set up a 1,320 MW coal-fired power plant at Rampal in Bagerhat.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is set to inaugurate construction work on the plant on October 22.
The country’s environmentalists and eminent citizens criticized the government move, saying it would jeopardize the ecological balance of the Sundarbans.
Protesting the government move, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports completed a five-day-long march on Saturday. It issued an ultimatum to the government to cancel its plans to lay the foundation stone for the power plant by October 11. It also threatened to launch a fresh movement from October 12 if its demand is not fulfilled.
Hasina met Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh in New York on Saturday and asked him to complete the project as soon as possible.
However, the Leader of the Opposition, Khaleda Zia, at a rally in Khulna, warned the government not to set up the Rampal power plant near the Sundarbans, considering the biodiversity of the world’s largest mangrove forest.
On August 12 last year, the HC asked the government to explain in two weeks why filling up the Moidara river in Rampal upazila of Bagerhat near the Sundarbans for setting up a coal-fired power plant should not be declared illegal.
The court came up with the rule following a writ petition filed last week by Save the Sundarbans, an environmentalist organisation, saying that the government authorities have been filing up the Moidara river with earth to set up the power plant in violation of environmental laws.
Earlier, on March 22, the HC in response to another writ petition issued a rule to the government to explain why it should not be directed not to set up the proposed 1,300 MW coal-fired power plant at Sapmari-Katakhali mouja of Rampal.
Barrister Zakir Hossain, a lawyer for the petitioner Save the Sundarbans, said the authorities have been filing earth in the Moidara river in violation of the environmental laws, even though the earlier HC rule is still pending.
Zakir said the government is going to set up the proposed project illegally, without giving any reply to the HC rules.

-With The Independent input

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