In dealing with Cyclone Ampan, it has been proven once again how uncompromising the Sundarbans are for Bangladesh’s security. The forest saved the people and resources of the coastal area to recover from the deadly cedar, aila, rowanu, bulbul, and fani.
About 62 percent of the total area of the Sundarbans is in Bangladesh. These naturally formed forests are the first to deal with disasters arising from the sea. The Sundarbans, known as the lungs of Bangladesh, work as a huge factory of oxygen. Its economic importance is also great. We are fortunate to have the Sundarbans. But unfortunately, we are constantly pushing the Sundarbans towards destruction. Sometimes in the name of development, sometimes due to individual or a handful of group interests
Let’s take the project to Rampal Power Station. The project area is located just 14 kilometres from the Sundarbans. Needless to say, as a result, the forests, environment, and biodiversity of the Sundarbans will suffer severe damage. Even this project poses a threat to the existence of the Sundarbans in the long run. Worryingly, the project will be coal-based, the construction of which is discouraged in many countries around the world. Because, in addition to not being environmentally friendly, there are strict laws against coal-based power plants in various countries as they are harmful to people and biodiversity. For example, Canada and France have strict laws against setting up coal-fired power plants (which must prove that they are not harmful to the environment and are not allowed if there is a significant risk of harm). Besides, they give considerable importance to public opinion and expert opinion.
Unfortunately, we do not realise the important ecological aspects. The fact is that, in the current context, there is no option to increase power generation against demand. We are running out of gas reserves, a large part of which is used to generate electricity. Therefore, the power plant should be built near natural forests like the Sundarbans. Coal-based too? Which is tantamount to causing major environmental damage in the name of development.
Moreover, coal has to be imported for the Rampal power plant from different countries around the world for power generation. Since the river route adjacent to the Sundarbans is not suitable for shipping, this coal has to be taken to the power plant by small boats or launches. There is a risk of the sinking of coal boats or launches during cargo movement. Which is also dangerous for the environment. Moreover, there is air pollution and noise pollution. The amount of carbon dioxide in the air will increase. The biodiversity of the Sundarbans will be threatened.
Generally, coal-fired power plants release excess carbon dioxide into the environment. Apart from this, acid rain is caused by the emission of toxic sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, cadmium, lead, ash, etc. gases and heavy metals into the environment. This will easily damage the life cycles of various plants and animals in the Sundarbans, as their food and air will be poisoned. This effect also applies to humans. Various judgements and analyses show that there is no disagreement among environmental scientists on the question that the Rampal power plant is irreparably harmful to the Sundarbans and its biodiversity.
In addition to coping with natural disasters, the Sundarbans play an important role in the economy of the southwestern region of Bangladesh as well as the national economy. The Sundarbans are the single largest source of total forest resources in the country. The Sundarbans provide a large portion of the raw material for wood-dependent industries. Many people make their livelihoods in the Sundarbans. But regrettably, the forest is being destroyed by the indiscriminate cutting of trees on various pretexts.
According to a 2018 research report by Chittagong University’s Institute of Forestry and Ecology, the Sundarbans saved 485.29 million dollars worth of resources in the southwestern part of the country during Cyclone Sidor. Researchers say that if there were no Sundarbans, the amount of loss would have been much higher. A recent IPCCA estimate shows that Bangladesh will lose 17 percent of its land and 30 percent of its food production by 2050. As a result, the coastal districts of Bangladesh and the people living in these districts will be the most affected. So we must protect the Sundarbans to avoid future disasters. It is in the national interest that a long-term plan be adopted to protect the Sundarbans.