Monday, May 4, 2015

Rampal Power Plant(Coal Based) the destroyer of Sundarban.

Rampal Power Plant(Coal Based) the destroyer of Sundarban.

Siddharth Sivakumar in conversation with Arnob......About Sundarban
Siddharth Sivakumar
Editor-in-Chief, Tinpahar
Siddharth Sivakumar in coversation with Arnob
Siddharth Sivakumar : It is indeed a privilege to have you here in Santiniketan, and thank you for agreeing for the interview in a few hours’ notice. I would try not to ask you questions that you have answered numerous times but seek to discover you as a creative person, and as a representative of your time.
Siddharth: You have always been concerned with environmental issues. Recently you have been vocal about the India-Bangladesh joint venture, the 1320-megawatt Cole Fire Station at Rampal Upazila. Can you elaborate your concerns over this plan, which by 2016, is supposed to become the country's largest power plant?

Arnob: I think in the history of Bangladesh, this is going to go down as a historical blunder. We have enough money for development, we get enough aid and resources from outside through various NGOs, but we do not know how to use it for good. One section of the society is getting excessively rich at the cost of others. Investments too would suffer eventually if the state fails to utilise the resources and establish a certain equilibrium. Bangladeshi people are living in fear.

If you look at the last 10 years, a lot has changed in Bangladesh.
I knew everyone in my neighbourhood, I used to visit everybody. If one family got a VCD player all the kids would be there watching the TV, and they wouldn't mind doing it. And there existed a natural bond between the neighbours. Now I don't know who is living next door!
Satellite channels came in, after that mobile phones came in, followed by Internet and what not, changing the society dramatically and drastically in this ten years. It's only Me, Me, Me, and What's Mine, What's Mine!
We are always drawing lines. And if we are drawing lines, people outside the line would feel insecure. While always trying to push one's own selfish boundary, one ends up mistreating others. This creates a lot fear and insecurities. The political scene in Bangladesh is volatile. India has been really kind to us for the longest time, very helpful. India has been guiding us, showing us the right course in a state of emergency and the present-day political mess.
But there are days, when I think I am a part of the Third World War. It is happening now, and we are living in it. Buses are burned down with petrol bombs. Everywhere people are fighting each other, social reasons and communal problems to back up such violence. And sadly this has been going on for a long time. This is a different kind of a war going on, the country is at war with itself.

Coming back to Rampal Power Plant, I don't think in the long run this is the way to develop a country. As a matter of fact the proposed plant is located only 14 kilometres from the Sundarbans, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This violates the Ramsar Convention of 1972 as per the "Environmental impact assessment guidelines" for coal-based thermal power plants. Such projects must be outside a 25-kilometer radius from the outer periphery of an ecologically sensitive area. And it would be ridiculous to pursue such a goal risking our greatest natural habitat. Our pride, the royal Bengal tiger and the Hilsha fish would soon become a myth. One day, today’s young kids will be saying to their children, "You know what, we had Hilsha once". Are we really ready to give such delicacy away? I don't know. Actually a lot of protest is going on in Bangladesh. But Bangladeshi government is indebted to India, they can't probably say ‘No.’

The Rampal Power Plant might become the biggest Power Plant, but it would cost the world it's largest mangrove, the Sundarbans. Sundarbans has its life in numerous intertwined organic chains. When a chain is broken everything would fall apart, one after the other.
Money has nothing to do with development or happiness; it's about our attitude to life. According to an UN survey, Bangladesh was the happiest nation once. We didn't have money, we didn't have electricity, suddenly I don't know why, but money became the means to develop our country. What we need is good education, good food and a way of life. In Santiniketan, there wasn't anything to "entertain" us. Once a week we were allowed to watch TV, that too for half an hour. There were no fancy stuffs. But we were happy singing our lungs out.

If we are damaging nature there is no way back. Once it's damaged, it's damaged. You can't put it back, turn it around. Nature doesn't work like that. This is one thing we are not paying proper attention to, we are thinking, "let it be, let it be, let it be, at the right time we are going to push back". There is no right time, if there is, then it is now. These days wherever I go, I talk about this.

Siddharth: What you are suggesting is fascinating as it tries to measure development through happiness rather than Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures. In economic terms, you are vouching for Gross National Hapiness (GNH) over GDP or Per Capita Income. Interestingly enough, GNH cares about preservation and promotion of cultural values, believes in sustainable development, in which good governance plays an important role. And it also takes into consideration the conservation of the natural environment. The so-called four pillars of GNH is erected on sustainable development, cultural integrity, ecosystem conservation, and good governance. Something as you have already suggested, should be Bangladesh's primary concern for the time being. Till date it has been the Buddhists in Bhutan who have been preaching Happiness as a path leading to development. Perhaps Bangladesh can think of it too!