Bangladesh is planning to construct a massive coal-fired power plant that will not only spell out disaster for the world’s largest mangrove forest, but also destroy one of the country’s best defenses against climate change. The plant, which will be located less than ten miles downstream from the Sundarbans mangrove forest, poses a significant risk to the UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as one of the largest reserves for the endangered Bengal tiger.
Experts have ranked Bangladesh as one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change. The devastating cyclones, floods and erosions that plague the country continue to force mass migrations as a result of global warming. Located between land and sea, the thick Sundarbans mangrove forests provide a critical protective buffer against the rising sea level and act as a major carbon sink, reducing greenhouse gases through carbon sequestration.
The controversial plan spurred activists to stage a 20,000-person, five-day protest in September to fight against the proposed environmental calamity. Despite strong opposition from its citizens, Bangladeshi officials are moving forward with the plan. Projected to spew over 4.75 million metric tons of liquid waste a year, scientists warn that the 1,320-megawatt Rampal power plant’s drain on the ecosystem’s water supply and harmful emissions will do irreparable damage to the forests.
But in a nation where a majority of the population lacks access to reliable power, the Bangladeshi government asserts that the coal plant is for the good of the country. To increase electricity generation to 20,000 megawatts by 2021, the administration has proposed a dozen new coal plants, including the Rampal plant, to shift the country’s dependence away from costly natural gas.