The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO has withdrawn its earlier objection to the construction of Rampal power plant project at its current location, the foreign ministry says, Agencies report.
It has also spared the Sundarbans from being relegated to the List of World Heritage in Danger. The decision was made at the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee being held in Krakow, Poland.
A high-level inter-ministerial delegation led by Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, adviser to the prime minister on power, energy and mineral resources affairs, is participating in the meeting to defend Bangladesh’s position.
The 21-member World Heritage Committee decides on whether a cultural or natural site should be inscribed on the World Heritage List, monitors the state of conservation of heritage sites and can place a site on the World Heritage in Danger if the site is not being properly managed by the relevant state.
The Sundarbans was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1997 in consideration of its outstanding universal value as a unique ecosystem.
In recent years, the World Heritage Committee expressed its concern over the state of conservation of the Sundarbans world heritage property and called upon Bangladesh to take steps to improve conservation of the mangrove forest.
In addition to the issue of ensuring adequate fresh water flow into the Sundarbans and preventing poaching and over-extraction of its resources, the decision by the government to construct a coal-based power plant at Rampal came under the radar of World Heritage Committee.
Earlier in 2016, a monitoring mission from UNESCO recommended the relocation of Rampal power plant considering its likely impact on the Sundarbans. A group of Bangladeshi activists was also demanding its relocation.
In a statement, the foreign ministry said the committee after a long deliberation endorsed “Bangladesh’s decision to construct Rampal power plant at its current location with necessary mitigation measures”.
The committee in its decision also welcomed the steps taken by Bangladesh since 2016 to ensure conservation of the Sundarbans World Heritage Property, according to the statement.
At the request of the committee, Bangladesh agreed to undertake a strategic environmental assessment of the southwestern region of the country, including the Sundarbans.
Welcoming the committee’s decision, the PM’s adviser Chowdhury thanked the committee members “for helping the government of Bangladesh in striking an optimum balance between economic development and heritage conservation”.
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,” the foreign ministry said.
The other members of the delegation include Secretary Power Division Dr Ahmed Kaikaus, Bangladesh Ambassador to France and Permanent Representative to UNESCO M Shahidul Islam, Additional Secretary for Ministry of Environment and Forests Ziaur Rahman, DG of the Department of Environment Raisul Alam Mondal, PDB Chairman Khalid Mahmud, DG of Power Cell Mohammad Hossain and Director of Department of Environment Dr Sultan Ahmed.