UNESCO to take Bangladesh’s Sundarbans off list of World Heritage in Danger

Source:F E Published: 2019/7/12 10:11:11

The World Heritage Committee of the UNESCO in its latest meeting decided not to keep Bangladesh's Sundarbans on the World Heritage in Danger list, Prime Minister's energy adviser Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury told newsmen on Wednesday.

The Rampal 1,320-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant at Bagerhat would not be harmful to the Sundarbans, he said, citing the decision taken in the UNESCO committee meeting.

Mr Chowdhury was briefing newsmen at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in the city in the evening.

The government would not allow any big industry or power plant near the world's largest mangrove forest for the sake of its protection, he said.

Two proposed power plants-the Unit 2 of the Rampal coal-fired power plant and the coal-based one of Orion-were not yet given the go-ahead in consideration of their consequences.

About 154 industries and factories that are located in the vicinity of the Sundarbans, he said the government would review their activities and impact on the ecology.

"If they are deemed a threat to the Sundarbans and the eco-system, these factories will be asked to wind up operations," he said.

Most of these factories were built during 1960s and 70s, said newly-appointed Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) chairman Sultan Ahmad, who was the director general of the Department of Environment (DoE) during his previous assignment.

Of the factories, 24 were in the 'Red Category,' meaning the factories could harm environment, if not taken care of properly, he said.

Power Secretary Ahmad Kaikaus said the area of the Sundarbans increased over the past two decades.

In 1996 the Bangladesh part of the Sundarbans covered 436,617 hectares and the area increased to 494,757 hectares in 2015, he said.

The government would carry out a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of the Sundarbans and its adjoining areas and submit the report by the next year to the committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), he said.

An expert team of the UNESCO committee is expected visit the Sundarbans and the adjoining areas by February 2020.

A 16-member committee led by Mr Chowdhury took part in the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee of the UNESCO in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Chairman of Bangladesh Power Development Board Khaled Mahmood and director general of Power Cell Mohammad Hossain were also present at the press conference.


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