Thermal power plant in Sunderbans will be disastrous: expert

Updated - December 02, 2016 11:23 am IST

Published - October 24, 2016 12:00 am IST - Mumbai:

Mr. Sahgal believes a thermal power plant in the Sunderbans would lead to cyclones.— File Photo

Mr. Sahgal believes a thermal power plant in the Sunderbans would lead to cyclones.— File Photo

Environmental activist Bittu Sahgal on Sunday expressed concern over the proposed construction of the Rampal thermal power plant in the Sunderbans, saying the project would trigger unavoidable environmental consequences resulting in loss of investment.

Speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of fourth India for Animals conference, the environmentalist said the Sunderbans is one of the world’s largest carbon sinks. To set up a coal-fired thermal plant there would cause loss of investment, as the project would lead to a rise in water temperature, causing convection. Coupled with strong winds, this would create cyclones that would damage the project within the next ten years.

According to UNESCO, the 1,320-megawatt Rampal super thermal power plant, a joint venture between India and Bangladesh, is to be constructed 65 km from the Sunderbans, a World Heritage site. A report published by UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) mentions key concerns related to the project as being: “pollution from coal ash by air, pollution from waste-water and waste ash, increased shipping and dredging, and the cumulative impact of industrial and related development infrastructure.”

The report also says the flow of freshwater into the Sundarbans has been drastically reduced, resulting in substantial increases in siltation and salinity that are threatening the overall balance of the ecosystem.

Human-animal conflict

Mr. Sahgal, who is also the founding editor of wildlife and ecology magazine Sanctuary Asia , said conflicts between humans and animals is because humans have invaded the animals’ territory. “Just because [politicians] want to win elections, there’s no point giving away a part of forests to the people, force them to come there and then expect the animal to understand the signboard (meaning it is a human territory).”

He also added that ecological problems caused by humans, who believe they control the environment, cannot be rectified as the remedies don’t match the damage. “People think climate change is a disease. It is not a disease, it is a symptom of the disease that environment is giving you, and the disease is over-consumption of our resources,” Mr. Sahgal said. He said the need of the hour is non-carbon energy, more equitable distribution of resources and “humility [towards animals and environment], as we are dependent upon them and not the other way around”.

Water wastage

Wastage of water is aggravating the problem of climate change by 20 per cent, Mr. Sahgal said. “We will never solve the problem of climate change if we waste water on industrial farming, chemical farming, mass-produced meat, sugar and rice production. If we keep using it the way we are, it would not only be delusional, it would be criminal.”

He added, “By my reckoning, in a decade the death toll by climate change due to water will start and social unrest will start and tribunals will start being held and the decisions being taken by world leaders today will be like the Nuremberg trials; that you [leaders] knew [what the consequences will be] and you still did it.”

In a decade, the death toll by climate change due to water will start and social unrest will start

Bittu SahgalEnvironmental activist

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