Rampal power station
|This article is part of the CoalSwarm coverage of Bangladesh and coal|
The Rampal power station, also known as the Maitree Super Thermal Power Project, is a proposed 1320-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station at Rampal in Khulna division, Bangladesh. It is sponsored by the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (BIFPCL), a 50-50 joint project of the governments of Bangladesh and India.
Although also known as the Khulna South power station, the plant is different from the Orion Group's Khulna power station (Orion).
Background (Phase I)
The Rampal power station would involve the government acquiring 2000 acres of farm land to install the plant under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Bangladesh's Power Development Board (PDB) and India's state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) in August 2010; they have been designated to implement the project by 2016.
On January 29, 2012, the India Power Development Board (PDB) signed an agreement with NTPC to build the 1,320-megawatt Rampal plant. The PDB and the NTPC will implement the $1.5 billion project on a 50:50 equity basis. The NTPC will set up and operate the plant.
According to a July 2014 report, the project will start commercial generation by December 2018. Three companies – Marubeni Corporation from Japan, Harbin Electric International Company from China and Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited from India – have submitted bids to construct the project. The contract is planned to be awarded by January 2016.
In July 2016 Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) was awarded the contract to build the plant, at an estimated cost of US$1.68 billion. BHEL has until July 2019 to have the power plant installed and ready for operations. BHEL won the tender at the beginning of this year but, according to local media sources, the official signing of the deal dragged on to July due to BHEL holding out for exemptions from taxes and duties as well as from the mandatory insurance process. Negotiations are also reportedly under way between the project promoters and Coal India on the supply of 4 million tonnes of Indian coal per year to fuel the plant.
According to local images, work at the site was underway in March 2016. UNESCO has urged Bangladesh to cancel the coal plant, saying it endangers the nearby Sundarbans.
In April 2017 it was reported that construction on the project had begun, and will take an estimated 41 months. Groups continue to oppose the plant. The construction report followed the Ex-Im Bank of India confirming its US$1.6bn loan for the plant. India-owned BHEL received the US$1.5 billion order to build the Rampal Power Plant.
In March 2018 work progress was reported to be "just 5 percent", with the plant planned for operation in 2022. Planet satellite photos from December 2017 to December 2018 shows land clearing appears complete and preliminary construction work has begun.
In June 2019, BIFPCL began taking bids for coal delivery for the plant. Company officials said coal for the plant would be sourced from Indonesia, South Africa, and Australia.
In May 2020, 400 Indian citizens working at the Rampal plant staged a demonstration. The workers said they were being deprived of decent quality food and were not paid in full, and could not return to India due to the countrywide shutdown. Currently, 1802 foreigners are working at the power station, including 1344 Indian workers.
In July 2020, it was reported in Bangladeshi media that the coronavirus pandemic was contributing to the construction of the Rampal plant running far behind schedule at only 50% complete and significantly over-budget.
Background (Phase II)
The sponsors have anticipated a potential second phase for the project, comprising an additional 2 x 660 MW units. No date has been specified for the second phase.
In October 2016, in response to widespread public opposition and global pressure, officials within the power ministry began making statements that they would pursue natural gas and renewables over coal. Plans for the Phase II of the project appear to be on hold or cancelled.
In August 2010, a 'Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) and India's state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) in which they agreed to implement the project by 2016. On January 29, 2012, the Bangladesh Power Development Board signed an agreement with NTPC to build the plant. The joint venture company is known as Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company (BIFPC). The BPDB and the NTPC agreed to implement the project on a 50:50 equity basis. The NTPC will set up and operate the plant. Bangladesh and India will equally share up to 30 per cent of the equity of this project. The remainder of the equity, which might be equivalent to USD 1.5 billion, will be taken as bank loans with help from the NTPC. According to the sources in the Bangladesh Power Division, the joint venture company will enjoy a 15-year tax holiday.
Loans are expected to fund up to 70% of the US$1.5 billion project, while India and Bangladesh will fund the remaining 30% equally (15% each). However, the Bangladesh Planning Commission refused approval, saying the project was not compliant with the country’s existing policy nor was the funding and ownership of the plant clear. This leaves even the 15% Bangladesh stake in the project uncertain.
In 2014-2015 French banks Crédit Agricole, BNP Paribas, and Société Génerale said they would not fund the Rampal power station, after sustained public opposition to the project over its social and environmental effects.
In December 2014, the council on ethics of Norway released its assessment of the country’s government pension fund global’s investment, valued at US$56 million, in the thermal plant. It recommended the fund exclude the project from its portfolio “due to an unacceptable risk of the company contributing to severe environmental damage”. In March 2015 the Guardian reported that the Norweigan pension fund would likely pull funding from the Rampal plant.
In April 2017 the Ex-Im Bank of India confirmed it is providing a US$1.6 billion loan to Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (BIFPCL) for development of the Rampal coal plant. BIFPCL is providing equity of US$400 million.
According to a 2016 report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, the Rampal power station will produce electricity that will cost 32% more than the average electricity costs in Bangladesh, despite multiple subsidies from Bangladesh and India. The financial think tank argues the project amounts to US$3 billion in public subsidies: "First, a below-market-rate loan by Indian EXIM Bank represents a US$988m subsidy effectively paid by Indian taxpayers to Bangladeshi consumers. Second, the Bangladesh government is proposing a 15-year income tax exemption for the plant, an exemption worth US$936m. Third, Bangladesh would be granting an effective annual US$26m subsidy by conducting maintenance dredging to assure coal delivery to the plant."
It has been alleged that the Rampal station is against The Ramsar Convention because the plant is to be built in a forest and sensitive wetlands area. The Ramsar Convention is the only global environmental treaty that deals with preservation of wetlands. Bangladesh signed the convention in 1992.
The plant will need to import 4.72 million tons of coal per year. This massive freight will need about 59 ships each having 80,000-ton capacity that would be taken to the port on the bank of Poshur river. The 40 kilometers from the port to the plant cuts through the Sundarbans and it includes the river flow path. Environmentalists claim these coal-carrying vehicles are not often covered as they scatter large amounts of fly ash, coal dust and sulfur, and other toxic chemicals are released through the entire life of the project. The predictions made by environment and ecology experts are that the plant will release various toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and sulphur dioxide, thereby putting the surrounding areas and, most importantly, Sundarban at grave risk.
According to a report published in New Age, in past few years the Indian central and state authorities which deal with environmental concerns in India denied the proposal of NTPC to set up a similar coal-fired thermal power plant at Gajmara in Gadarwara of Madhya Pradesh for a number of reasons. NTPC failed to get approval of the Indian Central Green Panel (Green Tribunal) in 2010 for the construction of that coal-fired thermal power plant because a vast portion of agricultural land would have been impacted. Similar issues exist with the Rampal project.
The Bangladesh government has rejected the allegations that the coal-based power plant would adversely impact the world’s largest mangrove forest. The energy adviser of the Bangladeshi prime minister said that the controversy over the power plant and its impact on the Sundarbans was “not based on facts”. He has also stated that the plant will not negatively affect the mangrove forest because the emission of greenhouse gas will be kept at the minimum level. The government also stated they will import high quality coal, build a 275 metre high chimney, employ state-of-the art technology and other steps to keep its impact on the Sundarbans at a negligible level.
On March 1, 2011, a High Court bench asked the government why the construction of the plant should not be declared illegal. The senior BNP leader also claimed that acquiring 4,000 acres of land in the area beside the Pashur River, mostly arable, would be environmentally disastrous. High Court lawyer Manzill Murshid stated during the hearing that the government was planning to acquire 1,834 acres of land.
The National Committee on Protection of Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, and Power-Port, environmentalist groups, bodies of the left-leaning parties and general people of Bangladesh vowed to resist the planned inauguration of the Rampal Power Plant scheduled on 22 October 2013. On September 24, 2013 thousands of people in Bangladesh began a rally for 5 days and 400 kilometers to oppose the power plant. Their march began in the capital city of Dhaka and moved towards the Sundarbans.
In India too there has been some fragmented opposition of the power plant. In his interview with Siddharth Sivakumar of the Indian cultural website Tinpahar, Shayan Chowdhury Arnob said on this issue, "The Rampal Power Plant might become the biggest Power Plant, but it would cost the world its largest mangrove forest, 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."
Environmental experts have expressed concerns that the proposed plant at Rampal in Bagerhat could destroy Sundarban, one of the world’s largest mangrove forests. Faridul Islam, chief coordinator of Save the Sundarbans, pointed out that the selected location of the project was only nine kilometres from Sundarban. About 2.5 million people depend on the Sundarban region, such as wood-cutters, fishermen, and honey gatherers. An official said the Power Development Board would submit an environment impact assessment report to the Bangladesh environment department.
On July 9, 2011, the police foiled protests at two places in Rampal upazila in the Bagerhat district demanding cancellation of the proposed plant near Sundarban. The police arrested two participants. Five organizations active in the country’s south-western region at a joint news conference at Khulna Press Club demanded immediate exemplary punishment of the policemen involved, saying the police engaged in attacks against the protestors.
On July 18, 2011, the BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir asked the government to shelve the proposed coal project at Rampal in Bagerhat, fearing that it might harm the Sundarbans. He also expressed solidarity with the locals who had been protesting the government move to set up the 1300MW plant at Satmari Katakhali of the upazila in collaboration with NTPC, which will use Indian coal that contains high sulphur.
In 2013, Marzia Israt created an online, global petition on 350.org against the building of the Rampal Thermal Power Plant in Bangladesh. Marzia explained how in order to stop the production of the Rampal Thermal Power Plant, “international support” is necessary. The petition is addressed to the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) and the National Thermal Power Company (NTPC) of India. As of Friday, January 15, 2020, the petition has reached 3,600 signatures.
In April 2013 environmentalists rejected an environment impact assessment report on the proposed plant, saying it did not take into account prior studies showing the project would have a large negative impact on the environment.
On March 23rd, 2014, activists from the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports rallied against the Rampal plant. The Secretary of the Committee, Anu Mohammad said, “The country has a lot of natural resources from which quick and huge electricity can be produced. But the government are interested in destroying the Sundarbans [forest] instead of using these resources."
On March 11, 2015, a 5-day “Road March to Save the Sundarbans” against the Rampal coal power plant was recently concluded. The march was organized by the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) and the Socialist Party of Bangladesh (SPB).
On November 26, 2015, a nationwide demonstration against the Rampal plant was also planned.
In March 2016 an estimated 1,000 Bangladeshis began a four-day, 250-kilometer march from the capital to the Sundarbans in opposition to the plant.
On July 28, 2016, police using barricades, teargas shells, and batons blocked a "Save the Sundarbans" march toward the Prime Minister's Office. Six people were arrested. The protest was organized in response to the signing of an agreement to build the coal plant in the world's largest mangrove forest. Two layers of police barricades were dismantled by protesters before police deployed teargas shells and charged the demonstrators with clubs. According to Baki Billah, former president of Bangladesh Chhatra Union, 16 activists were hospitalised.
On Tuesday, August 16, 2016, Pragatishil Chhatra Jote, an alliance of student climate activists in Bangladesh, “blocked Dhaka’s Shahbagh intersection to protest against” the Rampal Thermal Power Plant’s construction. The Shahbagh intersection is a “major public transportation hub” in the city of Dhaka. Protestors also held a “procession on the Dhaka University campus and broke through police barricades.” Several persons were injured. The Rampal Thermal Power Plant is planned to be built near Sundarbans, “the world’s largest mangrove forest” between Bangladesh and India, and costs $1.5 billion. Protestors explained how “discharge from the [Rampal Thermal Power Plant] like fly ash and sulphur dioxide will have disastrous consequences” on the Sundarbans forest.
On Saturday, January 7, 2017, global protests were held as an act of solidarity with the Save the Sundarbans movement in Bangladesh against the Rampal coal-fired power plant. Planned to be built near the Sundarbans forest, the Rampal coal plant would make “50 million coastal people more vulnerable to natural disasters,” such as frequent cyclones and storms. NYC protestors included the Ecology Movement (Protibesh Andolon), Bangladesh Environmental Network NYC, Progressive Forum Udichi, Supports of the Bangladesh Communist Party, and the Friends of the Earth U.S. who held a protest at Union Square Park, NY. The U.K., the Netherlands, Germany Australia, and Indonesia also held protests.
On Thursday, January 26, 2017, people in Bangladesh held a nationwide strike against the coal fired Rampal power station. Public dissent was motivated by how the Rampal power station “violates the Environmental impact assessment guidelines” of Bangladesh. The people participating in the strike included rickshaw pullers, garment factory workers, street hawkers, port workers, office workers, students, and children. “The strike manifested the extreme opposition of the people” to the Rampal power plant and was non-violent.
On Saturday, November 10, 2018, protests against the Rampal Thermal Power Plant in Bangladesh were planned to take place in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Toronto, Calgary and Dhaka. By using the hashtag, “#SaveSundarbans,” individuals around the world that were unable to physically attend the protests could still show solidarity and support. If built, the Rampal Thermal Power Plant would “emit ashes, sulphur dioxide and damage fragile ecosystems affecting [the] health and well-being of nearby residents.” The plant will also release “8 million tonnes of Co2 emissions into the atmosphere.”
On November 29, 2019, ALRD, ActionAID, BAPA, TIB, and Water Keeper Bangladesh held a public hearing in protest of the Rampal power plant at the Liberation War Museum in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The group of environmental activists and experts urged the Bangladesh government to stop building the Rampal power plant “for the greater sake of the Sundarbans and the people living in and around the mangrove forest.” Though government representatives were invited, not a single government representative attended the hearing. Anu Mahmmad, who is leading the movement against the Rampal power plant, said that the lack of government representatives “proved how much it does care about the people.” 
2015 report raises human rights concerns
A fact-finding mission by South Asians for Human Rights found numerous flaws in the environmental impact statement and resettlement process for the proposed 1320 MW power station. The investigation also found that local people and activists “have been constantly harassed by powerful quarters through threats, intimidation, assaults and filing of false cases.”
- Sponsor: Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Pvt Ltd. (BIFPCL)
- Parent company: Bangladesh Power Development Board (Government of Bangladesh) (50%) and National Thermal Power Corporation (Government of India) (50%)
- Location: Mongla upazila, Bagerhat district, Khulna division, Bangladesh
- Coordinates: 22.5924582, 89.556427 (exact)
- Status: Phase I: Construction; Phase II: Cancelled
- Gross Capacity: Phase I: 1320 MW (2 x 660 MW); Phase II: 1320 MW (2 x 660 MW)
- Type: Supercritical
- Projected in service: 2022
- Coal Type:
- Coal Source: Imported (Indonesia, South Africa, and Australia)
- Source of financing: US$1.6 billion loan from Exim Bank India, US$400 million equity from BIFPCL
Articles and resources
- "Indo-Bangla joint company for power import" The Independent, March 8, 2011.
- "8 coal-based power plants still in pipeline" Aminur Rahman Rasel, Dhaka Tribune, August 18, 2013
- "Rampal Thermal Power Plant Site, Wikimapia, accessed May 2016
- Manjurul Ahsan, "Experts denounce Bagerhat coal-fired power plant plan" New Age, May 14, 2011.
- "Coal-fired energy BD signs power plant deal with Delhi," Pakistan Observer, January 30, 2012.
- "Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company Ltd likely to award construction of 1,320 mega watt plant by April 2015," Economic Times, July 28, 2014
- Aminur Rahman Rasel, "3 int'l companies submit tender for Rampal project," Dhaka Tribune, Sep 22, 2015
- Greig Aitken,"Rampal coal plant: Indian coal dream fast becoming a nightmare for Bangladesh," BankTrack, 11th August, 2016
- "UNESCO urges Bangladesh to cancel massive coal plant in one of the world’s largest mangrove forests," Think Progress, Oct 20, 2016
- "Construction of Rampal power plant begins," daily-sun.com, Apr 25, 2017
- "Ex-Im Bank of India confirms $1.6bn loan for Rampal coal plant to bankroll Sundarbans destruction", BankTrack, Apr. 11, 2017
- "India-owned BHEL gets $1.5 billion order to build Rampal Power Plant," BD News, Apr 26, 2017
- "No progress in 19 power plants yet," The Bangladesh Post, March 9, 2018
- Worker electrocuted at Rampal power plant project site, Daily Sun, 1 Sept. 2018.
- Rampal Power Plant: 2 workers killed as container falls on them, The Daily Star, 4 Mar. 2019.
- Global firms vying for coal transport contract, Pakistan Defence, 8 June 2019.
- "Indians at Rampal power plant launch protest to go home," Dhaka Tribune, May 17, 2020
- Jahangir Shah, "Coronavirus deals mega projects a mega blow," Prothomalo, Jul. 14, 2020
- Jai Sharda and Tim Buckley, "Risky and Over-Subsidized: A Financial Analysis of the Rampa Power Plant," IEEFA, June 2016
- New Age | Newspaper
- Final report on environmental impact assessment of 2x (500-660) MW coal based thermal power plant to be constructed at the location of Khulna - India Environment Portal
- Rampal Coal-Fired Power Plant - Who gains, who loses?
- Coal-fired energy BD signs power plant deal with Delhi
- Power Division seeks $302m for Rampal plant
- "French banks say no to Bangladesh coal plant," Guardian, June 25, 2015
- "Norway may pull investment from Indian firm over Bangladesh coal plant," The Guardian, March 10, 2015
- "Maitree Coal-Fired Power Power Plant (1320MW)", IJGlobal, accessed September 2020
- "Bangladesh project exposes India EXIM bank to high risk," IEEFA Report, June 2016
- Death knell for Sundarbans Rampal coal power plant
- More reasons to stop Rampal power plant
- More reasons to stop Rampal power plant
- Rampal Power Plant - Govt to lay foundation stone Oct 22
- "No coal-run power plant in Bagerhat: BNP" BDnews, July 18, 2011.
- "Bangladesh rushes head-long into coal" MAC: Mines and Communities, February 20, 2012.
- "Bangladesh begins import of power from India". The Hindu: Mobile Edition.
- "Siddharth Sivakumar in conversation with Arnob". Tinpahar.
- Manjurul Ahsan, "Experts denounce Bagerhat coal-fired power plant plan" New Age, May 14, 2011.
- "Police foil demo against coal-fired power plant project near Sundarban" New Age, July 10, 2011.
- "No coal-run power plant in Bagerhat: BNP" BDnews, July 18, 2011.
- Stop coal-based Rampal power plant and save Sundarban, Marzia Israt, 2013.
- "EIA report on coal-fired power plant near Sundarbans rejected," New Age, Apr 13, 2013.
- National Committee protests construction of Rampal's Power Plant, DhakaTribune, 24 Mar 2014.
- Bangladeshi protets intensifies against Rampal coal plant, Climate Home News, 11 Mar 2015.
- "March in Bangladesh against Sundarbans plant," Asian Age, Mar 11, 2016
- "March to PMO filed, 6 held from 'Save Sundarbans' demo," Daily Star, 28 July 2016
- Dhaka activists protest against India Bangladesh power plant, Business Standard, 16 Aug 2016.
- Global demonstrations protest coal plant threatening world's largest mangrove forest, Friends of the Earth, Jan 2017.
- Protest Against Rampal Power Station Rocked Bangladesh, People's Review, 29 Jan 2017.
- Global protests Saturday to save the Sundarbans from coal, The 350.org Team, 9 Nov 2018.
- Environmentalists stand against Rampal power plant, DhakaTribune, 29 Nov 2019.
- "Report of the Fact Finding Mission to Rampal, Bangladesh," South Asians for Human Rights, September 17 2015
- Rampal Power Station, Wikipedia