UNESCO backs new coal plant in Bangladesh

At a UNSECO meeting last week, twelve countries backed Bangladesh’s plans to build a new coal-fired power plant. This is a major victory for Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has long argued that she needs to use her country’s coal reserves to bring reliable grid electricity to the 60 million people who still live without it.

Ms Hasina set out her case earlier this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, telling a panel:

“We have to provide energy to our people because I have to develop our country…We have to ensure food security. We have to give them job opportunities.”

UNSECO, the UN organisation responsible for looking after World Heritage Sites, had raised concerns that the new power plant at Rampal might impact on a protected mangrove forest in the same region.

That objection has now been withdrawn, after the Bangladeshi government explained that the new plant will be using advanced pollution mitigation technology.

The Prime Minister’s Energy Adviser, Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, said: “Unesco was concerned with the World Heritage Sitem but we have successfully convinced them about the use of latest and most sophisticated technology which will have minimal impact on the mangrove forest.”

The Rampal plant will use the ultra-supercritical technology already employed by countries like Germany, South Korea and Japan, which cuts pollutants by operating at higher levels of efficiency than older systems.

But Bangladesh, which is aiming to ensure access to reliable and affordable grid electricity for all by 2021, will have to go further still to deliver on that goal.