A BEN rally and meeting was held on Sunday, September 18, at Jackson Heights, New York, demanding switch to gas from coal as fuel of the proposed Rampal Thermal Power Project. Dr. Nazrul Islam, BEN Global Coordinator, made a detailed presentation at the meeting using power point slides showing that switching to Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) as he fuel can give a solution of the current impasse that has arisen on the issue of Rampal.
A large number of people participated in the rally held at the Diversity Plaza, a popular spot for Bangladeshis in NYC. Eminent journalists and social and environmental activists such as Belal Beg, Nini Wahed, Razia Nazmi spoke at the rally.
A procession then made its way through the busy 74th street of Jackson Heights to the Mamun Tutorial, the venue of the discussion meeting. Presided by Belal Beg, it was attended by many, including Jenny Bock of “Friends of the Earth” and Esa Abrar of the “Ecology” movement, and Humayun Kabir of CUNY Bangladeshi graduate students’ association, Prof. Hosne Begum, Khourshedul Islam, Alim Uddin, and Shahiduddin of Progressive Forum
Lively discussion followed Dr. Islam’s presentation with participation from Humayun Kabir, Jenny Bock, Esa Abrar, Nini Wahed, Obaidullah Mamun, Sabbir Ahmed, and others.
In his presentation, Dr Islam noted that some damage to the Sundarbans cannot be avoided if coal is used as the fuel for Rampal. This has been recognized even by Mr. Muhith, the finance minister. Rampal poses a risk to the popularity of the government too, because people have a soft corner for the Sundarban forest.
Switching to LNG can provide a way out of this conundrum. Gas is the least polluting fossil fuel, By showing data for Japan, UK, Germany, Australia, and USA, Dr Islam showed that, even from the narrow financial cost-benefit analysis — the cost of electricity produced by gas is similar to the cost of electricity produced by coal. If the environmental impact is taken into account, gas is certainly a better alternative.
He noted that Bangladesh is already constructing several ports for import of LNG. Hence easy availability of LNG is only a matter of time. With the Padma bridge gas pipeline can be extended to Khulna-Mongla-Rampal area. There is therefore no reason why the government should not consider seriously the LNG option in order to protect the Sundarbans and its own popularity. Sri Lankan government has already decided not to proceed with coal and instead explore the possibility of switching to gas.
The participants supported the idea of switching to gas as a way out of Rampal impasse and urged the Prime Minister, Sheihk Hasina, to take not of the BEN suggestion.