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5 August, 2018 12:12:45 AM
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Fossil fuel is the ultimate barrier to sustainable development

Depending solely on fossil-fuel based energy is environmentally hazardous and economically unworthy
Farhana Sharmin
Fossil fuel is the ultimate barrier to sustainable development

While the whole world is advancing towards sustainability ina remarkably fast pace, we the Bangladeshis have a trend of going backwards. Especially, in the terms of energy consumption. The world is talking about immense harmfulness of fossil-fuelandproviding us with new ways of transitioning to clean energy. But apparently, our government has decided to ignore all that and continue to depend solely on fossil fuel.

Not very long ago, Bangladesh used to have extremely fertile lands, pure water sources, seasonal diversity and rich biodiversity. Despite having all the resources, a lot of other countries would die to have, we are leaning upon naturally devastating energy sources. According to World Bank about 73% energy consumption of Bangladesh comes from fossil fuels.Present studies reveal that, only 60% people in Bangladesh have access to electricity whereas 90% in urban areas and 42% access in rural areas and our government has a commitment to give access to electricity to all people by 2021.To accomplish our government’s Vision 2021, we will require vast amount of energy as we are looking forward to full digitalization and the targeted generated power should move to 24000MW while our present capacity is 14000MW.

Very recently the government ofBangladesh has taken some impressive initiatives, like ‘Dhaka city Metro Rail’, ‘Padma bridgeRail Link’ and so on.Therefore, it is quite unfortunate that, almost all of the powers supplied for these projects are completely fossil fuel oriented which is ultimately responsible for a tremendous amount of carbon emission leading to global warming, sea level rising and destruction of nature. The major power stations we are depending on are Ashuganj, Barapukuria, Matarbari,Payra and all of these use fossil fuel sources like, gas, oil or coal.

Our natural gas will be exhausted within next few years if no new gas fields are discovered. By continued at the current energy consumption rate, it will take up to 2088 to be completely depleted; when oil, gas and coal will run out respectively by 2051, 2061 and 2081(Source:CIA World Factbook).So, it is obvious that only fossil fuels will not be sufficient for meeting our total energy demand and supply of renewable energy will need to be expanded to generate electricity at large scale.Moreover, the widely talked green and eco-friendly industrialization from COP21boldly forbid the usage of fossil fuel to reduce pollution and keep a minimum reserve to maintain the earth core.

In recent yearsa lot of questions have been raised on the newest proposed project, ‘Rampal coal-firing power plant’ which isexpected to fulfill a major portion of our total energy demand. The international organization, UNESCO, has also raised concerns about the impacts of the ‘Rampal’ on the Sundarbans, a World Heritage site.In 2016, civil society organizations in Bangladesh and India have called on UNESCO to add the Sundarbans to the List of World Heritage in Danger based on the threats from‘Rampal’and another questionable project ‘Orion Khulna coal-fired power plants’ planned to be constructed near the Sundarbans mangrove forest. The construction and operation of those plants would result in air and water pollution that will threaten the Sundarbans ecosystem andpose serious health risks to the surrounding communities.Bangladesh is already struggling with only 7% forest lands of total area while the minimum required amount is at least 25% for any country.

Recently, Bangladesh has taken a loan of $167 millionand $60 million respectively from ADB and AIIB for improving production efficiency of gas fields and now urging U.S. Export-Import Bank to fund ‘Rampal’. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the emerging effects of Fossil fuel willultimately introduce us with more ‘hidden costs’ (including land usage, transportation, pollution control, potential loss in tourism business, ecology and healthrestoration) than we actually think we will allocate.So, we are talking about major economic decay as well.Renewable energy sources like Solar or wind power don’t come up with such hidden costs and the maintenance cost is far fewer than conventional ones. Now, how wise would it be to fund those naturally destructive high budget projectsright now? The fossil fuel projects might have short term solution to our energy requirements but will definitely have long term negative impact on the country’s future. It should be the time for us to stop curbing the idea of sustainable development in idea only and actively work towards turning this into reality. Fossil fuel is not taking us forward and therefore, we have no other option but tolean towards renewable energy while there is still time.

The author is a researcher and Climate Justice activist from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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