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UNESCO team to visit Rampal power plant site

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Anisul Islam Noor :The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will send an observation team to assess the impact of the Rampal coal power plant on the Sundarbans. The UN world heritage guardian took the decision, as the information provided by the Bangladesh government on the Rampal power plant and the dredging of the Poshur channel was found inadequate.UNESCO had sought an environmental observation report to measure how far the two projects had impacted the ecology of Sundarbans. As the government did not comply with their request, the UN world heritage guardian has decided to send an observation team to assess the risk factors of the mangrove forest.The decision was published on UNESCO website after its annual general meeting. UNESCO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature will send a joint observation team, the website said.When a world heritage faces damage for human activities, and if the government of the country fails to check the damage, UNESCO includes the site in the World Heritage in Danger list. Apprehending damage of Sundarbans, Norwegian government pension fund withdrew its investment from the National Thermal Power Company, the Indian partner of Rampal Power Plant. Three French banks announced this month not to invest in Rampal plant.On the other hand, the company that is developing a controversial coal-fired power plant near the Sundarbans forest has extended its bid submission deadline a second time, because earlier invitations for bids have met with scant enthusiasm.The Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Pvt Ltd (BIFPCL) extended, for the second time, the deadline to submit bids to set up the (2 x 660) 1320MW  Super Coal-fired Thermal Power Project in Rampal on an Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract basis.The deadline of May 18 was extended to July 16 because the invitation for bids drew a poor response. Bids are now due by September 22. The project, touted as a success of regional cooperation by the Bangladeshi and Indian governments, which each have a 15 percent stake in BIFPCL, has seen three French commercial banks and two major multi-laterals fight shy of any association with the project.As the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have declined to finance the project, the BIFPCL has decided to take Export Credit Agency (ECA) loans which involve high interest rates. On July 6, a notice signed by BIFPCL Managing Director U K Bhattacharya announced it. "Only six international bidders have so far bought tender documents after more than five months of the tender was invited. They have sought an extension to prepare and submit their techno-commercial and financial bid proposals," U K Bhattacharya told media.He said, representatives of companies from China, Japan, India, Spain and South Korea discussed and sought explanations and clarifications on the financial aspects of the project.BIFPCL is a joint venture between Bangladesh's Power Development Board and India's National Thermal Power Corporation, who have 30 percent equity on an equal share basis. The remaining 70 percent will be mobilized as Export Credit Agency loans.

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