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Coal-fired power projects in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, the only coal-fired power plant in operation as of September 2019 is the Barapukuria Power Plant (525MW). However, at least 29 coal-fired power projects with a total capacity of 33,200MW are currently planned or under construction. These projects will emit 4,600Mt of CO2 throughout their operating lifetime.

According to Global Energy Monitor, an American environmental NGO, Bangladesh has risen from 12th place in July 2016 to 6th place in July 2019 in the country ranking of coal-fired power capacity in planning and construction, going against the international coal exit trend.

Of the 29 coal-fired power projects planned in Bangladesh, although investments from Japan are relatively small compared to other countries, Japan’s JICA loan to the Matarbari Port Development Project plans to import up to 41Mt of coal by 2040 (4000% more than current import levels), enabling for the further expansion of coal-fired power plants. The development of large-scale Japanese ODA loan projects is proceeding in the Matarbari ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant and deep seaport in southwestern Bangladesh. However, the total capacity of coal-fired power plants planned in Matarbari is 12,344 MW, which is about 37% of the total capacity (33,200MW) of the 29 coal-fired power projects.

There are various environmental and human rights issues occurring at the ongoing Matarbari Coal-fired Power Plant Project (Phase 1) funded by JICA, which
require immediate solutions. These include:

  1. Flooding of houses, fields, rice paddies, schools, and other areas; the inability to secure food and drinking water; and a child drowning accident occurred due to the worsening of floods (prolonged flooding) caused by the project.
  2. The destruction of water canals has affected rice cultivation, salt farming, and shrimp farming. Local residents who relied on these activities to earn a living have lost their jobs and many remain unemployed.
  3. Appropriate compensation has not been paid to local residents who have been affected. In addition, there has been a significant delay in plans to provide alternative housing.
  4. Many traffic accidents, including fatal accidents, have occurred on community roads due to project-related vehicles.
  5. Water containing large amounts of sediment is being released from the project site, resulting in large amounts of sediment accumulating in the Kohelia River, which is affecting the operation of ships.

Moreover, JICA is currently supporting a feasibility study for Phase 2 of the Matarbari Coal-fired Power Plant Project (a 1,200 MW expansion of the coal-fired power plant) and appears ready to provide an ODA loan for the Phase 2 project.

Meanwhile, the viability of renewable energy development is increasing in Bangladesh. There is a maximum potential for 53 GW of solar power generation in Bangladesh, an exceeding the planned coal-fired power generation capacity. Considering that solar power generation costs $91/MWh, while coal-fired power generation costs $110/MWh and the Matarbari coal-fired power generation (Phase 1) costs $160/MWh, there is no economic rationale to continue using coal-fired power.