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Fossil fuel

Bangladesh’s coal boom

by Nora Sausmikat, Quirin Jetschke

In brief

Workers unload coal from a ship in Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka.

Workers unload coal from a ship in Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka.

Bangladesh currently produces around a third more energy than it needs. Nevertheless, the country is planning to build 17 new coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 20 gigawatts. The idea is to increase the share of coal in the energy mix from five percent to 40 or even 50 %.

Thirteen of the planned plants are funded by Chinese state-owned and private companies, and five are under construction. All projects are associated with people losing their land and threats to biodiversity. One of the plants is being financed by the Chinese-dominated multilateral Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which Germany is also a party to and which prides itself on being a “lean, clean and green” investor. Nonetheless, environmental requirements have been ignored, and so has compensation for land owners.

German companies are also involved in funding Bangladesh’s unsustainable coal development: the company Fichtner is the head engineering firm in the construction of a power plant in Rampal with a capacity of 1300 megawatts. This plant could permanently destroy the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forests. Mangroves, of course, are important carbon sinks.

At the same time, Bangladesh has an enormous potential for solar and wind capacity. By coordinating international, supranational and national actors, it could become one of the first countries to establish a decentralised, green energy system.