By Rumana Hashem
The European Network of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh (NCBD) has demanded the cancellation of Bangladesh Government’s destructive project of 1320 MW Rampal Coal based power plant situated near the world largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans. Rampal is situated very close to sensitive ecological zone – biosphere of Sundarbans, which is the ultimate home of hundreds of species and the Royal Bengal Tiger. The adjacent area of the mangrove has already become a hub of industries because of this mega scale power plant. Therefore, the committee has also demanded to formulate supportive policy and to take necessary steps for alternative energy solution in order to save lives and nature from coal pollution and to produce cheap and affordable electricity in future.
To oppose the destructive Rampal Coal-Power Plant, a two-day international conference was held at the Democracy and Humanity Centre in Berlin, Germany on 19-20 August, 2017. Along with spontaneous participation of senior academics and ecologists from Germany, and front-line Bangladeshi green activists, many international environmentalists and representatives from climate organisation’s joined the conference in Berlin to say ‘NO’ to Rampal Power Plant. Among the participants were a large number of Bangladeshi researchers, students and professionals from Europe who expressed grave concerns.
At the end of the two-day conference, a statement of what the conference organisers called the ‘Berlin Declaration’ was announced, urging the government to promote renewable energy in Bangladesh, thereby saving the Sundarbans. In solidarity with the declaration that was announced from the conference in Berlin, over a hundred of environmentalists and nature and biodiversity based organisations such as 350.org. Europe, Coal Action Network, Green Peace, Friends of the Earth, London Mining Network, World Wild Foundation, Women Engage for the Common Future, Bank Truck, Reclaim the Power and more have signed the Berlin Declaration. We echo the signatories of the Berlin Declaration. We signed the declaration as below:
We, the participants and supporters of the Sundarbans Solidarity Action Networking and An Alternative Energy Solutions for Bangladesh, an international conference to be held on 19-20 August, 2017, organised by The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh, the European Action Branch in Berlin have signed the declaration as follows:
The Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest of the world, is bestowed with magnificent scenic beauty and extraordinarily rich in biodiversity with a unique eco-system. It is a habitat of some of the endangered species e.g. Bengal Tiger, Ganges dolphin. People living in adjacent areas are also dependent on this forest. In addition to providing livelihood, it is also protecting millions of people living in the coastal belt from tidal surges and cyclones.
This forest is under severe threat from a Bangladesh-India joint venture project– Rampal Power Plant, a coal based power generating company. The plant is placed only 14 km from the forest. It is estimated that the plant will emit 7.9 million tons of CO2, and 0.94 million tons of ashes annually which will contaminate environment of the adjacent areas and will put the fragile ecosystem into critical condition. Despite the grave concerns raised by the experts, scientists, environmentalists, local population and international organisations, the Government of Bangladesh has been moving ahead to implement the project for the last seven years. The project is scheduled to be completed within the coming few years . To justify the project the government is blatantly giving false assurances to protect the forest from all kinds of adverse impacts. The Government of India is also a major stakeholder of this joint-venture project and playing important roles as consultant, financier, and supplier of the equipment.
There is a growing demand of electricity in the country. To address the demand, the government has adopted a Power Sector Master Plan (PSMP) in 2016. The plan has proposed that the use of coal would increase from the current 0.3% to over 35%. The coal-fired power plants would produce electricity worth of 19,000 MW. It has also set the target to meet 10% of its electricity demand, by 2041, from its 7000 MW nuclear fleet, undermining the renewable energy potential. According to the PSMP 2016, the contribution of renewable energy would be only 3% of total electricity generation by 2041. This suggests that the government’s plan has failed to address environmental concerns and technical development in regards to renewable energy sources. Environment friendly renewable energy solutions are sustainable and cost effective and because of this, many countries in Europe and Asia including India and China are moving away from coal and nuclear based power generations. Contrary to this, ignoring the growing positive shift , the government of Bangladesh has taken a position in support of dirty coal and nuclear based power generations.
Given this, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh (NCBD) has proposed an Alternative Power Sector Master Plan (APSMP) in July 2017. The APSMP 2017 has proposed to generate 55% of electricity from renewable energy sources including solar, wind, waste and other green resources by 2041. The National Committee also stipulates that there is an urgent need for the need for building national capability that would attain 100% renewable energy usage to meet electricity demand of the country by 2050. The NCBD has also categorically refuted the government’s arguments in regard to the nuclear and coal dependent energy policy.
We, the signatories of this declaration, view the NCBD proposed APSMP as a way forward to the current energy needs of Bangladesh.We ask the government to listen to the NCBD’s suggestions for clean and renewable energy movement and protect the Sunderbans. We see it is the government’s duty to protect peoples’ interest rather than corporate greed and interest. As renewable energy is cheaper and eco-friendly, we demand a policy shift emphasizing renewable energy production rather than dirty coal energy generation. Renewable energy will protect ecology, life and livelihood of the people. The government must take appropriate steps to phase out coal and replace it with renewable energy sources in Bangladesh. The government ought to halt the Rampal Power Plant with immediate effect. As a coal based power plant, Rampal Plant will irreversibly damage the Sundarbans. It will disrupt the link between humans and the natural world by destroying ecology and species. This convention and the signatories of this declaration unequivocally demands immediate halt of the plant. We urge everyone to raise their voice to save the Sundarbans, and to save our future.