BLACK VIGIL for Phulbari Victims in London

What? Rage and Rally outside London Stock Exchange

When? On Friday, 23 August, at 9AM to1PM

Where?  10 Paternoster Square, London EC4M 7LS, UK. (nearest tube station: St Paul’s)

 

Hand-painted banner for victims of Phulbari shooting, 26 August 2016. Photocredit: Peter Marshall.

On 26 August in 2006 three people were shot dead and more than two hundreds injured in a non-violent demonstration of 80,000 people against a London-listed mining company, Global Coal Resources Management (GCM), who want to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 1,30000 people in Phulbari of northwest Bangladesh. The three killed were young people. The day has been marked as Phulbari Day ever since.

 

Although powerful resistance in the aftermath of the shooting against the coal mine has put a decade long halt to the project, the company continues its dodgy deals. GCM is aggressively moving ahead to build an open-cast coal mine in Phulbari. They have recently signed two new MOUs with two Chinese companies, and are lobbying with Bangladesh government for approval of the project.

 

GCM do not have a valid contract with Bangladesh. Following the unauthorised shooting and killings in violence inflicted by GCM’s Bangladesh subsidiary, Asia Energy, the government declined to renew the company’s license in 2010. But GCM’s CEO filed multiple cases against 26 community organisers in Phulbari and Dinajpur. They are also selling shares in the name of Phulbari project in the London Stock Exchange.

 

We have alerted London Stock Exchange about GCM’s fraudulent business. Phulbari Solidarity Group, Foil Vedanta, London Mining Network and the UK Committee to Protect Natural Resources in Bangladesh had previously asked London Stock Exchange to de-list GCM. But there was no response to our calls.

 

  • As Phulbari Day marks 13th anniversary this August, we will rally and rage outside the London Stock Exchange on Friday the 23rd August. Coordinated by Phulbari Solidarity Group, this year we will march together with climate activists at Christian Climate Action, Committee to Protect Natural Resources of Bangladesh, Extinction Rebellion, Foil Vedanta, and Reclaim the Power. While anxious people in Phulbari are paying tribute to victims in Phulbari memorial on 26 August, we stand in solidarity with the communities by rallying at London Stock Exchange. We will be commemorating the lost lives by rallying against GCM in London.

 

  • We will pay a creative tribute to Al-Amin (13), Salekin (16) and Tariqul (19). We will form a Vigil by wearing BLACK clothes. We will sing songs of loss and struggle.

 

We ask London Stock Exchange to De-list GCM NOW.

JOIN THE VIGIL on at 9AM on Friday 23 August!

Come along with your friends and families for a non-violent rally and creative action at London Stock Exchange.

  • Wear Black as symbol of grief, dirty coal and anguish!
  • Bring along musical instruments, own placards and ideas for creative actions:)

Please confirm your attendance here on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/events/219008188986792/

#PhulbariDayRally

Memorial of Al-Amin, Salekin and Tariqul in Phulbari. Photocredit: Nuruzzaman

Solidarity with #PowerBeyondBorders Campaigners

The below message was delivered to the Reclaim the Power’s Power Beyond Borders camp on Tuesday, 30 July. It was written in solidarity to those who took a series of incredible actions against UK Home Office, Hallmark Depot and Drax. The statement written by PSG founder Rumana Hashem, was read out by Put Down the Sword’s founder Angela Ditchfield on behalf of all at Phulbari Solidarity Group.

This message comes from the hearts of Bangladeshi migrants and environmental activists at Phulbari Solidarity Group. We congratulate the super dedicated climate and migrants rights activists at the Power Beyond Borders camp. We wish we could be in the camp with you. Due to our visa, immigration status, and other material issues we couldn’t be physically there but we wanted to let you know that we are with you in spirit.

It is heartening to see climate activists at the Power Beyond Borders camp are taking just actions as required for five days. It is splendid that Reclaim the Power network have reached out to migrants and Black and Minority Ethnic groups for an inclusive climate justice action. Thank you for taking an intersectional approach to climate struggles and for seeking to build a planet free of fossil fuel, and of exploitation and hostility.

There is no doubt that climate change is interrelated with migration and refugee “crisis”. Those of us are fighting at the frontline of climate campaign in Bangladesh and Phulbari know very well that our goods, including coal and gas are allowed to cross borders – as robbed by certain corporations such as the UK-based Global Coal Resources Management and Tullow Oil Plc. The governments in the UK and elsewhere are fully aware of this free movement of goods from Bangladesh, and let their companies to inflict violence killing indigenous people in northwest Bangladesh.  But our people, especially students and migrants in the UK, are not welcome or treated with respect.

Due to hostile environment and new immigration legislation by Theresa May, more than 7,000 legal Bangladeshi students were forced to leave the UK between 2014 and 2017. ‘Accusations of faking English tests came amid department’s “hostile environment” policy. A Financial Times report showed that the Home Office may have falsely accused as many as 7,000 international students of faking their proficiency in English and ordered them to leave the country, with some of them saying they were detained and made homeless as a result’ (Financial Times, 01 May 2018). At a personal level, the author of this statement of solidarity has experienced hostility for years in Britain. Despite Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, this author’s work permit was curtailed for three years (2014-2017). I was forced to collect a second/fresh biometric and pay £280 for no good reason. During the renewal of biometric, there was no paid work and no money to survive. There was only a feeling of vulnerability and of being unwelcome.

This is not an uncommon story. Thousands of international im/migrants have undergone such harassment and face hostility in the UK. If you are a climate activist, your burden would be doubled.

The same government let toxic corporations to forcibly displace 1,30000 people including 50, 000 indigenous families from Phulbari of northwest Bangladesh.  A London-listed company called the Global Coal Management (GCM) Resources Plc. want to build a massive open cast coal mine by polluting our water and livelihood, grabbing our land, homes, and by exploiting government. Over the course of 30 years of coal extraction, GCM would like to export 94 percent of extracted coal and give only 6 percent to Bangladesh government.  They would enjoy a tax holiday and would not pay any tax for the extracted coals for 9 years.

When non-violent people took to the streets to protest, they faced violence by company-hired security forces. Three people were shot dead and 200 plus injured in unauthorised shooting, which shook up entire Bangladesh. But the company is aggressively moving ahead to build the mine without a license from Bangladesh government.

This one story tells a lot about UK government’s inaction to climate and migration issues. When evicted people from Phulbari would want to enter the UK and re-make home in London, would UK’s Home Office let those people? We know the answer is “NOT likely”. Migrants’ rights and climate justice are inseparable issues. Thank you for taking this interconnected actions by risking your bodies.

We are saddened to hear that police targeted some activists after the protest at UK Home Office on Monday. The hostility against migrants is once again visible.

We stand in solidarity with all activists at Power Beyond Borders. Congratulations for your deliberation and your efforts to bring in justice.

Sending courage, peace and power to the camp!

Long Live Power Beyond Borders!

Anxious Phulbari people to be evicted. File photo. Courtesy: NCBD

 

Ensure Security to Anu Muhammad: Denounce Government’s Inaction to Save the Sundarbans

Joint Statement by

Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network and Phulbari Solidarity Group

Friday the 26th July was International Mangrove Day when the world was believed to celebrate mangrove action for conservation of the mangrove and associated ecosystems. Whilst climate activists in the minority world such as USA celebrate mangrove action month, activists in the majority world face unspeakable repression during this mangrove action month.  We note on 12 July a dedicated mangrove rights activist and a leader of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh (NCBD), Professor Anu Muhammad, was threatened to be kidnapped and silenced by malevolent terrorist claiming to be from India. This is appalling.

The threat to the professor came on the day after he wrote an article exposing government’s responsibility to prevent coal plants in the vicinity of the Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Professor Anu Muhammad is a renowned economist, a fearless climate activist, and the member secretary of the central NCBD. He should inspire us all. In our shock we read that he was told to pay BDT 400,000 and threatened to be kidnapped, otherwise.  Although he reported the incident to police straightaway on the same day, Bangladeshi police are yet to take action. Such malicious threat to Anu Muhammad and police inaction are abysmal.

We call on the government of Bangladesh to urgently enquire into the case and to provide security to Professor Anu Muhammad.  Police should inspect, identify and prosecute the criminals, and ensure that such intimidation never happens again.

Notably this is not the first time that Professor Anu Muhammad was intimidated. In February 2008 he was threatened to be killed. In September 2009 the same professor, along with 50 other NCBD activists, was brutally beaten by the state-security forces to such extent that he merely survived. He was opposing government’s decision to award gas and oil exploration rights in the Bay of Bengal to US based gas company called ConocoPhillips and the UK-based oil company Tullow Oil plc. who took Bangladesh government hostage for three blocks and wanted to export up to 80 per cent of gas from the country.  In 2018, Anu Muhammad, received further death threat by malicious extremists. But no action for his security was taken by the government so far.

NCBD march against Rampal deal to handover statement to PM of Bangladesh in Dhaka 28 July 2016. Courtesy: Anonymous NCBD activist.

We note it is not only Anu Muhammad who faced such threats in Bangladesh. Over the past several years during save the Sundrabans movement many Bangladeshi climate justice activists underwent intimidation and heightened insecurity including police brutality for their actions to protect mangrove and ecological justice. In 2016 on this day, police foiled non-violent demonstration and unleashed violence on those who marched to conserve the mangrove ecosystem in Bangladesh.

We express our intense disturbance to such intimidation, repression and government’s inaction to protect voices of mangrove in Bangladesh.  Bangladeshi mangrove rights activists deserve better.

We also explicitly condemn ongoing destruction of the Sundarbans, one of the world’s largest mangrove forests, located at the Indian-Bangladeshi border in south-west Bangladesh.  An Indian National Thermal Power Company and Bangladesh Power Development Board are building a joint venture coal power plant to produce 1,320 megawatt coal fired power in Rampal, within 14 kilometers of the Sundarbans.  The detrimental aspects of the project were highlighted by national and international experts. But the governments have so far ignored all criticisms.  Bangladesh government’s decision to implement the destructive Rampal coal power-plant near the Sundarbans is disgraceful.

We express our unambiguous support to activists of the Bangladesh National Committee and associated grassroots organisations as they are opposed by the destruction of the beautiful forests in the Sundarbans. The Sundarbans mangrove is an invaluable ecosystem along Bangladesh’s coast. Government of Bangladesh should take responsibilities to protect the mangrove site.

On this International Mangorve Action month, we stand firm in solidarity with Bangladeshi climate activists to take action to save the mangrove. Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network and Phulbari Solidarity will be watching development in Bangladeshi climate struggle.

 

#SavetheSundarbans

Contact for further information:

Kofi Mawuli Klu, Joint Coordinator, Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network

Email: mawusafo@yahoo.com

Rumana Hashem, Coordinator, Phulbari Solidarity Group                                                               Email: rowshonrumana@gmail.com

UNESCO Ask To Halt All Industrial Constructions Near Sundarbans Before SEA

 

Activists condemn UNESCO for failing to list the Sundarbans to “World Heritage in Danger”

 

By Akhter Khan

 

Despite heavy lobbying by Bangladesh government and Chinese coal diplomats, UNESCO held the ground by asking to halt all industrial constructions near the Sundarbans. On Thursday 4 July at the 43rd meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Baku the committee agreed a decision that “notes with great concerns the likely environmental impacts of large scale industrial projects” and asked Bangladesh government to “take all necessary mitigation measures”.

The committee asked the government to conduct a regional Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) by the end of 2019. It “expresses concern that 154 industrial projects upstream of the property are currently active, and reiterates the Committee’s request in Paragraph 4 of Decision 41 COM B.25”. The government has been asked to “ensure that any large-scale industrial and/or infrastructure developments will not be allowed to proceed before the SEA has been completed.”

The government of Bangladesh, backed by Chinese coal lobbyists, has maintained the Rampal project was put through a thorough environmental assessment process. But the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has disputed this claim.

Bangladeshi and transnational campaigners to save the Sundarbans condemned the decision of UNESCO for it has moved away from the earlier draft decision of the committee. The earlier draft did express grave concerns to the construction of three coal plants in the area. But the final decision re-drafted by China, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cuba, Hungary and Norway fails to recognise the threats linked to the coal plants near Sundarbans.

We should name and shame those members of the Committee that removed mention of danger of coal plants in the final declaration. UNESCO’s final decision is cowardly. But we also note it doesn’t approve building of any coal plants or industrial constructions in the vicinity before a Strategic Environmental Assessment is completed, said Dr Rumana Hashem, the Phulbari Solidarity spokesperson and an organiser of transnational campaign to save the Sundarbans.

An earlier draft decision of the Committee citing the site as a ‘Heritage in danger’ was indisputably supported by climate campaigners and earth defenders from across the world. On Monday 1st July, a petition initiated by Bangladeshi diaspora campaigners in the UK and Europe, and signed by 53 global ecological and grassroots climate justice organisations demanded UNESCO must recognise the threats posed to the Sundarbans.  There were other calls and messages sent from across the globe to the World Heritage Committee to save the Sundarbans.

Despite all calls, the Committee allowed amendments to the original draft decision. It also failed to acknowledge the existence of economical renewable energy options which were recommended by biodiversity experts. The Alternative Power and Energy Plan for Bangladesh, recommended by the energy experts belonging to the Save the Sundarbans movement articulate that it is possible to generate up to 91,700 MW of electricity through renewable sources. The Committee overlooked the Alternative Energy Plan.

Professor Anu Muhammad, the Member Secretary of NCBD said that: Yeras ago, UNESCO from its own research and investigations confirmed the danger of Rampal coal fired project for the survival of Sundarban. The global institution has to do more to save the Sundarban. The government and the corporations have been lobbying to rationalize disastrous projects there.

He added: People will not accept such decision. Lobbying and propaganda cannot hide the truth. We demand that the governments of both Bangladesh and India will come to senses to scrap the Rampal project immediately. When we say YES to the Sundarbans, we must say NO to Rampal and other destructive projects in the vicinity. 

Cultural Survival, Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace Russia, Global Justice Forum, London Mining Network, Mangrove Action Project, Reclaim The Power, South Asia Solidarity, 350.org, Urgewald and 43 other environmental organisations from Asia, Afrika, Australia, Canada, Europe, East Europe, Middle East, UK and US stand firm in solidarity with Bangladeshi communities to prevent destructive coal projects in Bangladesh.

Urgewald’s Director, Knud Vöcking, stated:  Again the Sundarbans are threatened by fossil fuel projects. UNESCO has to step up but they failed!

Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network’s joint cooridinator, Kofi Mawuli Klu, as a signatory of Monday’s petition stated:

For the Internationalist Solidarity imperatives of our Climate and Ecological Emergency International Rebellion demand, we boldly take sides with grassroots Communities of Resistance at the Global South front ranks of defending World Heritage sites like the Sundarbans. We stand firm with the communities to prevent their loss from worsening the looming catastrophe. The most decisive victories of our International Rebellion will be won on such Global South battlegrounds as the Sundarbans, to effectively save all Humanity and our entire planet Earth.

 

Stop-rampal-coal-power-plant-poster-by Rudro Rothi.

Which are the coal plants that threaten the Sundarbans?

There are three coal plants that threaten the Sundarbans. The first plant is being built by a joint venture of Bangladesh and India’s state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation at Rampal, within 14 kilometers north of the world Heritage site. There are two other plants to be built at Taltoli and Kalapara as joint Chinese-Bangladeshi ventures. The mentions of these later ones were taken out by the Chinese amendment to the final draft decision at the 43rd session on 4 July.

The pollution and dredging from these coal plants will, as a mission from the IUCN in 2016 reported, enduringly damage the world’s mangrove forests. There are also plans for two additional coal plants to be built on the Payra port, by Chinese investments, which would threaten the ecological buffer zone.

 

#SavetheSundarbans #NotoRampalCoalPowerPlant

We Call on the World Heritage Committee to Intervene to Stop Bangladesh’s Government from Pushing the Sundarbans Towards Destruction

The Bengal Tiger in River Pashur at the Sundarbans on 26 July 2016. Courtesy: Anonymous photographer, NCBD.

In the light of ongoing threats on the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, located at the Indian-Bangladeshi border, we write to the country delegates to the 43rd Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee by calling for an urgent intervention into Bangladesh government’s decision to implement the destructive Rampal coal power-plant.

 

As concerned global citizens, earth defenders, climate organisations and researchers, and members of Bangladeshi environmental groups abroad, we express our unequivocal support to the draft decision generated by international biodiversity experts and to be discussed and voted in Baku on 4 July 2019. We welcome the draft decision that calls in particular to halt the construction of the coal plants at Rampal, Taltali and Kalapara and 154 other active industrial activities in southwest Bangladesh until the exact impacts for the forest have been critically assessed.

 

The Sundarbans mangrove forest is an invaluable ecosystem along Bangladesh’s coast and the government of Bangladesh should take responsibility to protect the mangrove site. Ahead of the 43rd Session in Baku where 21 member states on the Committee will discuss the status of the Sundarbans forest, we caution also that declaring it a “World Heritage Site in Danger” will not suffice. This will be a first step only. We recognise the imminent danger threatening the mangrove forest, where such a decision is needed. However, the Committee should take a more bold and positive step to bring in a solution to the problem faced by the affected communities and the World Heritage.

 

The outcome of such declaration should not mean that the World’s largest mangrove forest being an isolated or left over site, diminishing its original status. In our view the World Heritage Committee should take an important and positive step by first declaring the Sundarbans as a “Heritage in Danger” and asking the Bangladesh government to immediately comply with UNESCO guidelines for the protection and conservation of this universal common heritage. The Committee should ask the government to ensure that the mangrove being not harmed in the future. This could be done by consistent monitoring of the activities across the site, which the government should be accountable for.

 

The Committee could also ask the government to follow the Alternative Power and Energy Plan for Bangladesh, crafted by the energy experts belonging to the Save the Sundarbans movement that articulate that it is possible to generate up to 91,700 MW of electricity through renewable sources.

 

The government in Bangladesh do not recognise the cost of fossil fuel and harms done by ongoing industrial developments in the vicinity of Sundarbans. There are significant evidence of ongoing dredging and construction in the vicinity of the Sundarbans that overlooked appropriate measures to limit water and soil pollution. Despite thorough critiques by national and international climate experts and scientists, industrial projects near this intricate ecosystem continue. This situation is saddening.

 

Thus we call on the Country Delegates to the World Heritage Committee to immediately:

 

  1. Declare the site as a “Heritage in Danger” and take positive steps to save the Sundarbans;
  2. Ask Bangladesh government to withdraw from the move to build coal-power plants near the Sundarbans;
  3. To reiterate that it is the government’s responsibility to protect mangrove forests and to comply with the UNESCO World Heritage recommendations as elaborated in the draft decision;
  4. Tell Bangladesh government to overhaul all industrial installations of destructive enterprises in the area;
  5. To consult the Alternative Power and Energy Plan for Bangladesh as a way forward for meeting energy needs of the country.

 

Sincerely,

 

We the undersigned:*

 

  1. Akhter Sobhan Khan Masroor, Committee to Protect Natural Resources of Bangladesh, the UK branch.
  2. Alfredo Quarto, Mangrove Action Project, USA.
  3. Amrit Wilson, South Asia Solidarity Group, London.
  4. Amy Caitlin, Extinction Rebellion London, UK.
  5. Anna Gaynutdinova, ICOMOS Russia Board member.
  6. Andrea Martínez-Fernández, World Heritage Office of San Antonio (US/ICOMOS Int´l Exchange Intern), Texas.
  7. Anna Fisk, Extinction Rebellion Scotland.
  8. Delphine Djiraibe, Public Interest Law Centre, TCHAD, North-central Afrika.
  9. Danielle DeLuca, Cultural Survival, USA.
  10. Dominique Palmer, Extinction Rebellion Youth, London.
  11. Elena Belokurova, German-Russian Exchange St. Petersburg.
  12. Eman Shokry Hesham, The World Heritage Watch.
  13. Environics R. Sreedhar, Environics Trust, India.
  14. Ercan Ayboga, Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive and Platform No to the Destruction of Sur, Turkey.
  15. Esther Stanford-Xosei, Coordinator-General, Stop The Maangamizi:We Charge Genocide/Ecocide Campaign.
  16. Eugene Simonov, Coordinator, Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition.
  17. Farwiza Farhan, Chairperson, Yayasan HAkA, Indonesia.
  18. Fe Haslam, Global Justice Forum
  19. Geoff Law AM, Wilderness Society, Australia.
  20. Gunter Wippel, MENSCHENRECHTE (HUMAN RIGHTS) 3000 e.V., Germany.
  21. Humaida Abdulghafoor, Save Maldives Campaign, Maldives.
  22. Jessica Lawrence, Earthjustice, USA.
  23. Dr Kat Kramer, Christian Aid, UK.
  24. Kofi Mawuli Klu, Joint Coordinator, Extinction Rebellion Internationalist Solidarity Network (XRISN), London, UK.
  25. Knud Voecking, Urgewald, Germany.
  26. Luiz Fernando Vieira, Coordinator, The Breton Woods Project, Critical Voices on the World Bank and IMF, UK.
  27. Marion Hammerl, Global Nature Fund
  28. Mikhail Kreyndlin, Greenpeace Russia.
  29. Maurizio Farhan Ferrari, Forest Peoples Programme, UK.
  30. Mª Alejandra Piazzolla Ramírez, Extinction Rebellion Youth, Bristol,
  31. Melody Lepine, Mikisew Cree First Nation.
  32. Mostafa Farook, European Branch of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh.
  33. Nils Agger, Risingup! UK.
  34. Norly Mercado, Asia Regional Director, 350.Org.
  35. Paul V. Dudman, Refugee Council Archive, University of East London.
  36. Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation.
  37. Pieter Jansen, Both ENDS.
  38. Richard Hering, Extinction Rebellion London.
  39. Richard Roberts, Reclaim the Power ‘Frack Free Three’, London, UK.
  40. Richard Solly, London Mining Network, UK.
  41. Rohit Prajapati, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti Gujarat, India.
  42. Dr Rafiqul Hassan Khan (Jinnah),President, Rivers Saving Network UK
  43. Rumana Hashem, Coordinator, Phulbari Solidarity Group.
  44. Saeed Baloch, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Pakistan.
  45. Salman Khairalla,Director,Tigris River Protector Association (Humat Dijlah), Iraq.
  46. Syed Babul, Bengalische Kulture Forum, Germany.
  47. Sukhgerel Dugersuren, Oyu Tolgoi Watch, Mongolia.
  48. Stephan Doempke, Chairman, World Heritage Watch, Germany.
  49. Stephanie Fried, Ulu Foundation, USA
  50. Sergiu Musteata, ICOMOS Moldova
  51. Virginia Young, Australian Rainforest Conservation Society
  52. Vidya Dinker, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)
  53. Yulia Naberezhnaya, Russian Geographical Society, Member of the World Commission on Protected Areas in the North Eurasia Region. Russia.

 

*Names of signatories on this list are re-organised around the alphabetical order of ‘First names’. There is no first or second signatory. All signatories share the same sentiment, equally.  The signatories are the spokespersons of organisations that they represent in the letter above. The signatures close here.

 

A rally with handmade dummy of rare Bengal Tiger was brought about by the rural green-cultural activists at Samageet to Save the Sundarbans in Narsingdhi, Bangladesh (14 April 2016). The Bengal Tigers are decreasing by ongoing dredging in the area and they would gradually disappear if building of coal plants continue around Rampal. File photo. Photocredit: Anonymous PSG activist.

#SAVESUNDARBANS #NOtoCOALPLANTS #SAVEtheSUNDARBANS

Vibrant Protests Held at HSBC AGM

Protesters Demand that the Bank Stops Fuelling War and Climate Crisis

By Raaj Manik

 

Last Friday Birmingham witnessed colourful and powerful protests by an alliance of anti-militarism, climate groups and pro-Palestinian rights activists who have joined forces to demand that banking giant HSBC ends its complicity in climate change, military occupation and war.

 

In the morning of 12th April, protesters gathered outside the International Convention Centre at 8 Centenary Square in Birmingham where HSBC’s AGM was being held. Under the slogan “No War, No Warming” a loud group of activists occupied the front entrance of the lavish building to speak out against the bank’s involvement in the climate crisis and militarised conflict around the planet. Activists said that HSBC has poured £43bn into fossil fuels, whilst investing over £830m in arms companies in the last three years alone. They accused the bank being involved in syndicated loans to the arms sector exceeding £18.9bn.

 

Protests outside HSBC AGM was held in Birmingham on 12 April 2019

There have already been campaigning successes, with anti-militarism and pro-Palestinian rights groups pushing HSBC to divest from Israel’s biggest arms manufacturer, Elbit Systems, last December and climate groups winning tighter restrictions on the bank’s coal policy last April though, protesters say that HSBC’s policies, lending practices and exposure give cause for an escalation in action and demands.

 

Lise Masson, a climate campaigner at BankTrack said: “For too long now big banks like HSBC have been pouring billions into climate-wrecking fossil fuels every year. HSBC is one of the biggest fossil fuel financiers, supporting projects that not only damage our climate but also ravage frontline communities across the world. HSBC needs to massively step up its climate ambition, concretely that means ending its financial support for all fossil fuels.”

 

Huda Ammori, Campaigns Officer at Palestine Solidarity Campaign, stated that: “Despite divesting from Elbit Systems following campaigning pressure, HSBC continues to invest in companies supplying weapons and military technology to Israel such as Caterpillar, which makes the armoured bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian homes and communities. Our message today is clear – HSBC must end its complicity in war crimes and military occupation, and cut ties with all companies that profit from the violent repression of the Palestinian people.”

 

Protests outside HSBC AGM was held in Birmingham on Friday 12 April 2019.

As research shows that a heating climate has been a contributing factor behind wars in the Middle East, protesters assert that a cycle of war and warming increasingly binds anti-militarism and climate campaigners to the same cause. The groups highlight that in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, oil, gas and coal are being pulled from the ground under the watchful gaze of state-military and militias.

 

HSBC also continues to finance new coal-fired power plants in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia.  All three countries are on the front line of climate change and have significant renewable energy potential, a crucial tool to sustainable poverty eradication.

 

Bangladesh National Committee protest outside HSBC AGM in Birmingham on Friday 12 April 2019

Akhter Khan Masroor, Member Secretary of NCBD, UK said: “Whilst coal mines funded by HSBC destroyed the ecology and livelihoods in Colombia and Russia, HSBC’s new investment in coal business in the Delta region is a threat to livelihoods in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam. Bangladesh is the most vulnerable country to climate change. As HSBC’s coal financing policy for Bangladesh will push it into more danger, we demand they do not invest in coal in Bangladesh and in the delta region. We do not need dirty coal energy. HSBC must also stop arming the Israeli state that is killing the people of Palestine.”

 

Protests against HSBC’s financing of war and climate change have been coordinated by groups including 350.org, War on Want, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, BankTrack, and Bangladeshi diaspora groups NCBD UK and Phulbari Solidarity Group. Campaigners say they will continue to lobby and protest against HSBC until it divests fully from the fossil fuel industry and the arms trade.

 

School strikers protests outside HSBC AGM in Birmingham on Friday 12 April 2019

Previously, climate and anti-militarism groups have challenged HSBC on separate terms, but have now come together in a collective show of force to demand that the bank severs ties with companies that are at the root of war crimes and global warming.

 

Read further news:

Our house is on fire but its business as usual at the HSBC AGM say the activists who took action to get HSBC to #stopfundingdestruction : http://bit.ly/2IyWXN0 

BDS Victory: HSBC Divests From Elbit
https://waronwant.org/media/bds-victory-hsbc-divests-elbit

HSBC Accused of Hypocrisy for Coal Finance Ban That Excludes Countries Most Vulnerable to Climate Change
https://www.desmog.co.uk/2018/10/16/hsbc-accused-hypocrisy-coal-finance-ban-excludes-countries-most-vulnerable-climate-change

HSBC has recently announced it has appetite to finance coal in Bangladesh and in the delta region, despite research showing that pollution caused by coal expansion in South-East Asia will cause tens of thousands of deaths.

Add your name to the petition with protesters calling on the bank to change its policies with respect to finance for fossil fuel projects and weapon manufacturers: https://350.org/hsbc/#petition 

LANDMARK JURISDICTION CASE WON BY ZAMBIAN FARMERS AT SUPREME COURT

PRESS RELEASE by Foil Vedanta

Historic victory opens the door for global claimants to seek justice against British multinationals in the UK

 

The Supreme Court on Wednesday the 10th April announced its verdict in the landmark case of the Zambian communities consistently polluted by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a subsidiary of British miner Vedanta Resources Plc, allowing them to have their case against the parent company and its subsidiary tried in the UK. The ruling sets a strong legal precedent which will allow people with claims against subsidiaries of British multinationals to sue the parent company in the UK.

The judgment by Chief Justice Lady Hale, and four further judges, re-affirms the rulings of the Court of Technology and Construction in 2016 and the Court of Appeal in 2017. Lady Hale refused Vedanta’s pleas in appealing the former judgments stating that, contrary to the claims of Vedanta’s lawyers:

  • the claimants do have a bona fide claim against Vedanta

  • the company does owe a duty of care to the claimants, especially in view of the existence of company wide policies on environment and health and safety.

  • that the size and complexity of the case, and the lack of funding for claimants at ‘at the poorer end of the poverty scale in one of the poorest countries of the world’ means that do not have substantive access to justice in Zambia.

The 1,826 claimants, represented by UK law firm Leigh Day, are from farming and fishing communities downstream of KCM’s mines and plants. They claim to have suffered continual pollution since UK firm Vedanta Resources bought KCM in 2004, including a major incident in 2006 which turned the River Kafue bright blue with copper sulphate and acid, and poisoned water sources for 40,000 people(2). 2,001 claimants took KCM to court in Zambia in 2007. The courts found KCM guilty but denied the communities compensation after a nine year legal battle. As a result the victims took their case to UK lawyers.

James Nyasulu from Chingola, a long term campaigner in the case, and lead claimant in the Zambian cases, issued this statement:

The Supreme Court judgment will finally enable justice for the thousands of victims of pollution by KCM’s mining activities, who have suffered immensely since 2006 to date, in the Chingola district of Zambia. Their livelihoods, land and health have been irreparably damaged by pollution which has rendered the River Kafue completely polluted and unable to support aquatic life. Some have already died as a result.

We are very grateful to the British Supreme Court for allowing the case to be tried in the UK where we trust that justice will finally be done. As our thirteen years of legal battles have shown, we have been unable to get justice in Zambia.”

Now that the Supreme Court has confirmed their permission to have the case tried in the UK the case itself can begin.

Samarendra Das from Foil Vedanta said:

As the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals recognise, sustainable development and access to justice go hand in hand. The judges ruling today recognises and enforces that principle.

Criminal companies like Vedanta can no longer so easily whitewash their reputation and assume a ‘cloak of respectability’ by virtue of a London listing. This is an historic day for victims of British multinational’s abuses worldwide.”

In a further development Vedanta Resources de-listed from the London Stock Exchange on 1st October 2018, amid global protests following the killing of 13 people, shot by police during protests against the company’s copper smelter in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, India. Commentators (including Foil Vedanta in their comprehensive report on the company’s global operations entitled ‘Vedanta’s Billions: Regulatory failure, environment and human rights’)1 claimed the company were fleeing regulation in the UK. However, Vedanta remains liable in the UK for damages arising from the Zambian case.

It is now possible that claimants from some of the many of the Indian communities affected by pollution and human rights abuses by Vedanta may also seek to get justice in the UK.

In April 2016 a High Court ruling granted the claimants jurisdiction to have their case against KCM and Vedanta heard in the UK, citing KCM’s uncertain and opaque finances as one reason they may not be able to get justice in Zambia. The Court of Appeal upheld this verdict in July 2017.2(3)

2 Dominic Liswaniso Lungowe and others vs Vedanta Resources Plc and Konkola Copper Mines Plc. (13 Oct, 2017)