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

Support Three XR Activists at Court – Show Solidarity with Bangladesh

This Wednesday 10th April, Amy, Angela and Shulamit face the City of London Magistrate’s court for defending the affected communities in Phulbari and for disrupting AGM of a bullying extractive company, GCM Resources, in London. Please come to support and show solidarity with the brave activists and with abused Bangladeshi communities.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019 from 09:30-11:30 UTC+01

City of London Magistrate’s court

1 Queen Victoria Street, EC4N 4XY

London, United Kingdom.

 

The three arrests happened at the AGM for Global Coal Management (GCM) Resources Plc. on 28th December 2019. GCM is an AIM-listed British company whose sole purpose is to build a 6000MW massive open pit coal mine in the only flood protected area in Bangladesh, the Phulbari, in northwest region.

Building the mine will involve displacement of up to 220,000 people including 50,000 indigenous people from 23 tribes, destroying their ancient culture which can be traced back 5,000 years. The mine will drain and pollute the water supply for the 230,000, destroy 14,600 hecters of areas of the most fertile agricultural land in Bangladesh whilst only 6 percent of the coal or profit will remain in the country.

The project will damage the UNESCO world heritage site, the Sundarban Mangroves where the endangered Bengal Tigers live.

Why do corporations hold the power to do this? This is ecocide.

Three people including a 13 year old-child in Phulbari have been killed protesting this mine.  Activists have been abused by the company’s CEO who filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 community leaders. The company’s Bangladesh subsidiary, Asia Energy, was also allegedly involved in the murder of Nasrin Huq who was fighting the controversial Phulbari coal project.

 

The courageous Extinction Rebellion activists decided their personal consequences are of less importance than putting their bodies in the way of this criminal activity.

 

JOIN Us with friends and family outside and inside the court, if you are around London.

If you are not in London, please show your solidarity by sending a message of support on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/371034560412653/

Vibrant Rally held in London on Global Day of Solidarity to Save the Sundarbans from Coal

By Rumana Hashem

On Saturday, the 10th November, London saw a vibrant rally by London’s climate activists at Altab Ali Park on the Global Day of Solidarity to Save the Sundarbans. In response to the National Committee to Protect Oil Gas and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh (NCBD)’s call to observe a worldwide solidarity to save the world’s largest mangrove forest, the UK branch of NCBD has organised a powerful rally which was joined by grassroots and community climate organisations. Speakers attending the rally called on Bangladesh and Indian governments to scrap Rampal coal-power plant urgently and to halt climate change in Bangladesh and across South Asia.

Altabl Ali Park rally in London on Global Day of Solidarity to Save the Sundarbans from Coal, 10 Nov 18. Courteasy: NCBDUK.

 

Presided by a veteran Bangladeshi community leader and medical professional Dr Rafikul Hasan Jinnah and moderated by the general secretary of the UK branch of NCBD, Akhter Sobhan Masroor, the rally was outraged about the joint project of the Power Development Board (PDB) of Bangladesh and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) of India for 1320 Megawatt Rampal coal-fired plant because it is a deadly threat to the environment and livelihood of the Sundarbans. If built the Rampal power station in Bangladesh will spew 8 million tonnes of Co2 emissions into the atmosphere contributing to rising temperatures and irreversible climate change. This isn’t compatible with the scientific mandate to keep global heating under 1.5˚C.

Speakers expressed solidarity with the NCBD in their call to all political parties in Bangladesh to include forestry reservation, especially the Sundarbans, and environmental protection in their manifesto for the 11th national polls. Activists also demanded that the government stop all processes for industrialisation near the Sundarbans prior to declaring the schedule of the general election. The general secretary of the UK branch of NCBD, Akhter Sobhan Masroor, said that alongside the destructive coal-based Rampal power plant, a group of forest and land-grabbers have developed more than 300 commercial projects near the Sundarbans.

The rally was joined by East London’s leading local climate organisations such as Fossil Free Newham, the River Savings Network, the Water Keepers, the Extinction Rebellion, the Unite Community and Labour Party Women’s Forum in Tower Hamlets, the Bangladesh Socialist Party, the Communist Party of Bangladesh, the Liberty Arts, and of course Phlulbari Solidarity, UK. The London rally took place as part of  the global human chains and public meetings held in Bangladesh, Canada, France, Germany and across the world demanding immediate halt to the Rampal coal-plant in October and November.

 

The Sundarbans is the world’s largest mangrove forest and is located in Bangladesh – one of the world’s most vulnerable areas to climate change impacts. Despite grave concern raised by the experts and people, the government in Bangladesh is going ahead to implement an Indo-Bangla 1300 MW coal fired Rampal power plant close to the forest which speakers at the Altabl Ali Park rally branded as “clearly issued its death warrant”. In addition, it is inviting a range of national and international vested interest groups to grab forest and has set up hundreds of commercial projects in and around the Sundarbans.

This has not only put the livelihoods of at least 3.5 million people at risk, it has made the lives of around 40 million coastal people vulnerable to natural disasters. The Sundarbans have long since been a natural safe-guard against frequent cyclones, storms and other natural disasters in the country. Sundarbans provides a natural barrier against Bangladesh’s deadly climate change threat. In order to preserve its outstanding universal value and to protect the world’s largest mangrove forest, Saturday the 10th November has been observed worldwide as a global day of solidarity to save the Sundarbans.

 

For further background news, please read:

Global Protests on Saturday to Save the Sunderbans from coal, 350.org news, 09 November 2018.

A call for Global Day of Solidarity for the Sundarbans, Fossil Free Newham, 6 November 2018.

Stop industrialisation in Sundarbans before election schedule, Environmentalists urge govt. The Daily Star, 07 October 2018.

Make poll pledge to scrap hazardous power plants. The New Age, 07 October 2018.

 

Homage Paid to Victims on Phulbari Day: 12 Years of Halt and Outburst against Coal Mine Celebrated

By Rumana Hashem

Yesterday, 26th August, marked 12 years of successful halt to and the outburst against an AIM-listed British company, Global Coal Resources Management (GCM) who wants to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in northwest Bangladesh. In 2006 three people were shot dead and two hundred injured as paramilitary force opened fire in a demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against plans by GCM in Phulbari. The day has been called Phulbari Day since. And a powerful resistance by people in the aftermath of the shooting against open-cast mine in Phulbari has put a decade long halt to the project.

Homage paid to victims at Al-Amin, Salekin and Tariqul’s memorial in Phulbari on Sunday, 26 Aug 2018. Photocredit: Nuruzzaman

This week two events were held in remembrance of the victims of Phullbari outburst. On Sunday, 26 August, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh held a commemoration event in Phulbari, where community members and national environmentalists paid homage by flowers to the victims who were killed by paramilitary force, allegedly paid by the company, in Phulbari on 26 August in 2006.  The National Committee stated that there will be intense movement if the government fails to implement “Phulbari verdict 2006” by this December.

Earlier this week, the community activists under the banner of the Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh also held a commemoration event in London, where they have accused GCM for exploitation and harassment of the locals, for criminalising the society in Phulbari, and for ongoing corruption in Bangladesh. The committee has called upon the Bangladesh government for immediate implementation of the “Phulbari verdict 2006”.  Members of the UK Committee of NCBD also called for the de-listing of GCM from London Stock Exchange.

Community women and men paid tribute to Phulbari Victims in Phulbari on Sunday 26 August 2018. Photo credit: Nuruzzaman

If the mine is built, 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari would be forcibly displaced. It would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land, would pose threats to clean water resources and would leave devastative impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans.  Government has cancelled the company’s license, following the outburst in 2006, but GCM continued its dodgy deals and lobbying for Phulbari coal mine.

The company has been allegedly involved in various forms of abuse and harassment of opponents of the proposed Phulbari mine. Media report on the brutal death of Nasrin Huq , the former executive director of Action Aid in Dhaka, revealed also that Huq was killed in her car park for her opposition to the project in 2005.

Anu Muhamad, the Member Secretary of the National Committee in Bangladesh, said:

GCM is a fraudulent company. Government must ban both GCM and its plan for open cast coal mine. The export idea of 80 percent coal was rooted by GCM. Its Bangladesh subsidiary, Asia Energy, proposed to export extracted coal via Bay of Bengal and the point of coal terminal was that of the Sunderbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest.  GCM’s plans would have destroyed the Sunderbans. Besides, they have killed our people and wants to build a mine by displacing tens of thousands people from their homes. They are continuously harassing the locals and activists through filing false cases in the court, and they are criminalising our society by drug addiction. But they will not win.

Phulbari Day poster by the NCBD 23 Aug 2018. Credit: National Committee of Bangladesh

GCM does not have a valid contract with Bangladesh for coal mining but they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project. Instead of leaving Bangladesh, the company has filed multiple cases against 26 key indigenous organiser’s, local leaders, farmers, small scale business entrepreneurs and students who opposed the mine in Phulbari. The arbitrary charges were formed on 25 July in 2016 at the Dinajpur Magistrate Court, which has been traumatising and abusing all those fighting the fraught.

The company has changed its name from Asia Energy to Global Coal Management in 2010, and continued lobbying for Phulbari coal mine in Bangladesh. Despite grave concerns at national and international level, GCM is pushing the government to give it a go ahead.

Rampal Power Station: The development of a suicidal project continues

By Golam Rabbani

 

Sheikh Hasina’s desperate and dangerous move for Rampal Power plants will simply take the Sundarbans to its final grave. Despite substantial scientific evidence and analysis, the government goes on to implement the devastating project. There are many feasible alternatives to coal based power plants to meet the energy needs of the country, but all gets ignored bluntly.

 

Evergreen land of alluvial soil, Bangladesh has already suffered from the following environmental catastrophes:

  • Carrying capacity is under serious threat due to one of the highest population density in the world.
  • Climate change related vulnerability index put Bangladesh in top ten of the world.
  • Air, rivers, coasts and lands are already polluted to its maximum possible. These have displayed among the worsts in the world’s health indexes.
  • 15% current forestry where 25% is the required minimum.

 

Prime minister’s advisors and secretaries could look into available renewable technologies and generate funds from India as well as many other countries. They looked into imported coal based power plants, instead and India has finally won the international bids as always. The power relations between these two countries are “All YES to India” but “OK to Ignore Bangladesh” since the beginning.

Let’s look at the project details of Rampal Power Stations:

  • Sponsor:Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Pvt Ltd. (BIFPCL)
  • Parent company:Bangladesh Power Development Board and NTPC India
  • Location: Rampal, District: Bagerhaat (11km from the outer periphery of Sundarban)
  • Exact Coordinates:5924582, 89.556427
  • Gross Capacity:Phase I: 1320 MW (2 x 660 MW); Phase II: 1320 MW (2 x 660 MW)
  • Type:Ultra-Supercritical (Not Supercritical!)
  • Projected in service: December 2018
  • Coal Type: Not specified
  • Coal Source: Not specified
  • Source of financing:BPDB and NTPC (30%), Exim Bank India (70%)

 

Given the details, there is no doubt that the plant will cause environmental disaster to at least one third population of the country. This is why environmentalists have expressed their concern and warned us from the very first days. But Sheikh Hasina and her government insult scientific evidences and advertise through media in supporting the project. They can easily get away high court bench, academic research, Environmental Impact Assessment Report and even huge public protests. Here is a brief history of the project development:

 

2010:

On January 11, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Bangladesh Power Development Board (PDB) and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). Both are state organisations.

2011:

On March 1, Bangladesh High Court asked the government ‘why the construction of the plant should not be declared illegal’. [Investigation found no response available online]

On July 9, Protests against proposed Rampal Power Plant started by five local organizations along with National Committee to protect Oil, Gas, Mineral resources and power-port, an environmentalist group in Bangladesh. Police foiled the protests rally in Rampal. Political party BNP expressed solidarity after a week.

2012:

On January 29, an agreement was signed with PDB and NTPC set up a joint venture company under the name of Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company (BIFPC). They chanted the name of the plant to be as Maitree Super Thermal Plant which is expected to be implemented by 2016.

2013:  

On August 1, Department of Energy of Bangladesh approved construction later on with 15 preconditions where one of the conditions was to avoid 25km from the outer periphery of any ecologically sensitive area.

Once September, thousands of people marched 400 km to oppose the power plant concerning inevitable direct threats to Sundarban and its entire ecology.

Initially the inauguration was scheduled on 22nd October but on 5th October, PM Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the plant by pressing an electric switch at Veramara.

2014

Report from PDB on July 2014 expects commercial generation by December 2018

2016

In January, Export Import Bank of India (EXIM Bank) signed an agreement to finance the entire project.

In March over a thousand people marched from Dhaka to Rampal urging government to stop the plant.

On July 12, Bangladesh India Friendship Company Limited (BIFPCL) signed contract for construction with Bharat Heavy Electric Ltd (BHEL). Estimated cost $1.68 Billion.

On July 28 Police blocked Save the Sundarbans march towards the Prime minister’s office, arrested six and 16 were hospitalized due to baton and tear cell charges.

In August UNESCO has questioned the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report and called to halt the project and asked for a revised EIA report from PDB of Bangladesh.

2017

This year has started with a Global Day of Protest in which an unprecedented number of people from across the world have participated and gave verdict to save the Suburbans. Nevertheless, observers have seen 1834 acres of land has been surrounded by high boundary walls last month (in March). Inside the newly built wall, soil filling has already been completed. There are five high watch towers standing, awkwardly, high. Office cum residence for project officers and care takers are already in use. Workers and engineers are building six kilometers of bypass road from Mongla to the power station. There are two pontoons and jetties that have been set on the bank of Poshur River to unload the ships and tugboats.

 Clearly the destructive project is now going ahead with the permission of Bangladeshi and Indian Government.  The construction of the main site started end of March 2017, with their expectation that, this would be completed and go to operation by July 2019.

There are another two 660 MW Coal-fired power stations near Chittagong Port was initially being considered but there’s no details found and suspected to be on hold or cancelled.

Champion of the Earth awarded prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, along with her renowned advisors goes bluntly for fossil fueled electric plants but you could not question this destructive move. If you raise a question the result would be unendurable torture and abuse by Police and Rapid Action Battalion, those who meant to protect citizens from odds. This desperate move of Awami League government has resulted in over 90% price hike in just four years while experts are expecting even sharper raise of price in the year ahead.

Sheikh Hasina’s government claims that they have a vision to provide electricity to every house in 2021. Environmentalists, such as Professor Anu Muhammad and comrades of NCBD, also share this vision but they cannot see how it is possible without stopping fossil fuel industries and without ensuring renewable energy production. There are enormous possibilities of renewable energy sources which national environmental scientists have already demonstrated with strong evidence.

Bangladesh can easily set example that Green Development is not a utopian idea. The country has unique geographical advantages for longer coasts, surplus sun lights throughout the year to produce more than enough electricity from renewable sources. It is no longer a big challenge to achieve funds and technologies to meet the goal. But a government is desperate for a destructive project that will ruin the country’s ecology, thereby leaving devastating impact on the planet earth.