Statement by National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Natural Resources, Power, Port
By Rumana Hashem
In response to the latest statement issued by Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company regarding Rampal Power Plant, the Convener of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Natural Resources, Power and Port, Engr. Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah and Member Secretary Prof. Anu Muhammad jointly issued a statement. It was published on national committee website on 22 October. We are reproducing the statement with their permission below.
‘BIFPC, the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company, formed jointly by NTPC, India and BPDB, Bangladesh, in a statement published in newspapers on October 21, harshly criticized the ongoing movement to Save Sundarbans and presented some forged information regarding the Rampal power plant project. They stated, ‘a handful person and organizations are spreading misconceptions regarding Rampal power plant only to create a bar against the current development process of the country’. They also claimed that, ‘This plant will not impose any threat to ecology, environment, and local people’.
However, it is well known fact that this alleged ‘handful of persons and organizations’ who are opposing this plant include various organizations working with National Committee, experts from national and international arena, teachers, writers, artists, environmentalists and of course the general people of the country. Even UNESCO, Ramsar, South Asian Human Rights Forum, and Council of Ethics of Norway are also part of these few ‘persons and organizations’ who, according to them, are trying to ‘destabilize the country’s ongoing growth’! Meanwhile, UNESCO has already expressed their concern over this issue and a possibility arises that it might even consider withdrawing the status of Sundarbans from the list of World Heritage sites.
‘We would like to stress on the fact that except for few vested interest groups most others have taken a strong position against this plant. Even the Department of Environment and Forestry in Bangladesh opposed this plant in the very beginning. We have mentioned it many times that the conditions of Rampal Power plant largely violates International law. Indian environment law itself disallows such plant to set up within 25km of any ecologically sensitive area.
‘The Ongoing Save Sundarbans movement is based on various authentic research and analysis which confirms the destructive effect of the plant on Sundarbans. This plant has raised additional questions due to the lack of transparency, rule of law, and coercive role of the state. The company has claimed in the statement that ‘the plant will not cause pollution, and no amount of polluted or hot water will be released in the water bodies’. However, such pollution is obvious and even the government led EIA report had to admit the severe environmental adverse effects of the project.
‘In the statement, the company also stated that the power plant will crate job opportunities for the local people. This is a misleading piece of information as we all know a power plant is capable of employing only an insignificant number of people. Moreover, due to the dangerous impact of the plant on the water bodies and the forestry of nearby areas, nearly a million people, depending on the forest for their sustainable livelihood, would have no other choice but to become environmental refugees.
‘Interestingly, the company has blamed the farmers and the fishing community for the gradual decline of Sundarban’s. This is as well a well-planned propaganda against the marginalized communities of Sundarbans. It is very clear that the Sundarban is in danger not because of the communities living around it, but due to the powerful land grabbers and the ecologically disastrous industrial and ‘development’ projects. In addition, if the power plant is constructed, not only the Sundarbans will be affected, the communities of the southern belt of the country will become completely unprotected before increasing natural disasters.
‘The company has also claimed that the prime Minister of Bangladesh has recently received the ‘Champion of the Earth’ award, and thus it is out of question for the prime minister to promote any project that impacts the environment negatively. In response to this claim, we would like to remind that after the award, the Prime minister has bigger responsibility now. We expect that by canceling the dangerous project, our prime minister will do justice to her award, and will prove herself as a genuine defender of environment. Otherwise she will be remembered in the history for her flawed policies that is the biggest threat for survival of Sundarban, therefore responsible for the most dangerous environmental destruction of our time.’