Propaganda cannot rationalize Rampal Coal Fired Power Plant Project

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.

 

Anup Kundus photo 28 Jan 2015

Rare animals and wild bird died by oil spill in the Sundarbans.  If the Rampal power plant will be built, many more beautiful and rare animals would face the same fate! Photo credit: Anup Kundus 28 Jan 2015.

‘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.’

Save the Sundarbans Save Our Mangrove Forest: Join the Global Movement

By Rumana Hashem

The Sundarbans mangrove forest is struggling to survive a 350,000 liter oil spill. On 9 December 2014, the oil tanker carrying more than 350,000 liters (92,500 gallons) of bunker oil sank on a major river, called Shela, flowing through the Sundarbans after being hit by a cargo vessel. Its been nearly two months and the threats are yet to be over.

Rare animals and wild bird died by oil spill in the Sundarbans. Photo by Anup Kundus 28 Jan 2015.

Rare animals and wild bird died by oil spill in the Sundarbans. Photo by Anup Kundus 28 Jan 2015.

Sundarbans, a UNESCO-projected World Heritage site that is the largest remaining mangrove forest in the world, has saved millions of Bangladeshi lives by offering critical protection against devastating cyclones. It provides a vital habitat for many rare and endangered species, sequester carbon, and serve as a life-saving buffer against the devastating tropical storms that are increasing in frequency and intensity with global warming. But the massive oil spill from a tanker accident has spelled disaster for its delicate ecology. Officials said that the slick had spread over up to 70 kilometers (45 miles) of the Shela river, a major sanctuary for aquatic animals in the Sundarbans. At least 20 canals connected with the Shela as well as another major river, Pashur, have also been affected.

To make it worse, Indian corporations are pushing the government in Bangladesh for other commercial projects like the Rampal coal plant which, they call, a Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company (BIFPC),which pose further huge threats to the Sundarbans. The proposed coal-fired power plant at Rampal, just 14 km, from the Sundarbans Reserve Forest, would destroy a vital habitat for many rare and endangered species, and million of Bangladeshi people.Thus the next accident is right around the corner unless we are able to form a global movement, joining the hands of national and local struggles against this corporate grabbing in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government is relentlessly pursuing major industrial projects like the 1320 megawatt Rampal coal plant that will generate enormous volumes of toxic waste and leave the forest waterways vulnerable to future hazardous spills.

Common people in Bangladesh are deeply concerned to the threats, and the majority of Bangladeshis are desperate to save the Sundarbans. On 6 February, the Bangladesh National Committee is holding a convention in Dhaka to address the gravity of the concerns and associated threats to the Sundarbans. The National Committee has declared a 5-day nationwide long march from Dhaka to Sundarbans which will be held in mid-March to re-mobilise peoples voices against this devastating project.

We call upon every concerned citizen of the world to take action, to join our campaign and fight against this devastating coal based power plant in Bangladesh. We express full solidarity to the 6th February Dhaka Convention to Save the Sundarbans, organised by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh. We extend our support to and call upon every Bangladeshi to join the long march from Dhaka to the Sundarbans. We support also the petition of Avaaz https://secure.avaaz.org/en/protect_sundarbans_r2/?bzrstbb&v=52337

As our friends at Avaaz points out, UNESCO is concerned about the situation, and if enough of us raise our voices now, we can persuade them to officially declare the Sundarbans as a “World Heritage in Danger” and force the Bangladesh government to protect the forest.  Let’s sign the petition of Avaaz.org. whilst sharing news of protests in Bangladesh and beyond.

For further Information read:

Oil Spill in Bangladesh Threatens Aquatic Animals (NYTimes)
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2014/12/12/world/asia/ap-as-bangladesh-oil-spill.html?_r=0

Sundarbans Threatened (The Daily Star)
http://archive.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/sundarbans-threatened/

Rampal power plant: A project of deception and mass destruction (BDNews24)
http://opinion.bdnews24.com/2013/09/19/rampal-power-plant-a-project-of-deception-and-mass-destructio…

Threat to Sundarbans Concerns UNESCO (The Financial Express)
http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2014/12/14/70905

Wake-up Call: Save Forests in Bangladesh (Asia News Network)
http://www.asianewsnet.net/news-69888.html

List of World Heritage in Danger (UNESCO)
http://whc.unesco.org/en/danger/

Report of Oil Spill in the river Shela: http://ncbd.org/?p=1338

Preliminary Research Outcome of the impact of Oil Spill (by Dr. Abdullah Harun)          http://ncbd.org/wp-co

ntent/uploads/2014/12/Impact-of-oil-spills-on-the-Sundarbans_AHC.pdf