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.
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.