- On November 24, activists in Bangladesh began a ‘March towards Dhaka’, demanding the cancellation of the proposed coal-fired Rampal power plant, slated to be built very close to the Sundarbans.
- Members of Bangladesh’s National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources, Power and Ports will reach Dhaka on Saturday where they are expected to hold a grand rally at the Central Shaheed Minar.
- In solidarity with the protests in Bangladesh, students from Cambridge University in the U.K. will also hold a rally tomorrow.
On November 24, activists in Bangladesh began a ‘March towards Dhaka’, demanding the cancellation of the proposed Rampal power plant, which is slated to be built very close to the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest and a World Heritage Site.
The 1,320 megawatt power plant is likely to severely damage Sundarban’s fragile ecosystem and affect millions of people, conservationists say. The project is being implemented by the Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company (BIFPC), a joint venture between the Bangladesh Power Development Board and India’s National Thermal Power Corporation.
Members of Bangladesh’s National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources, Power and Ports began their rally from Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Sylhet, Barisal and Mymensingh yesterday, and will reach Dhaka on Saturday where they are expected to hold a grand rally at the Central Shaheed Minar.
In solidarity with the protests in Bangladesh, students from Cambridge University in the U.K. will also hold a rally tomorrow (November 26). The cycle rally, organized by the Cambridge Zero Carbon Society, Cambridge University Students Union (CUSU) Women’s Campaign and CUSU Black and Minority Ethnic Campaign (BME), will begin at Parker’s Piece in Cambridge. Students plan to cycle through the centre of town, and assemble outside Senate House where representatives from Zero Carbon Society, the BME Campaign and the Women’s Campaign will address the crowd.
“The Rampal plant is just one example of fossil fuel companies’ toxic disregard for local communities and ecosystems,” Sarah Howden, press officer for Zero Carbon Society, said in a statement. “It also reveals the tragic reality that the poor, particularly the landless and most vulnerable in the Global South, are hit hardest by climate change.”
Safieh Kabir, a Bangladeshi student who organised the cycle rally, added: “Cambridge University, through its investment in fossil fuel companies, is complicit in the violence that other frontline communities are subjected to. The University must divest.”
Construction of the Rampal power plant has already started and the plant is proposed to become operational by 2020-21, BIFPC’s Public Relations Manager, Anwarul Azim, told Mongabay earlier this year.
The Sundarbans is home to numerous rare animal and plant species, including the endangered Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris), as well as the only two remaining species of freshwater dolphins in Asia — the threatened Irrawaddy river dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), and the endangered Ganges river dolphin (Platanista gangetica).
In a recent report, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee found that the power plant project will severely damage the Sundarbans and should be “cancelled and relocated to a more suitable location.”
The power plant is expected to severely contaminate Sundarban’s air and water, the report noted. Moreover, most of the coal for the power plant will be imported, which is expected to increase shipping traffic in the region. This is especially worrying, given some of the recent shipping accidents involving coal and oil spills in the Sundarbans in the recent past. About 40 million people living near the Sundarbans are also likely to be affected by the power plant, Anu Muhammad, member secretary of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, told the Daily Star.
“Number of homeless people and climate refugees will be double in Dhaka if the Rampal Power Plant is set up near the Sundarbans,” Muhammad said.
Bangladeshis have been rallying against the power plant since 2013. In March this year, for example, thousands of Bangladeshis marched from Dhaka to Sundarbans asking for the cancellation of the plant. Despite multiple public protests, the Bangladesh government seems to be moving ahead with the project.