Bangladeshi and Indian Prime Ministers urged to protect Sundarbans from coal-fired power plant in open letter signed by more than 70 civil society organisations

Today, more than 70 non-governmental organisations from around the world called for the cancellation of the proposed Rampal coal power plant, in an open letter to the governments of Bangladesh and India. The proposed 1320 megawatt Rampal plant, construction of which is planned to start soon, would threaten the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans in Bangladesh, as well as the health and livelihoods of millions of local people.

The Sundarbans is a Ramsar-listed wetland and also includes a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has an extremely rich biodiversity and is of critical importance for globally endangered species, including the Royal Bengal Tiger and Ganges River Dolphin. The Sundarbans also plays a key role in mitigating the impacts of climate change, acting as a carbon sink in its undisturbed natural state, and as a barrier against cyclones, storms and other natural disasters that would become more frequent and intense as more greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere.

“The unique ecosystem and biodiversity of the Sundarbans are under severe threat from the planned Rampal power plant,” said Wally Menne of the Timberwatch Coalition in South Africa. “Local peoples’ right of access to natural resources from the mangrove forests would be at risk. Although Bangladesh has the fundamental right to develop, this right belongs to all of its people, including the most marginalised, and should not be monopolised by big corporations whose only aim is to make profits, often at the expense of the environment and local communities.”

The Rampal power plant is a joint project of India’s state owned National Thermal Power Corporation and the Bangladesh Power Development Board. In October 2016, UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and the IUCN identified four key main impacts1 related to the power plant’s construction: pollution from coal ash by air, pollution from wastewater and waste ash, increased shipping and dredging, and the cumulative impact of industrial and related infrastructure. They both recommend the cancellation of the Rampal power plant project.

“The availability of so-called modern technology is being used as an argument in support of the Rampal project, but this will definitely not keep its pollution to a minimum level,” said Amanda Tas from Protect the Forest, Sweden. “During recent years, coal-carrying vessels have sunk, and one oil spill has already occurred in the area. Rather than to build a climate-damaging coal-fired power plant, both India and Bangladesh should develop renewable sources of clean energy, respecting the environment, and benefiting all inhabitants of the Sundarbans. This must also include the most marginalised, who being largely off the electricity supply grid, and would not benefit from energy produced by the proposed Rampal power plant.”

In the open letter, the organisations call on political decision-makers to immediately halt the Rampal power plant project and other commercial projects in the Sundarbans and its surroundings, and to increase investments in renewable solar and wind power projects. They also urge the Government of Bangladesh to uphold the right to assemble, and to protect the safety of people that exercise this right, including the right to protest against government-approved projects. In January, police used teargas and water cannons against peaceful protesters, injuring about 100 people during a hartal in Dhaka, which was held to save the Sundarbans.

Read the open letter here:

Contact
Amanda Tas,
Protect the Forest
Sweden
Email: [email protected]
Mobile: +46 (0)73-5860099

Wally Menne,
Timberwatch Coalition
South Africa Email: [email protected]
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 4442083

1 IUCN & World Heritage Centre (2016). Report on the mission to the Sundarbans world heritage site, Bangladesh, from 22 to 28 March 2016; http://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/148097
Camille Risler, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Thailand Email: [email protected] Phone: +66 99 504 8764

Press contact Neha Gupta APWLD, India Email: [email protected] Phone: +91-9810 078 055

The open letter is supported by the following NGOs: Abibiman Foundation, Ghana AMIHAN National Federation of Peasant Women, Philippines Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Asia Pacific BankTrack, International Biofuelwatch, UK/USA Botswana Climate Change Network, Botswana Friends of the Earth, Bosnia and Herzegovina CHAUKATH voluntary network of feminists, Nepal Climate Action Network, International Climate Litigation Network, Transnational Conservatree, USA Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC), Philippines Cultures of Resistance Network Foundation EcoNexus, UK Ecoropa, Germany Feminist League, Kazakhstan Forum Environment and Development, Germany Forum for Nature Protection NGO, Nepal Foundation for GAIA, International Fragile Planet Earth, South Africa Friends of the Earth US, USA Friends of the Siberian Forests, Russia Friends of the Tamar Valley, UK Nature and Youth, Sweden GenderCC – Women for Climate Justice e.V., International Genethics Foundation, Netherlands Global Environment Centre, Malaysia Global Forest Coalition, International Green IT. Uruguay Greenpeace Russia Grupo Para o Desenvolvimento da Mulher e Rapariga, Mozambique IBON International ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability – Africa, South Africa Institute for Planetary Synthesis, Switzerland Janabhivyakti, India
Japan Tiger and Elephant Fund, Japan Japan Tropical Forest Action Network (JATAN), Japan Friends of the Earth, Sweden Klimataktion Stockholm, Sweden Korea Federation for Environmental Movements, Korea Michael Underwood Agroforestry Associates Africa, South Africa Mom Loves Taiwan Association, Taiwan National Indigenous Women Forum, Nepal NCA-Afghanistan, Afghanistan New Wind Association, Finland Next Big Thing Movement, Inc, USA Oil Change International Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), USA Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER), Malaysia Planetary Association for Clean Energy (PACE), Canada Protect the Forest, Sweden PUSH Sweden Quercus- National Association for Nature Conservation, Portugal Rainbow Eco-Farm and Training Center NPO, South Africa Re-nourish, USA Rettet den Regenwald, Germany Rewild, South Africa Rutale Development Association, Africa Students for a Just and Stable Future, USA SustainUS, USA Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, Sweden Tanzania Youth Coalition, Tanzania TFINS, India Thanal, India The Endangered Wildlife Trust, South Africa Timberwatch Coalition, South Africa WECF Women Engage for a Common Future, International Wildlife Impact, USA Women’s Environment & Development Organization (WEDO), International World Heritage International, Netherlands YouthNet for Climate Justice, Bangladesh