FROM THE MARGINS

THOUSANDS IN BANGLADESH THRONG THE STREETS TO SAVE SUNDARBANS

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On Sept. 24, thousands of people across Bangladesh started a 400 km long march procession from Dhaka to Rampal to oppose a coal-fired power plant. The march which is being coordinated by the Bangladesh based National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports will last for 5 days and will end on the 28th of October in Sundarbans, the world’s single largest block of mangrove forests in the world.

As the 5-day long march continues through the south-ward route, locals are also joining in with the protestors, through peaceful rallies, discussions, and infotainment. Students, professionals, politicians, and general people from all walks of life have joined in the movement, to save their beloved Sundarbans, home to their beloved, yet endangered Royal Bengal Tigers and the near-to-extinct Irrawaddy dolphins. The protestors believe that the Rampal coal project will become a severe threat to the Sundarbans, which is a Ramsar protected and an UNESCO World Heritage site,

The Rampal power plant is a proposed 1,320-megawatt thermal project that is about to be built in Bagherhat, Khulna district of Bangladesh, not far away from these sacred forests. It is a joint partnership between India’s state owned NTPC (National Thermal Power Company) and BPDB (Bangladesh Power development Board). This proposed power plant is going to be built within 14 km of the forest, more precisely just 9km away from many reserved sections of the forest. As any coal based plant cannot be within 20-25kms radius of protected forests and habitats, the proposed plant not only violate the rules but also will definitely have a devastating and irreversible impact on the Sundarbans, its ecology and biodiversity.

That Bangladesh is energy deficient is well known to the protestors. The per capita power consumption of Bangladesh is around 300 kWh as compared to 13,000 kWh in the United States and 750 kWh in India. The government would require to produce about 24,000MW of electricity by 2021 and 40,000MW by 2030. Thus the government has shifted its focus from gas to coal and planned to set up another 1320 MW coal based power plant at Rampal to achieve the objective of producing around 20,000MW of electricity by 2030 from coal.

But Bangladesh as a nation is one of the worst impacted by climate change. And the Sundarbans act as a natural fence against rising sea levels. And they believe that the Rampal project will have severe detrimental impact on these forests, which will prove to be suicidal for the country. For establishing this 1320 Megawatt power plant, Bangladesh will need to import about 4.72 million tons of coal each year. This massive freight will need about 59 ships each having an 80,000 ton capacity that take to the port which is 40 Kilometers away from the plant and its route cuts through the Sundarbans.  As the protestors put it, ‘the message is simple – There are many alternatives to generate power, but Sundarbans has no alternative”.

Long March Program: 24th – 28th September, 2013

  • 24th September: The journey starts at 9:00 am, and goes through Dhaka Press Club, Shahbagh, Savar Rana Plaza, Jahangirnagar University, Dhamrai. Procession and discussion, with night stay in Manikgonj.
  • 25th September: The march continues through Goalondo, Rajbari Sadar. Procession and discussion, with night stay in Faridpur.
  • 26th September: The march continues through Modhukhali, Kamarkhali, Magura, Jhenaidah, Kaligonj. Procession and discussion, with night stay in Jessore.
  • 27th September: The march continues through Fultola, Doulotpur, Khalishpur. Procession and discussion, with night stay in Khulna.
  • 28th September: The march continues through Bagerhat, Katakhali, Chulkathi. End procession and discussion in Digraj (Sundarbans).
  • Cultural shows for infotainment on the way.

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