Hundreds of Bangladeshi environmentalists, cultural and political activists set off on a 200-km march from capital Dhaka on Thursday morning to Sundarbans to protest against the 1.5 billion-U.S. dollar power plant near the world’s largest mangrove forests which straddle both Bangladesh and India.
The four-day long march, which started at Dhaka’s National Press Club, is being led by a platform of left-leaning political parties, social and cultural activists, experts and professionals — National Committee on Protection of Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports.
In a march before rally, professor Anu Muhammad, member secretary of the platform, urged the government not to go ahead any more with the proposed 1,320-megawatt plant, to be built in the area of Rampal in Bangladesh’s Bagerhat district, some 178 km southwest of Dhaka.
According to the platform activists, discharge from the plant like fly ash and sulphur dioxide will have disastrous consequences for the fauna and flora of the mangrove forests — a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The activists of the platform have long been telling that the plant is not merely dangerous for the Sundarbans’ ecology but it also poses threat to local livelihoods.
They demanded the Rampal Thermal Power Plant project in Bagerhat, just 14 km away from the Sundarbans, be shelved forever.
Amid severe criticism from many power experts and green activists, Bangladesh Power Development Board (PDB) and Indian National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) in April 2013 signed three major deals heading towards implementation of the plant.
Under the deals, the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company, a joint venture between the PDB and the NTPC with 50:50 shares, will implement the project in which officials claim that super critical technology would be used to curb the much talked about carbon emission.
The plant was initially put into motion in a bilateral agreement between Dhaka and Delhi during the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s tour to India in 2011 reportedly without proper environmental impact assessment.
The Bangladeshi government later released an environmental impact assessment on the power plant but it was rejected by the environmentalists who argued that the report did not take into consideration most of the important environmental aspects of the Sundarbans, its ecology, flora and fauna as well as a large number of local people.
National Committee on Protection of Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in September 2013 also staged similar protest march toward Sundarbans.