Keep coal power plants out of tiger country!
The Sundarbans – the world’s largest mangrove forest and home to Bengal tigers and millions of villagers – has weathered cyclones and tsunamis. Now the UNESCO World Heritage Site faces a new threat: the planned Rampal coal power plant in Bangladesh. Tell Exim Bank India to cancel the financing of this potentially disastrous project.News and updates Call to action
To: Yaduvendra Mathur, CEO of Exim Bank India
“The Rampal coal power plant is a threat to the existence of the Sundarbans ecosystem and its inhabitants. Please cancel the financing of this misguided project.”
The Sundarbans: thousands of islands dot this unique realm between the dry land of the Subcontinent and the Bay of Bengal, the most extensive mangrove forest on Earth. A dwindling population of Bengal tigers roam the land in the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers. The estuarine crocodile, the Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins and the Indian python are also at home there.
The Sundarbans’ rich biodiversity prompted UNESCO to declare the forest a World Heritage Site. However, this paradise is now in danger:
The Rampal coal power plant is to be built in Bangladesh, only 14 kilometers from the mangroves. Preliminary work is already underway. The 1,320 MW plant is a joint venture of the Indian and Bangladeshi governments.
Environmentalists are alarmed at the prospect: the plant would have a massive impact on the delicate ecosystem and push numerous species toward extinction. The mangroves are a nursery for aquatic life, and the plant’s emissions into the river Passur would thus threaten the food security of more than two million people.
The plant would also release 220 tons of toxic air pollutants daily and wreak havoc on the climate with vast amounts of carbon dioxide.
Rampal would consume up to 500 shiploads of coal every year – assuming the ships safely navigate the 65-kilometer passage through the maze of islands. Accidents and oil spills are pre-programmed.
Exim Bank India – in which the Indian government holds a 69% stake – is set to finance the project to the tune of $1.6 billion. Please speak out for the people and environment of the Sundarbans and tell Exim Bank India to withdraw from the project.Background
The NGO BankTrack forged a worldwide coalition of currently 112 environmental and human rights organizations – including Rainforest Rescue – and released the following open letter to the institution that will be financing Rampal, Exim Bank India:
Stop support for the Rampal Coal Power plant
A global call to Exim Bank India
Dear Mr. Yaduvendra Mathur, CEO of Exim Bank India,
We, the undersigned organisations from around the world, have learned that your institution intends to finance the construction of the 1,320 MW Rampal coal power plant in Bangladesh via the extension of a ‘buyer’s credit’ of USD 1.6 billion to the operating company Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL).
We have received this news with great concern, as we consider the Rampal coal power plant a severe and direct threat, not only to the livelihoods of the local population and to the world renowned Sundarbans wetland adjacent to the project site, but also to the world’s climate.
Exim Bank India is supposed to be an institution that takes its responsibility for the social and environmental impacts of its operations very seriously. After all, your ‘Citizen’s Charter’ states that “the bank […] recognizes its obligations as a citizen of the world” and considers citizens of India and the global community stakeholders of the bank”, while the ‘Export-Import Bank of India Act’ reassures us that “the board […] shall act on business principles with due regard to public interest”.
Our organisations fail to see how Exim Bank India, a self-declared responsible ‘citizen of the world’ acting ‘with due regard to public interest’ could support a project as destructive as the Rampal coal power plant. As ‘global community stakeholders of the bank’ we would like to point out to your bank that this project:
It threatens the livelihoods of over two million people
Over two million people living in villages around the forest depend on the Sundarbans forest’s resources to fulfill their basic needs, while others make use of products to earn a living. The vast majority relies on aquatic resources such as shrimp cultivation or fisheries. Wood is collected for the construction of houses and boats but also for export. Acres of land acquired to build the coal plant were previously used for agriculture and farming activities. With increased river erosion, noise pollution, health hazards and a decrease in the groundwater table as a result of the Rampal coal-fired power plant, there will inevitably be a loss of culture fisheries, social forestry and major destruction of agriculture.
It threatens to destroy the unique, extraordinary rich Sundarbans forest
Climate, topography, land use patterns, air and water (both surface and ground) quality, floral and faunal diversity, wetlands and tourism will be permanently affected by the proposed coal fired power plant. The Rampal plant will pollute the air by releasing toxic gases which will impact people, animals, trees, plants and land. The plant will contaminate rivers by discharging used, warm water into the River Passur daily, for at least 25 years. Additionally the rivers of the Sundarbans will be used as shipping routes to carry coal to the Rampal site. The four recent incidents involving sunken vessels which dumped oil, fertilizer and coal in the rivers stand as clear warnings of the accidents that will take place if the Rampal coal plant plans proceed.
It threatens to wipe out the Bengal tiger
Sundarbans is home to some of the last remaining iconic Bengal tigers, as well as the estuarine crocodile, the Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins, the Indian python, some 260 bird species and around 120 aquatic species. If the coal power plant becomes operational, the toxic discharged water and polluted air, as well as the constant coal transport, will have a destructive effect on all life in the forest. It is not possible to protect high profile animals in the Sundarbans without a true balance between various ecosystems. Tigers will not be there without the deer, and deer will not be there without the keora tree. If the Sundarbans degenerates we will be forever losing the animals which depend on it, with future generations no longer able to enjoy the splendid sight of these animals.
It threatens to add havoc to the global climate system
The Rampal power plant, once in operation, will emit 7.9 million tons of CO2 per year for the next 25 years, therefore adding a further major load to an atmosphere that is already saturated with greenhouse gases. If the world is to have any chance to limit the global temperature rise below the critical 2 degrees Celsius threshold agreed upon by the countries of the world last year in Paris, let alone the 1.5 degrees threshold considered crucial to keep life on earth more or less as we know it, there must be an immediate end to the construction of all coal plants.
Bangladesh, as well as India and other vulnerable countries, have already been suffering the effects of climate change, with strong storms causing devastating flooding. Weakening the Sundarbans would only leave Bangladesh and parts of India defenseless in the face of natural catastrophes that are now likely to rise in frequency and intensity.
There is an urgent need for institutions such as Exim Bank India to put their full weight behind financing the energy transition which the world urgently needs to meet the challenge of rapid climate change, away from the burning of fossil fuels and towards the full realisation of the potential of renewables.
For all of these reasons we, as fellow world citizens, call upon you, a responsible financial institution acting in the public interest, to act for the common global good and refrain from financing the Rampal coal power plant.
As global stakeholders to your bank we thank you in advance for changing course.
About the BankTrack campaign:
About UNESCO World Heritage:
http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/452 in India
http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/798 in Bangladesh
General information on Rampal, the Sundarbans and mangroves:
To: Yaduvendra Mathur, CEO of Exim Bank India
Dear Mr Mathur,
Exim Bank India intends to finance the construction of the 1,320 MW coal-fired Rampal power station in Bangladesh with a $1.6 bn loan to Bangladeshi India Friendship Power Company (BIFPCL).
Environmentalists and human rights activists are warning against the project: the power station threatens the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Air and water pollution from the power station would degrade the habitat of Bengal tigers, crocodiles, dolphins and hundreds of bird and fish species. The impact of the power station could ultimately destroy the vulnerable Sundarbans ecosystem and threaten the survival of endangered species.
The Rampal coal plant would also be a disaster for the two million people from villages in and around the Sundarbans as they rely on fishing and the collection of forest products among other activities for their livelihood. Without the mangrove forest, these people would see their means of subsistence reduced or even ended completely.
Furthermore, Rampal’s anticipated annual carbon emissions of 7.9 million tonnes would contribute significantly to climate change and its incalculable future impacts on Bangladesh and India.
Outdated fossil fuels are not the answer to the challenges that India and Bangladesh face today. We call on you to cancel the financing of the Rampal power station and to instead provide urgent support and investments for decentralised, renewable energy projects.
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