NO new coal power – protect local people and wildlife!

Bengal tiger The Rampal power plant would destroy precious tiger habitat. (© Guenter Guni/iStock)

Bangladesh’s Sundarbans are the largest mangrove forest in the world and habitat of the Bengal tiger. These unique wetlands are threatened by plans for a coal-fired power plant that will have an incalculable impact on the mangroves and local people. Please speak out – it’s not too late to stop this disaster in the making.

Call to action

To: Prime Minister Hasina Wajed and the government of Bangladesh

We call on you to cancel the construction of the coal-fired Rampal Power Station.

Read letter

The Sundarban mangrove forests are the largest and most biodiverse in the world. The ecosystem is home to Bengal tigers, chital deer, dolphins and critically endangered northern river terrapins. UNESCO declared the mangrove forest a World Heritage Site in 1997.

Yet the government of Bangladesh is pushing ahead with building a massive coal-fired power plant just a few kilometers away in Rampal. Exim Bank of India has already granted a loan of of 1.6 billion US dollars for its construction.

The construction work would destroy mangroves, and thus tiger habitat. The operation of the plant would heat and pollute the water of the Passur river, and many fish and dolphins would not survive in those conditions. Accidents involving coal barges could cause untold damage.

The coal-fired power plant would exacerbate the climate crisis and its grave impact on Bangladesh in the form of floods, sea level rise and cyclones.

Local people are already suffering: Human rights organizations have noted that families are being evicted and receiving inadequate compensation. Two million people, including many who rely on fishing, could lose their livelihoods.

UNESCO is on the verge of putting the Sundarbans on its “World Heritage in Danger” list – a clear warning to Bangladesh’s government.

We agree that the government of Bangladesh must work raise the standard of living of its people, and that includes providing a reliable supply of energy. However, investing more than a billion dollars in an antiquated, dirty source of power that will impact the climate for decades to come is not the solution.

Please call on Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Hasina Wajed and her cabinet to stop this potentially disastrous project and promote clean, renewable energy instead.

Back­ground

Participating companies

Rampal-Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant is a project of the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Ltd (BIFPCL), a joint venture of India’s National Thermal Power Company (NTPC) and Bangladesh’s Power Development Board (BPDB).

Letter from more than 70 organizations

In May 2016, numerous environmental and human rights organizations spoke out against the project. The following is an excerpt from the letter to Exim Bank of India. Its arguments remain valid:

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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China’s influence

In June 2019, UNESCO decided not to put the Sundarbans on its “World Heritage in Danger” list for the time being. China helped ensure that Rampal and the planned Taltoli and Kelapara coal-fired power plants are not named in the concluding document of the UNESCO General Conference. A likely reason is that China is involved in the Taltoli and Kelapara power plants and is investing seven billion US dollars in Bangladesh’s coal sector as part of its “Belt and Road Initiative”. Hungary, Cuba, Australia, Norway and Bosnia-Herzegovina were further countries that spoke out against UNESCO’s criticism of the power plant project.

Letter

To: Prime Minister Hasina Wajed and the government of Bangladesh

Madame Prime Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your government is pushing ahead with the construction of the 1,320 MW Rampal–Maitree Super Thermal Power Project.

Conservationist and human rights advocates are sounding the alarm over the threat the coal-fired power station poses to the nearby Sundarban mangrove forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The air and water pollutants it would emit would impact the habitat of Bengal tigers, crocodiles, dolphins and hundreds of bird and fish species. The power station would have a massive impact on the delicate ecosystem of the world’s largest mangrove forest and push numerous species toward extinction.

Furthermore, the Rampal power station would threaten or destroy the livelihoods of more than two million people in and around the Sundarbans who rely on fishing and forest products.

With its immense carbon dioxide emissions of 7.9 million tons per year, the Rampal power station would exacerbate the climate crisis and its impact on Bangladesh.

We understand that your government wants to raise the standard of living of the people of Bangladesh and that providing reliable sources of energy is central to these efforts. However, building a billion-dollar coal-fired power station would be a huge setback to efforts to establish the future-oriented renewable energy urgently needed to tackle the climate crisis.

We therefore respectfully call on you to stop this harmful project and promote clean, renewable sources of energy instead.

Yours faithfully,

Footnotes

Exim Bank of India The Export Import Bank of India mentions the Rampal power plant on page 37 of its 2018/2019 annual report.

https://www.eximbankindia.in/Assets/Dynamic/PDF/Publication-Resources/AnnualReports/27file.pdf


“World Heritage in Danger” In June 2019, UNESCO decided not to put the Sundarbans on its “World Heritage in Danger” list. However, it may do so in 2020 if Bangladesh does not comply with a number of demands. UNESCO’s decision can be found on page 84 of the concluding report of the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee under “Decision: 43 COM 7B.3”.

https://whc.unesco.org/archive/2019/whc19-43com-18-en.pdf

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