UNESCO Ask To Halt All Industrial Constructions Near Sundarbans Before SEA

 

Activists condemn UNESCO for failing to list the Sundarbans to “World Heritage in Danger”

 

By Akhter Khan

 

Despite heavy lobbying by Bangladesh government and Chinese coal diplomats, UNESCO held the ground by asking to halt all industrial constructions near the Sundarbans. On Thursday 4 July at the 43rd meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Baku the committee agreed a decision that “notes with great concerns the likely environmental impacts of large scale industrial projects” and asked Bangladesh government to “take all necessary mitigation measures”.

The committee asked the government to conduct a regional Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) by the end of 2019. It “expresses concern that 154 industrial projects upstream of the property are currently active, and reiterates the Committee’s request in Paragraph 4 of Decision 41 COM B.25”. The government has been asked to “ensure that any large-scale industrial and/or infrastructure developments will not be allowed to proceed before the SEA has been completed.”

The government of Bangladesh, backed by Chinese coal lobbyists, has maintained the Rampal project was put through a thorough environmental assessment process. But the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has disputed this claim.

Bangladeshi and transnational campaigners to save the Sundarbans condemned the decision of UNESCO for it has moved away from the earlier draft decision of the committee. The earlier draft did express grave concerns to the construction of three coal plants in the area. But the final decision re-drafted by China, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cuba, Hungary and Norway fails to recognise the threats linked to the coal plants near Sundarbans.

We should name and shame those members of the Committee that removed mention of danger of coal plants in the final declaration. UNESCO’s final decision is cowardly. But we also note it doesn’t approve building of any coal plants or industrial constructions in the vicinity before a Strategic Environmental Assessment is completed, said Dr Rumana Hashem, the Phulbari Solidarity spokesperson and an organiser of transnational campaign to save the Sundarbans.

An earlier draft decision of the Committee citing the site as a ‘Heritage in danger’ was indisputably supported by climate campaigners and earth defenders from across the world. On Monday 1st July, a petition initiated by Bangladeshi diaspora campaigners in the UK and Europe, and signed by 53 global ecological and grassroots climate justice organisations demanded UNESCO must recognise the threats posed to the Sundarbans.  There were other calls and messages sent from across the globe to the World Heritage Committee to save the Sundarbans.

Despite all calls, the Committee allowed amendments to the original draft decision. It also failed to acknowledge the existence of economical renewable energy options which were recommended by biodiversity experts. The Alternative Power and Energy Plan for Bangladesh, recommended by the energy experts belonging to the Save the Sundarbans movement articulate that it is possible to generate up to 91,700 MW of electricity through renewable sources. The Committee overlooked the Alternative Energy Plan.

Professor Anu Muhammad, the Member Secretary of NCBD said that: Yeras ago, UNESCO from its own research and investigations confirmed the danger of Rampal coal fired project for the survival of Sundarban. The global institution has to do more to save the Sundarban. The government and the corporations have been lobbying to rationalize disastrous projects there.

He added: People will not accept such decision. Lobbying and propaganda cannot hide the truth. We demand that the governments of both Bangladesh and India will come to senses to scrap the Rampal project immediately. When we say YES to the Sundarbans, we must say NO to Rampal and other destructive projects in the vicinity. 

Cultural Survival, Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace Russia, Global Justice Forum, London Mining Network, Mangrove Action Project, Reclaim The Power, South Asia Solidarity, 350.org, Urgewald and 43 other environmental organisations from Asia, Afrika, Australia, Canada, Europe, East Europe, Middle East, UK and US stand firm in solidarity with Bangladeshi communities to prevent destructive coal projects in Bangladesh.

Urgewald’s Director, Knud Vöcking, stated:  Again the Sundarbans are threatened by fossil fuel projects. UNESCO has to step up but they failed!

Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network’s joint cooridinator, Kofi Mawuli Klu, as a signatory of Monday’s petition stated:

For the Internationalist Solidarity imperatives of our Climate and Ecological Emergency International Rebellion demand, we boldly take sides with grassroots Communities of Resistance at the Global South front ranks of defending World Heritage sites like the Sundarbans. We stand firm with the communities to prevent their loss from worsening the looming catastrophe. The most decisive victories of our International Rebellion will be won on such Global South battlegrounds as the Sundarbans, to effectively save all Humanity and our entire planet Earth.

 

Stop-rampal-coal-power-plant-poster-by Rudro Rothi.

Which are the coal plants that threaten the Sundarbans?

There are three coal plants that threaten the Sundarbans. The first plant is being built by a joint venture of Bangladesh and India’s state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation at Rampal, within 14 kilometers north of the world Heritage site. There are two other plants to be built at Taltoli and Kalapara as joint Chinese-Bangladeshi ventures. The mentions of these later ones were taken out by the Chinese amendment to the final draft decision at the 43rd session on 4 July.

The pollution and dredging from these coal plants will, as a mission from the IUCN in 2016 reported, enduringly damage the world’s mangrove forests. There are also plans for two additional coal plants to be built on the Payra port, by Chinese investments, which would threaten the ecological buffer zone.

 

#SavetheSundarbans #NotoRampalCoalPowerPlant

We Call on the World Heritage Committee to Intervene to Stop Bangladesh’s Government from Pushing the Sundarbans Towards Destruction

The Bengal Tiger in River Pashur at the Sundarbans on 26 July 2016. Courtesy: Anonymous photographer, NCBD.

In the light of ongoing threats on the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, located at the Indian-Bangladeshi border, we write to the country delegates to the 43rd Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee by calling for an urgent intervention into Bangladesh government’s decision to implement the destructive Rampal coal power-plant.

 

As concerned global citizens, earth defenders, climate organisations and researchers, and members of Bangladeshi environmental groups abroad, we express our unequivocal support to the draft decision generated by international biodiversity experts and to be discussed and voted in Baku on 4 July 2019. We welcome the draft decision that calls in particular to halt the construction of the coal plants at Rampal, Taltali and Kalapara and 154 other active industrial activities in southwest Bangladesh until the exact impacts for the forest have been critically assessed.

 

The Sundarbans mangrove forest is an invaluable ecosystem along Bangladesh’s coast and the government of Bangladesh should take responsibility to protect the mangrove site. Ahead of the 43rd Session in Baku where 21 member states on the Committee will discuss the status of the Sundarbans forest, we caution also that declaring it a “World Heritage Site in Danger” will not suffice. This will be a first step only. We recognise the imminent danger threatening the mangrove forest, where such a decision is needed. However, the Committee should take a more bold and positive step to bring in a solution to the problem faced by the affected communities and the World Heritage.

 

The outcome of such declaration should not mean that the World’s largest mangrove forest being an isolated or left over site, diminishing its original status. In our view the World Heritage Committee should take an important and positive step by first declaring the Sundarbans as a “Heritage in Danger” and asking the Bangladesh government to immediately comply with UNESCO guidelines for the protection and conservation of this universal common heritage. The Committee should ask the government to ensure that the mangrove being not harmed in the future. This could be done by consistent monitoring of the activities across the site, which the government should be accountable for.

 

The Committee could also ask the government to follow the Alternative Power and Energy Plan for Bangladesh, crafted by the energy experts belonging to the Save the Sundarbans movement that articulate that it is possible to generate up to 91,700 MW of electricity through renewable sources.

 

The government in Bangladesh do not recognise the cost of fossil fuel and harms done by ongoing industrial developments in the vicinity of Sundarbans. There are significant evidence of ongoing dredging and construction in the vicinity of the Sundarbans that overlooked appropriate measures to limit water and soil pollution. Despite thorough critiques by national and international climate experts and scientists, industrial projects near this intricate ecosystem continue. This situation is saddening.

 

Thus we call on the Country Delegates to the World Heritage Committee to immediately:

 

  1. Declare the site as a “Heritage in Danger” and take positive steps to save the Sundarbans;
  2. Ask Bangladesh government to withdraw from the move to build coal-power plants near the Sundarbans;
  3. To reiterate that it is the government’s responsibility to protect mangrove forests and to comply with the UNESCO World Heritage recommendations as elaborated in the draft decision;
  4. Tell Bangladesh government to overhaul all industrial installations of destructive enterprises in the area;
  5. To consult the Alternative Power and Energy Plan for Bangladesh as a way forward for meeting energy needs of the country.

 

Sincerely,

 

We the undersigned:*

 

  1. Akhter Sobhan Khan Masroor, Committee to Protect Natural Resources of Bangladesh, the UK branch.
  2. Alfredo Quarto, Mangrove Action Project, USA.
  3. Amrit Wilson, South Asia Solidarity Group, London.
  4. Amy Caitlin, Extinction Rebellion London, UK.
  5. Anna Gaynutdinova, ICOMOS Russia Board member.
  6. Andrea Martínez-Fernández, World Heritage Office of San Antonio (US/ICOMOS Int´l Exchange Intern), Texas.
  7. Anna Fisk, Extinction Rebellion Scotland.
  8. Delphine Djiraibe, Public Interest Law Centre, TCHAD, North-central Afrika.
  9. Danielle DeLuca, Cultural Survival, USA.
  10. Dominique Palmer, Extinction Rebellion Youth, London.
  11. Elena Belokurova, German-Russian Exchange St. Petersburg.
  12. Eman Shokry Hesham, The World Heritage Watch.
  13. Environics R. Sreedhar, Environics Trust, India.
  14. Ercan Ayboga, Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive and Platform No to the Destruction of Sur, Turkey.
  15. Esther Stanford-Xosei, Coordinator-General, Stop The Maangamizi:We Charge Genocide/Ecocide Campaign.
  16. Eugene Simonov, Coordinator, Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition.
  17. Farwiza Farhan, Chairperson, Yayasan HAkA, Indonesia.
  18. Fe Haslam, Global Justice Forum
  19. Geoff Law AM, Wilderness Society, Australia.
  20. Gunter Wippel, MENSCHENRECHTE (HUMAN RIGHTS) 3000 e.V., Germany.
  21. Humaida Abdulghafoor, Save Maldives Campaign, Maldives.
  22. Jessica Lawrence, Earthjustice, USA.
  23. Dr Kat Kramer, Christian Aid, UK.
  24. Kofi Mawuli Klu, Joint Coordinator, Extinction Rebellion Internationalist Solidarity Network (XRISN), London, UK.
  25. Knud Voecking, Urgewald, Germany.
  26. Luiz Fernando Vieira, Coordinator, The Breton Woods Project, Critical Voices on the World Bank and IMF, UK.
  27. Marion Hammerl, Global Nature Fund
  28. Mikhail Kreyndlin, Greenpeace Russia.
  29. Maurizio Farhan Ferrari, Forest Peoples Programme, UK.
  30. Mª Alejandra Piazzolla Ramírez, Extinction Rebellion Youth, Bristol,
  31. Melody Lepine, Mikisew Cree First Nation.
  32. Mostafa Farook, European Branch of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh.
  33. Nils Agger, Risingup! UK.
  34. Norly Mercado, Asia Regional Director, 350.Org.
  35. Paul V. Dudman, Refugee Council Archive, University of East London.
  36. Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation.
  37. Pieter Jansen, Both ENDS.
  38. Richard Hering, Extinction Rebellion London.
  39. Richard Roberts, Reclaim the Power ‘Frack Free Three’, London, UK.
  40. Richard Solly, London Mining Network, UK.
  41. Rohit Prajapati, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti Gujarat, India.
  42. Dr Rafiqul Hassan Khan (Jinnah),President, Rivers Saving Network UK
  43. Rumana Hashem, Coordinator, Phulbari Solidarity Group.
  44. Saeed Baloch, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Pakistan.
  45. Salman Khairalla,Director,Tigris River Protector Association (Humat Dijlah), Iraq.
  46. Syed Babul, Bengalische Kulture Forum, Germany.
  47. Sukhgerel Dugersuren, Oyu Tolgoi Watch, Mongolia.
  48. Stephan Doempke, Chairman, World Heritage Watch, Germany.
  49. Stephanie Fried, Ulu Foundation, USA
  50. Sergiu Musteata, ICOMOS Moldova
  51. Virginia Young, Australian Rainforest Conservation Society
  52. Vidya Dinker, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)
  53. Yulia Naberezhnaya, Russian Geographical Society, Member of the World Commission on Protected Areas in the North Eurasia Region. Russia.

 

*Names of signatories on this list are re-organised around the alphabetical order of ‘First names’. There is no first or second signatory. All signatories share the same sentiment, equally.  The signatories are the spokespersons of organisations that they represent in the letter above. The signatures close here.

 

A rally with handmade dummy of rare Bengal Tiger was brought about by the rural green-cultural activists at Samageet to Save the Sundarbans in Narsingdhi, Bangladesh (14 April 2016). The Bengal Tigers are decreasing by ongoing dredging in the area and they would gradually disappear if building of coal plants continue around Rampal. File photo. Photocredit: Anonymous PSG activist.

#SAVESUNDARBANS #NOtoCOALPLANTS #SAVEtheSUNDARBANS

Vibrant Protests Held at HSBC AGM

Protesters Demand that the Bank Stops Fuelling War and Climate Crisis

By Raaj Manik

 

Last Friday Birmingham witnessed colourful and powerful protests by an alliance of anti-militarism, climate groups and pro-Palestinian rights activists who have joined forces to demand that banking giant HSBC ends its complicity in climate change, military occupation and war.

 

In the morning of 12th April, protesters gathered outside the International Convention Centre at 8 Centenary Square in Birmingham where HSBC’s AGM was being held. Under the slogan “No War, No Warming” a loud group of activists occupied the front entrance of the lavish building to speak out against the bank’s involvement in the climate crisis and militarised conflict around the planet. Activists said that HSBC has poured £43bn into fossil fuels, whilst investing over £830m in arms companies in the last three years alone. They accused the bank being involved in syndicated loans to the arms sector exceeding £18.9bn.

 

Protests outside HSBC AGM was held in Birmingham on 12 April 2019

There have already been campaigning successes, with anti-militarism and pro-Palestinian rights groups pushing HSBC to divest from Israel’s biggest arms manufacturer, Elbit Systems, last December and climate groups winning tighter restrictions on the bank’s coal policy last April though, protesters say that HSBC’s policies, lending practices and exposure give cause for an escalation in action and demands.

 

Lise Masson, a climate campaigner at BankTrack said: “For too long now big banks like HSBC have been pouring billions into climate-wrecking fossil fuels every year. HSBC is one of the biggest fossil fuel financiers, supporting projects that not only damage our climate but also ravage frontline communities across the world. HSBC needs to massively step up its climate ambition, concretely that means ending its financial support for all fossil fuels.”

 

Huda Ammori, Campaigns Officer at Palestine Solidarity Campaign, stated that: “Despite divesting from Elbit Systems following campaigning pressure, HSBC continues to invest in companies supplying weapons and military technology to Israel such as Caterpillar, which makes the armoured bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian homes and communities. Our message today is clear – HSBC must end its complicity in war crimes and military occupation, and cut ties with all companies that profit from the violent repression of the Palestinian people.”

 

Protests outside HSBC AGM was held in Birmingham on Friday 12 April 2019.

As research shows that a heating climate has been a contributing factor behind wars in the Middle East, protesters assert that a cycle of war and warming increasingly binds anti-militarism and climate campaigners to the same cause. The groups highlight that in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, oil, gas and coal are being pulled from the ground under the watchful gaze of state-military and militias.

 

HSBC also continues to finance new coal-fired power plants in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia.  All three countries are on the front line of climate change and have significant renewable energy potential, a crucial tool to sustainable poverty eradication.

 

Bangladesh National Committee protest outside HSBC AGM in Birmingham on Friday 12 April 2019

Akhter Khan Masroor, Member Secretary of NCBD, UK said: “Whilst coal mines funded by HSBC destroyed the ecology and livelihoods in Colombia and Russia, HSBC’s new investment in coal business in the Delta region is a threat to livelihoods in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam. Bangladesh is the most vulnerable country to climate change. As HSBC’s coal financing policy for Bangladesh will push it into more danger, we demand they do not invest in coal in Bangladesh and in the delta region. We do not need dirty coal energy. HSBC must also stop arming the Israeli state that is killing the people of Palestine.”

 

Protests against HSBC’s financing of war and climate change have been coordinated by groups including 350.org, War on Want, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, BankTrack, and Bangladeshi diaspora groups NCBD UK and Phulbari Solidarity Group. Campaigners say they will continue to lobby and protest against HSBC until it divests fully from the fossil fuel industry and the arms trade.

 

School strikers protests outside HSBC AGM in Birmingham on Friday 12 April 2019

Previously, climate and anti-militarism groups have challenged HSBC on separate terms, but have now come together in a collective show of force to demand that the bank severs ties with companies that are at the root of war crimes and global warming.

 

Read further news:

Our house is on fire but its business as usual at the HSBC AGM say the activists who took action to get HSBC to #stopfundingdestruction : http://bit.ly/2IyWXN0 

BDS Victory: HSBC Divests From Elbit
https://waronwant.org/media/bds-victory-hsbc-divests-elbit

HSBC Accused of Hypocrisy for Coal Finance Ban That Excludes Countries Most Vulnerable to Climate Change
https://www.desmog.co.uk/2018/10/16/hsbc-accused-hypocrisy-coal-finance-ban-excludes-countries-most-vulnerable-climate-change

HSBC has recently announced it has appetite to finance coal in Bangladesh and in the delta region, despite research showing that pollution caused by coal expansion in South-East Asia will cause tens of thousands of deaths.

Add your name to the petition with protesters calling on the bank to change its policies with respect to finance for fossil fuel projects and weapon manufacturers: https://350.org/hsbc/#petition 

Support Three XR Activists at Court – Show Solidarity with Bangladesh

This Wednesday 10th April, Amy, Angela and Shulamit face the City of London Magistrate’s court for defending the affected communities in Phulbari and for disrupting AGM of a bullying extractive company, GCM Resources, in London. Please come to support and show solidarity with the brave activists and with abused Bangladeshi communities.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019 from 09:30-11:30 UTC+01

City of London Magistrate’s court

1 Queen Victoria Street, EC4N 4XY

London, United Kingdom.

 

The three arrests happened at the AGM for Global Coal Management (GCM) Resources Plc. on 28th December 2019. GCM is an AIM-listed British company whose sole purpose is to build a 6000MW massive open pit coal mine in the only flood protected area in Bangladesh, the Phulbari, in northwest region.

Building the mine will involve displacement of up to 220,000 people including 50,000 indigenous people from 23 tribes, destroying their ancient culture which can be traced back 5,000 years. The mine will drain and pollute the water supply for the 230,000, destroy 14,600 hecters of areas of the most fertile agricultural land in Bangladesh whilst only 6 percent of the coal or profit will remain in the country.

The project will damage the UNESCO world heritage site, the Sundarban Mangroves where the endangered Bengal Tigers live.

Why do corporations hold the power to do this? This is ecocide.

Three people including a 13 year old-child in Phulbari have been killed protesting this mine.  Activists have been abused by the company’s CEO who filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 community leaders. The company’s Bangladesh subsidiary, Asia Energy, was also allegedly involved in the murder of Nasrin Huq who was fighting the controversial Phulbari coal project.

 

The courageous Extinction Rebellion activists decided their personal consequences are of less importance than putting their bodies in the way of this criminal activity.

 

JOIN Us with friends and family outside and inside the court, if you are around London.

If you are not in London, please show your solidarity by sending a message of support on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/371034560412653/

Stop #GCM Blockade The #Coal Burglars

On Friday 28 December in 2018, Bangladeshi protesters and transnational campaigners against the development of coal mines in the Phulbari region of Bangladesh blocked the entrance to the venue of a London based company Global Coal Management  (GCM) Resources’ annual general meeting in central London. Activists disrupted the AGM by occupying the front entrance for four hours from 9am to 1pm on Friday. All major shareholders including GCM’s Head of Corporate Affairs Brian Mooney were blocked out, they waited angrily outside, then gave up and went home.

Activists were particularly angry about GCM Resources’  recent claim that they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Power China Ltd. to develop a giant coal mine in Phulbari and their plans to build a 6000 megawatt power plant.

If the mine is built, it would lead to forceddisplacement of up to 230, 000 people over the 36-year life cycle of the project. It will increase poverty, water pollution and will plunder 14,600 hecters of Bangladesh’s most fertile and productive agricultural land in the region, causing a crisis of food production. It will have a devastating impact on the people and the environment.

Watch a short video of the demo outside of the GCM’s AGM:

Stop GCM, Blockade the Coal Burglars!

Defend the Homes, Land, Livelihood and Environment

Protest at GCM’s AGM in London

 

Non-violent protest by affected communities and women’s resistance in August 2006

Global Coal Management Resources Plc. is a London-based AIM-listed extractive company that wants to build a massive open-pit coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari. The company, previously known as Asia Energy, has been hotly resisted by locals for its fatal business policy. Three people were shot dead and two hundred injured when paramilitary force opened fire in a demonstration of 80,000 people that took place in opposition to plans by GCM in 2006 in Phulbari.

 

GCM do not hold a valid contract with Bangladesh, but they are selling shares in London Stock Exchange in the name of Phulbari coal project. They are aggressively moving ahead to build the coal mine. If the mine is built, it would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land in northwest Bangladesh. It would pose threats to clean water resources for as many as 220,000 people, and would leave devastative impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sundarbans.

In return Bangladesh govt would gain nothing but economic exploitation. According to the proposed deal, GCM would extract coal for 30 years, while government of Bangladesh would get 6 percent royalty and the company would own and export 94 percent of the extracted coal. Moreover, the company would enjoy 9 years tax holidays and after 30 years they would own all of whatever coal would be remaining in the Phulbari coal-bed reserve. This is unacceptable!

GCM has recently reached a so called memorandum of understanding with Power Construction Corporation of China, Ltd. to implement the project. GCM’s CEO, Gary Lye, has been systematically abusing local opponents of the project. Lye has filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 frontline local leaders against mining. GCM will hold their AGM in London on 28 December during the month of the climate summit #COP24. We must stop them. Blockade the coal burglars, GCM!

JOIN Us Inside and Outside the AGM!

Please confirm your participation via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/376498479785077/

Protest Outside AGM

When? 9:30am-1pm, Friday 28 December

Where? 33 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PW.

The protest will be loud, colourful and noisy. Feel free to bring along your organisational banners and any noisy instrument, and lots of friends to make noise:))

Proxy Inside AGM

When? 10am, Friday 28 December

Where? 33 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PW.

Dissident shareholders will represent the communities inside the AGM. If you would like to join the delegation, please do get in touch with us. Please RSVP via email to: aktersk@gmail.com (Dr Akhter Sobhan Masroor) by Friday 14 December 2018.

Phulbari Solidarity Protest outside GCM’s AGM in December 2016. Photocredit: Golam Rabbani.

 

For further information contact: nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com , phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.comTel: 07714288221, 07861686036.

Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh, UK branch http://www.protectbdresources.org.uk

Phulbari Solidarity Group www.phulbarisolidaritygroup.org

Reclaim The Power https://reclaimthepower.org.uk/

Climate Change Dissenters Blocked Five London Bridges

Phulbari Solidarity Stands in Solidarity with Extinction Rebellion

By Paul Dudman

 

Westminster Bridge blocked by Extinction Rebellion on 17 November 2018. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

Yesterday we have witnessed an extra-ordinary Rebellion Day in London where climate change dissenters closed down iconic bridges in the city. Despite arrests and police barricades, five bridges in central London were closed down by concerned, disobedient and non-violent civilians, who gathered in the city under the banner of Extinction Rebellion, a platform committed to “Fight For Life”.

 

Blocked Westminster Bridge on 17 November 2018. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

From the morning 10am through late afternoon 5pm on the Rebellion Day more than 6,000 people have occupied five bridges in central London “to raise the alarm on the climate and ecological crisis – and to put pressure on the Government to come clean on the fact that there is a climate emergency”. A press release by the Extinction Rebellion notes “This is the first time in living memory that a protest group has intentionally and deliberately blocked the five iconic bridges of central London”. The blocked bridges include Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster and Lambeth. Police have put signal blockers in place to prevent live streaming. There have been 22 confirmed arrests of protestors. People have willingly put themselves at risk of arrest and imprisonment to ensure that this cause is brought to the public’s attention.

 

Rebellion Day witness at Westminster Bridge on 17 November 2018. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

We were there in Westminster Bridge with full support from the Bangladesh National Committee and Phulbari Solidarity Group to the rebels. At the end of the blockade an Extinction Assembly was held featuring six voices from six nations from the global South affected by climate breakdown.

 

The voices include Raki Ap of Free West Papua Campaign, Rumana Hashem of Phulbari Solidarity Group- Bangladesh, Mawukofi Klu of Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe, and representatives from Ecuador, India, Kenya, Ghana and Mongolia.

 

The Phulbari Solidarity Group declared solidarity with the Extinction Rebellion on the Rebellion Day. Rumana Hashem, the founder of the Phulbari Solidarity, who attended the Assembly at the Westminster Bridge, said that: the ongoing civil disobedience to decarbonise our lifestyle and to protect our planet from criminal extractive companies and governments was long- overdue. Rumana gave her witness to the climate crime committed by a London-based mining company in Bangladesh.

 

Rebellion Day witness by Rumana Hashem in Westminster Bridge on 17 Nov 2018. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

She stated by addressing a passionate crowd that:

I’m bearing witness to the killings of three people and the destruction of green land, rivers and homes of thousands of peaceful people in Bangladesh, perpetrated by a British mining company for 12 years. An AIM-listed London-based multinational company, Global Coal Resources Management plans to build a massive open-cast coal mine in northwest Bangladesh, in Phulbari. Original research by independent researchers shows that if the mine is built at least 130, 000 people would be immediately displaced, polluting water sources of as many as 220,000 people. It will destroy over 14,000 hecters of land in the country’s most fertile agricultural region, where most people have land-based livelihoods. It would contribute to catastrophic climate change by supplying coal burning power stations. It would threaten the Sundarbans – one of the world’s largest remaining mangrove forests and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

 

In return Bangladesh govt would gain nothing but economic exploitation. According to the proposed deal, the British company would extract coal for 30 years, govt of Bangladesh would get 6 percent royalty and the company would own 94 percent of the extracted coal. Moreover, the company would enjoy a 9 years tax holiday and after 30 years the company would own all of whatever coal would be remaining in the Phulbari coal-bed reserve.

 

The company, previously known as Asia Energy, has been hotly resisted by locals for its fatal business policy. On 26 August in 2006, over 80,000 farmers marched in Phulbari where three people were shot dead and over 200 injured when paramilitary troops fired on a massive demonstration. I was present there. I have witnessed the bloodshed; I saw people’s stomach coming out right on the street. So we’ve blocked roads, bridges, and railway in the region. All entries to the region were closed down for a week. Following on the shooting, Bangladesh government has cancelled all contracts with Global Coal Management. We’ve put a halt to the project.

 

Westminster Bridge on 17 November 2018. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

This shows that civil disobedience works. It is required in historically specific context. When government fails, we need to take control in our hands. We need to act to save our lives and our planet. We would not occupy bridges and roads for ever though. We ought to take control of our streets at times to make the governments take steps to prevent crimes.

 

In Bangladesh, we said, “No fracking, invest to save the planet”. But that is not enough. The London-based company is still aggressively moving on to get a new deal with the government. They continue to breach law. They have been harassing indigenous people. 26 frontline activists have been faced with multiple arbitrary cases filed by the company in 2016. We asked the UK government and political leaders to use their influence to stop the Global Coal Management, and to act immediately to prevent climate crimes. But the UK government failed to act.

 

We’ve submitted three reports to the Joint Committee for Human Rights Enquiry into Human Rights and Business in 2009.  We’ve placed a joint OECD complaint to the UK National Contact Point in 2013, and I have given many witnesses. But no action was taken against the company. The Parliament failed to print the witness statement that I gave for their annual report in 2009. They said that they couldn’t print the witness due to financial hardship. The parliament wanted to save printing cost. Instead of publishing my report, the Joint Committee has published a response from the Global Coal Management in their annual report in 2009!

 

Rebels on Rebellion Day on 17 Nov 2018. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Rumana also said that Bangladesh is at the frontline of climate change. We have reached a juncture when preventing climate change has become urgent. We want a fair commitment from the UK to stop coal based power plants and corporate grabbing in the name of development in Bangladesh and the UK. We call on the government for ensuring renewable energy and social justice without delay.

 

She concluded by saying:

This Rebellion Day is, to me, a beginning of a much needed social movement that not only challenges the criminal inaction of the ecocidal governments but also a way to connect with each other over struggles in the global South and the global North to make our planet habitable for all. I stand in solidarity with the Extinction Rebellion on this Rebellion Day.

 

 

The crowd expressed solidarity with the struggles in Bangladesh and other countries including Ecuador, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mongolia where British mining companies undertake projects violating human rights and causing climate change.

 

Solidarity in blocked Westminster Bridge on 17 November 2018. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

The Rebellion Day has ended by a treeplanting ceremony in the Parliament Square, with more than 3K Extinction Rebellion protestors present. The rebels planted three trees in the centre – plum, apple and evergreen – while singing a sufi song called “Always in Love”.

The Extinction Rebellion was launched on 31st October and has fast grown.  Its branches have spread across 28 countries while London remains the centre of the rebels. Supports to Extinction Rebellion are rapidly growing. The Extinction Rebellion demands that:

 

  1.  The Government must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens.
  2. The Government must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels.
  3. A national Citizen’s Assembly to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.

Blockade on Rebellion Day in Westminster Bridge on 17 Nov 2018 Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

Read the Extinction Rebellion Declaration here: https://rebellion.earth/declaration/

Please visit the Rebellion Day Facebook page for further information and news about the blockades: https://www.facebook.com/events/1758991460816073/ 

For Photos/videos visit: https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/1m1v7Cs8JFkDM1gHp45OF-NwwhLzPZJO8

Also pictures by Peter Marshall are available for editorial use from Alamy. Westminster Bridge pictures at https://www.alamy.com/news/newsresults.aspx…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credits for most photos used in this report belongs to Rumana Hashem, except for those indicated by Peter Marshall. The photos are free to use but please acknowledge the photocredit, thanks.