GCM Must Leave Bangladesh Now!

Memorandum of the Demonstration against AGM of Global Coal Resources Management Plc.

4 Hamilton Place, London, W1J 7BQ.

Tuesday, 12 December, 2017.

 

Photo credit: Keval Bharadia, South Asia Solidarity Group

Today we, the activists from Bangladesh, Tower Hamlets, and London’s environmental organisations, have gathered to call upon the AIM-listed London-based extractive company, GCM Resources Plc, to leave Bangladesh. The company, GCM Resources, is desperately moving to implement an immense open pit coal mine in northwest Bangladesh, forcibly displacing an estimated 130, 000 people and destroying the homes, lands, and water sources of as many as 220,000 people. If the project is implemented, it will destroy over 14,660 hecters of fertile agricultural land that produce three food crops annually, threatening to increase hunger in a country in which over a third of all children and nearly 17 percent of the entire population are undernourished.

 

GCM’s planned Phulbari coal mine has provoked repeated protests by local people. Three people were killed and over 200 injured when paramilitary officers opened fire on a protest against the project in August 2006. Protests in 2013 forced the company’s CEO, Gary Lye, to abandon a visit to the area.

 

The project has generated grave concern at national and international levels including the United Nations. On 28 February, 2012, seven UN human rights experts have called for an immediate halt to the project, citing threats to fundamental human rights, including the rights to water, food, adequate housing, freedom from extreme poverty and the rights of indigenous peoples. On  20 November, 2014, the UK government has concluded, following an investigation into GCM’s activities in Phulbari, that the company had breached the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises by failing to “foster confidence and mutual trust” with the people who would be affected by the mine. We welcome the Board’s affirmation that the 2011 Guidelines on human rights do apply to the planned conduct of an enterprise and its prospective impacts on human rights (para 6).  We welcome also the finding that the 2011 Guidelines would apply if GCM “continued to be “actively involved in the project” (para 19).  An internal review of the investigation affirmed that the OECD 2011 guidelines do apply to human rights abuses that would occur if the project went ahead.

But Global Coal Resources Management is aggressively moving ahead to implement Phulbari coal project. They are selling fraudulent shares in London’s Alternative Investors Market (AIM) –although the company does not have any valid contract with Bangladesh Government for business in Bangladesh and they do not have any other project elsewhere. It’s been 11 years since we have put a halt to the Phulbari coal project. The government in Bangladesh has declined to renew the contract for the project. GCM do not have any valid project in anywhere in the world. But they do hold an office in Bangladesh and the company’s corrupt CEO keep going back to Bangladesh to lobby MPs and politicians. We say they should leave Bangladesh now.

In 2011 and 2012, we have served two notices of eviction to GCM. Instead of leaving Bangladesh, GCM has been abusing communities and activists in Dinajpur and Phulbari. They are violating the guidelines of OECD.  The company’s Chief Executive Officer, Gary N Lye has filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 frontline community defenders in a Bangladeshi court. These community defenders are farmers and small entrepreneurs who do not have as much as money as Lye to fight the cases in a court. Through the harassment and abuse of frontline community activists, the company embarked on a project to silence opponents to the Phulbari coal project.

 

The UK Committee  (National Committee) to Protect Oil- Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh and Phulbari Solidarity Group, in conjunction with Foil Vedanta, London Mining Network, Reclaim the Power, Socialist Party of England and Wales, and all our co-worker organisations stand with the communities in Phulbari, Dinajpur and Bangladesh.  We will not be silent bywatcher. We demand, as National Committee of Bangladesh, that:

  1. GCM’s CEO, Gary N Lye, must withdraw all cases against activists in Bangladesh with immediate effect,
  2. GCM must stop selling shares in the name of Phulbari project in London’s Alternative Investors Market (AIM), and
  3. Finally, GCM must Leave Bangladesh immediately.

 

We declare, on behalf of the people in Phulbari, our resistance will not end until the above three-point demands are met. We will not give up until GCM has closed their office in Bangladesh, until they have stopped selling shares in the name of Phulbari coal project in London Stock Exchange.

The undersigned organisations:

Dr Mokhlesur Rahman, President, NCBD-UK branch

Sarbjit Johal, South Asia Solidarity Group

Michelle Easton, K M Protectors (North-east England)

Mostofa Farook , Bangladesh Socialist Party, UK branch

Miriam Rose, Foil Vedanta

Nesar Ahmed, Communist Party of Bangladesh – UK branch

Peter Mason, Socialist Party of England and Wales

Richard Roberts, Reclaim the Power

Richard Solly, London Mining Network

Rumana Hashem, Phulbari Solidarity Group

Sam Sender, Plane Stupid

 

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Rampal Power Station: The development of a suicidal project continues

By Golam Rabbani

 

Sheikh Hasina’s desperate and dangerous move for Rampal Power plants will simply take the Sundarbans to its final grave. Despite substantial scientific evidence and analysis, the government goes on to implement the devastating project. There are many feasible alternatives to coal based power plants to meet the energy needs of the country, but all gets ignored bluntly.

 

Evergreen land of alluvial soil, Bangladesh has already suffered from the following environmental catastrophes:

  • Carrying capacity is under serious threat due to one of the highest population density in the world.
  • Climate change related vulnerability index put Bangladesh in top ten of the world.
  • Air, rivers, coasts and lands are already polluted to its maximum possible. These have displayed among the worsts in the world’s health indexes.
  • 15% current forestry where 25% is the required minimum.

 

Prime minister’s advisors and secretaries could look into available renewable technologies and generate funds from India as well as many other countries. They looked into imported coal based power plants, instead and India has finally won the international bids as always. The power relations between these two countries are “All YES to India” but “OK to Ignore Bangladesh” since the beginning.

Let’s look at the project details of Rampal Power Stations:

  • Sponsor:Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Pvt Ltd. (BIFPCL)
  • Parent company:Bangladesh Power Development Board and NTPC India
  • Location: Rampal, District: Bagerhaat (11km from the outer periphery of Sundarban)
  • Exact Coordinates:5924582, 89.556427
  • Gross Capacity:Phase I: 1320 MW (2 x 660 MW); Phase II: 1320 MW (2 x 660 MW)
  • Type:Ultra-Supercritical (Not Supercritical!)
  • Projected in service: December 2018
  • Coal Type: Not specified
  • Coal Source: Not specified
  • Source of financing:BPDB and NTPC (30%), Exim Bank India (70%)

 

Given the details, there is no doubt that the plant will cause environmental disaster to at least one third population of the country. This is why environmentalists have expressed their concern and warned us from the very first days. But Sheikh Hasina and her government insult scientific evidences and advertise through media in supporting the project. They can easily get away high court bench, academic research, Environmental Impact Assessment Report and even huge public protests. Here is a brief history of the project development:

 

2010:

On January 11, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Bangladesh Power Development Board (PDB) and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). Both are state organisations.

2011:

On March 1, Bangladesh High Court asked the government ‘why the construction of the plant should not be declared illegal’. [Investigation found no response available online]

On July 9, Protests against proposed Rampal Power Plant started by five local organizations along with National Committee to protect Oil, Gas, Mineral resources and power-port, an environmentalist group in Bangladesh. Police foiled the protests rally in Rampal. Political party BNP expressed solidarity after a week.

2012:

On January 29, an agreement was signed with PDB and NTPC set up a joint venture company under the name of Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company (BIFPC). They chanted the name of the plant to be as Maitree Super Thermal Plant which is expected to be implemented by 2016.

2013:  

On August 1, Department of Energy of Bangladesh approved construction later on with 15 preconditions where one of the conditions was to avoid 25km from the outer periphery of any ecologically sensitive area.

Once September, thousands of people marched 400 km to oppose the power plant concerning inevitable direct threats to Sundarban and its entire ecology.

Initially the inauguration was scheduled on 22nd October but on 5th October, PM Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the plant by pressing an electric switch at Veramara.

2014

Report from PDB on July 2014 expects commercial generation by December 2018

2016

In January, Export Import Bank of India (EXIM Bank) signed an agreement to finance the entire project.

In March over a thousand people marched from Dhaka to Rampal urging government to stop the plant.

On July 12, Bangladesh India Friendship Company Limited (BIFPCL) signed contract for construction with Bharat Heavy Electric Ltd (BHEL). Estimated cost $1.68 Billion.

On July 28 Police blocked Save the Sundarbans march towards the Prime minister’s office, arrested six and 16 were hospitalized due to baton and tear cell charges.

In August UNESCO has questioned the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report and called to halt the project and asked for a revised EIA report from PDB of Bangladesh.

2017

This year has started with a Global Day of Protest in which an unprecedented number of people from across the world have participated and gave verdict to save the Suburbans. Nevertheless, observers have seen 1834 acres of land has been surrounded by high boundary walls last month (in March). Inside the newly built wall, soil filling has already been completed. There are five high watch towers standing, awkwardly, high. Office cum residence for project officers and care takers are already in use. Workers and engineers are building six kilometers of bypass road from Mongla to the power station. There are two pontoons and jetties that have been set on the bank of Poshur River to unload the ships and tugboats.

 Clearly the destructive project is now going ahead with the permission of Bangladeshi and Indian Government.  The construction of the main site started end of March 2017, with their expectation that, this would be completed and go to operation by July 2019.

There are another two 660 MW Coal-fired power stations near Chittagong Port was initially being considered but there’s no details found and suspected to be on hold or cancelled.

Champion of the Earth awarded prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, along with her renowned advisors goes bluntly for fossil fueled electric plants but you could not question this destructive move. If you raise a question the result would be unendurable torture and abuse by Police and Rapid Action Battalion, those who meant to protect citizens from odds. This desperate move of Awami League government has resulted in over 90% price hike in just four years while experts are expecting even sharper raise of price in the year ahead.

Sheikh Hasina’s government claims that they have a vision to provide electricity to every house in 2021. Environmentalists, such as Professor Anu Muhammad and comrades of NCBD, also share this vision but they cannot see how it is possible without stopping fossil fuel industries and without ensuring renewable energy production. There are enormous possibilities of renewable energy sources which national environmental scientists have already demonstrated with strong evidence.

Bangladesh can easily set example that Green Development is not a utopian idea. The country has unique geographical advantages for longer coasts, surplus sun lights throughout the year to produce more than enough electricity from renewable sources. It is no longer a big challenge to achieve funds and technologies to meet the goal. But a government is desperate for a destructive project that will ruin the country’s ecology, thereby leaving devastating impact on the planet earth.

UK-Environmentalists Rallied with Bangladeshis to Save the Sundarbans on Global Day of Protest

  • Thousands of environmentalists protested across the globe
  • Successful protests held in Bangladesh, UK and 16 more countries expressing grave concerns about devastating impact of Rampal power plant

 

global-day-of-protest-rally-against-rampal-power-plant-to-save-the-sudnerbans-held-at-altab-ali-park-in-london-07-01-17

Saturday, the 7th January 2017,  has been celebrated as a Global Day of Protest to Save the Sunderbans and to stop the Rampal coal-power plant. Alongside nationwide protests in Bangladesh, UK’s green activists together with environmentalists of Bangladeshi community in the UK staged a colourful and loud demonstration at Altab Ali Park in London. Over 40 community activists and many transnational environmentalists rallied with beautiful placards and banners displaying powerful images of tigers, rivers, trees, humans and signs of large waving hands as symbols of ‘NO’.  They shouted “‘No’ to Rampal Power Plant”.

global-day-of-protest-rally-at-altab-ali-park-on-7-january-2017

 

 

In the two hour-rally, organised by the Committee to Protect Oil-Gas-Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh, speakers said that it is incredible that Bangladeshi government entered a deal with Indian corporations to build coal-fired plant in Rampal, which would leave devastating impact on 50 million people in Bangladesh and the world’s largest mangrove, called the Sundarbans. When UK, Germany, Denmark and Finland are rethinking about the negative aspects of coal-energy, Bangladeshi government has chosen dirty coal energy that would destroy the country’s ecology.  Protesters called on Bangladeshi government to scrap the contentious deal with India with immediate action.

 

Meanwhile, more than 4000 people took to the streets in Dhaka, Berlin, Halle, The Hague, Paris, Gwangju, Hordaland, Kolkata, Turku, New York, Melbourne and many other states of the world to protest against the Rampal plant that will be built by the Indian company, called the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), within 9 kilometers to an ecologically sensitive area, called the Sundarbans mangrove in Bangladesh.

global-day-of-protest-poster-for-london-rally-by-akhter-s-khan-7-january-2017

The Sundarbans is the largest single tract mangrove forest. It is extraordinarily rich in biodiversity, and is a World Heritage site.  But it is now in grave danger of losing its unique biodiversity and rare eco-system because of a planned coal fired power plant in Rampal. The threats to the Sundarbans are so critical that the UNESCO has also warned that the Sundarbans “may fall in grave danger if the planned coal-fired power-plant is established”.

 

The 1320 MW Rampal coal-fired power plant is a joint project of Power Development Board of Bangladesh and NTPC and BHEL of India. It is a great threat to the survival of Sundarbans because it would not only pollute environment by the coal-power plant but also is inviting a range of national and international vested interest groups to seize forest and to set up hundreds of commercial projects in and around the mangrove which would destroy the forest.

“The project has not only put the livelihood of at least 3.5 million people at risk, it has made the lives of around 50 million coastal people vulnerable to natural disasters as the Sundarbans have also been a huge natural safe guard against frequent cyclone, storm and other natural disasters in the country”, said Professor Anu Muhammad –  the member secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh (NCBD).

global-day-of-protest-rally-in-london-7-january-2017

The NCBD has declared a five-year peoples movement for the cancellation of Rampal power plant earlier. Saturday’s global action was part of this long-term movement that has been shared with hundreds of green activists across the world. The call for global day of protest was first heard at a grand rally on November 26, 2016 at the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka which was attended by over 15 thousands of people from across Bangladesh. In response to the call for a global day of protest, demonstrations, rallies and public meetings were held in Bangladesh, India, Australia,  Canada, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, Indonesia, Nepal,  Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, UK and USA. Thousands of protesters across the world vowed that they will stand with the movement to save the Sundarbans from mass destruction, and will work together to build a stronger global movement which would uphold public interest before profit.

As a next step to this global day of action, the NCBD has called for a half-day strike to be held on 26 January, 2017. The UK branch of the NCBD and Phulbari Solidarity Group will also hold public meeting in the UK in solidarity with the strikers in Bangladesh.

global-day-of-protest-in-london-on-7-january-2017

Read More:

Protests held globally against Rampal plant: Dhaka Tribune on 08 January 2017 [http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/environment/2017/01/08/protests-held-globally-rampal-plant/]

Successful Global Day of Protest To Protect Sundarbans: Asia Pacific Women, Law and Development on 07 January 2017 [http://apwld.org/press-release-successful-global-day-of-protest-to-protect-sundarbans/]

UN tells Bangladesh to halt mangrove-threatening coal-plant: The Guardian on 19 October 2016 [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/19/un-tells-bangladesh-to-halt-mangrove-threatening-coal-plant]

Further updates and more photos are available on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/events/218877755230424/

 

 

 

LONDON PICKET Of BRITISH MINERS Of DEVASTATIVE PHULBARI COAL PROJECT

               PRESS RELEASE 15 Dec 2016

             15542109_10154287669151553_650543184764904121_n

Thursday, London: Bangladeshi protesters from Phulbari were joined by transnational climate activists in a picket of directors of Global Coal Management (GCM) Resources Plc, an AIM-listed British mining company who want to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in Phulbari, Bangladesh. During the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) on Thursday 15 December in London a large group of protesters holding colourful banners and placards with powerful messages occupied the entrance of Aeronautical Society , an elite venue near Hyde Park Corner, where the AGM of GCM Resources was held.

 

 

 

Anti-coal protesters outside and inside the AGM called to shut down GCM Resources because the company does not have a valid license for business with Bangladesh but they are selling shares in London and committing abuse and human rights violation of farmers and local businessmen in Phulbari. Protesters outside the AGM chanted “CGM, out out”, “Gary Lye, blood on your hands”, referring to 26 August in 2006, when three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people for opposing plans by the company’s Bangladesh subsidiary, Asia Energy.

 

bangladeshi-postdoc-researcher-rashed-and-business-enterprenure-jahnara-rahman-joined-action-demo-with-ncbduk-president-dr-mukul

Dissident voices before entering the AGM express solidarity with the protesters outside  4 Hamilton Place, London. Photo by Golam Rabbani

A delegation of dissidents went inside the AGM and powerfully interrogated the company directors who failed to show evidence of any valid licence for business. The poorly attended AGM, which had only 10 shareholders including the company PR and excluding the six dissident voices, was quickly closed by the Chairman, Michael Tang, who was unable to answer any question from the floor.

 

This year marked the tenth anniversary of Phulbari outburst. The Phulbari project threatens to destroy the homes, lands, and water sources of as many as 220,000 people, and forcibly evict an estimated 130,000 people. If implemented, it would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land and would leave devastative impact on the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans. Earlier this year Phulbari Solidarity Group and Bangladesh National Committee called on London Stock Exchange to de-list GCM from London Stock Exchange.

 

 

Rumana Hashem of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye-witness to the killings in 2006 said:

The company’s CEO, Gary Lye, has been systematically abusing local opponents of the project. Earlier this year, Lye has filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 frontline local opponents, farmers, and small business entrepreneurs against mining in Phulbari and Dinajpur. This is incredible, and human rights abuse facing the innocent people and their families who never had anything to do with violence before this company inflicted violence in Phulbari.  

 

Akhter Sobhan Khan of Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh stated:

The Bangladesh government withdrew the mining licence in the wake of GCM’s atrocity but the company continues its dodgy attempts to raise funds for the operation of a perilous project. CGM is selling shares in the name of the Phulbari project in London.

 

Thursday’s picket event was co-organised by Phulbari Solidarity Group and the Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh. Action outside and inside the AGM was joined by transnational activists from Foil Vedanta, London Mining Network, Coal Action Network, UKBioregional, Plane Stupid, Reclaim the Power, Socialist Party of England and Wales, Transition by Design, and many Bangladeshi community protesters from Tower Hamlets and East London in the UK. Protesters say that they will not sleep until the company has closed its office in Dhaka and left Bangladesh.

Read a full report on the GCM Resources AGM by Richard Solly at London Mining Network http://londonminingnetwork.org/2016/12/gcm-resources-at-phulbari-perseverance-or-perversity/
Further news here http://m.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/24116/15-12-2016/picket-against-coal-project-in-bangladesh

 

Action to Shut Down GCM Resources plc.

When? 10:30am to 1pm on Thursday 15 December

Where? 4 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7BQ (Nearest tube station: Hyde Park Corner)

 

Hand-painted banner for victims of Phulbari shooting. Photo credit: Peter Marshall

This year marked the tenth anniversary of Phulbari outburst, where three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people in 2006 for opposing plans by a London-based AIM-listed mining company, Global Coal Management Resources (GCM).  Formerly known as Asia Energy, the company wants to build a massive open cast coal mine in Phulbari, Bangladesh. The project threatens to destroy the homes, lands, and water sources of as many as 220,000 people, and forcibly evict an estimated 130,000 people. If implemented, it would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land and would leave devastative impact on the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans.

 

The government has declined to renew GCM’s license. The company does not hold a valid contract with Bangladesh, while they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project in London. GCM’s CEO, Gary Lye, has been systematically abusing local opponents of the project. Earlier this year, Lye has filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 frontline local leaders against mining in Phulbari and Dinajpur, making the lives of local farmers and small business entrepreneurs unbearable.

 

We have been telling the company to stop abuse and corruption in Bangladesh for years. We have been going to their annual general meetings every year since 2008 but they cannot hear us. In 2012 Santa Claus has poured a sack of coal on the desk of board of directors as a punishment, and subsequently the ex-chairman of the company has resigned and the company had to change venue from Tower Hamlets to 4 Hamilton Place in Holborn. We have also written to UK’s ex-prime minister, David Cameron , who said that he would have looked into the case but never did. We have submitted three separate complaints to Houses of Parliament in the UK and our friends at International Accountability Project and Global Justice Now have lodged an OECD complaint to UK’s National Contact Point. In 2013 and 2014, Phulbari protesters  have disrupted GCM’s AGM and dumped coal in the door way which the corrupt investors should have found hard to forget. Last year we have given a final notice of closure to the company which a delegation of protesters inside the AGM has read out and handed in to the current chairman, Michael Tang. Yet GCM  continues to push Bangladesh government to approve a dodgy deal that is absurd.

The company has announced to hold its annual general meeting on 15 December in 2016. Therefore, we are heading to Aeronautical Society to disrupt and shut down GCM’s annual general meeting. We will charge the corrupt businessmen inside and outside the AGM. They must learn a better lesson than previous years.

JOIN US Inside and Outside the AGM on Thursday 15 December at 4 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7BQ (Nearest tube station: Hyde Park Corner).

Please confirm your participation via Facebook here. Bring your noisy instruments and whistles to disrupt the AGM of corrupt miners. See you there!

Contact for further information:  07714288221, 07956260791, 07861686036, Email: nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com , phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

 

Scrap the Rampal Power Plant project, Save the Sundarbans

As the government of Bangladesh suggests that the destructive deal with India cannot be scrapped due to delicate conditions of the contract, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh has written the following open letter to Indian Prime Minister. We believe that the Prime Minister of India can and should act promptly to halt Rampal Coal Power Plant.

 

anup-kundus-photo-28-jan-2015-copy Stop-rampal-coal-power-plant-poster-by-Rudro Rothi-on-1-august-2016

 

October 18, 2016

Scrap the Rampal power plant project, Save the Sundarbans

Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India

 

The Honourable Prime Minister,

We respectfully address you with grave concern and anxiety. The people of Bangladesh today is sternly worried over the future of the Sundarbans, which not only happens to be the only protection barrage of the southern belt of Bangladesh, but also the largest Mangrove Forest of the world, as well as the most valuable ecological habitat of the country and the World Heritage Site. The joint venture of both India and Bangladesh to build a 1320 MW capacity coal-fired power plant has caused much worry among the people of Bangladesh.

We have already written to the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh regarding this. As India is the major partner of this project, we believe, as the head of the Indian government, it is fundamentally important for us to address also to you in this regard, mainly for two reasons. The Rampal Power Plant, officially known as the Maitree Super Thermal Power Project, is a joint venture project of BPDB of Bangladesh and NTPC Limited of India. As per the joint venture agreement signed between Bangladesh and India, NTPC is responsible for planning, building and operating the plant. Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) is now officially responsible for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of the Rampal Power Plant. Exim Bank, a state bank of India, has been officially selected for financing this project, whereas Coal India Limited, most probably, is going to be appointed for supplying of necessary coal.

Secondly, if the Sundarbans, adjacent to the Bangladesh part is damaged, it would have a massive spillover effect on the Indian portion as well, affecting the lives and livelihood of the people of India living near Sundarban.

Based on studied opinion of a significantly large number of local and international experts, it is obvious that this particular coal-fired power plant would bring extensive destruction to the forest. It is also worth noting that, following the decision of building a power plant in Rampal, a range of influential business groups and commercial projects have pierced into the same area. It is predicted that the cumulative effect of such commercial aggression would ultimately cause fatal destruction to the Sundarbans.

It is important to note that around 3 to 4 million people including forest and fishing folks are dependent on the Sundarbans and the adjacent water bodies for their natural livelihood. Around 40 million people live in the southern coastal belt of Bangladesh. The power plant is ringing an alarm to the entire coastal community. Moreover, the damage would not be merely restricted to the Bangladesh portion of the Sundarbans. Around 5 million people living near to the Indian portion of the Sudnarbans would be put into grave danger too. Eventually, future generations from both nations would have to bear the deadly impact of the plant.

Obviously, we do not deny ‘development’. Power grids are also vital to modern lives. However, what is not acceptable is the implementation of some environmentally deadly projects which would merely profit the vested interest groups at the cost of the people and environment.

You must be aware of the fact that  this project has drawn huge criticism from both India and Bangladesh, and around the world. The UNESCO, the Ramsar Authority, the South Asian Human Rights Forum led by IK Gujral of India, along with other 150 various organizations have also opposed to the plant and demanded to scrap the deal. The Norwegian Council of Ethics has already withdrawn their fund from this controversial project.

Even the Minister of Finance of Bangladesh has admitted that inevitable environmental damage will be there, nevertheless the project must go on (15 February, 2016)1. We do not want to believe that it is the Government of India who is insisting on the project. Rather, we believe that the Government of India can play a vital role in saving the world’s largest Mangrove Forest by scrapping this controversial project.

Honourable Prime Minister,

The plant site is located on North of the Sundarbans, only 14 kilometers away from its boundary and within merely 4 kilometers of the Ecologically Critical Area (ECA).This site is only 2 meters above the sea level. It obviously holds a key financial and operating risk given the fact that it falls within a tidal delta region which experienced a tidal surge with the height of 5 meters. EIA study itself further notes that the Rampal plant would be in the “wind risk zone” of Bangladesh. It is worthy noting that this particular zone witnessed 16 cyclones in the past 25 years. We are deeply worried that the site’s location and elevation will be at extreme risk should sea levels rise or should an extreme weather event occur. In such events, the ash ponds – located near the Possur River – could easily be washed away putting the river at a serious ecological risk. The river is, in fact, one of the vital water bodies that provides fresh water flow to the world’s largest mangrove forest.

The Indian EIA guideline 2010 itself disallows setting up of similar projects within 25 kilometers of ecologically sensitive areas of India, including forests, rivers, and sanctuaries.2 You must have been aware of the fact that due to such environmental consciousness of the Indian Government, a number of coal-fired plant and coal mining project has been called off by the Green Tribunal and the Ministry of Environment of India3. We would like to call for your attention that while moving forward with this project, the Indian company has violated all environmental rules and regulations of the Indian government itself.

For the production of electricity, the plant will annually consume 4.72 million tons of coal.4  The coal and other toxic and chemical materials required for the construction and operation of the power plant will be transported to the project site through the waterways of the Sundarbans. The transportation of coal (nearly 13 thousand tons per day) through the waterways of the Sundarbans holds dire prospect of coal spillage, ballast water, bilge water, oil spillage, lubricant, and garbage. For the next 30 years, the transportation of cargo and lighter vessels, and the loading and unloading of coal will indeed bring extensive damage to the ecology of the forest and the wildlife habitats.

To run the Power Plant, water of the Possur River will be withdrawn (at the rate of 9,150 m3/hour) and discharged (at the rate of 5,150 m3/hour) into it again after use with a varying temperature5. This will reduce the oxygen of the water and damage the fish stocks of the Possur River. The rising temperature, company admits at least 2C6, will also affect the entire ecosystem and biodiversity of the forest, including the Zooplankton, the Phytoplankton, and the marine ecology. If it continues for the next 25 to 30 years, the marine ecology and the biodiversity of the Possur River would be destroyed, as well as the hydrological characteristics of the river including its salinity front, salinity level, sedimentation pattern, and tidal behavior. Discharged water will also contain huge amount of Mercury if coal-washing is done as confirmed by the Authority.

 

The zoologists have shown concern that the toxic substances emitted from the coal-fired power plant including arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, chromium, selenium, and radium are capable of contaminating the air and water to such an extent that it could harm the reproductive health system of the wild life animals and the species of the Sundarbans. The bird scientists are concerned that the coal-fired pollution may hamper the existence of at least 3 rare species of bird, which shelter in the Sundarbans.

The experts and engineers have long suggested that Ultra Super Critical Technology itself is only capable of reducing pollution only at a rate of 8 to 10 percent. Even if other pollutant reducing technology should be used, no record suggests that risk of pollution could be entirely eliminated.  For instance, the installation of FGD may reduce the risk of SO2 pollution, while increasing the chances of water pollution through the release of heavy chemical materials including Arsenic, Mercury, Selenium and Boron7. If low NOX Burner should be used, pollution could be reduced up to 40 to 60 percent, nevertheless, the rest of the toxin chemicals would remain hazardous enough to spoil the environment8. Though the authority has assured the use of FGD and ESP, the combined application of all such technology is capable of dropping the contamination level merely up to 48 percent9. On the other hand, the risk of release of an extensive amount of Mercury still persists, as there is no mention of applying any technology in tender document that regulates or controls the release of Mercury into the forestry and water10.

In the last few years, a number of accidents in the water routes, including deadly oil spill had left its long term footprints on the sensitive forest lives. The current transportation system on the Sundarbans area itself is creating severe sound and water pollution around the forest ecology. Lately, some sensitive locations around the forest have been announced as ‘endangered’ for the Irrawaddy Dolphins by the Government of Bangladesh. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh previously suggested bringing a complete halt to the transportation routes in the Shela River. However, the attempt failed. In these circumstances, we simply cannot take further risk by allowing a 1320 MW capacity of coal-fired plant on the backyard of the Sundarbans. Our experience with institutional capability is also frustrating11.

A coastal belt, in general, survives on the resistant capacity of the mangrove swamps. For instance, extensive commercial establishments in the coastal bodies of the New Orleans state of the USA have ultimately damaged the natural flow of Mississippi river. Due to the vulnerability of these coastal belt areas, Hurricane Katrina could make unprecedented damage to the coastal areas of New Orleans. In Bangladesh, during Hurricane Sidr and Aila, the Sundarbans has largely protected the people and resources of the southern coast. If the Sundarbans is damaged, the people and the species of the entire coastal belt will be practically unprotected.

We would like to stress on the point that no deadly experiement should be taken when the Sundarbans is concerned. Rather we demand to cancel the project, along with every other pollution enhancing projects and commercial activities around the Sundarbans. We also demand to bring a halt to the transportation of hazardous commodities around the Sudarbans. As Rampal power plant is not only a risk by itself, but also has consistently attracted a range of commercial ventures into the area; by scrapping the deal, the Indian government could play a crucial role in protecting the Sundarbans from all kind of forest damaging ventures.

The Sundarbans to us is not a subject of negotiation. Meanwhile, alternative locations and technology is available for power generation. Lately, the Srilankan government had cancelled a similar power plant deal with India (May 18, 2016)12. If Srilanka and India could scrap it, why not Bangladesh to prevent much bigger disaster?

Honourable Prime Minister,

We gratefully remember the contribution of India during the time of our liberation war in 1971. The people of Bangladesh have not forgotten the safe shelter that was provided by the people of India in a time of despair and misery. Nevertheless, it is also observed that the people of Bangladesh also hold much resentment towards the state of India due to its consistent measures of oppressive and humiliating policies. The Farakka dam, the upcoming dams along with the Indian river linking projects, border killing, the building of border fence, unfair trade agreements and loan terms, and the one sided transit deal are few Indian policies which have generated discontent in the minds of people of Bangladesh. And now it is the destructive power plant project.

We would like to stress on the point that people still expect solution of all earlier disputes, but if Sundarban is affected, the damage would be irrecoverable and there would be no turning back. The resentment and anger would stay for ever, the ‘friendship’ company will turn into permanent ‘source’ of hostility. We certainly do not want to create a condition as such. Rather we expect, for the sake of the friendship, the project should be called off. We believe, peaceful co-existence of the two nations could only be achieved through mutually respectable agreements and arrangements that would reflect the aspiration of both people in a fair and just manner.

Based on such aspirations, we hope that, you, as the Head of Indian government, along with our Prime Minister, would consider the genuine concerns of the people of Bangladesh and immediately scrap the Rampal Power Plant project.

 

Sincerely,

On behalf of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resource, Power and Port in Bangladesh

 

Engineer  Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah, Convener,           Prof. Anu Muhammad, Member Secretary

 

#SavetheSundarbans #StopRampalCoalPowerPlant #NOtoRampalCoalPlant

 

References:

1) ¶wZ n‡jI mi‡e bv ivgcvj we`¨yr ‡K›`«: A_©gš¿x

Ittefak, 15 February, 2016

http://www.ittefaq.com.bd/national/2016/02/15/55597.html

Rampal power plant to be commissioned despite risk to ecology

http://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2016/02/15/rampal-power-plant-to-be-commissioned-despite-risk-to-ecology

2) “Locations of thermal power stations are avoided within 25 km of the outer periphery of the following:

– metropolitan cities;

– National park and wildlife sanctuaries;

– Ecologically sensitive areas like tropical forest, biosphere reserve, important lake and coastal areas rich in coral formation;”

http://envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/TGM_Thermal%20Power%20Plants_010910_NK.pdf

3) The need to preserve the Khajuraho temple, famous for its erotic sculptures, as well as nearby tiger and crocodile sanctuaries has prompted a government panel to hold off on clearing a Rs.18,000 crore thermal power plant in Madhya Pradesh.
http://www.livemint.com/Politics/k9O019qiWVwh1r6iyESE0K/Panel-defers-green-clearance-for-NTPCs-Rs18000-crore-plant.html

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) .. .. quashed the environmental clearance for the 3,600-MW thermal power plant proposed by IL&FS Tamil Nadu Power Company Limited in Cuddalore, on the grounds that no proper cumulative impact assessment was done.
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/ngt-quashes-eco-nod-for-cuddalore-power-plant/article6587910.ece

Noting that a thermal power plant near human habitat and on agricultural land was not viable, a Central green panel has refused to give approval to the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to set up a 1320 MW coal-based project in Madhya Pradesh.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ntpcs-coalbased-project-in-mp-turned-down/article819873.ece

4) Rampal EIA, page 378

http://bifpcl.com/new/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/EIA-Report-Volume-I.pdf

5) Rampal EIA, page 117.

6)“Temperature of discharge water shall never be more than two degree Centigrade (2OC) above river water temperature”- Question To Answer From Rampal Authority

http://energybangla.com/question-to-answer-from-rampal-authority/

7) Cleansing the Air at the Expense of Waterways

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/13/us/13water.html?_r=0

8) AN OVERVIEW OF TECHNOLOGIES FOR REDUCTION OF OXIDES OF NITROGEN FROM COMBUSTION FURNACES, page-4

http://www.mpr.com/uploads/news/nox-reduction-coal-fired.pdf

9) https://netl.doe.gov/File%20Library/Research/Coal/ewr/mercury_-FGD-white-paper-Final.pdf

10) State-of-the-art technology for mercury control is sorbent injection in the boiler or in the flue gases followed by capture of the resultant particulates in a bag house. These technologies are simply missing in the tender document.

http://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/10-questions-authorities-answers-counter-response-1281937

11) “90,000 m3 polluted water flowing into rivers around Dhaka every day”. Banik Barta, 2 April, 2016

https://goo.gl/GEzbpc

12 ) Sri Lanka scraps NTPC’s plan to build coal plant

http://www.thehindu.com/business/sri-lanka-scraps-ntpcs-plan-to-build-coal-plant/article9104518.ece

Indian people’s movements and civil society call upon Modi to withdraw India’s support from Rampal Coal-Power Project

 

Following the ongoing human rights violation of the National Committee activists and front-line organisers against Rampal coal-fired plant in Bangladesh, many concerned Indian green and human rights organisations have written an open letter to the Prime Minister of India to withdraw support from the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company, thereafter the destructive Rampal Power Project.  The letter signed by 43 organisations and many activists is as follows.  

 

October 18, 2016

 

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister on Rampal Power Project

 

Respected Prime Minister,

 

We, the people’s movements and other civil society organisations in India, draw your urgent attention to the serious issues emerging from the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (Rampal Power Project), being built near the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sundarbans in Bangladesh.

 

This project is opposed by people in Bangladesh and India for its monumental social and environmental negative impacts, particularly the irreversible damage to Sundarbans and the fragile ecosystem around it.

 

40% of the Sundarbans is in India and any damage to that will have devastating impacts on thousands of fishworkers and forest dwellers depending on it, apart from the damage to the natural protection from natural calamities like tsunami and cyclones.

 

The project is partly owned by NTPC, financed by Indian ExIm Bank, equipment’s supplied by BHEL and PricewaterhouseCoopers Private Limited, India contracted for long term coal sourcing. Hence India’s share in this project is significant.

 

People in Bangladesh, under the umbrella of National Oil, Gas, Mineral Resource, Power and Port Protection Committee, have been opposing the project with support of movements from different parts, including India. Leader of the National Committee Prof Anu Muhammad has been receiving death threats for the role he is playing for opposing the project.

 

While we condemn univocally death threats to Prof Anu Muhammad, we would urge you to request the Bangladesh government to ensure the safety of political activists there.

 

Further, we urge you to look at the colossal damage this project is causing to people and environment in India and Bangladesh and withdraw India’s support to the project.

 

 

Signed by:

Ashok Chowdhury & Roma Malik, All India Union of Forest Working People

Madhuresh Kumar, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)

Narmada Bachao Andolan

Soumya Dutta, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha

National Hawker Federation

Abhijit, Lokayat, Pune

Afsar Jafri, Focus on the Global South

All India Forum of Forest Movements

Ashok Shrimali – Secretary General of mm&P

Ayesha DSouza, Centre for Financial Accountability

Bharat Patel, Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan

Environics Trust

Environment Support Group – Trust, Bangalore

Equations

Gautam Bandyopadhyay, Nadi Ghati Morcha

Gururaja Budhya, Urban Research Centre, Bangalore, India.

Himanshu Damle, Public Finance Public Accountability Collective (PFPAC)

Himanshu Thakkar. South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People. Delhi

Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)

Indigenous Perspectives

Jiten Yumnam, Secretary, Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur

Kiran Shaheen, Aql ki Dhaba,

Krishnakant, Mithi Virdi

Maglin Peter, Teeradesa Mahila Vedi

Mahan Sangarsh Samiti

Manipur Cycle Club

Manshi Asher,  Himdhara Collective, Himachal Pradesh

Muthukrishnan, writer / Activist Madurai

North East Peoples Alliance

Priya Pillai, Greenpeace India

PT George, Intercultural Resources.

Ravi Rebbapragada, Executive Director, Samata India

Samir Mehta, International Rivers South Asia

Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune/Badwani

Shweta Tripatji, Society for Rural Urban & Tribal Initiative (SRUTI)

Sundarrajan, Sundarrajan, Poovulagin Nanbargal, KKNPP

Tarini Manchanda, filmmaker

The Research Collective

Umesh Babu, Delhi Forum

Vaishali Patil, Forum Against Disastorous Project in Konkan.

Vijay Pratap, South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy (SADED)

Vimalbhai, Matu Jansangthan

Xavier Dias, Khan Kaneej Aur Adhirkar