Civil Society Groups in India & Bangladesh Join Hands to Save Sunderbans
Sunderban.pngPeopleâ€™s movements in India have joined hands with their Bangladesh counterparts to save the Sunderbans with a delegation of 11 senior activists taking part in the Long March organized by National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, and Power to protest against a power plant being jointly build by the two countries which is likely to impact the delicate ecosystem of the Sunderbans. The march started from Bangladeshâ€™s capital Dhaka on March 10 to Kathakhali Morh, Bagherhat district, Bangladesh â€“ a distance of 250 kms from the capital. The Rampal power plant is being built through a joint-venture by Bangladeshâ€™s Power Development Board and Indiaâ€™s National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), with machinery coming from Indiaâ€™s Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), finance coming from Indian ExIm Bank and PricewaterhouseCoopers (India) contracted for Long term coal sourcing, maritime transportation, transshipment, inland water transport and logistics.
Ashok Choudhury, and Roma Malik of All India Union of Forest Working People, Soumya Dutta,Â of Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha and India Climate Justice, Magline Peter of National Fishworkers Forum, Bharat Patel of Machimar Adhikaar Sangharsh Sangathan, Gujarat,Â representatives of Delhi Solidarity Group and other environmentalists were part of the Indian delegation. The delegation reiterated their support to the movement to protect the Sundarbans and called upon the Governments of India and Bangladesh to cancel the project and seek decentralized and sustainable solutions to address the energy issues. They warned that in the coming days a more coordinated opposition will be build on both sides of the boarder, bringing together like-minded peopleâ€™s movements, political parties and intellectuals, to protect Sundarbans. â€œPeopleâ€™s movements in India resonate with the key message of the Bangladesh movementsÂ – that while there are alternatives for sources of energy, there is no alternative to the Sundarbans. Sundarbans is a critical life-support ecosystem to India as much as it is for Bangladesh. Protecting it is the responsibility of people of both countriesâ€,Â Ashok Choudhury, General Secretary, All India Union of Forest Working People said.
â€œIf Rampal and the adjacent Orion projects are allowed to come up, everyday, lakhs of litres of hot water would be pumped out from these projects to the Passur river along with the release of millions of tons of toxic coal ash in the surrounding air, water and soil every year., severely affecting , vegetation, fish and other aquatic wealth, and reducing the oxygen level in the river drastically, devastating farming and fishing livelihoodsÂ â€, Soumya Dutta, Convener of the Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha said. â€œAmongst the fishworkers, women are the worst affected,â€ Magline Peter of National Fishworkers Forum said. â€œWhile they are already burdened with running the household, Rampal project makes it further difficult. The project would be detrimental to the food security of the region,â€ she added. The delegation, after talking to different political and civil society representatives, expressed concern about the increasing anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh.
â€œAt a time when it is important to strengthen relationship with neighboring countries, it is unfortunate that India is promoting this project which is alienating India further.Â It is important that a Parliamentary delegation visit Bangladesh and discuss the implications of the project with different stakeholders and take a pro-people position on the project to restore the faith and confidence on India,â€ Roma, deputy General Secretary of All India Union of Forest Working People said. The delegation also warned that with coal projects coming up in and near Sundarbans, with a requirement of over 4 million tons of imported coal each year for Rampal project alone, grave accidents are just round the corner and the governments should take cognizance of it and should restrain from exposing Sundarbans from more danger.”