Bangladesh Environment Network (BEN), the global network for protection of environment, deplores the police action against the Rampal protesters on January 26 in Dhaka city. Apart from using tear gas, water cannon, and lathi charge against the protesters, the police severely beat up journalists, including the ATN News reporter Mr. Kazi Ishan Didar and photographer Abdul Alim. Scores of protesters were injured and many are still under treatment in different hospitals.
The protesters were bringing out processions in support of the half-day general strike that the National Committee for protection of national resources had called in protest against the Rampal thermal power project.
Bangladesh government is going ahead with the construction of the 1200 MW coal-fired thermal power plant at Rampal, only 13 km away from the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest of the world, and an UNESCO recognized world natural heritage site.
Pro-environment organizations, including BEN, are opposing the plant, pointing to the irreparable damage the plant may cause to the Sundarbans. A team from the UNESCO visited the site and came out with recommendation against the plant. It pointed to the broader danger of industrialization and commercialization along the northern rim of the Sundarbans that the Rampal plant will encourage.
Instead of paying heed to the UNESCO recommendation, the government is pressing ahead with the plant, which is basically an initiative of the Indian National Thermal Power Company (NTPC). The government also did not consider the proposal put forward by BEN of switching the plant from imported coal to imported LNG.
BEN is disappointed by this course of events and urges the government to shy away from the coal route and instead rely on renewables and gas (either domestic or imported LNG) for expansion of power generation. BEN hopes that the incidents of January 26 will prompt the government to rethink its position and go for discussion, negotiation, and compromise rather than confrontation. It has to remember that the Sundarbans is one and unique and it should not be subjected to any risk, even if it is small. There are many other sites where power plants may be constructed