“Instead of showing any interest to protect the Sundarbans, the government is using controversial and pollutant experts and institutions from different countries to justify a dangerous coal-fired power plant [near the Sundarbans],” she told a press conference yesterday at Dhaka Reporters Unity.
On July 12, the government signed an agreement with an Indian firm to set up the India-Bangladesh joint venture plant on the bank of the Pashur River, disregarding protests.
The $1.49 billion plant is likely to start producing electricity in 2019. Seventy percent of the project cost would be provided by Indian Exim Bank as loan. The governments of Bangladesh and India will share 30% of the rest of the amount equally.
A former caretaker government adviser, Sultana Kamal said: “Both the countries are UN signatories of Sustainable Development Goals. So they have to consider the Sundarbans, which have been created over thousands of years, because it is their duty to protect it. It is a demand of the time, it is the demand of the world.”
Moreover, she alleged that activists were subjected to torture and harassment for raising their voices against the project.
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers' Association (BELA) Chief Executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan said that the government's politics on Rampal had reached an extreme position.
Terming the project a “devastating development project,” Rizwana urged the government to scrap the initiative. She said: “The government's unnecessary and unscientific excuses given in favour of the project will not affect the agitations ...”
Dhaka University economics teacher MM Akash said that the government would have to come away from the project because it will destroy the Unesco World Heritage site gradually.
The press conference was also addressed by TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman, rights activist Khushi Kabir and National Committee member Sharif Jamil.