Reiterating their call to scrap the Rampal coal power plant, citizens’ platform National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources, Power and Ports Saturday said that they would come up with alternative proposals for power generation on January 14 next year.
National Committee Member Secretary Prof Anu Mohammad made the disclosure after the end of a mass rally Saturday while announcing a seven-point programme including mass protests throughout the country on December 26 and observing Global Protest Day on January 7.
He also threatened to enforce a half-day hartal on January 26 if their demands were not met.
The mass rally took place at the Central Shaheed Minar demanding cancellation of the 1,320MW coal-fired power plant near the Sundarbans in Rampal of Bagerhat. Later, they brought out a procession to High Court Crossing in the afternoon.
To join the rally, activists from seven districts of the country started marching towards Dhaka on Thursday. Some of the protestors told the Dhaka tribune that they had been obstructed by the police and the ruling party men at some places on their way to Dhaka.
The rally started with one minute silence and the national anthem. The opening speech was given by Prof Anu, an economics teacher at Jahangirnagar University. It event presided over by engineer Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah.
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Activists perform national anthem in the beginning of the rally at the Central Shaheed Minar Saturday Photo: Collected from Facebook
Communist Party of Bangladesh President Mujahidul Islam Selim, BaSoD General Secretary Khalequzzaman, Ganashanhati Andolon Convener Zonayed Saki and members of different political parties and non-political organisations were also present during the programme.
Terming the movement a battle for the existence of the country, Prof Anu said: “It has been found in several researches that the project will be harmful for the nation. Had the government ever been concerned about the national interest, then they would have already stopped the project showing respect to the public sentiment.”
Stating that some 3.5 million people depend on the Sundarbans alone, he said: “If the world’s last remaining mangrove forest is destroyed, around 50 million people will be affected as there will be no natural protection for them.”
He alleged that the government was implementing the project to please the Indian investors.
The government is adamant about implementing the project, claiming that it would not harm the mangrove forest or the water species in the nearby Pashur River.
Apart from Bangladeshis at home and abroad, the Unesco and the Ramsar have also demanded that the project be shifted to any other location expressing concerns over the possible adverse impact on the Sundarbans World Heritage site.
CPB President Selim told the rally that they would scrap the project if the leftists were voted to power. “They [government] claim that this project will not harm the Sundarbans, but I can give them evidence that it will. If the prime minister wants, we can arrange a debate at the Shaheed Minar or in any television channel. Rampal power plant should be closed.”
Veteran columnist Syed Abul Maksud said: “We want the country to be developed; we also want electricity but not by endangering the country.”
He questioned why the government was not constructing the power plant elsewhere.
Zonayed Saki said dismissed the government claim that they would use advanced technology at the project to mitigate pollution, saying: “The Rampal plant project manager himself told media that they will not use ultra super critical technology.”
Biplobi Workers’ Party General Secretary Saiful Haque said that most of the ministers could not speak up against the project in fear of losing their jobs. Almost half of them would protest against the coal-fired power plant, he claimed.
Speakers also urged the government to quit coal and go for sustainable energy sources including solar and wind power to generate electricity.
People started gathering at the Shaheed Minar from the morning though it was scheduled to begin at 2:30pm. Several thousand green activists took part in the event.
Several cultural organisations including Udichi Shilpi Goshthi performed songs calling for national consensus to save the Sundarbans.
Rally under tight vigilance
Even though there was significant number of police and RAB deployed at the Central Shaheed Minar area, the law enforcers did not use batons to disperse the protesters, like what they do all the time – be it while staging a procession or holding a long-march – on the same issue.
Police in uniform and plainclothes patrolled the area throughout the programme to ensure law and order.
Shahbagh police OC Abu Bakkar Siddique said that they provided adequate security as the National Committee had taken permission from the DMP to hold the programme.
Since they had no permission for holding any procession, the police allowed them to march the streets under protection. The OC said that the organisers had told them about the procession little before the end of the rally.