12 July 2017

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Non-governmental organisations regret and condemn the decision of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO which sidestepped explicitly calling on Bangladesh to cancel and relocate the proposed coal-fired power plant at Rampal. The Government of Bangladesh, in collaboration with the Indian government, is constructing a 1320 MW coal power-plant located only 14 km away from the Sundarbans, a Ramsar-listed wetland which includes a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mangrove forest in the Sundarbans. Photo: Mohammad Rakibul Hasan

Mangrove forest in the Sundarbans. Photo: Mohammad Rakibul Hasan

According to expert groups, scientific community and civil society organisations, the power plant project not only threatens the rich biodiversity of the Sundarbans and its ability to mitigate climate change, but also the livelihoods of millions of people and the climate. Despite this step back, the World Heritage Committee urged the government of Bangladesh not to pursue the any large scale industries near the Sundarbans before a comprehensive Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is carried out.  

Professor Anu Muhammad, member secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, Bangladesh said: “UNESCO, after a series of investigation and scientific research, recommended in its draft decision to relocate the power plant from Rampal due to its potential hazardous impacts on the mangrove forest, a world heritage property. So their recent decision is questionable and would only prove UNESCO’s surrender to the vested group of lobbyists.”

“It is extremely disappointing that the Word Heritage Committee failed to add the Sundarbans to the list of World Heritage in Danger, despite noting the likely environmental impacts of the Rampal plant on the quality of air and water in the Sundarbans.” said Kate Lappin, APWLD’s regional coordinator. “Both the environment and women whose livelihoods depend on access to water and resources around the Sundarbans lost this week while corporations and a tiny few wealthy people won. Instead of granting corporations control over the country’s energy production, we’re calling for a system of energy democracy in which local people, particularly women, are able to make decisions over the use of local resources and the best way to fulfil their needs” she added.

Previously, the civil society organisations also sent appeal letters to UNESCO and the Presidents, Prime Ministers and several Ministers of Bangladesh and India to immediately take whatever steps necessary to halt the coal-fired power plant project in the Sundarbans and to increase investments in renewable solar and wind power.

For further information please contact:

  • Amanda Tas, Protect the Forest, amanda.tas@skyddaskogen.se, +46 (0)73-5860099
  • Maha Mirza, National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port (NCBD), +88 177 648 2864
  • Neha Gupta, APWLD, Thailand, Landline:+66 53 284 527, Mobile:+66 955 282 396, neha@apwld.org