Environmentalists of three international environmental organisations have expressed grave concerns about the Rampal and Orion coal power plants being built near the Sundarbans in an open letter released on Thursday.
Amanda Tas, secretary of the Swedish-based organisation Protect the Forest, Wally Menne, project coordinator of the South-Africa based Timberwatch Coalition, and Kate Lappin, regional coordinator of the Thailand-based Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), addressed the letter to the presidents and prime ministers of India and Bangladesh, their state ministers and various other ministers.
“The coal power plants are directly endangering hundreds of thousands of local people living in the area, as well as the biodiversity of the mangrove forest,” they said in the letter.
The following are some of the reasons they offered to shut down the power plant projects: negative effects on the quality of soil and water, diminishing livelihoods of locals and arable land available, as well as negative impact on locals’ health including breathing difficulties, health issues for mothers and babies, etc.
“Coal mining in itself is a very destructive activity which causes habitat destruction, a high level of pollution, work-related social and health problems and contributes significantly to climate change,” they also said.
The environmental activists added that “investing in fossil fuel-fired power plants, regardless of their location in the world, is consequently an incredibly shortsighted, retrogressive and seriously detrimental energy strategy, which will have devastating consequences for future generations.”
They asked the governments involved to immediately take whatever steps necessary to halt these coal-fired power plant projects and other commercial projects in the Sundarbans and its surroundings, and to increase investments in renewable solar and wind power instead.
“We also urge the Governments of Bangladesh and India to uphold the right to assemble and protect the safety of people that exercise this right, including the right to protest against government-approved development projects,” they further said.
“We therefore appeal to your sense of honour, as Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and as winner of the UN environmental award ‘Champion of the Earth’ in 2015, as well as Prime Minister of India, Presidents of Bangladesh and India, and Ministers of Bangladesh and India to please listen to your citizens and concerned people across the globe,” they also added.
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