Thursday, November 12th, 2015

Response to the Invitation from Energy Ministry to Visit Rampal

To

Mr. Nasrul Hamid MP

State Minister for Power Energy and Mineral Resources

Dear Mr. Minister, We received your invitation letter dated 28 October, 2015 to visit Sundarban area with you to see Rampal coal power project on 19 November, 2015. Thanks for the invitation. Before stating our decision on this invitation it is necessary to remind some facts.

In the year 2010 for the first time we came to know about this destructive project. In every development project of this nature, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was supposed to be done first. But before EIA was done land acquision started for Rampal project, people were forced to leave their land. From that stage we started visiting the area. We consulted experts to learn about the impact of this project on Sundarbans, tried to get government information, keep contacts with local people. From then we visited that area many times. On most of our visits we had been attacked by your party goons and by your police force. From very beginning it became clear that the Rampal coal fired power plant was based on misinformation, wrong doing and coercive measures.

On 12 April, 2013 your ministry convened a public consultation on EIA of Rampal power plant. Along with other experts and environmentalists, a delegation team from National Committee was also there to explain our position. We also sent our concern in writing. We objected on several issues e.g. the distance of Rampal plant from Sundarbans, the level of emitted Sulphur and Nitrogen gas, ash pollution, air, water and sound pollution during coal carrying activity and risk of coal transportation, water pollution on the usage of adjacent river water for the power plant etc. Except government representatives, all experts presented on that meeting rejected that EIA and urged to cancel this power plant.

Nevertheless, within one week government signed contract with National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) India to go with the project. Later the revised EIA was published, full of vagueness with countless number of misinformation like before. Clearly, the main aim of this EIA was not to assess the true impact of the plant but to rationalize it by hiding truth.

In the following months there has been no sign of logical response from the government despite experts’ opposition along with local and global protests. Moreover, another coal fired power plant (Orion), nearer to Sundarban got approval. And recently government has taken decision to extend Rampal plant with second phase. The government’s callousness and irresponsible act after catastrophic accidents showed further the danger of the project. Even after all these accidents the government has not taken any effective steps to stop the hazardous transportation through Sundarbans. Furthermore other disastrous projects near Sundarbans were also approved.

Therefore the government seems totally unconcerned and indifferent about importance to protect Sundarbans, world heritage and a natural protection from natural calamity for millions of coastal people. On the contrary government seems desperate to go with this project by using lies, falsification and distorted information.

For last couple of years we have visited Rampal many times, talked to the people, discussed with the experts and gathered information on the impact of such projects in other countries. All these together made us firm in opposing these projects. The Indian company NTPC is the main party to build this power plant. But according to the Indian EIA guideline, 2010 it is not permissible to set up any coal plant near 25 km radius of any reserve forest in India.

We have always said we are ready to cooperate with the government in all possible ways to save Sundarbans and to find sustainable model to solve existing power crisis. But it is the government’s responsibility to create the environment of trust. On the one hand you continue the project completely ignoring public views and continue coercive measures to stop dissenting voices, and on the other hand you invite for discussion, this is deceptive ways to fool people. We are open to work with you and ready to visit with you. Before that you must show your sincerity by two means 1) postpone all works related to Rampal and Orion projects to open public discussion. And 2) stop spreading lies and falsification, stop defamation and harassment of the people and organizations protesting projects like Rampal to save Sundarbans.

Moreover, we are inviting you to public debate on the issue before mass media. If you agree we will be able to fix location and time for this. We keep on saying that, there are lots of alternatives to produce power but there is no alternative for Sundarbans.

With Thanks,

Sheikh Muhammad Sahidullah, Convener and

Anu Muhammad , Member Secretary