Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Sundarbans Declaration

Today, in the afternoon of 28 September 2013, we have reached the greater Sundarbans Digraj area after traveling 5 days and 400 kilometers on the road since 24th September morning through Dhaka, Savar, Rana Plaza, Jahangirnagar University, Manikgonj, Goalondo,Rajbari, Faridpur, Magura, Jheneidah, Kaligonj, Jessore, Noapara, Fultola, Doulotpur, Khulna, Bagerhat, Rampal, Chulkathi. Hundreds of thousands of people have expressed solidarity with us to protect the Sunderbans and for implementation of our seven points demand over the course of the Long March and earlier.  People from all walks of life have participated in the Long March – left wing progressive political parties, farmers, workers, men, women, students, youth, children, adoloscents, science organisations, cultural musical and theatre groups, film making organisations, reading circles, magazines, teachers, scientists, engineers, artists, writers, journalists, film makers, development professionals, human rights activists and other professionals.

The Long March was organized in a protest to have the proposed Sundarbans destructionary Rampal coal based power plant cancelled, and for implementation of the National Committee’s seven points demand. While the the government has been busy engaging in a power hungry rent seeking behavior to destroy the Sundarbans in the name of ‘power generation’ and ‘development’, the people have been active building a fortress of resistance with a mass movement to establish their rights. This Long March is a part of that resistance movement.

Sundarbans is not just a few trees, animals, and birds. It is the embodiment of the great soul of countess lives, with an extraordinary fortitude of biodiversity, acknowledged as a world heritage.   Sundarbans not only serves as the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people, it stands as a protector of hundreds of thousands of the adjacent inhabitants during natural disasters such as Sidr and Aila. It stands as a mother protecting the south west region during natural calamities of great proportions.

The contract that has been signed jointly between Bangladesh’s PDB and India’s NTPC is unequal, non-transparent and against the interest of the nation. If this project is implemented, not only will the people and the environment be badly affected, it will also cost the nation around 6,000 billion taka in economic loss.

The project has seen many irregularities such as acquisition of land for the power plant without prior environmental impact assessment, violent and forceful displacement of the local people, ignoring of the high court ruling, and arrangement of distorted and incomplete environmental impact assessment report to serve self interest. The project is not following any rules and regulations and all these prove that it is just there to serve national and international interest groups. However, independent research and reports on the issue establish that the implementation of this project will put the Sundarbands at a great risk of destruction, leaving the nation and the people vulnerable and without protection.

Scientific research shows that the coal based power plant will emit harmful and dangerous chemicals into the air in an annual rate of 52,000 tonnes of poisonous Sulphur Dioxide gas, 30,000 tonnes of Nitrogen Dioxide gas, 750,000 tonnes of fly ash, and 200,000 tonnes of bottom ash. Poshur river will also be extensively affected, disrupting the life cycle of the fisheries, aquatics, and animals, due to withdrawal  of 9,150 cubic meters of water every hour from the river, then discharge the used water into the river stream, affecting the river’s natural flow, sedimentation, and temperature. The whole riverine system of the Sundarbans will be affected.

Transport of coal through the Sundarbans; polluted waste and oil spillage from ships; excessive light and sound; all these will disrupt the natural life and habitat of the diverse life forms at the Sundarbans.

In a press note released on 26th September, the government has declared the National Committee’s information as misinformation. Even though the National Committee has shared findings of many scientific research and reports through various meetings, seminars, and discussions, the government has chosen to ignore the reports and put a blind eye to the situation, providing no specific information or arguments. Instead, there is dirty politics spreading lot of misinformation and rumors about the Long March to disrupt the mass resistance being built up across the nation to save the Sundarbans. However, none of these have been able to bring down our logic and explanation, and keeps awakening the hearts of the nation loving people to save the Sundarbans.

The Rampal site is 14 kilometers away from the Sundarbans, however the press note claims that it is at a safe distance as it is 72 kilometers from the ‘UNESCO national heritage site’. In reality, there is no ‘UNESCO national heritage site’, instead there is the ‘UNESCO world heritage site’. On the other hand, the location that the government has claimed as the ‘UNESCO national heritage site’, is part of the route through which the polluting coal carrying ships will travel and damage the environment. The bigger issue at stake is that if the power plant is implemented, the whole of Sundarbans will be affected, thus claiming that a part of the forest is 72 kilometers away, and thus it is a safe project, is illogical.

The government has also claimed that the amount of harmful carbon, sulfur, fly ash, and other air pollutants can be minimized using super critical technology. However, that claim is misleading as the super critical technology can only reduce these harmful amount by only 5 to 10 percent more than sub critical technology, which is minute compared to the damage that will be caused.

India itself was unable to implement power plants within 25 kilometers of Rajiv Gandhi National Park (one-sixteenth of the area of the Sundarbans) and Pichavaram mangrove forest area (one-nine hundredth of the area of the Sundarbans). However, the same India is going to implement a 1,320 MW coal based power plant within 14 kilometers of the Bangladesh Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, rich in biodiversity, a Ramser site and an UNESCO world heritage site!

In the last 15 years, a central issue in the National Committee’s movement has been acquirement of low cost, sustainable uninterrupted power or electricity generation for the country. If the primary fuels for electricity production is within state ownership, if export of minerals and resources is banned, if sources of renewable energy can be expanded, and if priority is given for capacitating the national capability in this regards, then Bangladesh can soon become self-dependent on power generation. It will be possible to bring electricity at the doorsteps of every household, bring big change in the economy including agriculture and the industry.

The current government has taken the footsteps of the previous parties in power, and is looking after the interest of the rent seeking looter groups, as a result the power crisis in the country remains acute. The pathways the government has taken in the name of solving the electricity shortage crisis in the country, is only at the benefit of looter businesses, at the cost of putting the nation at high risks. To solve the power crisis, this Long March calls for annulment of the PSC 2012, implementation of the Phulbari agreement, ban on export of national minerals and resources, along with full implementation of the National Committee’s seven points demand.

We reiterate, that there are lot of alternatives for producing electricity, but there is no alternative to the Sundarbans. However, wrong decision making, corruption and rent seeking behavior by the government is putting the Sundarbans at a risk of destruction. Rampal Power Plant is a death blow to the Sundarbans.

We cannot allow the destruction of the Sundarbans for the profit mongers. We cannot allow the destruction of the Sundarbans for the sake of our local land grabbers and looters. Sundarbans is a part of our existence.

Not just India, even if these ugly hands of looters come in the name of any other country like China,United States, or Russia, we will not stand aside and let our country go astray. We will not let Bangladesh fall in the hands of any imperial evil forces.

Just like the people of Bangladesh are intertwined with Monipur, India’s northeast, in the movement against the Tipaimukh dam, this resistance to save the Sundarbans, a part of existence for both India and Bangladesh, should involve not only the people of Bangladesh, but also from India, and the world at large. And we are already seeing that global concern in solidarity with our movement.

Our demand to the government is to cancel this Rampal Power Plant project immediately. A ‘Sundarban Policy’ must be formulated and implemented for safeguarding and reforestation of the Sundarbans. There is no use giving threats for the upcoming 22nd October, the people will rise up against it.  There is no use spreading misinformation through press notes. It will only expose the cheap cheat of the government, and stand against the spirit of our independence.

This Long March will be announcing our upcoming activities on 12th October, if the government does not back out from this project by 11th October. We, scientists, writers, artists, workers, farmers, students, teachers, men and women, united as one from the society, will stand up together and save our Sundarbans from these black hands. Our plea to the nation is, the Sundarbans has been protecting us like a mother, it is time for us to pay back that debt. There is no way that we will let this great soul of our motherland, the Sundarbans, fall as a slaughter at the hands of national and international looters.

 

Digraj, Greater Sundarbans. 28th September, 2013

National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral, Resources, Power and Ports