Eminent rights activist and environmentalist Sultana Kamal yesterday said industrialisation near the ecologically critical area (ECA) of the Sundarbans is irrational and unscientific, which is being carried out under political consideration.
She urged the government to refrain from such move immediately to protect the world’s largest mangrove forest and prevent it from being enlisted as one of the endangered world heritage sites.
She made the remarks while speaking at a press conference at Dhaka Reporters’ Unity, organised by National Committee to Protect the Sundarbans.
Despite protests at home and abroad, the government is building a coal-based power plant -- known as severely harmful -- in the ECA of the Sundarbans under Rampal upazila of Bagerhat, said Sultana, convener of the committee.
It [government] also approved establishing several heavy industries near the forest. The government is building two other coal-based power plants in coastal areas --Payra and Taltali -- which are close to the forest, she added.
“…Such activities of the government have left the country’s people and environmentalists around the world panicked. We want the government to change its stance,” said Sultana, also chairperson of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB).
Following such move, Unesco at one of its meeting this year gave Bangladesh government a one-year ultimatum -- till February 1, 2020 -- to rectify the issues. Otherwise, it may include the Sundarbans on the List of World Heritage in Danger, she said.
“If Unesco includes the forest on the list, it will be very shameful and insulting as well as a symbol of incompetence and failure for us as a nation,” said Sultana Kamal, in a written statement.
“Whatever the government is doing currently will cause an inevitable destruction to such an invaluable asset. We cannot let it happen,” she added.
Asked why the government is still rigid on carrying out the industrialisation, she said, “Perhaps, those involved in decision-making are getting numerous benefits from this.”
If the construction of the coal-based power plants is not stopped, the country will become a “dumping ground” of coal soon, she said, suggesting the government to move towards renewable energy solutions.
The former caretaker government adviser also condemned Indian authorities for using Bangladesh to do their business such as their involvement with the construction of Rampal power plant.
She said the ruling party sought votes claiming to be a pro-liberation force.
But the decisions they are taking while being in power are going to push the nation towards an endangered situation.
“They are doing so because they have no allegiance to the country. Besides, those activities will not harm them as they have built their second homes outside Bangladesh,” the rights activist alleged.
Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa) General Secretary and National Committee’s Member Secretary Abdul Matin; Bapa Joint Secretary Sharif Jamil and National Committee member Ruhin Hossain Prince also spoke at the press conference.