Eminent environmentalist and rights activist Sultana Kamal yesterday claimed that the establishment of Rampal power plant close to the Sundarbans was illegal and anti-constitutional.
“People are the owners of all assets of the state, and they don’t want the power plant. The government alone cannot take any decision, going against people’s choice,” said Sultana at a press conference in Dhaka.
“If this decision [establishment of Rampal power plant] is taken ignoring the objections of people, then I will say it has been done anti-constitutionally and it is illegal,” she added.
The National Committee to Protect the Sundarbans organised the conference at Jatiya Press Club, following a recent declaration of Unesco to put the Sundarbans in the list of world heritage sites that are “in danger”.
Early this month, the World Heritage Centre of Unesco took the decision as it was not happy with the coal-based Rampal power plant and other development projects being implemented in the ecologically critical area (ECA).
The Heritage Centre also requested the Bangladesh government to invite its mission to prepare a set of corrective measures to secure the Sundarbans from any potential environmental danger.
“It is a matter of shame that Unesco has listed the Sundarbans as ‘in danger’,” said Sultana, convenor of National Committee to Protect the Sundarbans.
At the next meeting of the Heritage Centre, scheduled to be held from June 30 to July 10, Unesco will take the final decision whether the Sundarbans will remain as a world heritage site or not, she said.
“…If the Sundarbans loses the honour of world heritage site, it will be insulting and we will be identified as an incapable [of protecting a national asset] nation,” she added.
Sultana, also vice-president of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa) -- a platform of environmental activists -- urged the government to stop construction of the power plant immediately.
She also demanded that the authorities soon stop other development activities close to the world’s largest mangrove forest.
“If the Sundarbans is destroyed, its liability will be upon the prime minister and us as a nation,” she added.
Speaking at the press conference, Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) Executive Director Shamsul Huda said none of the development activities will be fruitful if the forest, river and nature are unprotected.
Bapa General Secretary MA Matin said the Sundarbans is a global asset. People are protesting around the world for its protection. The protest will intensify in the future if the forest loses the honour of world heritage site, he added.