US and Bangladeshi environmental groups and activists yesterday jointly handed over a petition to the Export-Import Bank of the United States urging not to finance coal-based power plant projects in Bangladesh that threaten the Sundarbans.
The petition contained over 150,000 signatures, including those from Sierra Club, Friends of Earth, Rainforest Action Network, Center for Biological Diversity, Bangladesh Environmental Network, EcoSikh, Brown and Green: South Asian Americans for Climate Justice, and Environmental Movement Atlanta.
Informing of the petition, a press statement US-based Friends of Earth sent to The Daily Star noted that the bank was likely to finance Orion Group's power plant near the Sundarbans as early as this July.
“Once financing kicks in, construction for the projects could start a mere few days later,” it read citing its concern.
“For the U.S. Export-Import Bank to even consider using U.S. tax dollars to finance any overseas coal project is reckless and unnecessary,” said John Coequyt, Sierra Club's global climate policy director in the press release.
“...but to consider financing projects that will irreparably damage one of the world's most ecologically sensitive and valuable ecosystems is downright unconscionable,” he said.
“It is nothing less than hypocritical and outrageous...to finance two horrible coal-burning power plants in a developing country that needs clean energy not premature disease,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity.
“We call...to immediately reject financing all fossil fuel projects in Bangladesh, including the Orion coal projects, and to instead finance renewable energy,” said Barnali Ghosh of Brown and Green: South Asian Americans for Climate Justice.
She noted the negative impacts of the projects on livelihoods of the millions of people in Bangladesh and India that live near the proposed power plant sites.
Advocate Sultana Kamal, convenor of the National Committee for Saving the Sundarbans, also urged investors to refrain from supporting the coal-based power plants in the country till a fully independent and internationally acceptable Environmental Impact Assessment was conducted by credible institutions having no conflict of interest.
The proposed 1,320 MW government-run Rampal coal plant and the 565 MW Orion coal plant are located within 14 kilometres of the Sundarbans, a 10,000 sq km (3,860 sq miles) continuous mangrove forest covering Bangladesh and India and listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.