Greens condemn Unesco decision
The National Committee to Save the Sundarbans (NCSS) yesterday accused Unesco of failing to protect the outstanding universal value of the mangrove forest by endorsing an SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment) that lacks scientific clarity and giving the government one more year to place its long-term plans to protect it.
The accusation was made at a virtual press conference organised by NCSS, an alliance of 50 rights and environmental organisations, and administered by Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa).
On Friday, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's 21-member World Heritage Committee met online to finalise recommendations for the Sundarbans world heritage site.
The decisions are yet to be made publicly available in written format.
At the press conference, NCSS also condemned the committee for its failure to uphold the mission of the World Heritage Convention, which aims to protect the world heritage based on scientific findings.
Sultana Kamal, president of Bapa, said many ill initiatives were taken to "water down" the recommendations made by Reactive Monitoring Mission of Unesco in 2019.
"The government has been able to lobby the Unesco's World Heritage Committee (WHC), which watered down recommendations and extended another year for the decision on whether the Sundarbans will be added to the list of world heritage in danger," she said.
She emphasised on creating a global alliance to fight the nature-devastating projects and urged all to keep focus on the government whether it is abiding by the remaining recommendations to protect the Sundarbans.
"We will not lose hope and leave the battleground as the Sundarbans is a vital source of our resources," she said.
Sharif Jamil, general secretary of Bapa, who hosted the conference said the committee has been getting politicised, driving it to ignore scientific evidence, a trend that is putting the world heritage in jeopardy.
Bapa and NCSS demanded that the SEA be done by independent organisations excluding CEGIS (Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services), a government-influenced research centre.
They also demanded that the SEA be made public and participatory.
Yves Lagord, a permanent member of Earthjustice to the UN, who is taking part in 44th meeting of World Heritage Committee in China (July 16-31) alleged that there is a trend to not follow scientific evidence, which is put forward by advisory bodies like World Heritage Center and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The SEA, which is set to be finalised in August, is contradictory to other scientific reports, he said, adding that a number of key elements to save the Sundarbans should be included in it as it will be the basis of future decisions.
Syeda Rizawana Hasan, chief executive of BELA (Bangladesh Environment Lawyer Association), said the Rampal project is not a sign of development nor is it being done for power production. It has other implications, she added.
"If the government's only intention is to produce power, it has plenty of cost-effective alternatives...," she said.
She alleged that the government cancelled 10 coal-based power plant projects not because they were harmful to the environment but because it could not manage funds for those.