The government is continuing the Rampal power plant project adjacent to the Sundarbans to serve “interest of a group”, eminent rights activist and environment advocate Sultana Kamal alleged yesterday.
She made the remarks at a press conference jointly organised by Bangladesh Poribesh Andolan (Bapa) and the National Committee to Protect the Sundarbans at Dhaka Reporters' Unity auditorium in the capital.
“Around 10 months ago, we challenged the government by submitting 13 scientific documents on the environmental threats of the power plant to one of its high officials. But, he is yet to give us any reply, which creates doubt,” she said.
“There is definitely some strategy at play here. They [the government] are continuing their project adjacent to the Sundarbans to serve the interest of a group, avoiding our objections and scientific evidence,” added Sultana, convenor of the National Committee to Protect the Sundarbans.
The conference was organised following the statement of John H Knox, a special rapporteur on human rights and environment of United Nations (UN). In the statement published on July 31, he said Bangladesh must halt the industrialisation of the Sundarbans Reserved Forest -- the largest contiguous mangrove forest in the world.
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said, “We are not against development. Environmental protection and development are not contradictory.”
“The government has become hostage to the industry owners in the name of development,” he alleged.
Sultana, also vice-president of Bapa, said John H Knox termed the people who raised questions about the project as "champions of sustainable development". “But the government treats us as their enemy,” she said.
The government should consider the UN expert's statement and stop the Rampal power plant project and other planned and ongoing industrial establishments near the Sundarbans, she said.
Noted columnist Syed Abul Maksud said the Rampal project is not only suicidal, but also has a lack of transparency.
“The Sundarbans is an invaluable asset. We don't want development by destroying it,” he said, adding that political will is a must to stop the project.
Bapa General Secretary Abdul Matin and Dhaka University Professor Badrul Imam also spoke.