THOUSANDS MARCH OVER 100 MILES AGAINST COAL PROJECTS AT UNESCO SITE IN BANGLADESH

Dhaka, Bangladesh (SC) — Early this morning, thousands of activists from Bangladesh and India joined together in Dhaka to trek more than 100 miles in protest of the Indian-backed Rampal coal project and adjacent Orion Khulna power station. Rampal and Khulna, the proposed 1,320- and 660-megawatt coal projects, sit adjacent to the Sundarbans, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed mangrove forest. Sundarbans, which means “beautiful forest” in Bengali, is one of the largest continuous mangrove forests remaining in the world. It directly supports nearly six million people, protects the world’s eighth most populous country from cyclones and storm surges, and, according to UNESCO, “is of universal importance for globally endangered species including the Royal Bengal Tiger, Ganges and Irawadi dolphins.”

“The very existence of this mighty forest is related with our own existence,” said Mowdud Rahman of the Bangladeshi National Committee to Protect Oil Gas Mineral Resources Power and Ports. “It is not only our natural safeguard against all kinds of natural calamity, but at the same time it contributes to our national economy by supporting at least half a million people’s livelihood.”

The Rampal coal project, if construction is finished in 2018 as planned, will consume 13,000 tons of imported coal daily, result in over six miles of river dredging each year, create a 25-acre coal ash pond filled with toxic sludge, and release nearly eight tons of carbon dioxide annually, or the equivalent of cutting down 340 million trees each year.

“Bangladesh was a leading voice for the recent global climate agreement in part because Bangladesh is so extremely vulnerable to the consequences of a changing climate. The Bangladeshi government should thoughtfully reconsider building this massive, unnecessary coal plant in the middle of a sensitive and unique UNESCO world heritage site that provides livelihood for millions of people, especially when you consider that clean energy sources like solar are ideal solutions in this part of the world,” said John Coequyt, the Sierra Club’s Global Climate Policy director. “The possibility of using U.S. taxpayer dollars to support the undeniably destructive Khulna project is also unconscionable.”

“That’s why we are going to march for the next four days toward Sundarbans to cast our ‘no vote’ to the Rampal and Orion projects,” said Mowdud Rahman. “Then, after, it will be the policymakers’ call, and we are eagerly waiting to see their actions, whether they will still remain ignorant or be pragmatic.”

The march will continue through Sunday and end at the Sundarbans.

To view photos of the Long March, click here.

This report prepared by Sierra Club.