The call for scrapping controversial Rampal power plant near the world’s largest mangrove forest Sundarbans seemed to be getting louder after Bangladesh’s left-wing parties expressed their solidarity with the issue from a common ground today.
Protesters from across the country gathered at the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka since this morning to conclude their ‘March towards Dhaka’ sponsored by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports.
The National Committee, a platform of 53 non-government political and cultural organisations working for environment, forest, development, climate, law and social justice organised the grand rally with its all-out support from different quarters, particularly the leftist organisations.
The committee announced for observing a half-day shutdown in Dhaka city on January 26 if their demand remains unheeded.
Among other programmes, they will mark ‘Countrywide Demand Day’, hold protests across the country on December 26, mark ‘Global Day of Protest’ on January 7, hold presentation for alternative mega plan for sustainable development in country’s energy and power sectors on January 14.
Professor Anu Mohammad, member secretary of the committee inaugurated the mass rally paying tributes to the Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. One-minute silence was observed in memory of the iconic leader who passed away Friday.
Cultural organisations and activists performed revolutionary songs to drum up support for protecting the Sundarbans from the 1,320-megawatt coal-fired power project.
Charan Sangskriti Kendra started their performance commemorating and paying homage to the Castro at 3:00pm. Leaders of Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (BSD), Jatiya Gana Front, Ganashanghati Andalon and other political and cultural organisations attended the rallies.
Earlier on November 24, the National Committee started its ‘March towards Dhaka’ from seven divisional headquarters amid alleged obstruction by the police and ruling party men in some places.
The rally was announced from a sit-in programme at the Central Shaheed Minar on August 20. In the last three months, the committee has been mobilising people to join the programme to raise their voice to cancel the Rampal power plant and protect the Sundarbans.
The power plant project, which is being jointly implemented by Bangladesh and India some 14 kilometres off the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest and a World Heritage Site, has drawn widespread criticism and protests from different quarters at home and abroad.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) urged the government to relocate the plant to a “more suitable location” where it would not have a negative impact on the Sundarbans.
Expressing concerns, the UN body said the World Heritage Site and its biodiversity would be dangerously affected if the coal-based power plant were built in Rampal.
On the contrary, the government is adamant about implementing the project, claiming that it would not harm the mangrove forest or the water species in the nearby Pashur River.