Police barred long march against Rampal Power Plant in Jessore

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Jessore, Mar 12: Police barred the long marchers to hold a rally in Jessore on Saturday, on the second day of the four-day long march from Dhaka to Khulna.

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports launched the long march programme to protest the installation of Rampal coal power plant project near Sundarbans.

Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Ltd (BIFPCL), a joint venture of PDB and NTPC of India, is developing the 1320MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Project at Rampal which will use imported coal. Besides, local firm Orion Group is building a 566MW power plant in Rampal area.

The scheduled rally on the Jessore Town Hall premises could not be held on Saturday evening due to obstruction by police.

Later the rally was held at Palbari intersection.

At the Palbari rally, committee Member Secretary Prof Anu Muhammad said: “Had a democratic system prevailed in the country, the Rampal coal power plant project would have been cancelled much earlier considering the strong public opinion regarding the harmful impacts of the project.

“It is the duty of all citizens to raise voice against the government if it pushes the country and the people to the terrible danger by implementing such kind of anti-national projects.”

He said that the Sundarbans mangrove forest would be disappeared if the two coal power projects – the joint venture one and another to be built by Orion Group near the mangrove forest – were implemented. “Moreover, the economy of the country will be affected, the sovereignty of the country will be at stake,” he said.

The leaders of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports have condemned the police action.

“We sought permission from the police five days ago to hold the rally at Town Hall. But they told us on Thursday night that they could not allow us since there is another rally scheduled at the same place,” district unit Member Secretary Mahmud Hassan Bulu said.

Acting superintendent of police KM Ariful Huq claimed that law and order might deteriorate if the protesters were allowed to enter the town. “We did not get clearance of the authorities concerned. The marchers can use the bypass to move towards Khulna and hold roadside rallies,” he added.

The mass procession staretd for Khulna this morning and a rally will be held at Hadis Park in the afternoon. They will hold the concluding rally at Katakhali of Rampal in Bagerhat tomorrow.

The government, however, claims that the projects would not harm the Sundarbans as they would use advanced technology to cut emission of hazardous gases including carbon dioxide, fine particles and fly ash, and properly dispose the solid and liquid wastes.

The National Committee started the four-day Dhaka-Rampal march programme on Thursday after holding a brief rally in front of the National Press Club, to press home its seven-point demands.

Thousands of activists of different left-leaning parties, mainly of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal (BSD), Workers Party and Ganosanghati Andolon, joined the event with a convoy of buses.

They earlier observed a long march towards Rampal in September 2013, several days before the prime minister inaugurated construction of the much-debated mega project near the Sundarbans – a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The National Committee has long been opposing the coal plants saying that the projects would pose major threat on the biodiversity of the forest, life of the water species and livelihood of the people who depend on the forest’s resources. They also protest the government plan to establish an economic zone, cement factories, shipyards and silo near the power plants.

The Unesco, the Ramsar and other local and international environment experts expressed concerns regarding the projects. A Unesco delegation of experts is likely to visit Bangladesh this month to learn about Dhaka’s initiatives to tackle the environmental impacts of the Rampal coal power plant.