Conservationists on Monday urged the people to act against heedless industrialisation in close proximity to the Sunderbans, the largest contiguous mangrove forest in the world.
They alleged that the government was threatening forest habitat by implementing hazardous industrial projects there despite grave concerns and worldwide criticism.
At a press conference jointly hosted by Bangladesh Poribesh Andolan and National Committee for Saving the Sunderbans at Sagar-Runi Auditorium in Dhaka, they apprehended that the Sunderbans would soon lose the UNESCO World Heritage status if the industrialisation was not halted.
Citing a recent public statement issued by UN expert and special rapporteur on human rights and environment John H Knox, NCSS convener Sultana Kamal said that the government as state custodian of the Sunderbans had failed to realise the forest’s heritage value.
‘Despite objections from UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Bangladesh has approved more than 320 industrial projects in the area [Sunderbans’ neighbourhoods], including the massive Rampal coal-fired power plant, bypassing requirements for public participation and environmental impact assessment,’ Knox stated on July 31.
On behalf of the organisers, Sultana made recommendations including scraping of all types of industrialisation near at the Sunderbans, the forest’s conservation in line with 13 scientific assessments presented by the NCSS and strengthening of forest conservation agencies.
Dhaka University geology professor Badrul Imam questioned a recent amendment to the environment law that allows green categorisation of red category industries using petroleum products to facilitate industrialisation surrounding the Sunderbans.
Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftekharuzzaman said that the Sunderbans conservation issue should not be compromised to serve vested interest groups.
Writer and researcher Syed Abul Maksud termed Rampal plant a non-transparent and ill-motivated project.
Communist Party of Bangladesh leader Ruhin Hossain Prince, BAPA general secretary Mohammad Abdul Matin, joint secretary Sharif Jamil and lawyer Mujahidul Islam also spoke.
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