Groups rally outside U.N. to protest coal development near worlds largest mangrove forest
Photos are available upon request
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Today, as President Obama and Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina were inside the U.N. General Assembly meeting, Bangladeshi-American, environmental, and other groups rallied outside to protest the development of coal-fired power plants near the Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the world’s largest continuous mangrove forest.
In particular, activists demanded the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank), the taxpayer-funded export credit agency of the United States, publicly reject financing for the Orion-Khulna coal plant, which would be built just nine miles from the Sundarbans. The Sundarbans spans the border of India and Bangladesh and is home to endangered species like the Bengal tiger and Irrawaddy dolphin, and upwards of six million people.
Friends of the Earth U.S. recently obtained documents through a Freedom of Information Act Request that reveal U.S. Ex-Im Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg has been in talks as late as February 2016 with Bangladeshi government officials and General Electric (GE) about coal projects, which likely include the Orion-Khulna coal plant. GE, one of the top recipients of Ex-Im financing, has been contracted to provide parts for the Orion-Khulna plant, according to media reports.
Over the last several months, hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh have participated in protests opposing coal development near the Sundarbans. Similar protests have also been held in Paris, Washington D.C, Atlanta, and New York.
Among the groups who supported today’s protest are Ecology Movement North America (Protibesh Andolon), Friends of Earth U.S., the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, and Center for Biological Diversity.
“The government of Bangladesh should not have to depict their obedience towards India by destroying the Sundarbans. How can such a devastating establishment as the Rampal and Orion coal plants be located so close to a UNESCO World Heritage site? The Sundarbans is the largest mangrove forest in the world. This issue is not only a domestic issue that Bangladeshis care about. It has become an international issue. People all over the world care about protecting the Sundarbans and its precious treasures like the Bengal tiger. Also the Sundarbans saved Bangladesh from various natural calamities like SIDR and Aila. So if we don’t stop this project then it will become a huge international devastation of environmental rights,” said N.M. Esa Abrar Khan, International Secretary of Ecology Movement North America (Protibesh Andolon).
“Any U.S. financing of coal plants in Bangladesh would greatly undermine President Obama’s climate legacy, including his commitment under the Climate Action Plan to restrict financing coal plants overseas,” said Jenny Bock, Economic Justice Campaigner at Friends of the Earth U.S. “Moreover, the U.S.’s recent formal commitment to the UN Paris Agreement, which aspires to limit global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, should rule out any further consideration of the U.S. investing in coal, period.”
“The fact that the U.S. Export-Import Bank is still considering such a destructive and unnecessary coal project is, quite frankly, irresponsible and shows just how out of touch the Bank and Chairman Hochberg are with what the people of Bangladesh need and have been repeatedly asking for,” said Maura Cowley, director of the Sierra Club’s International Climate and Energy Campaign. “Clean energy is already successfully providing much-needed power for the people of Bangladesh, who have made it undeniably clear that yet another failed dirty coal project is not the answer. It’s time EXIM actually start putting people ahead of dirty fossil fuel corporations.”
“The US. Ex-Im Bank should publicly reject financing for Orion’s Khulna coal power plant. Polluting coal has no place in the precious Sundarbans and goes against the spirit of the Paris Agreement,” said Alison Kirsch, Climate Research Coordinator at Rainforest Action Network.
“The U.S. must stop financing climate destruction and exporting extinction. This is a horrible project that goes against the president’s climate agenda,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Jenny Bock, Friends of the Earth U.S., (202) 222-0754, [email protected]
About Ecology Movement North America (Protibesh Andolon):
Ecology Movement North America, also known as Protibesh Andolon in Bengali, is the North American chapter of Protibesh Andolon, a Bangladeshi environmental group. Protibesh Andolon’s mission is to save nature but nature is not without humankind, so it can be said saving nature and humanity is the main intent of our group. For more information, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/172404422875981/
About Friends of the Earth U.S.
Friends of the Earth U.S. fights to create a more healthy and just world. Our current campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, ensuring the food we eat and products we use are safe and sustainable, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them. For more information, please visit:www.foe.org.
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visitwww.sierraclub.org.
About Rainforest Action Network
Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visitwww.ran.org.
About the Center for Biological Diversity
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.