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Over 100 activists urge China to end Bangladesh coal-fired power plant project – Radio Free Asia

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More than 100 activists from 21 countries sent a letter to the Chinese government on Tuesday asking it to end funding for a coal-fired power plant in Bangladesh, saying Beijing notified Dhaka in February that it would no longer support highly polluting projects. .

In 2016, Bangladesh approved the Chinese-funded Banshkhali S. Alam project, which has been controversial from the start, with allegations of excessive force by police against protesters and problems with wages and work. .

In February 2021, China’s economic and trade adviser to Bangladesh sent a letter to the Bangladesh Ministry of Finance stating that “the Chinese side will no longer consider projects with high pollution and high energy consumption, such as coal mines and coal-fired power stations. power plants, ”the activists wrote in the letter signed by Hasan Mehedi, member secretary of the Bangladesh External Debt Working Group (BWGED).

The activists’ letter noted that Chinese President Xi Jinping called for “continuing open, green and clean cooperation” in a speech at the second Belt and Road Forum in 2019.

He also noted the controversial history of the project.

“Since the start of the project in 2016, 12 people have lost their lives, more than 100 have been injured and cases of harassment have been filed against more than 6,000 workers and villagers in three different incidents around this power plant”, indicates the letter.

“Local people see the project as a curse for themselves as not only have lives been lost, but at least 10,000 people have been affected by the loss of property and farmland as a result of this project. “

Mehedi confirmed that the letter signed by 129 activists from 74 organizations was emailed to Wang Wentao, China’s Minister of Commerce. A copy should be sent to the Chinese Embassy in Dhaka.

“We will fax a copy of the letter on Wednesday,” he told BenarNews, an online news service affiliated with RFA.

The letter called for the withdrawal of all Chinese investments and all involvement in the Banshkhali factory. He also called for an investigation into alleged human rights violations in that country and into false information contained in an environmental impact assessment of the project.

“Without exceptions, reverse all current and future investments in fossil fuels, including coal, oil and gas,” he said.

The Banshkhali S. Alam project is expected to start producing 1,320 MW of electricity in 2023. China has funded 70 percent of the $ 2.49 billion cost of the project, according to information on the S. Alam Group website.

The factory, also called SS Power I, is built by Shandong Electric Power Construction Corp. (SEPCOIII), a subsidiary of PowerChina, a Chinese central government company, according to three environmental groups.

Ebadat Hossain Bhuiyan, chief financial officer of SS Power I, said he was not aware of the letter, but disputed its contents.

“If the letter mentions that the plant is going to pollute the environment or that it violates human rights, then that is totally false,” he told BenarNews.

“And we don’t know why they are making false statements against us. “

The Chinese embassy in Dhaka did not immediately respond to a request from BenarNews to comment on the letter.

Mohammad Hossain, director general of the Electric Cell, a division of the Ministry of Energy and Energy and Mineral Resources, also said he was not aware of the letter, but compared it to a similar effort five years ago.

“Sending a letter to a foreign country requesting the suspension of funding for a local development project is frustrating,” he told BenarNews.

“Previously, we have seen such a movement during the Rampal power plant project – this time so-called green individuals and groups have sent a letter to UNESCO.”

In 2016, several NGOs sent a petition to the United Nations agency’s World Heritage Committee regarding the project to build Rampal and Orion coal-fired power stations within 14 km (8.6 miles) of the Sundarbans, the largest existing mangrove forest in the world and a UNESCO World Site. Heritage site.

Contested environmental report

The letter regarding the Banshkhali project stated that the coal-fired power plant would be “extremely harmful” to the health of people living in the area.

He cited a report released last week by three green groups, which said an environmental report authorized by the Bangladesh government on the project downplays information on its effects on air quality.

The BWGED, joined by the Energy and Clean Air Research Center and a co-signer of the Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association, said the report’s modeling was flawed, leading to a prediction of pollution levels several times lower than this. which would be established by appropriate modeling.

Sharif Jamil, secretary general of the Bangladesh environmental organization Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), said China should shift funding for the Banshkhali coal plant to a renewable energy project.

“China should view the letter as an effort to save the earth while we are in a global emergency,” Jamil, whose organization signed the letter to China’s trade minister, told BenarNews on Tuesday.

The letter urged China to demonstrate its commitment to environmental issues.

“We hope you will reconsider your decision to provide financial and technical support to the Banshkhali power project and show your commitment to a green environment. [One Belt, One Road] Initiative respecting human and environmental rights, and not in blood and tears, ”the letter said.

Reported by BenarNews, an online news service affiliated with RFA.