Press Conference on “Industrialization in Southern Bangladesh: Citizens’ Concern”.

Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) and Waterkeepers organized a press conference in Dhaka Reporters Unity Roundtable auditorium on “Industrialization in Southern Bangladesh: Citizens’ Concern” on 7 April 2018. Former adviser to a non-party caretaker government and vice president of BAPA Rasheda K. Chowdhury presided over the press conference while BAPA general secretary Dr. Mohd. Abdul Matin was moderating the event. Sharif Jamil,

coordinator of Waterkeepers Bangladesh and Joint Secretary of BAPA delivered the keynote speech along with a multimedia presentation. BAPA vice-president, eminent writer-intellectual Sayed Abul Maksud, Prof. Badrul Imam, Dhaka University, local residents of Kalapara KM Shahjul Islam and Advocate Bashir Uddin also gave their speeches in the press conference. Former General Secretary of BAPA Mohidul Haque Khan, BAPA joint secretaries Mohammad Shahjahan Mridha, Mihir Bishas and Humayun Kabir Sumon, leader of National Committee to protect oilgas, mineral resources, power and Port Ruhin Hossain Prince and Dr. Mahbub Hossain, BRAC University were present among others in the press conference.

Mr. Sharif Jamil spoke about the analysis of several major projects in Kalapara, including changing the agricultural land in Patuakhali district. In his speech, he showed concerns about the construction of coal based power plants and coal terminals under the Rabnabad Channel and its adjoining areas, important for the migration of fisheries between the mainland and the Bay of Bengal. He said that the environmental impact assessment of 4 thermal power plants under construction is not being properly accomplished.
Moreover, the geology and land structure of the Kuakata region is different from other places in the country. In his speech, he presented two demands: 1) to ensure credible Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) before the industrialization in Kalapara and Patuakhali regions; and 2) Before establishing any large-scale infrastructure including each thermal power plant, to ensure a transparent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). He presented the report of the fact finding mission to Payra area that revealed that the country would loss fish recourses that worth about 4 billion taka every year from the damages it would be happening from the coal pollution in Rabnabad River and Andharmanik Ilish Sanctuary.  Rasheda K. Chowdhury said, “the world is experiencing hardship already due to the misleading development activities by destroying the environment. China and India are moving away from coal-based projects. To adopt any development plan, take environmental survey and publish it publicly. We do not want a development that endangers our future and nature.”Abul Maqsud said, we are aware of the environmental problems of South Bengal. The common people are endangered and they do not want land acquisition without proper compensation. But it should be environmentally friendly and sustainable development with appropriate study and appropriate customs. He demanded the listing of the industrial factories that were approved and the entrepreneurs’ political identity and to make that public. He also demanded cancellation of the coal based power plants and generate power from renewable sources. Professor Badrul Imam said that any development should be sustainable. It was not understandable how a red category industry near the Sundarbans could be Green category suddenly. He further mentioned, “This indicates the detrimental mindset of the government which is to be changed immediately for greater national interest”.  Dr. Mohd. Abdul Matin said, “We want development, but it should not harm people. We will make economic development, but the environment must be of the most importance. If the environment is not given priority to the development activities, the development itself will not sustain.” Local resident KM Shahjul Islam said that the agriculture land of Kalapara was destroyed and allocated to the coal based power plants. The Environmental impact studies were not done properly; public opinion had not been accepted. He requested for a comprehensive environmental survey before taking development plan in South Bengal. Local people Advocate Bashir Uddin said that the process of getting the 9 thousand MW coal based thermal power plant in Kalapara was underway. Because of the brokers of the land, the compensation for land acquisition was not given accurately. There was a lot of harassment in the process of land acquisition and compensation.