Sundarbans, one of the greatest natural treasure troves of the world, is being battered by the greed of people for many years now. In recent times, various activities are going on in and around the Sundarbans including construction of coal-fired power plants. Eco-system and bio-diversity of the world’s largest mangrove forest is being constantly damaged as a result of such so-called ‘development’. The detrimental effects of such reckless activities surrounding the forest are obvious.
Unfortunately, our government is continuing their ‘development’ activities in the region, flouting the outcry against it in home and abroad. The government approved 190 industrial facilities in a 10km area surrounding the forest. But Sundarbans is not only the treasure of Bangladesh; it is a world heritage. Aggrieved at the construction of Rampal coal-fired power plant, as many as 70 green organisations of the world urged United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in a letter to intervene. They suggested UNESCO discard Sundarbans from the list of ‘World Heritage Sites’ if the Bangladesh government does not shift the power plant from Rampal.
We fear that Sundarbans might be stripped of the world heritage site status in the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee scheduled to be held in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku from 30 June to 10 July. Because, the measures taken by Bangladesh to save Sundarbans, as per the suggestion of UNESCO, are not likely to satisfy them. As example, Bangladesh failed to keep its pledge to conduct a strategic environmental survey in southwest region including the Sundarbans. The government allowed industrial facilities in the vicinity of the Sundarbans without conducting the survey.
UNESCO in a report published last December said that Bangladesh was very slow in keeping its pledge to stop construction of Rampal power plant and not allowing any industry in the region. Moreover, the government is constructing two coal-fired power plants within 20km of Sundarbans, worsening the situation further.
In this backdrop, a high-profile government delegation of Bangladesh is going to UNESCO headquarters in Paris and Baku to discuss the issue. Earlier in July 2017 during 41st meeting of World Heritage Committee, the foreign ministry of Bangladesh claimed that UNESCO has given clearance to Rampal power plant. The government at a press conference had also claimed that UNESCO lifted restriction on Rampal.
But, the initiative of the government to send delegations to Paris and Baku proves that their earlier claims of UNESCO clearance were not right. We are not sure what this delegation will able to do. You cannot convince anyone while continuing activities detrimental to the Sundarbans. We have to concentrate on decreasing the risk factors involving the Sundarbans.