Where Bangladesh meets the Bay of Bengal and the sacred Ganges flows into the sea sits one of the world’s largest mangrove forests. Home to Bengal Tigers and the Ganges River Dolphin, as well as endangered crocodiles and snakes and hundreds of species of bird, the Sundarbans are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a critically important barrier against the cyclones that rage ever more fiercely from the Bay of Bengal into climate-vulnerable Bangladesh.
And now, a coal plant is poised to open in this environmentally and ecologically critical region, less than 10 miles from the Sundarbans Reserve Forest. The Rampal coal plant—funded in its entirety by Export-Import Bank of India—was first conceived back in 2011. Since then, this hotly contested project has hit various stumbling blocks, such as the withdrawal of international financing and even, in April of 2021, a challenge from US Envoy for Climate John Kerry. And yet, as of now, construction is underway. If completed, the plant will emit more than 8 million tonnes of CO2 every year—almost as much as the state of Rhode Island.
Right now, the Bangladesh government is reviewing its energy master plan, rethinking its entire approach to energy. The energy minister has pledged to abandon all new plans for coal plants. But aborting the Rampal coal plant must be part of that plan. Here's why:
What's at stake
Climate stability: we don't need new coal plants—we need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground.
Ecological health and endangered species: the Sundarbans are home to rich biodiversity and numerous endangered species, whose habitat would be irrevocably altered by the plant.
Human livelihoods and safety: more than two million people are currently reliant on the forest's natural resources—and many more are reliant on the natural buffer it provides against cyclones. And Bangladesh is already one of the world's most climate-affected nations.