October 14, 2017, New Delhi: Some of the biggest players in global finance are quietly backing the world’s most dangerous coal plant, according to an international investigative report released earlier this week.
The report titled Time to Come Clean: How International Investors Can Stop the World’s Most Dangerous Coal Plant exposes how the host of International investors are enabling and profiting from the proposed Rampal plant in southern Bangladesh while ignoring the warnings that it will damage Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, intensify climate change, and imperil the lives of over two million people in India and Bangladesh.
Some of the previously hidden funders of the project include the World Bank’s private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC); leading U.S. asset managers BlackRock and Vanguard; pension funds including the U.S. fund for teachers, TIAA; and Japanese commercial banks. The Asian Development Bank has proposed a $700 million loan to build transmission lines that will connect to the plant. All the organisations mentioned above have either social and environmental guidelines or have made public statements about sustainable investment. This should discourage them from investing in a project like Rampal.
The report, published by U.S.-based Inclusive Development International, Bank Information Center Europe, and Delhi-based Center for Financial Accountability, appeals to the investors to use their leverage to halt the project, which is being built just 14 kilometers away from the Sundarbans, on which over two million people in Bangladesh and India depend for food, water, and income.
“The Sundarbans is an important centre of small-scale economic activity. For fishermen, the forest acts as a breeding ground for the fish that teem in the maze of rivers and tributaries of the vast Bengal Delta. For thousands of other people, the forest is a place to grow crops, collect honey and harvest wood,” said Dustin Roasa, the author of the report.
The Sundarbans also play a critical role in the fight against climate change by sequestering large amounts of carbon and protecting low-lying Bangladesh from cyclones and floods. The UNESCO, former U.S. Vice President, Environmentalist and Nobel Laureate Al Gore, and many climate and energy scientists have called for the construction of the plant to be cancelled.
Despite their socio-economic and environmental importance, Sundarbans are at risk, as the Bangladeshi government has opened it up for development of approximately 150 industrial projects, local activists say, many of them originating from neighbouring India. The most disastrous of these projects will be the Rampal Power Project, officially known as Maitree Super Thermal Power Project, which is a joint partnership between India’s National Thermal Power Corporation and Bangladesh’s state Power Development Board.
“The government wants to make this area into the Bombay of Bangladesh. In five to 10 years, it will be unrecognisable,” said Baki Billah, a member of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, a civil society organisation fighting to save the Sundarbans.