July 6, 2016

50,000 sign petition urging UNESCO to protect the world’s largest mangrove forest


  • Sundarbans, a World Heritage site in Bangladesh faces destruction if a proposed coal plant is built adjacent to it
  • Petitioners ask that the Sundarbans are included by UNESCO in the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger

PARIS – A petition signed by over 50,000 people worldwide was delivered today at UNESCO urging the World Heritage Committee, which will meet next week in Istanbul, to add the Sundarbans Forest in Bangladesh to its list of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

Stretching for 400,000 hectares along India and Bangladesh, the Sundarbans is the world’s largest mangrove forest. It encompasses the largest habitat of the Bengal tiger and harbors other endangered species like the Irrawaddy and the Ganges river dolphins. Its vegetation provides a crucial natural defense against cyclones to 4 million people who live in and nearby the Sundarbans.

The Sundarbans were declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 and are also designated a Biosphere Reserve. The decades of management efforts taken to preserve the ecosystem and improve the lives of the people who inhabit this area will be wasted with the impending construction of a 1320 Megawatt coal plant by NTPC India, under Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (Pvt) Ltd. The plant will be located 4 km away from the buffer zone of the Sundarbans.

“Sacrificing  the safety and livelihoods of millions of people who fish and farm in this region for decades to come is unacceptable. Tens of thousands worldwide join our urgent call to remind both governments that the people and the environment come before coal, especially when renewable energy alternatives exist”, said Payal Parekh, 350.org Program Director.

The projected coal plant would take 219,600 cubic metres of water everyday from the Poshur river and discharge 123,600 cubic meters of water after cooling the generators, polluting and altering the balance of the water on which the mangroves depend. The plant will also require importing 4.72 million tons of coal per year to run, which will be transported by boat through narrow waterways, adding the risk of oil and coal spills, as well as noise pollution to the Poshur river.

“My 65 acre land in Rampal, where the coal plant is being built, was forcefully acquired in 2011 when the project work began. When I and other farmers resisted and formed a grassroots movement against it, we were slapped with false charges that included arson, dacoity, and damaging public property,” said Sushanta Ghosh, from the Krishi Jami Rakkha Committee, a local organization for farming land protection.

The signatures were collected online by Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth US, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance and 350.org. Organizations will continue opposing the construction of the Rampal power plant calling on Exim Bank India to refrain from financing this project.



Jenny Zapata López  [email protected], +521(614) 4277692

In Paris-Clémence Dubois, [email protected], +33 642713175