The Dhaka- Sundarban long march ended on Saturday giving the government until October 11 to drop the Rampal thermal power plant project or face a ‘strong movement’.
On the last day of the five day march, activists held a rally at Digraj in Bagherhat and adopted the ‘Sundarban declaration’.
The marchers started their return journey to Dhaka on Saturday night.
Speakers at the rally said that fresh protest programmes would be announced on October 12 to save the mangrove forest, if the government did not postpone the foundation laying of the Rampal project by October 11.
The national committee to protect oil, gas, mineral resources, power and ports organised the 400-kilometre long march to Sundarban to push for their seven-point demand, including cancellation of the Rampal power project.
Several thousand people joined the rally after the marchers reached Digraj on Saturday evening.
The national committee member-secretary Anu Muhammad read out the declaration which also demanded formulation of a guideline to save Sundarban and its implementation.
‘The deal signed to build a project jointly by Bangladesh Power Development Board and Indian National Thermal Power Corporation is unequal, non-transparent and against the interest of the Bangladesh. The country will incur a loss of Tk 6 lakh crore if the project is implemented,’ said the declaration.
It said the power project would spell disaster on Sundarban that shields Bangladesh from cyclones and tidal surges.
The declaration said, ‘The power plant will produce 52,000 tonnes of poisonous sulphur dioxide, 30,000 tonnes of nitrogen dioxide, 7.5 lakh tonnes of fly ash and two lakh tones of bottom ash a year. About 9,150 cubic metres of water would be withdrawn from Passur river per hour… Transport of coal to Sundarban, discharge of coal, dirt, fuel and other chemicals, sound pollution by frequently sailing large and small ships would destroy the biodiversity of Sundarban.’
The declaration said that the press note the government had issued on Thursday provided ‘false’ information.
The press note said that a segment of people and a few organisations were spreading propaganda against the Rampal power project although the project was ‘incredibly important for the country.’
The government is set to lay the foundation stone of the project on October 22.
The people will throw away the foundation stone if it is laid at Rampal, the declaration said.
The committee’s convener Sheikh Muhammad Saheedullah said the countrymen would ‘resist’ the Rampal project ‘at any cost’.
The marchers left Khulna in the morning and held roadside rallies at Bagherhat, Katakhali and Chunkathi before reaching Digraj in the evening.
People lined the road at places and cheered the marchers as the convoy of buses, pick-up vans, microbuses and other vehicles passed by.
The committee leaders Khalequzzaman, Tipu Biswas, Syed Abu Zafar Ahmed, Mohammad Shah Alam, Bimal Biswas, Mosharraf Hossain Nannu, Saiful Huq, Ruhin Hossain Prince, Zonayed Saki, Ragib Ahsan Munna, Mozammel Haque Tara, Abul Hasan Rubel and others addressed the rallies.
During the long march, artistes of several cultural troupes performed to drum up support for their demands to save Sundarban.
The campaigners highlighted that Sundarban was home to a wide range of plants and animals, including the Royal Bengal Tiger, and its mangrove forests was crucial in protecting the country from storms, tidal surges and rising sea levels.
The marchers on their way to Sundarban, had held rallies at Savar , Manikganj, Rajbari, Faridpur, Jessore and Khulna.
The government in April signed a deal with an Indian company to install a coal-fired thermal power plant at Rampal in Bagerhat, 14 kilometres from Sundarban.
The government has already acquired land from private owners in Rampal on the bank of the River Passur for the installation of the plant.
On July 10, the environment department gave approval to the Environment Impact Assessment Report submitted by the Power Development Board.