Bangladeshis protest against coal expansion in the Sundarbans

Bangladeshis will take to the streets of the capital, Dhaka, this weekend in a colourful, and popular protest against plans for a dirty coal plant that will demolish and degrade huge parts of the Sundarbans - the world’s most pristine mangrove forest, an important tiger reserve, and a UNESCO world heritage site.

People will be taking part in a rally that will showcase local artists, singers and other cultural icons - all of whom are calling on the Bangladeshi government to ditch proposed plans to build a coal-fired power plant in Rampal, a site right on the edge of the precious Sundarbans. This is not their first rally, more than 20,000 joined last year, and they will not stop until the dirty power plant plans are overturned.

The people of Dhaka join a fast-growing group of brave communities taking to the streets and even the seas to prevent dirty energy expansion plans which threaten the world’s most pristine and iconic habitats. A group of Pacific Warriors blockaded an Australian coal port last week, in a spectacular effort to protect their homes and the Great Barrier Reef from dirty energy expansion.

Also last week, the people of the Philippines held a national day of action against coal. More Filipinos are joining every day with the group of dedicated walkers on their 1000km climate change awareness march from Manila to Tacloban - ground zero for typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda that devastated the Philippines in 2014.

The people of Bangladesh are one of many brave communities taking a stand against coal power. The huge coal-plant proposed for Rampal would threaten the world’s most ancient mangrove forest with destruction, dredging, and pollution from boiling, toxic effluent. The effects of the planned coal-plant construction would not only exacerbate climate change, but directly exacerbate climate impacts.

In the recent past the Sundarbans have protected local communities from dangerous cyclones Aila and Sidr. The mangroves provide vital protection from storm surges exacerbated by sea level rise that are a direct result of increased coal use. On top of this the rich Sundarban ecosystems support millions of people with food, water and artisanal industry.

UNESCO have raised serious concerns with both Bangladeshi and Indian governments over the proposed coal plant in the Sundarbans. The questions raised by UNESCO have still not been answered and now the voice of the people of Bangladesh is rising to join the challenge - will the regional governments take heed?