Last update:
2017-02-02

Banshkhali coal power station, Chittagong, Bangladesh

Agitation in the Gondamara ward against a very large (imported) coal fired power plant results in several villagers being killed in April 2016 and again in February 2017.


Description:

The proposed imported coal-fired power plant in Banshkhali of Chittagong is set to become the biggest private sector investment in the country’s power sector. A joint venture of Bangladesh’s S Alam Group, and China’s SEPCO-3 Electric Power Constitution Corporation and HTG Group will build the thermal power plant with a net capacity of 1,224MW at a cost of $2.4bn. But as reported in the Dhaka Times on 13 May 2016, the Gondamara union (ward) in Chittagong’s Banshkhali has become a prison as the police continue to lay siege and cordon off the area. “The [Banshkhali power plant] project started with fraud, falsity and criminal activities against the Banshkhali people, while the local conglomerate S Alam group started grabbing 1,700 acres of government khash (public) land in the name of the project,” said Prof. Anu Muhammad,  secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports. “Bangladesh is getting sliced to fulfil the interests of other countries. India is in Rampal (another coal power station) to create its strategic power, while Russia is in Rooppur nuclear power plant, USA is capturing the Bay of Bengal and now China is in Banshkhali coal-based power plant in the name of creating a special economic zone in Bangladesh.” He added that the electricity crisis cannot be solved with destructive projects like Banshkhali and Rampal coal-based power plants, and Rooppur nuclear power plant project. Panic has gripped the locals of Gondamara union in Banshkhali upazila as police continued to raid the area in  May 2016. Locals claimed that the raids were being conducted to foil their movement against the move to install a coal-fired power plant there. Police, however, claimed that they were conducting the drives to arrest the accused in different cases and recover illegal arms in the upazila. Police checkpoints were being set up at Time Bazar in Shil Kup, Harun Bazar in Saral and Bangla Bazar in Chambal, virtually confining the villagers, they claimed. Other than children and very elderly people, most male members in the area are now on the run fearing arrest after the events of 4th April 2016. “No one is paying heed to our problems. What is going on in the union? They [police] have turned the whole union into a jail. Now, no one can go outside the union,” claimed Abu Ahmed, a close aide of Liakat Ali, convener of the Committee to Protect Habitations and Graveyards (Daily Star, 19 May 2016).    Fear of environment pollution and other hazards, if the power plant was installed, prompted the people of Gondamara area of Banshkhali to go for agitation. The locals alleged that some people in favour of S Alam Group forced them to sell their land to the group. Mosharraf Hossain, an Imam of a mosque in Chittagong city and resident of Gondamara, said that there were several hundred homesteads in the area where S Alam Group was trying to set up the coal-fired power plant. ‘We will not be able to live there if the power plant is set up. Our household, arable land and salt processing fields would be damaged due to the pollution if the plant was set up,’ said Mosharraf. Meanwhile, Hanif, an honours student of Chittagong College and resident of the village, said S Alam Group engaged some paid brokers to grab local people’s land. The brokers forced local people to sell their land at lower price. They threatened us when we did not agree to sell our land,’ said Hanif. (New Age, 6 April 2016). The Land Office gave its clearance to S Alam Group to buy 3,000 acres of land, terming the acquired land as “barren land”; this is a baseless claim, the land is used for rice farming and for salt production. Protesters follow the lead of the "Committee to protect habitation and graveyards", implying that some of the land is sacred.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Banshkhali coal power station, Chittagong, Bangladesh
Country:Bangladesh
State or province:Chittagong
(municipality or city/town)Bandhkhali
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Land acquisition conflicts
Thermal power plants
Specific commodities:Coal
Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

A coal power station (two units) of 1320 MW.

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Project area:1,100
Level of Investment:2,500,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:30,000
Start of the conflict:01/04/2016
Company names or state enterprises:S. Alam from Bangladesh
SEPCO-3 Electric Power Constitution Corporation from China
HTG Group from China
Relevant government actors:Government of Bangladesh
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports.

Committee to Protect Homestead and Graveyards.
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Trade unions
translation missing: en.m.mobilizing_groups.fisher_people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
It is alleged that no EIA has been carried out.
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other Health impacts
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: displacement, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsLoss of land for farming and for salt production. Impact on fisheries.
Outcome
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Deaths
Repression
Violent targeting of activists
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
On April 5th 2016 at least four people were killed in demonstrations against the plant, and again in February 2017.
Development of alternatives:Not building the large coal power station
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:After the agitation and the killing of demonstrators in April 2016, the goverment says the plans to build the coal power station will go on. One more protester was killed, and dozen more injured on Febuary 2, 2017 during another violent altercation with the police in Banshkhali. The local people have been protesting against the plant due to the fear of forced evictions, including disturbance of their sacred graveyards and damage to the environment. The locality is under continuous patrolling by security guards to ensure construction of the plant.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-bangladesh-power-protest-idUSKBN15H0L3
Sources and Materials
Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Dhaka Times, 6 May 2016, repression against anti-coal power station activists
[click to view]

Report by Pinaki Roy on the killings on 4th April 2016 and on the general pattern of protests against coal power stations in Bangladesh
[click to view]

New Age, report of 6 April 2016
[click to view]

'Scrap Banshkhali project by Saturday ', Anwar Husain, Chittagong - Dhaka Times 8 April 2016.
[click to view]

Power Plant Protest. Raids spark panic in Gondamara, Daily Star 19 May 2016.
[click to view]

Anu: Police have made Banshkhali a prison, by Abid Azad. Dhaka Times 13 May 2016.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

End Coal. Bangladesh has big and controversial coal plans, posted April 12, 2016 by Bob Burton
[click to view]

Dakha Tribune, 5 April 2016, gives names of the demonstrators killed, and the policer version
[click to view]

Other documents

Demonstration, April 2016 People from all walks of life gathered at the local Rahmania Senior Madrasha.

Source: http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2016/apr/06/banshkhali-locals-vow-protect-land
[click to view]

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Contributor:JMA
Last update02/02/2017
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