MAC: Mines and Communities

Global Call to stop Japanese Coal Finance in Bangladesh!

Published by MAC on 2020-10-02
Source: Market Forces,

Groups across the world are joining hands with vulnerable communities on Matarbari Island in Bangladesh, urging Japan’s newly selected cabinet and Sumitomo Corporation to end their backing of dirty coal projects in Bangladesh. An Exchange of Notes and Loan Agreements for the Matarbari coal-fired power plant project were signed between the governments of Japan and Bangladesh on June, 2019. 

A ​study​ by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) assessed thecumulative impacts from these projects. Alarmingly, air pollution from Matarbari 1 and 2 coal plantswould exacerbate the region’s poor air quality, resulting in increased illness and the premature deathsof 6700 people. "The plants would only worsen the situation, increasing people’s vulnerability to diseases such as COVID-19" said the study

Despite these impacts, Japanese companies and government agency Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) keep pushing for more coal to be built in Bangladesh.

See also: 2016-04-09 Bangladesh suspends work on coal plant after demonstrators killed

Global Call to End Coal Marks First Climate Test for New Japanese Administration

September 24, 2020

-- For Immediate Release

Tokyo · Washington D.C. ​– In a first climate test for the new Suga Administration in Japan, amajor coalition of civil society organizations is holding a global call to stop Japanese coal finance in Bangladesh. The events will oppose Japanese involvement in new coal-fired power plants proposed tobe built in Matarbari, Bangladesh and urge their replacement with renewable energy.

These power plants, as well as a coal terminal, would spread pollution over the long stretches of sandybeaches of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh’s premier tourist destination, a nearby marine reserve and wildlifesanctuaries. An estimated 100,000 fishermen also rely on this area for their livelihoods.

The Global Call includes:

● Activists forming a human chain at-risk ​Kohelia River in Matarbari;
● An online rally featuring hundreds of people co-organised by 14 organisations ​across the world,coming together to call for Japan to end coal finance in Bangladesh.
● A billboard truck circling downtown ​Washington D.C.​ to target the Japanese Embassy,Sumitomo Corporation of the Americas, and JICA USA, calling out Sumitomo Corporation andthe Japanese government for their involvement in the Matarbari coal plant project.
● Environmental NGOs protesting against Sumitomo Corporation and JICA with a digital photoaction in ​Tokyo

Sharif Jamil, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) General Secretary​ said, “Japan is one of the mostimportant development partners of Bangladesh. However, the coal based power plants underconstruction in Matarbari in the name of development reflects environmental racism towards ournation.”

“They are destroying the entire Kohelia River, evicting people and their livelihoods in those areas andgoing to emit pollutants to the air at a much higher level than the standard permissible for new coalpower projects in Japan. We demand Japan to stop destroying our ecology and public health. Japanshould cancel the coal plants and help Bangladesh towards sustainable growth.”

Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation is currently constructing one 1200MW coal plant at Matarbari​ withfunding from the Japanese government through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).Despite international pledges to end coal finance, just this summer the Japanese government ​movedforward with a planning process​ to build yet another 1200MW plant at the Matarbari site.

Yuki Tanabe, Program Director for Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES)​,said, “In July 2020, the Government of Japan revised its coal financing policy, which states that ‘inprinciple, the government will not provide official financial support.’ However, projects that are alreadyin the pipeline, including Matarbari 2, fall within the exceptions. Matarbari 2 is just in the beginningstages of project preparation, which is definitely still reversible.”

A ​study​ released on Tuesday this week by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air assessed thecumulative impacts from these projects. Alarmingly, air pollution from Matarbari 1 and 2 coal plantswould exacerbate the region’s poor air quality, resulting in increased illness and the premature deathsof 6,700 people. No pollution controls for mercury would result in widespread contamination of localfarmland and waters by the toxic element.

Conversely, according to a recent ​University of Berkeley-led study​ there is potential for up to 53gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity  in  Bangladesh,  which  could  replace  planned  coal  powerprojects  as  a  lower  cost  alternative  for  electricity generation.

"Japan's new administration must ensure a safe future for Bangladeshis instead of financing dirty energyprojects. Every day, Bangladeshis are bearing the brunt of climate change impacts. This year alone, wesaw record breaking cyclones and storm surges and floods that inundated one third of our country. IfJapan is serious about their commitment to Bangladesh's sustainable development, they mustproactively promote renewable energy." said ​Hasan Mehedi, Member Secretary, Bangladesh WorkingGroup on External Debt (BWGED)​.

“Mighty Earth is proud to take part in this global event to support the people of Bangladesh. Theplanned Matarbari Phase 2 coal plant would further burden Bangladeshis with air pollution, pollute fishand farmland with mercury pollution, and place them at further risk from climate change impacts.

Sumitomo Corporation claims to be going carbon neutral, yet still builds new coal plants, making itspolicy meaningless. We’re calling on Sumitomo to announce it will not take part in the Matarbari 2 coalplant,” said ​Roger Smith, Japan Project Manager for Mighty Earth​.

For more information contact:

Melia Manter in the USA -
James Lorenz in Australia -
Kuntal Roy in Bangladesh -

Cox’s Bazar coal-fired power plants may cause 30,000 deaths: study

Emran Hossain

Sep 22,2020  

A study has estimated that the eight coal-fired power plants that Bangladesh is planning to build in Cox’s Bazar’s Matarbari and Moheshkhali would cause 30,000 pollution-related deaths over their operational life of 30 years.

The report of the study, conducted by Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), a Finnish research group, was released at a webinar, organised by the Bangladesh Environment Movement, on Tuesday.

It said that the proposed plants, spread over around 10 kilometres, would constitute the largest coal-power hub in the world with an installed capacity of 8,720 megawatts.

The study said that pollution caused by the plants would cause asthma among 32,000 children and 24,000 preterm births over their lifetime.

The pollution would also cause adult asthma patients to seek emergency treatment in hospitals 41,000 times and workers to seek 17 million days of sick leave.

Sickness triggered by the pollution such as obstructive pulmonary diseases, diabetes and stroke would weaken people’s health in a way that it would equal spending 47,000 years with disabilities.

The environmental impact assessment available for one of the power plants, Matarbari phase-1 project, shows that authorities have allowed pollution 25 times the levels allowed in India, China and European Union, said the study.

‘Bangladesh appears to be ignoring potential health and economic impacts the proposed power plants would have in the country’s second most densely populated region,’ said Lauri Myllyvirta, the lead analyst of CREA, while presenting the study findings.

The only available environmental impact assessment was prepared based on inadequate data and it did not consider serious pollutions such as deposition of mercury emitted by the power plants, he said.

The study revealed that the plants every year would emit 1,600 kilograms of mercury, a third of which would get deposited into the land and freshwater ecosystem.

Each hectare of land over 3,300 square kilometres, covering Cox’s Bazar, Bandarban and Chattogram, would see 125 milligrams of mercury deposition every year, exposing 7.4 million people to mercury contamination, said the study.

The rate of mercury deposition is dangerous because it can cause unsafe levels of mercury accumulation in fishes, said the study.

Over 121 mg of mercury would be deposited every year in each hectare of Cox’s Bazar sea beach and at the Chunati Wildlife Sanctuary the yearly mercury deposition would be 235 mg per hectare, according to the study.

The plants would produce around 6,000 tonnes of fly ash a year.

Fly ash contains a wide range of heavy metals like lead, chromium, arsenic, cadmium and nickel and also radioactive uranium and thorium, said the study.

About 2 crore people would be exposed to excessive sulphur dioxide and 1.60 crore to nitrogen oxide pollutions because of the plants, said the study.

The air of Cox’s Bazar is highly polluted and the plants would only worsen the situation, increasing people’s vulnerability to diseases such as COVID-19, said the study.

The study said that the assessments were conservative because it considered that safety precautions advertised for the plants would be properly followed.

‘The study gives us the reason to become extremely worried about the government’s development activities,’ said professor Md Khalequzzaman, who teaches geology at Lock Haven University, USA.

‘It does not make sense how Bangladesh being the major victim of climate change impacts could adopt such development plan,’ he said.

Chittagong University professor Monzoorul Kibria said that the plants would turn marine fish, including hilsha, uneatable, depriving the country of its largest fish source.

‘The pollution would also strip locals of their livelihoods such as salt , beetle leaf and fish farming, eventually leading to their displacement,’ said Monzoor.

Former caretaker government adviser Rasheda K Chowdhury, Doctors’ Platform for People’s Health convener Rashid-E Mahbub, Bangladesh Environment Movement general secretary Sharif Jamil and National Committee for Saving the Sunderbans member secretary Abdul Matin spoke at the webinar.

In a report released in May, the CREA said that the proposed seven coal-fired power plants in Payra may cause 34,000 deaths in their operating lifetime of 30 years.

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