Divest from destructive Rampal coal businesses, groups urge global investors
Press release 7th of April 2017
During the current visit of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to India, investors in the potential financiers of, and the company behind the planned Rampal coal power plant in Bangladesh are being urged to disinvest from the project by over 70 non-governmental organizations.
Non-governmental organisations from around the world today expressed their concerns in a joint letter to banks and investors with links to the different entities that are aiming to construct the proposed Rampal coal-fired power plant, which presents a major threat to the ecological integrity of the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans in Bangladesh, as well as to the health and livelihoods of millions of local people.
The 1320 megawatt Rampal coal plant project has been proposed by the Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company, and if completed, would be co-managed by the National Thermal Power Corporation of India (NTPC) and debt financed by India’s Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank.
“Investors with funds in NTPC or who hold India Ex-Im bonds must wake up to the Rampal threat and withdraw from climate-hazardous coal based energy projects, rather investing in renewable solar power instead,” said Amanda Tas from the NGO, Protect the Forest. “We also hope that this message gets through to the Prime Ministers of Bangladesh and India, who are hoping to expand their cooperative relationship. They must realize that burning coal is not an acceptable option, and that protecting the Sundarbans is not negotiable.”
The letter to the investors is supported by the following NGOs:
Abibiman Foundation, Ghana AMIHAN National Federation of Peasant Women, Philippines Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Asia Pacific BankTrack, International Biofuelwatch, UK/USA Botswana Climate Change Network, Botswana Friends of the Earth, Bosnia and Herzegovina CHAUKATH voluntary network of feminists, Nepal Climate Action Network, International Climate Litigation Network, Transnational Conservatree, USA Cordillera Women's Education Action Research Center (CWEARC), Philippines Cultures of Resistance Network Foundation EcoNexus, UK Ecoropa, Germany Feminist League, Kazakhstan Forum Environment and Development, Germany Forum for Nature Protection NGO, Nepal Foundation for GAIA, International Fragile Planet Earth, South Africa Friends of the Earth US, USA Friends of the Siberian Forests, Russia Friends of the Tamar Valley, UK Nature and Youth, Sweden GenderCC - Women for Climate Justice e.V., International Genethics Foundation, Netherlands Global Environment Centre, Malaysia Global Forest Coalition, International Green IT. Uruguay Greenpeace Russia Grupo Para o Desenvolvimento da Mulher e Rapariga, Mozambique IBON International ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability – Africa, South Africa Institute for Planetary Synthesis, Switzerland Janabhivyakti, India Japan Tiger and Elephant Fund, Japan Japan Tropical Forest Action Network (JATAN), Japan Friends of the Earth, Sweden Klimataktion Stockholm, Sweden Korea Federation for Environmental Movements, Korea Michael Underwood Agroforestry Associates Africa, South Africa Mom Loves Taiwan Association, Taiwan National Indigenous Women Forum, Nepal NCA-Afghanistan, Afghanistan New Wind Association, Finland Next Big Thing Movement, Inc, USA Oil Change International Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), USA Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER), Malaysia Planetary Association for Clean Energy (PACE), Canada Protect the Forest, Sweden PUSH Sweden Quercus- National Association for Nature Conservation, Portugal Rainbow Eco-Farm and Training Center NPO, South Africa Re-nourish, USA Rettet den Regenwald, Germany Rewild, South Africa Rutale Development Association, Africa Students for a Just and Stable Future, USA SustainUS, USA Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, Sweden Tanzania Youth Coalition, Tanzania TFINS, India Thanal, India The Endangered Wildlife Trust, South Africa Timberwatch Coalition, South Africa WECF Women Engage for a Common Future, International Wildlife Impact, USA Women's Environment & Development Organization (WEDO), International World Heritage International, Netherlands YouthNet for Climate Justice, Banglades
Bangladeshi and Indian Prime Ministers urged to protect Sundarbans from coal-fired power plant
Today, more than 70 non-governmental organisations from around the world called for the cancellation of the proposed Rampal coal power plant, in an open letter to the governments of Bangladesh and India. The proposed 1320 megawatt Rampal plant, construction of which is planned to start soon, would threaten the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans in Bangladesh, as well as the health and livelihoods of millions of local people.
Mangrove forest in the Sundarbans. Photo: Mohammad Rakibul Hasan
The Sundarbans is a Ramsar-listed wetland and also includes a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has an extremely rich biodiversity and is of critical importance for globally endangered species, including the Royal Bengal Tiger and Ganges River Dolphin. The Sundarbans also plays a key role in mitigating the impacts of climate change, acting as a carbon sink in its undisturbed natural state, and as a barrier against cyclones, storms and other natural disasters that would become more frequent and intense as more greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere.
"The unique ecosystem and biodiversity of the Sundarbans are under severe threat from the planned Rampal power plant,” said Wally Menne of the Timberwatch Coalition in South Africa. “Local peoples’ right of access to natural resources from the mangrove forests would be at risk. Although Bangladesh has the fundamental right to develop, this right belongs to all of its people, including the most marginalised, and should not be monopolised by big corporations whose only aim is to make profits, often at the expense of the environment and local communities."
The Rampal power plant is a joint project of India's state owned National Thermal Power Corporation and the Bangladesh Power Development Board. In October 2016, UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and the IUCN identified four key main impacts related to the power plant’s construction: pollution from coal ash by air, pollution from wastewater and waste ash, increased shipping and dredging, and the cumulative impact of industrial and related infrastructure. They both recommend the cancellation of the Rampal power plant project.
“The availability of so-called modern technology is being used as an argument in support of the Rampal project, but this will definitely not keep its pollution to a minimum level,” said Amanda Tas from Protect the Forest, Sweden. “During recent years, coal-carrying vessels have sunk, and one oil spill has already occurred in the area. Rather than to build a climate-damaging coal-fired power plant, both India and Bangladesh should develop renewable sources of clean energy, respecting the environment, and benefiting all inhabitants of the Sundarbans. This must also include the most marginalised, who being largely off the electricity supply grid, and would not benefit from energy produced by the proposed Rampal power plant.”
In the open letter, the organisations call on political decision-makers to immediately halt the Rampal power plant project and other commercial projects in the Sundarbans and its surroundings, and to increase investments in renewable solar and wind power projects. They also urge the Government of Bangladesh to uphold the right to assemble, and to protect the safety of people that exercise this right, including the right to protest against government-approved projects. In January, police used teargas and water cannons against peaceful protesters, injuring about 100 people during a hartal in Dhaka, which was held to save the Sundarbans.
Timber industry in violation of environmental standards
Swedish timber industry group Holmen, with its key market in the UK, has violated FSC standards by planning to harvest valuable forests and is suspected of having violated the Species Protection Ordinance, and is even suspected of corruption. The Swedish NGO Protect the Forest calls for UK consumers to put pressure on Holmen and other Swedish wood-suppliers to stop logging high conservation value forests and to transition to environmentally sound forestry methods.
High conservation value forest planned to be felled by Holmen in Jämtland. Photo: Ellinor Delin
Holmen is a Swedish forest industry group that runs forestry and energy production operations and manufactures paperboard, paper and wood products. It has one paper-mill in Workington, UK. Holmen Skog, responsible for managing the group’s land holdings, is FSC-certified, implying that its forest management should be environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable. Recently, certification body DNV GL requested major corrective action (CAR) from Holmen Skog due to its violation of the FSC certification. Holmen Skog planned to harvest several high conservation value forests in Jämtland, central Sweden, during the summer of 2016.
“We carried out inventories in these forests and found many red-listed species,” said Ellinor Delin from the Swedish NGO Protect the Forest. “Consumers in the UK receive guarantees from Holmen that their products are sustainable, but they as well as other Swedish forest companies such as SCA, Sveaskog and Stora Enso clear-cut biodiverse forests and convert them to species-poor tree plantations.”
Volunteers doing inventories in Jämtland. Photo: Ellinor Delin
In addition, Holmen Skog was recently reported to the police for felling a tree with a nesting pair of golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), thereby violating the Species Protection Ordinance. The County Administrative Board informed Holmen Skog about the presence of the golden eagles in 2015. In 2016, only a stump of the nesting tree remained. The golden eagle is classified as near threatened in Sweden1, and is one of over 1,800 red-listed forest-living species in the country. Only about 4% of the productive forest land in Sweden is formally protected as national parks and nature reserves2 while over 90% is subject to harvest3. Additionally, the principal owner and chairman of the Holmen Board, Fredrik Lundberg, was by the end of January interrogated and under suspicion of bribery in connection with hunting events that he hosted.
Government-owned company Sveaskog recently got a major CAR for planning to fell high-conservation value forests in northern Sweden, despite its claims of environmentally sound operations. Here, volunteers found many red-listed species in the areas planned to be felled. According to the FSC and national law, inventories should be carried out by the timber industry itself.
“The Swedish forestry methods are very destructive and leave little room for vulnerable species,” adds Elin Götmark from Protect the Forest. “Sustainable forest methods are virtually non-existent. Holmen and other Swedish forestry companies need to be put under international pressure to immediately stop logging high conservation value forests and begin to use forestry methods which are as close as possible to the natural ecological processes in forests. It is high time customers see over where they source forestry products, but simultaneously all consumers have to reduce their use of these products.”
Swedish Species Information Center (2015). The 2015 Swedish Red List;
FAO definition must recognize that plantations are not forests!
On 21 March, the International Day of Forests, 200 organisations are reminding the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that its misleading forest definition dating back to 1948 must be changed. The definition has allowed the plantations industry to hide the devastating ecological and social impacts of large-scale monoculture tree plantations behind a positive forest image.
FAO’s forest definition has allowed the plantations industry to call their monoculture plantations of fast-growing species such as eucalyptus, pine, rubber or acacia “forests” because it defines a forest only by the number, height and canopy cover of trees on an area. The FAO forest definition has been used as blueprint for over 200 national and international forest definitions since 1948.
Under the guise of this FAO forest definition, the industry has been able to expand fast, especially in the global South, where monoculture tree plantations now cover some several tens of millions of hectares of land. This expansion has brought misery to countless rural and peasant communities, and indigenous peoples. Families have lost land and livelihood where monoculture tree plantations have taken their land, destroyed their way of life, dried up their water springs and streams and poisoned their food with agro-toxins. (1)
“For almost 70 years, the misleading FAO forest definition has served the tree plantations industry well. They have hidden the destruction caused when diverse forests, grasslands and peatlands overflowing with life are converted into ‘green deserts’ made up of monoclonal trees in straight rows behind the positive forest image provided by the FAO,” says Winfridus Overbeek, international coordinator of the World Rainforest Movement.
Forest restoration as climate protection debate adds urgency to get forest definition right
“With the adoption of the UN Paris Agreement on climate change, revision of this FAO forest definition takes on additional urgency”, says Guadalupe Rodríguez from Salva la Selva/Rettet den Regenwald, “it would be a tragedy if the misleading FAO definition makes expansion of these damaging tree monocultures eligible for climate funds earmarked for “reforestation” and “forest restoration.” This would not only harm even more communities where tree plantations take over land used by villagers but also undermine climate protection: Carbon-rich forests could be destroyed and be replaced by monoculture tree plantations with countries claiming that according to the FAO forest definition, no forest area has been lost – despite the massive loss of carbon, biodiversity, water sources and local livelihoods when forests are replaced by monoculture plantations.
An example where the deliberate mis-labelling of plantations as forests allows the plantations industry to tap into climate funds is the ‘African Forests Restoration initiative’ (AFR100). Launched at the 2015 UN climate meeting, it aims to cover 100 million hectares that participating African governments consider “degraded” lands. The World Bank will make USD 1 billion available for this plan – and relies on the FAO forest definition to define eligibility for funding. Unsurprisingly, one of the most controversial tree plantations companies operating in Africa, the Norwegian-based Green Resources (2), was among the keynote speakers at a 2016 conference in Ghana, where the implementation of the AFR 100 initiative was prominent on the agenda.
2017 FAO International Forests Day theme ‘Forests & Energy’ shows urgent need to change forest definition
“Industrialized countries’ unsustainable energy demand combined with their new quest for ‘renewable’ energy is already converting forests in the global South into industrial ‘biomass’ plantations. Yet, the word ‘plantation’ does not appear once on the FAO’s “Key messages” webpage for the International Forests Day 2017″, says Wally Menne of the Timberwatch Coalition, South Africa. For example, to fuel all of the UK’s energy requirements through eucalyptus-based biomass would require some 55 million hectares of plantation in Brazil – an area larger than twice the size of the UK.
200 groups today join the more than 130 thousand groups and individuals who called on the FAO in 2015 to rise to the challenge and urgently change the FAO forest definition because tree plantations are not forests.
(2) In response to the 2015 petition signed by over 130,000 people calling on FAO to change its forest definition, the FAO claims that its role is merely to harmonize the different national and international forest definitions of forests elaborated since 1948. However, the letter sent today shows how this view ignores that in fact, the FAO forest definition is THE reference for many of the national definitions, in the UN climate talks, in initiatives such as AFR100, etc.
Lime Quarry Threatens The Ojnare forest
Lime quarry threatens unique forest
The Ojnare forest. Photo: Robert Svensson/Protect the Forest.
The Ojnare forest on Gotland, in the Baltic Sea, consists of centuries-old pines growing over the limestone that characterizes the island. It is a unique and varied area that includes many wetlands. But now, the company Nordkalk wants to quarry the land for its lime.
Both the white-tailed eagle and the golden eagle make their nests here, and the area is rich in species that depend on this distinctive environment.
The Ojnare forest should be protected on many counts:
It is important for securing the water supply; it contains so-called key woodland habitats; it lies next to two Natura 2000 areas which are protected at the EU level; it has been officially declared as important on the national level for both its natural and cultural values; there are plans to make it a national park; it contains 265 species that are on the red list of endangered species in Sweden; and it contains 3 endemic species (which exist nowhere else in the world).
"Sweden has both national and international commitments when it comes to endangered species. To let Nordkalk make a 170-hectare hole in the middle of this sensitive area would go counter to the EU's Habitat Directive as well as our national goal to secure the environmental health of the forest. Nothing seems holy any more. The government is even changing the law to fit the industry's requirements," says Robert Svensson, secretary of Protect the Forest.
In 2007, the government removed the environmental law paragraph forbidding quarries in areas with rare or endangered species. This was the only paragraph hindering the quarry that was absolute and had no loopholes. .
"Since 2006, the government's politics has become more and more anti-environmental. If the Ojnare forest is cut down, it will go down in history as one of the greatest environmental crimes in Sweden this century. We demand an immediate stop to Nordkalk's preliminary work on the quarry," says Viktor Säfve, chairman of Protect the Forest.
The only defense that this unique area has left since the government has turned its back is an appeal from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, a group of protesters from Nature and Youth Sweden, and the local organization Friends of Ojnare Forest. Representatives from Protect the Forest have now joined the fight in Ojnare.
"That Mellanskog, who claim they conduct sustainable forestry, is willing to take Nordkalk's money to cut down such valuable natural forest is unbelievable. That is why I am here to protest, and to urge everyone who can do something to act," says Jonas Idewall Hagren, member of Protect the Forest.
Robert Svensson, Selina Vogt and Jonas Idewall Hagren, Protect the Forest, now at the threatened Ojnare forest. Photo: Protect the Forest, Sweden
Jonas Idewall Hagren, member of Protect the Forest +0046735707021
The Apollo butterfly, one of the threatened species in the Ojnare forest. Photo: Robert Svensson, Protect the Forest.