The UN's world heritage body, UNESCO, reported that the poor nation of Bangladesh must stop a coal development project to protect the remaining tigers living in the Sundarbans, one of the last existing tiger habitats. The huge mangrove delta which straddles the Ganges, Irrawaddy and Brahmaputra Rivers is a protected world heritage site and home to an estimated 450 Bengal tigers [photos: AFP, AP] The Rampal coal power plant is located sixty-five kms to the north and would expose the delta to water pollution and acidic rain. The forest is already stressed by agricultural water use, and huge coal ships would ply the delta's waterways. Dredging to safely accommodate these ships would generate 32.1 million cubic meters of fill, further endangering the protected Irrawaddy and Ganges river dolphins. The government estimates a coal shipment a day would be required to supply the 1320MW plant. UNESCO recommended that the project be cancelled and relocated to a more suitable site. India is financing the Rampal project.
Thousands have marched against building the Rampal station, but the government remains unmoved. Many Bangladeshis rely on the Sundarbans for their livelihood from fishing and honey gathering. Some 40 million people are protected from the worse ravages of annual cyclones by the vast mangrove delta. Despite its stand on international platforms in support of greenhouse gas reductions, the country is planning an aggressive development of its coal reserves for energy production. It plans to install by 2030 15,000 MW of coal-powered generation increasing the share of coal powered generation from 1% to 50%; currently most of Bangladesh's electricity come from natural gas burning. An activist called the Rampal project a "shallow idea of development which is based merely on growth, consumption driven, and energy obsessed. Bangladesh as a range nation has also pledged to help double the world's number of tigers by 2022. Welcome to the ball game, Bangladesh.