The member-secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports Anu Mohammad read out the committee’s declaration at a rally in Rampal’s Digraj on Saturday, to mark the end of the five-day long march.
The long march that started off from Dhaka on Tuesday morning officially came to an end at Bagerhat’s Digraj, five kilometres away from the proposed project site.
The Prime Minister’s energy advisor Tawfiq-E-Elahi Chowdhury had announced, a day after the long march started, that the foundation stone of the project will be laid on Oct 22.
In the declaration the protestors also demanded promulgation and implementation of a regulation to ensure the preservation of the largest mangrove forest in the world, Sundarbans, so that it can thrive “healthily and to its fullest capacity.”
The government’s Sept 26 press note was severely criticised by the protestors, saying the press note tried to pass off the scientific facts that the committee had presented about the need to preserve the forest, as ‘misinformation’.
“The people have given their verdict against the project that will destroy the Sundarbans.” Anu Muhammad told the rally.
“If the government still goes ahead with its plan and lays the foundation stone, the people will uproot it.”
The long march that started from Dhaka made stops at Savar, Jahangirnagar University, Manikganj, Goalanda, Magura, Jhenaidah, Kaliganj, Jessore, Naoapara, Fultola, Doulotpur, Khulna and Bagerhat before reaching the bus stand in Digraj.
The long march to save the Sundarbans, a UNESCO heritage site, was joined by people from all walks of life.
Thousands of people expressed solidarity with the protest against the plan to set up the coal-based project, an India-Bangladesh joint initiative, within 14 kilometres of the Sundarbans.
The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, backed by the leftist parties, has been strongly opposing the project as it poses a severe environmental threat to the forest and its inhabitants.
The government dismissed the allegations saying the project will not cause any harm to the nature.
The leaders of the committee and left political parties addressed the peaceful rally, in presence of three police platoons.
The protesters reached Khulna on Friday, the fourth day of the long march.
On Saturday morning small processions braving rains joined a rally at the city’s Shahid Hadis Park before starting off for Bagerhat.
“During the long march we have received spontaneous support of the people,” Convenor of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah said at the rally.
“Together we will resist the plan to set up the thermal plant that will destroy the forest.”
Billboards and posters bearing anti-Rampal slogans were seen at various sites of Bagerhat to mark the long march.