Protestors fighting against a coal plant in Bangladesh have reportedly paid with their lives, after police opened fire on a crowd that was defying a ban on assemblies, scattering the crowd and leading to at least four deaths.
According to a statement from the Climate Action Network, an association of over 950 NGOs in more than 110 countries, “officials” have confirmed at least four people are dead.
But protesting villagers have reported eight people were killed and two more are missing, according to climate advocacy group 350.org. The group said protestors were defying a police ban on any marches or rallies in the area, peacefully, but shots were fired at 3pm on April 4.
The shooting took place in Banskhali, in the Chittagong district of Bangladesh, where between 500 and 1,000 Bangladeshis reportedly assembled to protest the coal plant. Graphic photographs of injured demonstrators have been posted to a Bangladeshi Facebook page circulated by the Climate Action Network.
According to 350.org, the plant is being backed by two Chinese firms – SEPCOIII Electric Power and HTG – which are financing $1.75 billion of the plants’ estimated $2.4 billion cost.
Protests against the coal plant are said to have been building over the past week, despite the police order against demonstrations. “These farmers travelled to [the protest]to save their livelihoods and some paid for it with their lives,” said Sanjay Vashist, Director of Climate Action Network South Asia.
“More than six thousand farmers are dependent on this fertile land for agriculture and salt production,” Vashist said. “Coal plants would cause major damage to the delicate ecosystem of the area, due to air and water pollution and increase in boat traffic to deliver coal to the plant”.
Low-lying Bangladesh is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world, and was ranked as the sixth most affected between 1994 and 2013 in GermanWatch’s Climate Risk Index last year.
In 2015 the nation’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina Wazed, accepted one of the United Nations’ top gongs, a Champions of the Earth award in the Policy Leadership category.
The nation currently earmarks six to seven per cent of its annual budget – or around US$ 1 billion – on climate change adaptation, with only 25 per cent of this coming from international donors.
The International Director of Climate Action Network, Wael Hmaidan has hit out at authorities’ handling of protests against the coal plant in the Chittagong district, saying protestors had a right to protect their future from the impacts of climate change.
“This community is trying to defend itself from an increasingly desperate industry and has suffered a direct attack from the authorities who should be preserving their rights, not trampling on them,” he said.
“People have a right to peacefully stand up against reckless coal expansion that threatens to destroy their homes and ruin their livelihoods.”
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