The Matarbari Coal Power Plant in Bangladesh funded by The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) came under fire from civil society organisations this week for alleged unsafe working practices resulting in the death and serious injury of several workers.
Authorities are continuing the construction work of Matarbari coal-fired power plant in Cox’s Bazar despite COVID-19 and risks to 3,000 workers. A strike by workers in April demanding a halt to the project due to COVID-19 fears ended when authorities deployed law enforcers to end the strike.
Matarbari is a densely populated island in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and home to 100,000 people.
Bangladesh is said to be at the mercy of climate change’s rising sea levels and increasingly severe tropical cyclones. In May 2020, Cyclone Ampan caused widespread devastation and forced relocation of some two million people.
“Cyclones like Ampan are a stark reminder of the dangers that Bangladesh faces. It is frustrating that despite COVID-19 and the climate crisis, the Bangladesh government is refusing to rise to the occasion and stop coal plant projects. There needs to be an urgent review of power generation plans and a rapid move towards a just and green recovery,” said Fridays for Future, Bangladesh.
Communities displaced by the development of the coal plant allege that corruption, malpractice, and violations of human rights have occurred concerning land acquisition and relocation processes.
It is also said that the plant’s development has also contributed to the worsening of floods because of a destruction of water channels for agriculture and water gates, damage of community roads, an increase in traffic accidents, and inflow and accumulation of sediment in surrounding rivers, which has significant adverse impacts on livelihoods of local communities.
Campaigners are calling on JICA to compensate the families of the deceased worker, stop any further work on the project, review funding to overseas coal projects in Bangladesh and stop financing new projects including the proposed Phase 2 of the Matabari coal plant.
“Our condolences go out to the family and friends of the workers affected. It is appalling that the lives of workers are being risked by unsafe working conditions and forcing people to work during a global pandemic,” said a 350.org representative.