China is building a coal power plant in Bangladesh despite protests by civil society

A Chinese-backed coal power plant is being built in Bangladesh allegedly by evicting locals from their land and grabbing a riverbed. There has been opposition, including a directive by the government’s own National River Conservation Commission to local authorities to evict the company from the plot where the plant is being built. However, construction continues.

In 2017, Barisal Electric Power Company Limited started building the 307-megawatt plant at Khottar Char in Taltoli, a sub-district of Barguna district in coastal Bangladesh. Barisal Electric Power Company Limited is a joint venture between Chinese state-owned company PowerChina and Bangladeshi company ISO Tech Electrification Company Limited. PowerChina owns 96% of the shares.

The site is on the bank of the Payra river, which is one of the major fishing grounds for Bangladesh’s iconic hilsa fish and close to a hilsa sanctuary. Since 2017, some residents have been alleging they were evicted from the site on the basis of documents they describe as “fake”.

On September 28, 2020, Mohammad Muzibur Rahman Howlader, then chair of the National River Conservation Commission, asked the district’s top administrator to evict the company from the site.