Unesco has postponed its decision to include the Sundarbans on its List of World Heritage in Danger until next year.
The World Heritage Committee urged the Bangladesh government again to halt a large-scale industrial construction around the mangrove forest.
Despite outcry from all over the world to save the world’s largest mangrove forest, the 21-member committee came with the decision at its annual meeting in Azerbaijan on Thursday.
The danger list is designed to inform the international community of conditions that threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed on the World Heritage List, and to encourage corrective action.
“It is very unfortunate that our government is supporting projects that are not environment-friendly,” said Prof Anu Muhammad, member secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports.
“When the whole world is discarding coal and moving towards renewable energy, we are adopting coal projects.”
Unesco’s decision has come to save the investor countries’ interest, he added.
He said the committee completely failed to acknowledge the existence of cheap and safe renewable energy option.
Earlier, the World Heritage Committee in its initial draft report expressed deep concern over the three coal-fired power plants in Rampal of Bagerhat, Taltali of Barguna and Kalapara of Patuakhali district.
It recommended undertaking a Strategic Environmental Assessment. But the final declaration made no mention of these any longer.
The planet’s only mangrove forest is facing several dangers, both natural and manmade, according to the report.
In the annual meeting, China first proposed not putting the Sundarbans on the danger list.
Cuba, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and India also took position in favour of that.
China has invested more than $7 billion in the development of new coal infrastructure in Bangladesh as part of its Belt and Road Initiative.
The Chinese investment plan includes Payra Coal Plant Hub that directly threatens the Sundarbans. Any mention of Payra was taken out of the initial draft decision.
Before the meeting in Baku, Bangladesh government sent a 13-member delegation, headed by the prime minister's Energy Adviser Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, to make Unesco understand that the government is aware of the Sundarbans’ safety and it is taking necessary actions.
Unesco listed the Sundarbans as a heritage site in 1997.