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In this photo taken Oct. 26 vegetation is covered in oil after diesel spilled into the Karnaphuli River following a collision of two tankers at Padma jetty in Chittagong. The oil spread about 16 kilometers during high tides and low tides in the river, posing serious threat to the local biodiversity, especially the Ganges river dolphins breeding ground. STR / AFP / Getty Images

An oil spill in the endangered Ganges river dolphin breeding grounds located in southeast Bangladesh has been called a "major disaster" by environmentalists, reports Agence-France Presse (AFP).

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Portrait of smiling girl reading book at school in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Towfiqu Photography / Moment / Getty Images

In recent decades, the education of girls around the world has increased dramatically. But climate change threatens to reverse some of that progress.

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An especially sanguine view of the Amazon jungle in Peru on Oct. 12, 2018. Kjell Eson / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Genevieve Belmaker and Joseph Charpentier

Throughout 2018, forests continued to be threatened and destroyed. From the Amazon, to the Congo Basin, to the Mekong Delta and scores of places in between—journalists reporting for Mongabay filed hundreds of stories about the world's forests.

Although the significance of any one story is difficult to gauge in the short-term, several Mongabay reports from 2018 stood out. These pieces dealt with illegal timber trafficking, advances in technology-based environmental protections and human rights protections for the people doing environment-defense work—formal and informal.

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Experimental field of a salt-tolerant rice variety in Bangladesh. IRRI Photos, CC BY-NC-SA

By Joyce J. Chen and Valerie Mueller

Salt is essential for cooking, but too much salt in soil can ruin crops and render fields useless. According to legend, Roman general Scipio Aemilianus Africanus sowed the soils of Carthage with salt after conquering the city during the Punic Wars. And after defeating the Italian town of Palestrina in 1298, Pope Boniface VIII is said to have plowed its lands with salt "so that nothing, neither man nor beast be called by that name."

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One World Animal Day event protests the killing of mother macaques as children are captured for the pet trade. Thai National Parks / CC BY-SA 2.0

Thursday is World Animal Day, a day dedicated to improving the well-being of animals across the planet.

"To achieve this, we encourage animal welfare organisations, community groups, youth and children's clubs, businesses and individuals to organize events in celebration of World Animal Day. Involvement is growing at an astonishing rate and it's now widely accepted and celebrated in a variety of different ways in many countries, with no regard to nationality, religion, faith or political ideology," the event's website says.

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Flooding in the haor of Bangladesh in 2010. Balaram Mahalder / CC BY-SA 3.0

By Kieran Cooke

As another monsoon season begins, huge numbers of homeless Bangladeshis are once again bracing themselves against the onslaught of floods and the sight of large chunks of land being devoured by rising water levels.

Bangladesh, on the Bay of Bengal, is low-lying and crisscrossed by a web of rivers: two thirds of the country's land area is less than five meters (approximately 16 feet) above sea level. With 166 million people, it's one of the poorest and most densely populated countries on Earth—and one of the most threatened by climate change.

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United Nations Development Program Bangladesh

Bangladesh was No. 6 on the Long Term Climate Risk Index of countries most affected by climate change from 1997 to 2016. The United Nations contents that climate change disproportionately impacts women, since they are more likely to be poor and dependent on local resources.

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Flooding in Bangladesh has submerged a third of the country. British Red Cross

By Jeremy Lent

Imagine you're driving your shiny new car too fast along a wet, curvy road. You turn a corner and realize you're heading straight for a crowd of pedestrians. If you slam on your brakes, you'd probably skid and damage your car. So you keep your foot on the accelerator, heading straight for the crowd, knowing they'll be killed and maimed, but if you keep driving fast enough no-one will be able to catch you and you might just get away scot-free.

Of course, that's monstrous behavior and I expect you'd never make that decision. But it's a decision the developed world is collectively taking in the face of the global catastrophe that will arise from climate change.

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Families wade through floodwater to reach Bangladesh Red Crescent's food and drinking water distribution. Kamrul Hassan, Bangladesh Red Crescent

By Andy Rowell

As much of the North American media focuses on the ongoing unprecedented flooding and relief efforts in Texas and now potentially Louisiana, another tragedy is unfolding, which is going largely unreported, in Asia.

Whereas the death toll in Texas stands at 20, the death toll in South Asia is estimated at 1,200 after weeks of unusually strong monsoon rains affecting India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

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On Jan. 13, the MV Aichgati, a large bulk cargo vessel carrying 1,000 tons of coal, sank in the estuary of the Pashur River in the Sundarbans World Heritage Site. In addition to the large amount of coal, hundreds of gallons of fuel oil, batteries and other toxic contaminants may now be polluting the Sundarbans.

The is the fifth time a vessel has sunk in the Sundarbans over the past two years. In December 2014, an oil tanker capsized in the Chandpai Dolphin Sanctuary on the Shela River, spilling and spreading 350 m3 of fuel oil across at least 40 km of the waterway. Five months later in May 2015, a cargo vessel sank, polluting the Bhola River with 200 tons of potash. In October 2015, a barge transporting 570 tons of coal capsized near the Dhangmari Dolphin Sanctuary in the Pashur River. In March 2016, a cargo vessel transporting 1,245 tons of coal sank in the Shela River. The waterways flowing through the Sundarbans are home to the Dhangmari and Chandpai dolphin sanctuaries, created to protect the rare Irawaddy and Ganges dolphins.

"Five recent episodes of ships capsizing have created a cumulative impact that endangers the rare aquatic ecology of the Sundarbans," Donna Lisenby, clean and safe energy campaign manager for Waterkeeper Alliance, said. "The Rampal coal plant must be stopped before it further imperils the World Heritage Site."

The governments of India and Bangladesh are aggressively moving forward with the construction of the proposed Rampal coal-fired power plant which will dramatically increase the shipping of coal, coal ash and gypsum pollutants through the Sundarbans.

"If the Rampal coal plant is built, it will require hundreds more coal ships and barges to travel through the Sundarbans," Sharif Jamil, coordinator of Waterkeepers Bangladesh, said. "This is one of the many reasons why the World Heritage Centre (WHC) and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) concluded that the proposed Rampal power plant poses a serious threat to the Sundarbans and should be canceled."

In addition to cancellation of Rampal, Waterkeeper Alliance and Waterkeeper Bangladesh supports the shipping recommendations made by the WHC and IUCN in the June 2016 Monitoring Mission Report:

Recommendation R5

Enforce the permanent closure of the Shela River to all vessel traffic, national and international, and apply speed limits and effective control measures for night and poor weather conditions for vessels navigating along the Pashur River.

Recommendation R6

Develop an effective action plan and emergency response facility in consultation with all relevant stakeholders to react to any future shipping incidents in a timely and coordinated manner, and consistent with the recommendations made in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) oil spill assessment report.

There was grossly inadequate emergency response that failed to remove of sunken vessels and their toxic cargo in a timely manner in all past five shipping disasters in the Sundarbans. Adherence to the WHC and IUCN recommendations is necessary to prevent more capsized ships from spewing additional pollution into one of the world's most important, water-dependent World Heritage Sites.

"All these shipping accidents show that the leaders of India and Bangladesh are not taking steps to protect the Sundarbans; rather, they are attempting to increase damage and destruction," Pashur River Waterkeeper Noor Alam said. "This accident again proves the carelessness of the government towards the protection of the Sundarbans and justifies the call to stop construction of Rampal on the banks of River Pashur."

Waterkeepers Bangladesh and Pashur River Waterkeeper will continue to monitor this latest shipping disaster to assess whether proper clean-up, mitigation and enforcement are completed by the government of Bangladesh.

By Payal Parekh

It's been several years since the first communities in Bangladesh started protesting the construction of the Rampal coal-powered plant near the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest and a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. The struggle to save the Sundarbans as well as protect the health and livelihoods of the communities in the region continues. This week, seven marches from different parts of the country will reach Dhaka to conclude in a mass gathering and rally at the Martyr's Square to renew their calls for the cancellation of the project.

Opposition to the Rampal coal plant has been expressed not only by the villagers, but even by financiers. In 2015, three French banks and two Norwegian pension funds withdrew their investments from this project. This year, due to pressure from a petition signed by 50,000 people across the world UNESCO has recommended that the Bangladeshi government scrap plans to build the Rampal power plant.

Yet, the government is still intent on building the coal plant, despite having made an admirable commitment to shift to 100 percent renewable energy as soon as possible at the conclusion of the Marrakech climate conference last week.

The kickstart on Thursday to the Long March to Dhaka to stop the Rampal coal plant.350.org

Experts also agree with Bangladesh that renewable energy is what's needed now; a recently published report from Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis Institute points out that fossil fuel subsidies and electricity-sector losses are a growing drag on the country's economic growth. For its authors, the Rampal plant "epitomizes some of the backward thinking among key energy-development powers that be in Bangladesh." Instead the report lays out a plan that is cost-efficient and enhances national energy security by increasing grid efficiency, energy efficiency and increasing solar energy ten-fold.

If Bangladesh is serious about its commitment to go 100 percent renewable, then it will not only shelve the Rampal project, but will back away from current plans to double fossil fuel generation. This will only instill a long-term dependence on the import of fossil fuels, which would lead to more national debt, devaluation of the currency and an increase in inflation, all of which would destabilize the Bangladesh economy.

The potential to become a world-leader in in the transition to clean, renewable energy by redoubling efforts in deploying solar home systems would help eradicate energy poverty and increase the likelihood that sea level rise would be limited in one of the lowest-lying countries of the world.

The easiest first step is to cancel the construction of the Rampal coal-powered plant to demonstrate Bangladesh's commitment to going 100 percent renewable.

Payal Parekh is the global program director at 350.org.

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