‘Our energy, our rights’: National extraction legacies and contested energy justice futures in Bangladesh
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Energy Research & Social Science, ISSN: 2214-6296, Vol: 41, Page: 168-175
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- Energy; Social Sciences; coal; activism; climate change; Environmental Studies; Oil, Gas, and Energy; South and Southeast Asian Languages and Societies
Energy poverty remains an enduring challenge in Bangladesh, with 41 million people lacking electricity. Foreign states, corporations, and financial institutions have historically shaped the form and terms of the country’s energy system, which is predominantly fossil fuel based. Shifting geographies of energy extraction and processing continue to reflect this past and influence current national energy debates in Bangladesh. The Rampal coal-fired energy project, a joint initiative with India, exemplifies these tensions. Opposition to the Rampal plant, proposed in the ecologically sensitive Sundarbans region, and other controversial energy extraction and processing projects led some activists and impacted stakeholders to promote the idea of “our energy, our rights.” The articulation of an energy rights discourse asserts that Bangladesh should extract and control national energy resources in a manner that respects rights and provides the basis for analyzing the energy justice landscape in the nation and beyond. The rights discourse rejects the nation’s legacy of poor energy decisions, and the associated realities of energy poverty. Contributing to emerging ideas around the geographies of energy justice, this research paper explores the practical application by activists and stakeholders of rights discourses to contested energy projects in Bangladesh. It shows how distributional energy justice activism critiques the historical political economy of economic liberalization and energy exploitation in the country and centers the rights concerns of energy poverty while also considering climate change vulnerabilities.