Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Coal committee seeks 50 more days to finalise policy

NewAge, October 2, 2007

The advisory committee on the draft coal policy has sought another extension of 50 working days from the government to finalise the draft as it could not complete the task in the 30 days extended earlier. The committee members are still not sure which mining method they should recommend as both open-pit and underground mining have merits and demerits. The committee, headed by former BUET vice-chancellor Abdul Matin Patwari, held its seventh meeting on Monday, but was yet to go through the nitty-gritty of the draft coal policy submitted to the committee by the energy division.

The high-profile committee, which has so far taken a major decision that the coal policy will not allow coal export, decided at the meeting that it would start to go through every paragraph of the policy and make amendment, if needed, at its next meeting on October 20. It has so far taken opinions and recommendations of the cross-section of people including experts, economists, journalists, rights groups, and people of Phulbari during a visit to three coal fields in Dinajpur.

The advisory committee, formed on June 21, was initially given 30 working days, but it could not start work till July 31 as the committee convener was abroad. The committee was then given 30 more working days and it has so far passed 40 working days till Monday.

The committee members in Monday’s meeting discussed their recent visits to Barapukuria, Phulbari and Khalashpir coal fields and the recommendations of people of Phulbari. The meeting was told that about 19 associations of Phulbari, where the UK-based Asia Energy wanted to develop an open-pit mine, submitted recommendations and memoranda to the committee. It was told that most of the associations recommended against open-pit mining saying that it would destroy the environment while some of them recommended in favour of open-pit mining saying that it would be beneficial to the people of the locality.

The meeting discussed whether the coal policy would recommend that a pilot project of open-pit mining should be undertaken by a state-owned company to scrutinise the viability of the mining method and operate underground mining till getting the results of the pilot project.

Among other committee members, University Grants Commission chairman Nazrul Islam, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology professor Nurul Islam, Dhaka University professors Badrul Imam and Mustafizur Rahman, and journalist Ataus Samad were present at the meeting.