The Daily Star, May 27, 2008. Dhaka, Bangladesh
Leaders of National Oil, Gas, Power, Mineral Resources and Port Protection Committee yesterday urged the caretaker government to leave the decision about Phulbari coalmine for next elected political government.
Emphasising extraction of the coal with domestic efforts, they urged the government to ensure its uses for domestic purpose instead of exporting.
The caretaker government should respect the will of Phulbari people about implementing coalmine project, they said at a discussion on 'Development of north using mineral resources and national interest'.
Dinajpur unit of National Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources and Port Protection Committee organised the discussion at Dinajpur Natya Samity Auditorium.
The people of Phulbari are yet to recover from the shock they received during the Phulbari carnage on August 26, 2006 Asia Energy is still optimistic to extract coal from Phulbari, said Prof Anu Muhammad, general secretary of National Oil, Gas, Power, Mineral Resources and Port Protection Committee.
The nation will decide about utilisation of the underground resources of the country, Md Saiful Islam Jewel, convener of Phulbari Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources and Port Protection Committee, told the meeting.
Phulbari people will thwart any conspiracy against them, he said.
He said open pit mining will damage 1,00,000 acres of cultivable land in four upazilas and displace about 50,000 people.
Gono Sanghati Andolon leader Junayed Saki blasted World Bank, IMF and Asian Development Bank for giving green signal to invest in Bangladesh for a project that would bring in 'humanitarian disaster'.
Gono Front leader Tipu Biswas observed that strong political will is needed to resolve the issue about Phulbari coalmine project. He also condemned the illegal steps of certain quarter to draw supports regarding Phulbari Coalmine mobilising hundreds people in the affected four upazila of Dinajpur.
Nur Muhammad criticised the role of Dr Tamim, special assistant to chief adviser, about Phulbari coalmine.
The government is facing trouble to tackle the recent disaster due to underground mining of Barapukuria Coalmine Company Ltd (BCMCL) and open pit mining is much more dangerous, engineer Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah, convener of National Oil, Gas, Power, Mineral Resources and Port Protection Committee, said.
Phulbari coalmine project, if implemented, will bring the government about Tk 25,000 crore while it will eventually lead to loss of Tk 1,00,000 crore, he said.
Md Mosaddeque Hossain Labu, convener of Dinajpur unit National Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources and Port Protection Committee, read out the keynote at the meeting.
At least 572 million tonnes of coal is reserved in Phulbari coal bed. If Bangladesh Government signs deal with a company then the coal extraction will last for 30 years while about 50,000 people will be relocated, according to the officials of Asia Energy.
Haidar Akbar Ali Khan Rono of Workers Party and Chitta Ghosh also spoke at the meeting. Later the leaders of National Oil, Gas, Power, Mineral Resources and Port Protection Committee answered questions from the audience.