Saturday, May 31, 2008

Phulbari Coal Extraction: Open pit mining to affect food security in Dinajpur

Oil, gas protection body leaders tell meetings at Phulbari, Nilphamari

The Daily Star, May 31 2008. Dhaka, Bangladesh

Leaders of National Oil, Gas, Power, Mineral Resources and Port Protection Committee said here yesterday the food security will be affected in the district if the coal in Phulbari is extracted through open pit mine method.

They said about 40 square mile land in four upazilas in the district will be damaged in the process.

The committee leaders were addressing a meeting titled, 'People's Demand and Phulbari Coalmine,' held yesterday at Rabeya Community Centre at Phulbari where three persons were killed during a carnage there on August 26, 2006. The meeting was presided by committee convener Md Saiful Islam Jewel.

The coalmine will bring numerous sufferings to villagers, they said. They said the coal will be utilized outside the country rather than using for domestic purpose.

The meeting expressed dissatisfaction as the government is yet to implement the 6-point demand signed after Phulbari carnage on August 30, 2006. They urged the caretaker government to implement the demand. They urged the people of the four affected upazilas to thwart any conspiracy of foreign investors in this regard.

Md. Saiful Islam Jewel, convener of Phulbari Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources and Port Protection Committee told the meeting that nation will decide to utilize the underground resources of the country and Phulbari people will thwart any conspiracy against them with the Phulbari coal project, he added.

The speakers observed that a strong political will is needed to resolve the issue. In his address, Prof Anu Mohammad, general secretary of the committee said that the underground asset belongs to people who will decide their fate.

Among others, Prof Anu Mohammad, Engineer Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah and Haider Akbar Khan Rano of Workers' Party, Zunayed Shaki, Gano Sanghati Andolon, Prof Samsul Alam (member), Tipur Biswas of Gano Front and Advocate Abdus Salam spoke.

Earlier, the committee leaders held a press conference at 'Media House' in Nilphamari on Thursday, said our district correspondent. They said the countrymen won't not allow any amendment in proposed coal policy.

They said for coal extraction, the principle of utilisng mineral resources for betterment of people, not for making profit, should be followed. The coal also should be extracted by national organisations, they said.

Chaired by Sreedam Das, convener of the district unit of the committee, the press conference was addressed by Engineer Sheikh Muhammad Sahidullah, Prof Anu Mohammad and Noor Mohammad.

They said 'Asia Energy' is spreading corruption in order to establish their 'devastating' plan as a development project. They said the expert committee formed earlier termed the development plan of 'Asia Energy' as illegal and their project against the national interest. Prof Anu Mohammad alleged 'Asia Energy' is trying to divide public opinion by making some agents.

Phulbari bed reserves at least 572 million tonnes of coal. If Bangladesh Government signs any deal with a company then coal extraction will last for 30 years where about 50,000 people will be relocated, according to officials of Asia Energy.