Friday, March 13, 2009

Barapukuria Coal Mine: Committee for acquiring 3.5 sq km area

Staff Correspondent, NewAge, March 13, 2009

The committee, formed to assess compensation for the affected people at Barapukuria coal field in Dinajpur, is likely to recommend acquiring around 3-3.5 square kilometres of area for coal mining by resettling people so that land subsidence does not affect them.

An inter-ministerial meeting, headed by the prime minister’s adviser, Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, on March 3 directed the seven-member committee to prepare a complete package programme for compensating people affected by land subsidence at the coal mine area and for future course of action including acquiring of land.
 The meeting also asked the committee to review the land acquiring procedures for Jamuna Bridge and proposed Padma bridge.

‘There is no other option for the government but to acquire 3-3.5 square kilometre area as land subsidence at Barapukuria coal mine area will continue if the government continues underground mining. Besides, the land acquiring will also be required if the government goes for open pit mining in future,’ said a source in the seven member-committee.

Affected people at Barapukuria have become agitated in recent times as huge land subsidence took place at 300 acres of land and subsequently many houses developed cracks in five villages.

‘It is obvious that there will be more land subsidence because of the underground mining. If people continue to live in the mining areas they might be at great risk because of subsidence and there might be protest,’ said the source.

He said that the people in the areas needed to be resettled with the payment of an international standard compensation to them.

The committee, headed by a joint-secretary of the energy division, however, is finding it difficult to assess the compensation for the affected and resettle them as huge field works were needed to do it. The committee was asked to submit its report in 10days.

‘All the committee members are government officials and they have their works at their respective organisations. It will entail an enormous work to determine the compensation for the people of the five villages. Moreover, people should be interviewed to know what they want,’ said a committee source.

The committee is likely to recommend a guideline for the government to appoint experts or surveyors to determine what the people in the area want.

‘Before assessing the compensation package, finding the actual number of people living in the area, and determination of the amount of arable and residential land, the number of houses, trees and the cost of crops are crucial. Besides, peoples’ views should be taken on where they want to go and what they want to do after relocation,’ said the source.

The committee members, however, could not confirm when they would submit the report to the government.

The Barapukuria coal field has a reserve of around 389 million tonnes and the authorities will extract 10-20 per cent coal from the underground mine in 30 years. The government, however, may go for the controversial open-pit mining method at the field.