Saturday, May 23, 2009

Compensation for Barapukuria Subsidence: Miners, villagers strike deal

Sharier Khan, The Daily Star, May 23, 2009

Representatives of villagers affected by land subsidence caused by coal mining in Barapukuria have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Barapukuria Coal Mine Company Ltd (BCMCL) for compensation and cooperation.

The BCMCL will pay compensation for loss of land at a premium price to around 2,400 affected people of seven villages around the mine, according to the MoU signed earlier last week.

The price of land may be fixed on the basis of that offered to affected people in Maowa for the Padma bridge project in the past years, and also taking into account inflation rate up to 2009. The price may be fixed also on the basis of the highest price of land in the affected Barapukuria area, or the higher price between these two options.

And the villagers will help the authorities ensure law and order in the mining area. The villagers however said if payment of compensation is delayed, it might not be possible for them to help maintain law and order.

Meanwhile, law and order has become an issue of concern for the mine authorities as some outsiders are fuelling conflicts among mine workers, the mine's Chinese operators and BCMCL officials and staffs.

“We have found that certain people of Phulbari have launched a negative campaign against Barapukuria mine. Their instigation caused anarchy in the mine earlier this month. They want the mine to be shut down, and they have other agenda in this region,” said an official.

Bangladesh imports poor quality coal from India worth more than Tk 2,500 crore every year. Many officials suspect that the importers may contribute to the negative campaign against coal mining in the country.

After the 'successful' movement in Phulbari four years back, this group of people is fuelling a negative campaign in Barapukuria for the last one year as land subsidence became quite visible in several areas, officials said.

As the government's mining project overlooked subsidence and compensation issues when it was approved in the early nineties, the negative campaign influenced the villagers and workers, they noted.

But the present Awami League government responded to this situation in late January. A committee was formed to look into the subsidence issue and recommend how to compensate the affected people.

The MoU signed on May 14-15 by BCMCL officials and affected people is the first step to solve people's negative impression about coal mining.

As per the MoU, both the sidess agreed on appointing a Property Valuation Advisory Team (PVAT) comprised of advisers and representatives of Dinajpur district administration. This team would specifically recommend compensation for crop land, commercial and domestic space and housing structures, livestock, school, college, religious structure, graveyard, forestry, road, canal, pond, Eidgah, bridges, electric poles, shallow or deep tubewells etc.

The BCMCL had proposed relocation of the families whose houses have developed serious cracks. But the villagers sought compensation and repair of their houses. The BCMCL will construct eight to 10 tin sheds in the high-risk area of Moupukur village.

They agreed on developing a mining city.

The affected people would be helped to form a cooperative and allowed to run modern fisheries in the subsided area. As the land would subside further, this could be converted into an attractive tourist spot, which would contribute to local development in future, sources.

The BCMCL would relax its rules to give priority to the affected people in offering jobs at the mine.