Energy division likely to review draft coal policy

January 24, 2008
NewAge, January 24, 2008. Dhaka, Bangladesh

The energy and mineral resources division is likely to review the draft coal policy submitted by the advisory committee the government formed to finalise the draft before sending it to the council of advisers for approval. ‘The draft at this moment is not in the form of a policy; it is now rather in the shape of a manual. We will need to give it a form of policy. We will do it after a consensus is reached by all concerned on issues such as how the mining method will be fixed,’ special assistant to the chief adviser M Tamim told reporters on Wednesday.The chief adviser’s special assistant on the power and energy ministry said the division would take about 15 days to thoroughly scrutinise the contents of the draft.’We will then look into whether there are any contradicting and confusing matters in the draft. If we do not find any, we will be happy. If necessary we will again discuss with the advisory committee members the recommendations they put forward for a consensus,’ said Tamim.He said the broader objective of the policy would be optimum, and not maximum, production of coal. ‘For optimum production of coal, environmental and social issues will also be strongly considered.’The advisory committee, headed by the former BUET vice-chancellor, Abdul Matin Patwari, recently submitted the draft coal policy to the energy division after bringing about some changes in the earlier version of the draft.The committee recommended discouraging coal export, operating one open-pit mine to examine the viability of the method, awarding exploration and mining licences to state-run entities that could form joint ventures with foreign or private companies and establishing a separate entity, Coal Bangla, for the development of the coal sector.When asked whether any move to change the latest draft would create further controversy, Tamim said, ‘Whatever we do, we will do it on a consensus and based on reasons. We will need to create the premise where there should be no differences of opinion on the finalisation of the draft.’Tamim said everyone would agree that coal extraction is a must for electricity generation. ‘Then the question of how, when and how much coal could be extracted will come up. The demand for coal will dictate the issues.’He said the mining method would be mine-specific and the mining engineers or geologists would fix the mining method. ‘One should not dictate technology out of political ambition.’Tamim said every mining method has its adverse affects. ‘We will need to mitigate or minimise the affects to a tolerable level whatever the method we follow.’It is an engineering decision. The main thing is that whatever we do we will need to safeguard the interest of the country.’

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Interview with Walden Bello: There Must Be a U-turn to Create Healthy Domestic Markets

January 21, 2008
Interview with Dr. Walden Bello, executive director of Focus on the Global South HALIFAX, Canada, Jan 15 (IPS) – In 1992, Dr. Walden Bello issued a macro-economic warning about the so-called Asian miracle in his book “Dragons in Distress”. Six years later, the Asian financial crisis Bello predicted swept the region, throwing millions into poverty.Born in the Philippines in 1945, Dr. Bello is the author of more than 10 books, including “People and Power in the Pacific” (1992), “Dark Victory: The United States and Global Poverty” (1999), “Global Finance: Thinking on regulating speculative capital markets” (2000) and “The Future in the Balance: Essays on globalisation and resistance” (2001).After receiving a Ph.D from Princeton, he was arrested several times in the United States, peacefully protesting the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship in his home country. Bello is the executive director of Focus on the Global South and a visiting professor in Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles. Dr. Walden Bello spoke by phone from the Philippines with IPS Canada correspondent Chris Arsenault. IPS: There seems to be consensus among economists that globalisation, as practiced by the Bretton Woods institutions, leads to greater income inequality but also to significant GDP growth. As one of Asia’s leading critics of the Bretton Woods model, don’t you feel that growth is necessary to pull people out of poverty, even if inequality is an initial byproduct? Bello: I think that when you aggregate it, in the number of countries where there has been significant GDP growth, on balance, there has been an absolute reduction in poverty. Certainly in the cases of Vietnam and China, there has been an absolute decrease in poverty. However, certain social groups, especially in the rural areas, and lower-class groups in the cities, have gone into even greater poverty. In all countries in South East Asia and East Asia, you have greater inequality in income distribution. In practical terms, a great imbalance has grown between the cities and the countryside; people in the countryside have lost in absolute and relative terms compared to the city. Furthermore, we have had tremendous rates of environmental destruction. The gains in terms of poverty reduction have been counterbalanced by these other trends. I am speaking only about East Asia in this regard; the other caveat I would say in regards to Vietnam is that Vietnam has done a better job in containing these contradictions compared to countries like China. IPS: You have written that, “in the Third World the pendulum has swung so far in the direction of export-oriented production, that it does need to be corrected back towards the domestic market — the balance between the two has been lost in the drive to internationalise our economies.” Is this really true? A lot of economists think the expansion of China’s domestic consumer purchasing power will keep that country’s manufacturing base strong even if its export markets, like the United States, are faced with a recession. Do you think domestic markets in East Asia will be able to absorb current levels of economic activity? Bello: There are certain groups who have gained in income, including the emerging sectors in the cities, especially the coastal cities. To some extent, they act as a supplement to export-orientated production. The driving force is still export markets. To maintain that export edge, you have to be able to keep down your labour costs. Keeping down labour costs continues to be the main factor limiting domestic consumption growth. In China, raising the incomes of people is in severe contradiction with the demand of low wages to continue turning out cheap commodities. There has to be a very significant u-turn to create healthy domestic markets. This turn can only happen with significant measures to redistribute income, to redistribute welfare. This isn’t going to happen so long as you have your eye on being competitive in export markets. IPS: According to the environmental monitoring group the Worldwatch Institute, China now boasts 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities. What rate of economic growth would be a good balance between pulling people out of poverty and having some degree of environmental sustainability? Bello: I want to say very strongly that we have to focus on a new paradigm of environmental sustainability. I am not talking about achieving 6-10 percent GDP growth, and just changing the driver from export markets to the domestic economy. I am talking about a whole reorientation. I am really thinking about bringing growth rates, as measured in the traditional way, down to 2-3 percent. You can only do that with significant redistribution of the benefits of growth, so as to fulfill a large number of social demands with a relatively low growth rate. My sense is that, so long as you have good government policies that support equitable distribution, you can achieve higher standards of living, even with growth rates that are not high in traditional terms. Certainly, the kind of 10 percent growth that China has been enjoying is out of the question; even 6-8 percent growth is out. IPS: One position paper from your organisation, Focus on the Global South, touts ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, as a possible regional integration model that might work in South East Asia and other regions. Do you think ALBA would even be possible without large amounts of Venezuelan oil and the petro-dollars that come with it? Basing a regional development strategy around crude oil exports to the U.S. isn’t necessarily the most sustainable practice. Bello: The principles of ALBA, not necessary the wealth base, are what need to be reproduced; not everyone has those petro-dollars and environmentally it’s questionable as a long-run strategy.The less powerful economies should have greater privileges than the more powerful economies, so regional cooperation increases their [lower income countries’] capacity rather than eroding it. ALBA focuses on building a regional market based on import substitution and technology sharing.Certainly there are things that aren’t present in ALBA at the present time that would also be important to reproduce in other regional associations. The lesson we should be taking from ALBA is the move away from free trade towards genuine economic cooperation. IPS: Currently, most observers agree that China is not in a colonial relationship with other smaller and weaker nations in South East Asia. However, China is on track to displace the United States as the world’s largest economy by 2050 and some worry that China could become a metropolis gaining markets and raw materials from a South East Asian hinterland. Do you think China is on course to becoming a neo-colonial power? Bello: Definitely, unless there is more real planning, setting firm the principles of mutual and equitable relationships, on the part of China in terms of its relations with other countries. China needs to create standards and policies for its transnational corporations operating abroad. Unless these things happen, the old colonial relationship could be reproduced. There is tremendous demand in China for raw materials and a whole bunch of other things; China has the capital to export. The structural drives for a new periphery- metropolis are there; they need to be countered by policies, strong counteractive state policies from China. We have the opportunity at this point to have new relations between developing countries and China that do not reproduce the old colonial relationship. But we have to act soon.

International Civil Society Letter to Asian Development Bank (ADB): Discontinue Support to Phulbari Coal Project!

January 14, 2008

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January 11, 2008

 

The ADB Board of Directors

Asian Development Bank

P.O. Box 7890980

Manila, Philippines

 

RE: PHULBARI COAL PROJECT (BAN 39933-01)

Dear Director:

 

We, the undersigned organizations, are writing with regard to ADB’s proposed Phulbari Coal Project (BAN 39933-01), which is scheduled for approval by the ADB Board on 27 March 2008.  We believe the Phulbari Coal Project is in violation of the ADB Energy Policy (1995), Indigenous Peoples Policy (1998), Involuntary Resettlement Policy (1995), Environment Policy (2002), and Public Communication Policy (2005).

 

The current political situation in Bangladesh does not allow freedom of speech and assembly in the region.  The project is fiercely opposed by the people of the region in the four sub-districts of Birampur, Nawabganj, Parbatipur, and Phulbari; yet public documents approved by the ADB continue to state that there is community support.  The non-transparent and unaccountable processes at the project planning stage have made us deeply concerned about the capacity of the ADB, its proposed private sector partner Global Coal Management/Asia Energy PLC, and local authorities to adequately and justly prepare for and deliver on social and environmental aspects of this project.

 

We therefore urge you to discontinue ADB’s pre-appraisal due diligence on this Project and take it out of the funding pipeline due to the following issues:

 

1)    Violation of ADB Energy Policy (1995)

The Summary Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) of the Phulbari project (dated August 2006 and posted on ADB website on August 16, 2006) mentions that “At full production, about 8 million tonnes will be exported by rail and barges to an offshore reloading facility at Akram Point for export to international markets, some 4 million tonnes will be exported to India via railway, and the remaining 3 million tonnes will be used for a proposed mine-site 500 MW power plant and sold for domestic use”(SEIA , page 2).

 

Paragraph 86 (ix) of ADB Energy Policy states (excerpts highlighted) that “Coal is the primary energy source in the Bank’s largest DMCs and its use is a major cause of environmental degradation. The Bank should actively promote environmentally sound mining practices and clean coal technologies. As coal is an increasingly internationally traded commodity, the Bank should not directly finance coal mine development except where it is for captive use by a thermal power plant, and economically superior to other coal supply options.”

 

We submit that the premise of the ADB Energy Policy is to only approve financing of mine-mouth projects.  Phulbari is clearly not a “captive use” mine-mouth project as the majority (almost 80%) of the coal is intended for export to India and international markets. Since the ADB Energy Policy has to apply in its entirety to the full Project –- and not merely to sub-projects in a piece meal fashion — it is our view that Phulbari Coal Project stands in violation of the ADB Energy Policy.   We are thus surprised that ADB Management cleared the concept paper for this project in October 2005 and continues to conduct “due diligence” on this project when it so clearly violates an existing Board approved policy.

 

2) Massive Displacement, Loss of Livelihoods and Basic Services

According to ADB management, Phulbari Coal Project would create approximately 50,000 affected people (12,000 affected households, including 2,200 indigenous peoples) in the project area, out of which 43,000 people will be physically displaced.[1]  According to the December 2006 version of the Resettlement Plan for the Coal Mine Area of the Phulbari Coal Project prepared by Asia Energy PLC, compensation would be provided to legal owners of land and houses, and other socially recognized agricultural land users and sharecroppers would receive livelihood restoration grants for a period of two years.

 

However, the Expert Committee formed by the Government of Bangladesh to evaluate Asia Energy’s project documents found that 129,417 persons will be directly affected by the project and 220,000 persons will be indirectly affected due to the de-watering of the mine area and because the primary source of water in this area is tubewells.[2]

 

In addition to displacement, severe loss of livelihoods will result as the land proposed for the project is one of the most fertile and populated areas in a country that is prone to chronic water-logging and where much of the land is uncultivable for many months of the year.  The recent cyclone clearly demonstrates the true value of such land for food security and habitation for the entire country.  Out of the total land proposed for the Phulbari open-pit mine, 78% is agricultural land and there is limited possibility for land rehabilitation. The majority of affected people will not be employed by the mine and projections of multiplier effects of such an operation are based on spurious grounds.  Thus the impoverishment of thousands is a likely scenario.  Given the sheer magnitude of affected people, wide spread opposition and social unrest is likely to remain an ongoing reality of this project.

 

3) Environmental Degradation

The Project will have severe environmental consequences.  First, no practical ground level tests appear to have been conducted on the actual impact of dewatering in the mining area and thus long term impacts of such a procedure on desertification in the area remain highly uncertain.  The Expert Committee Report indicates that arsenic contamination of water could be a real possibility during and after the mine life of 30-35 years given the depth of the coal extraction (656-1028 ft).  Asia Energy PLC documents suggest that land will be filled after extraction and the company will leave a freshwater lake at the end of the mine life.  However, environmental experts maintain that neither the land (dredged and rehabilitated) nor the ensuing “lake” will be conducive to agriculture or other  activities such as fisheries given the toxicity level of both.  The depletion of groundwater will impact approximately 314 sq km.  Though Asia Energy claims that it will re-inject water in the area, its discussion on this issue is based on speculative hydrological and climactic projections.[3] 

 

Second, the main coal off-loading facility will be at Akram Point, a deep water anchorage site situated within the Sundarbans Reserve Forest. The Sundarbans are a World Heritage Site given its biodiversity and marine habitat. Equally disturbing is the admission in the SEIA that shipping channels “…will pass at least 1.5 km from these protected areas” (SEIA, page 7). Moreover, preventive measures suggested in the SEIA deals inadequately with rail and river accidents frequently associated with mining activity of this scale, not to mention response to sudden large scale natural disasters as Bangladesh has recently witnessed. 

 

Finally, though the ADB continues to maintain that the EIA and SIA “have been carried out to a very high international standard by the sponsor”[4]both the EIA and the SIA have been commissioned by the same company which wishes to extract the coal; hence, serious conflict of interest issues remain endemic in the project.  This is especially so given that Asia Energy’s leadership is dubious and it has no pre-existing record of operating a coal mine.[5]

 

4) Human Rights violations

On 26 August 2006, around 20,000 local residents participated in a large peaceful gathering to protest the displacement of the large number of people to give way to the project. Regretfully, the Bangladesh Rifles opened fire on the demonstrators. Three people from the Phulbari area were killed, one paralyzed and over a 100 people were injured in the horrifying incident.  Moreover, in February 2007, Mr. SM Nuruzzaman, one of the local leaders of the Phulbari campaign, was detained and tortured.[6]

 

Based on local reports, intimidation of local community members continues, preventing them from openly gathering in groups and voicing concerns regarding this project.  However, ADB management continues to publicly support the project.  And ADB documents continue to maintain: “The entire process has been underpinned by free, prior, and informed consultations with stakeholders, including local communities, NGOs, various levels of government, inter-ministerial committees, and outside stakeholders. Public consultation has been and remains a continuous process.”[7] This is particularly disturbing given the conflicting reports from community members themselves (see Disclosure section below).

 

5) Indigenous Peoples Policy

The affected indigenous peoples of the Munda, Santal and Mahili ethnic groups have been farmers and agricultural laborers in the region for generations. The draft Indigenous People’s Development Plan (page 47) for the Phulbari project proposes indigenous families into resettlement sites with only 1/8 hectare of land per household or cash compensation for resettlement.  The resettlement sites are in areas already densely populated, with little scope to obtain alternative agricultural land and labor opportunities. It is also unlikely that they will be able to purchase land of equal productive capacity from the non-indigenous population given limited compensation offered and existing land scarcity.  The project violates ADB IP Policy with regard to consultations with these groups and given the unlikelihood of these groups to sustain their way of life under the resettlement options suggested.

 

6) Violation of the Public Communications Policy

Many local elders claim that Asia Energy Corporation has only informed prospective affectee communities of the benefits of the project, and not explained the negative impacts it may cause the environment and the local communities. They also claim that they have never received nor been consulted on any key documents, e.g. environmental impact assessment, draft resettlement plan and draft indigenous peoples development plan, among others. The chairman of the Phulbari Municipality and elected commissioners of Phulbari have demanded that Asia Energy Corporation provide them key project documents, but to no avail.  Asia Energy’s information on its Bangla website reads more like public relations documents.  Moreover, even Global Coal Management’s site no longer contains the English versions of the draft EIA, Involuntary Resettlement Plan and Indigenous People’s Plan as suggested by ADB staff.

 

Asia Energy’s Public Communication and Development Plan (PCDP) cites that 74.1% of those surveyed between February and August 2005 felt that they would support the project if there was proper compensation; however, this survey was conducted while Asia Energy gave limited information about what the project would entail.  The Expert Committee Report states that names of certain officials were listed in consultations where they were actually not present.  The President of the Expert Committee Report, Professor Md. Nurul Islam was one of them.  There are several such examples of misinformation.

 

Committee members found out that Asia Energy surveyors wrote down information and opinions of the local people in pencil while the form was written in English…local population are therefore suspicious about whether their opinion against the coalmine has been accurately reported by the surveyors…during the field visit and consultation with the local people the Committee members felt that the impression given in the [Asia Energy Feasibility Report] is far from accurate.  The majority of the local community with whom the Bangladesh Government’s Expert Committee exchanged views was against the Phulbari coal project” (See Expert Committee Report).

 

Conclusion

Asia Energy’s Public Information Center was shut down after the killings in August 2006; the Bangladesh Government also signed an agreement with community members that the company would not return to the Phulbari area.  We recognize that the current interim government under the state of emergency disregards this agreement; however, the agreement attests to the sheer lack of community support behind this project.

 

The project violates ADB social and environmental policies and its Public Communication Policy.  And given the explicit human rights violations associated and anticipated with this project, we respectfully ask you to take leadership, and ensure that the Asian Development Bank discontinues its involvement in the Phulbari Coal Project. Please note that this letter supports the letter (attached) sent to you by Community members of Phulbari and other Bangladeshi citizens, dated December 15, 2007.

 

Sincerely yours,

 

1. Hemantha Withanage            NGO Forum on ADB

2. Bruce Jenkins                        Bank Information Center (USA)

3. Muhammad Riza                   Yayasan Duta Awan – Solo (Indonesia)

4. Violeta Corral                       Public Services International Research Unit – Asia Desk

5. Le Van Lan                            Center for Rural Development in Central Vietnam (Vietnam)

6. Souparna Lahiri                      National Forum of Forest People & Forest Workers (India)

7. Jiten Yumnam                        Citizens Concern for Dams and Development (NE India)

8. Gururaja Budhya                    Urban Research Centre (India)

9. Nang Shining                         Images Asia Environment Desk (Thailand)

10. Jessica Rosien                      Oxfam Australia

11. Flint Duxfield                       Aid/Watch (Australia)

12. Joanna Levitt                        International Accountability Project (USA)

13. Dilena Patharagoda             Sri Lankan Working Group on Trade and IFIs (Sri Lanka)

14. Ravindranath Dabre            Centre for Environmental Justice (Sri Lanka)

15. Suranjan Kodithuwakku-      Sri Lanka Green Movement (Sri Lanka)

16. Dang Ngoc Quang                Rural Development Services Centre (Vietnam)

17. Titi Soentoro                       NADI (Indonesia)

18. Prof. Sanjai Bhatt               University of Delhi (India)

19. Prajeena Karmacharya          Rural Reconstruction Nepal / South Asia Alliance for Poverty

Eradication (Nepal)

20. Sergei Vorsin                      Eco Centre (Tajikistan)

21. A. Ercelan                          Creed Alliance (Pakistan)

22. M. Nauman                         Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research (Pakistan)

23. Mahar Safdar Ali                 Anjuman Asiaye Awam (Pakistan) 

24. Azhar Lashari                      ActionAid – Pakistan

25. Philip Gain                         Society for Environment and Human Development (Bangladesh)

26. Fabby Tumiwa                    Institute for Essential Services Reform (Indonesia)

27. Srinivas Krishnaswamy-          Greenpeace India

28. Ahmed Swapan                   VOICE (Bangladesh)

29. Svetlana Spatar                  The Ecological Society Green Salvation (Kazakhstan)

30. Zakir Kibria                        Bangla Praxis (Bangladesh)

31. Anna Dreyzina                    Oil Workers Rights Protection Organization Public Union

(Azerbaijan)

32. Shailendra Yashwant            Greenpeace Southeast Asia

33. Sushovan Dhar                      Vikas Adhyayan Kendra (India)

34. Prabin Man Singh                Collective Initiative for Research and Action (Nepal)

35. Naing Htoo                         EarthRights International

36. Rustam Murzakhanov            Researcher of Environmental Law Center “Armon” (Uzbekistan)

37. Isagani Serrano                   Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (Philippines)

38. Ram Wangkheirakpam-         North East Peoples Alliance on Trade, Finance and Development

(NE India)

39. Nursaule Umbetova             Ecological-Lawful Initiative Center ”Globus” (Kazakhstan)

40. Parviz Umarov                     Center for Development of Civil Society (Tajikistan)

41. Shynar Izteulouva                NGO “TAN” (Kazakhstan)

42. Pieter Jansen                      Both ENDS (The Netherlands)

43. Grainne Ryder                    Energy Probe Research Foundation (Canada)

44. Bruce Rich                          Environmental Defense (USA)

45. Ashish Fernandes                 Greenpeace India

46. Soile Koskinen                     A SEED Europe (The Netherlands)

47. Isabel de la Torre               Earth Economics (USA)

48. Jim Enright                         Mangrove Action Project (Thailand)

49. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho                  Institute of Science in Society (UK)

50. Paula Palmer                       Global Response (USA)

51. Jennifer Scarlott                 International Conservation Initiatives Sanctuary Asia (USA)

52. Helen Leake                        Forest Peoples Programme (UK)

53. Dr. Andreas Missbach            Berne Declaration (Switzerland)

54. Dr. Poonam Pande

55. Yuki Tanabe                         Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society

56. Knud Vocking                        Urgewald (Germany)

57. Suzanna Dennis                   Gender Action (USA)

58. Peter Fugazzotto                Oceans and Communities (USA)

59. Sébastien Godinot               Les Amis de la Terre (France)

60. Saodat Saidnazarova            CSSC “Kalam” (Tajikistan)

61. Tom Kucharz                       Ecologistas en Acción (Spain)

62. Jenina Joy Chavez               Focus on the Global South (Philippines)

63. Shalmali Guttal                   Focus on the Global South (Thailand)

64. Longgena Ginting  –              Friends of the Earth International

Cc:

Board of Directors, ADB

Haruhiko Kuroda, President, ADB

Liqun Jin, Vice President (Operations 1), ADB

Kunio Senga, Director General, South Asia Regional Department, ADB

Robert Bestani, Director General, PSOD, ADB

Hua Du, Country Director, Bangladesh Resident Mission, ADB.

Mats Elerud, Senior Investment Specialist, PSOD, Asian Development Bank

Bart Edes, Head, NGO Center, ADB


[1] As per Asia Energy’s Draft Resettlement Plan dated December 2006; SEIA suggests 40,000 people will be physically displaced.

[2] Report of the Expert Committee to Evaluate Feasibility Study Report and Scheme Development of the Phulbari Coal Project, pg 47. The report is in Bangla but a summary translation can be provided to you.

[3] See R. Moody, “Bangla Nagar: August 26, 2006” 28 August 2006

[4] Response from ADB President Kuroda to Civil Society Organizations about the Phulbari Coal Mine; July 23, 2007, mimeo

[7] See SEIA, para 280


Documentary film: The Blood Soaked Banner of Phulbari

January 9, 2008

  


Residents of Phulbari apprehensive of coal policy

January 9, 2008

NewAge, January 9, 2008. Dhaka, Bangladesh Residents of Phulbari said the interim government was ignoring the sentiments of the locals and betraying the spirit of their movement which led to an agreement in 2006 even as the government goes about preparing a coal policy.
   Although the draft coal policy being considered by the government prohibits exports, it does however allow open-pit mining as a pilot project, which according to insiders could well be the Phulbari coal mine.
   ‘I will fight again if people come here for open pit mining. It is a question of uprooting us from the birthplace of our forefathers,’ said Bablu Roy a rickshaw van driver, who had been critically injured and crippled for life. Bablu had been at the Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed for almost a year.
   He said open pit mining would destroy the livelihoods of thousands in the area as it would destroy arable land. Bablu said, ‘Such destructive projects must be resisted and sent packing.’
   ‘While we expected that the government would abandon this project it is rather making ways for the British mining company to destroy our locality uprooting us,’ said Hafizul a grocery shop owner at Phulbari, a sub-district in Dinajpur.
   Manik Sarker, general secretary of the Phulbari Merchants Association, said it was an anti-people act of the government to advance a national coal policy unilaterally. ‘The government has not consulted with at least the inhabitants and probable victims of mine areas.’
   Manik who led protesters in Phulbari in August 2006, vowed to initiate movements against open pit mining if the government allowed it.
   ‘Although it has not dared to come back to Phulbari, Asia Energy remains active,’ said Manik. Several others, along with Manik were disturbed to find out that Asia Energy had begun media propaganda in favour of open pit mining.
   In end-August 2006 Phulbari saw a people’s movement protesting against a planned open-pit mine that would affect at least 17,000 hectares across four sub-districts displacing at least 3,50,000 people.
   Three persons died in police firing on the day while hundreds were injured among a crowd of some 50,000 people. Several days of continued unrest and demonstration by the locals followed, bringing the small town to a halt blocking a major highway that passes through it.
   The government eventually signed an agreement with the people on August 30 pledging to withdraw Asia Energy, the British mining company, and prohibit open pit mining in Bangladesh.


Draft coal policy finalised, handed over to Energy Division

January 9, 2008

NewAge, January 9, 2008. Dhaka, Bangladesh 

The advisory committee for finalising the draft coal policy on Tuesday submitted the policy to the Energy Division.
   

The committee convenor, former vice-chancellor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology Abdul Matin Patwari handed over the finalised draft to the energy secretary, Mohammad Mohsin.
   It discourages coal export and recommends awarding coal exploration and development licence to a state-run entity that can go for joint venture with private-sector companies of home and abroad through competitive bidding, mandatory installation of power plants at mine entrances, setting up an open-pit coal mine as a test case, and forming a coal sector development committee to set the rate of royalty on the extracted coal time to time.
   Other members of the committee and Energy Division officials were present on the occasion. Abdul Matin told them that the committee finalised the draft by consensus of all the members, which was an impressive feat by its own right.
   The Energy Division will now examine the recommendations made by the committee in the draft coal policy, before sending it to the council of advisers for approval, the energy secretary told New Age.
   The members of the committee are the University Grants Commission chairman Professor Nazrul Islam, BUET Professor Nurul Islam, Dhaka University Professor Badrul Imam, Bangla-desh Army’s engineer-in-chief Major General Ismail Faruque Chowdhury, senior journalist Ataus Samad, Centre for Policy Dialogue executive director Mustafizur Rahman, Petrobangla director Maqbul-E-Elahi and former director Ehsanullah, and Infrastructure Investment Facilita-tion Centre executive director Nazrul Islam.


Advisory committee submits coal policy to government today: policy forbids coal export but allows open-pit mining as test case

January 8, 2008

NewAge, January 8, 2008. Dhaka, Bangladesh The high-powered advisory committee, formed to finalise the coal policy, will today submit to the government the coal policy that discourages coal export. Most of the members of the committee, headed by the former BUET vice-chancellor Professor Abdul Matin Patwari, signed the finalised draft coal policy and the committee’s report on Monday evening. The rest of the members, who were outside Dhaka, will sign the document today before the committee submits the draft to energy adviser Tapan Chowdhury.
 The committee finalised the much-talked-about draft coal policy in 21 meetings, some of which were 12 hours long, that started from the last week of July last year after taking the opinions of people of all walks of life.
    Officials said that if the Energy Division approved the finalised draft, it would be sent to the law ministry for vetting before being sent to the council of advisers for the final approval.
    The BNP-Jamaat government took the initiative to formulate the coal policy in 2005 as it realised that the country’s gas reserves were being depleted fast and coal was the only other important energy source. Besides, a number of foreign companies showed considerable interest in developing the coal-fields.
    But the then government could not finalise the draft because of severe criticism by different quarters of the first few versions of the draft that allowed coal export and the environmentally destructive open-pit mining.
    The interim government formed the advisory committee to finalise the draft and made respected professionals its members, apparently to avert criticism.
    The finalised draft discourages coal export as the country does not have adequate coal and gas reserves to meet its own demand.
    The policy recommends awarding coal exploration and development licence to a state-run entity that can go for joint venture with local private-sector and foreign companies through competitive bidding and mandatory installation of power plants at mine entrances.
    The policy recommends one attempt at open-pit coal mining as a test case, and is forming a coal sector development committee to set the royalty rate on extracted coal from time to time. It says a holding company titled ‘Coal Bangla’ will be formed which, along with other government entities like Petrobangla, will also get coal-field exploration and development licences.
    The members of the committee are University Grants Commission’s chairman Professor Nazrul Islam, BUET’s Professor Nurul Islam, Dhaka University’s Professor Badrul Imam, Bangladesh Army’s engineer-in-chief Major General Ismail Faruque Chowdhury, senior journalist Ataus Samad, Centre for Policy Dialogue’s executive director Mustafizur Rahman, Petrobangla’s director Maqbul-E-Elahi, Petrobangla’s former director Ehsanullah and IIFC’s executive director Nazrul Islam.