Phulbari Coal Project: critique of environment plans sets off alarms

UK-based GCM Resources’ ESIA of Bangladesh coal mine offers no comfort

Bank Information Center, 11 December 2008 | Washington, DC

The Phulbari Coal Project threatens numerous dangers and potential damages, ranging from the degradation of a major agricultural region in Bangladesh to pollution of the world’s largest wetlands. The project’s Summary Environmental Impact Assessment, and its full Environmental and Social Impact Assessment are replete with vague assurances, issuing many promises of future mitigation measures.

A report commissioned by Bank Information Center titled “Phulbari Coal: A Parlous Project” written by Roger Moody of Nostromo Research, UK makes the case that the integrated Phulbari coal mine, coal rail-river transport and coastal coal offloading project in Bangladesh is of such dimensions that it would prove highly challenging to implement in any country. It poses not only numerous socio-environmental problems, but also demands a highly sophisticated degree of regulatory adhesion, long-term monitoring and component implementation. The Asian Development Bank, which was actively considering funding the project until civil society organizations drew attention to its ill-prepared environment and social plans, would do well to support the development of a less controversial energy alternative for the country. 

BIC’s objective in commissioning this report was to provide Bangladeshi and international civil society organizations with user friendly expert critiques of the environmental and social assessments prepared by GCM/Asia Energy.  A critique of GCM/Asia Energy’s Involuntary Resettlement Plan for the Project was also commissioned by BIC and is publicly available on its website.

Summary of key points of Report:

  1. The Phulbari Coal Project threatens numerous dangers and potential damages.  These include the degradation of a major agricultural region in Bangladesh at a time of soaring food prices; pollution of the world’s largest wetlands; and a significant contribution to adverse global climate change.
  2. The project’s Environmental and Social Impact Assessment is full of vague assurances. It makes many promises of future mitigation measures that are inadequately defined and will almost certainly not be thoroughly implemented.
  3. The managing company, GCM Resources plc (Asia Energy), clearly has insufficient practical experience of a project of this magnitude.
  4. Both the “Precautionary Principle” and that of “Inter-generational Equity” will be severely compromised if the mine proceeds according to its present design. 
  5. The mine will profoundly affect both the quantity and quality of water available in the area of the mine footprint. 
  6. The likelihood of uncontrolled acid rock drainage has – by the project proponents own admission – not been adequately assessed; nor has the risk of a serious seismic event in the mine area.
  7. The project will cause a significant increase in emissions of airborne particulate matter with a direct impact on peoples’ health
  8. There is little evidence that project managers have the capacity to ensure that  proposed rehabilitation measures will actually work


Phulbari: A Parlous Project, prepared by Nostromo Research, November 12, 2008 (Acrobat pdf, 368 KB)


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