Phulbari people use ballot to say no to open-pit mining

NewAge, January 24, 2009

The people of Phulbari upazila in Dinajpur have elected an independent candidate as chairman who wooed the voters through a campaign against the proposed open-pit mining in the Phulbari coal field as it would displace thousands of people.

Aminul Islam Bablu, a leader of rights group National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port, became chairman of the upazila in Thursday’s election bagging 57,262 votes against his nearest rival, Bangladesh Awami League-backed Sudarshan Palit’s 24,791 votes.

Bablu, who has been actively involved in the movements against Asia Energy’s proposed open pit mining in Phulbari coal field, during his polls campaign vowed that he, along with the people of the upazila, would resist any attempt to operate open-pit mining displacing their homes.

‘My position will remain the same. I will continue to remain with the slogan of the upazila people “no open-pit mining, no foreigners and no export [of coal]”,’ Bablu told New Age on Friday.

The election campaign of Bablu got momentum when people of all walks of life participated in the campaign, despite intimidation by activists of the AL-backed candidate. Even people, from beggars to school teachers, willingly gave donation to Bablu’s election campaign, according to the local people.

Professor Anu Muhammad, member secretary of the national committee, told New Age that the people’s verdict in favour of Bablu again showed Phulbari people do not want open-pit mining in the area.

‘Many people claimed that only people from outside of Phulbari are against the open-pit mining. I think the people of Phulbari have replied,’ he said.

Three people were killed and many others were injured in Phulbari in 2006 when law enforcers opened fire on people who were protesting against the proposed open-pit mining by the UK-based Asia Energy.

The then government signed a contract with the national committee that spearheaded the movement to oust the company from Bangladesh but the company is still active in the country.

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