Action to Shut Down GCM Resources plc.

When? 10:30am to 1pm on Thursday 15 December

Where? 4 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7BQ (Nearest tube station: Hyde Park Corner)

 

Hand-painted banner for victims of Phulbari shooting. Photo credit: Peter Marshall

This year marked the tenth anniversary of Phulbari outburst, where three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people in 2006 for opposing plans by a London-based AIM-listed mining company, Global Coal Management Resources (GCM).  Formerly known as Asia Energy, the company wants to build a massive open cast coal mine in Phulbari, Bangladesh. The project threatens to destroy the homes, lands, and water sources of as many as 220,000 people, and forcibly evict an estimated 130,000 people. If implemented, it would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land and would leave devastative impact on the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans.

 

The government has declined to renew GCM’s license. The company does not hold a valid contract with Bangladesh, while they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project in London. GCM’s CEO, Gary Lye, has been systematically abusing local opponents of the project. Earlier this year, Lye has filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 frontline local leaders against mining in Phulbari and Dinajpur, making the lives of local farmers and small business entrepreneurs unbearable.

 

We have been telling the company to stop abuse and corruption in Bangladesh. We have been going to their annual general meetings every year since 2008 but they cannot hear us. In 2012 Santa Claus has poured a sack of coal on the desk of board of directors as a punishment, and subsequently the ex-chairman of GCM resigned and the company had to change venue from Tower Hamlets to 4 Hamilton Place. We have also written to UK’s ex-prime minister, David Cameron , who said that he would have looked into the case but never did. We have submitted three complaints to Houses of Parliament in the UK and our colleagues at International Accountability Project and Global Justice Now have lodged an OECD complaint to UK’s National Contact Point. In 2013 and 2014, Phulbari protesters  have disrupted GCM’s AGM and dumped coal in the door way which the corrupt investors should find hard to forget. Last year we have given a final notice of closure to the company which a delegation of protesters inside the AGM has read and handed in to the current chairman, Michael Tang. Yet GCM  continues to push Bangladesh government to approve a dodgy deal that is absurd.

The company has announced to hold its annual general meeting on 15 December at Aeronautical Society in London. Therefore, we are heading to Aeronautical Society to disrupt and shut down GCM’s annual general meeting. We will charge the corrupt businessmen inside and outside the AGM. They must learn a better lesson than previous years.

JOIN US Inside and Outside the AGM on Thursday 15 December at 4 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7BQ (Nearest tube station: Hyde Park Corner).

Please confirm your participation via Facebook here. Bring your noisy instruments and whistles to disrupt the AGM of corrupt miners. See you there!

Contact for further information:  07714288221, 07956260791, 07861686036, Email: nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com , phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

 

Scrap the Rampal Power Plant project, Save the Sundarbans

As the government of Bangladesh suggests that the destructive deal with India cannot be scrapped due to delicate conditions of the contract, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh has written the following open letter to Indian Prime Minister. We believe that the Prime Minister of India can and should act promptly to halt Rampal Coal Power Plant.

 

anup-kundus-photo-28-jan-2015-copy Stop-rampal-coal-power-plant-poster-by-Rudro Rothi-on-1-august-2016

 

October 18, 2016

Scrap the Rampal power plant project, Save the Sundarbans

Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India

 

The Honourable Prime Minister,

We respectfully address you with grave concern and anxiety. The people of Bangladesh today is sternly worried over the future of the Sundarbans, which not only happens to be the only protection barrage of the southern belt of Bangladesh, but also the largest Mangrove Forest of the world, as well as the most valuable ecological habitat of the country and the World Heritage Site. The joint venture of both India and Bangladesh to build a 1320 MW capacity coal-fired power plant has caused much worry among the people of Bangladesh.

We have already written to the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh regarding this. As India is the major partner of this project, we believe, as the head of the Indian government, it is fundamentally important for us to address also to you in this regard, mainly for two reasons. The Rampal Power Plant, officially known as the Maitree Super Thermal Power Project, is a joint venture project of BPDB of Bangladesh and NTPC Limited of India. As per the joint venture agreement signed between Bangladesh and India, NTPC is responsible for planning, building and operating the plant. Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) is now officially responsible for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of the Rampal Power Plant. Exim Bank, a state bank of India, has been officially selected for financing this project, whereas Coal India Limited, most probably, is going to be appointed for supplying of necessary coal.

Secondly, if the Sundarbans, adjacent to the Bangladesh part is damaged, it would have a massive spillover effect on the Indian portion as well, affecting the lives and livelihood of the people of India living near Sundarban.

Based on studied opinion of a significantly large number of local and international experts, it is obvious that this particular coal-fired power plant would bring extensive destruction to the forest. It is also worth noting that, following the decision of building a power plant in Rampal, a range of influential business groups and commercial projects have pierced into the same area. It is predicted that the cumulative effect of such commercial aggression would ultimately cause fatal destruction to the Sundarbans.

It is important to note that around 3 to 4 million people including forest and fishing folks are dependent on the Sundarbans and the adjacent water bodies for their natural livelihood. Around 40 million people live in the southern coastal belt of Bangladesh. The power plant is ringing an alarm to the entire coastal community. Moreover, the damage would not be merely restricted to the Bangladesh portion of the Sundarbans. Around 5 million people living near to the Indian portion of the Sudnarbans would be put into grave danger too. Eventually, future generations from both nations would have to bear the deadly impact of the plant.

Obviously, we do not deny ‘development’. Power grids are also vital to modern lives. However, what is not acceptable is the implementation of some environmentally deadly projects which would merely profit the vested interest groups at the cost of the people and environment.

You must be aware of the fact that  this project has drawn huge criticism from both India and Bangladesh, and around the world. The UNESCO, the Ramsar Authority, the South Asian Human Rights Forum led by IK Gujral of India, along with other 150 various organizations have also opposed to the plant and demanded to scrap the deal. The Norwegian Council of Ethics has already withdrawn their fund from this controversial project.

Even the Minister of Finance of Bangladesh has admitted that inevitable environmental damage will be there, nevertheless the project must go on (15 February, 2016)1. We do not want to believe that it is the Government of India who is insisting on the project. Rather, we believe that the Government of India can play a vital role in saving the world’s largest Mangrove Forest by scrapping this controversial project.

Honourable Prime Minister,

The plant site is located on North of the Sundarbans, only 14 kilometers away from its boundary and within merely 4 kilometers of the Ecologically Critical Area (ECA).This site is only 2 meters above the sea level. It obviously holds a key financial and operating risk given the fact that it falls within a tidal delta region which experienced a tidal surge with the height of 5 meters. EIA study itself further notes that the Rampal plant would be in the “wind risk zone” of Bangladesh. It is worthy noting that this particular zone witnessed 16 cyclones in the past 25 years. We are deeply worried that the site’s location and elevation will be at extreme risk should sea levels rise or should an extreme weather event occur. In such events, the ash ponds – located near the Possur River – could easily be washed away putting the river at a serious ecological risk. The river is, in fact, one of the vital water bodies that provides fresh water flow to the world’s largest mangrove forest.

The Indian EIA guideline 2010 itself disallows setting up of similar projects within 25 kilometers of ecologically sensitive areas of India, including forests, rivers, and sanctuaries.2 You must have been aware of the fact that due to such environmental consciousness of the Indian Government, a number of coal-fired plant and coal mining project has been called off by the Green Tribunal and the Ministry of Environment of India3. We would like to call for your attention that while moving forward with this project, the Indian company has violated all environmental rules and regulations of the Indian government itself.

For the production of electricity, the plant will annually consume 4.72 million tons of coal.4  The coal and other toxic and chemical materials required for the construction and operation of the power plant will be transported to the project site through the waterways of the Sundarbans. The transportation of coal (nearly 13 thousand tons per day) through the waterways of the Sundarbans holds dire prospect of coal spillage, ballast water, bilge water, oil spillage, lubricant, and garbage. For the next 30 years, the transportation of cargo and lighter vessels, and the loading and unloading of coal will indeed bring extensive damage to the ecology of the forest and the wildlife habitats.

To run the Power Plant, water of the Possur River will be withdrawn (at the rate of 9,150 m3/hour) and discharged (at the rate of 5,150 m3/hour) into it again after use with a varying temperature5. This will reduce the oxygen of the water and damage the fish stocks of the Possur River. The rising temperature, company admits at least 2C6, will also affect the entire ecosystem and biodiversity of the forest, including the Zooplankton, the Phytoplankton, and the marine ecology. If it continues for the next 25 to 30 years, the marine ecology and the biodiversity of the Possur River would be destroyed, as well as the hydrological characteristics of the river including its salinity front, salinity level, sedimentation pattern, and tidal behavior. Discharged water will also contain huge amount of Mercury if coal-washing is done as confirmed by the Authority.

 

The zoologists have shown concern that the toxic substances emitted from the coal-fired power plant including arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, chromium, selenium, and radium are capable of contaminating the air and water to such an extent that it could harm the reproductive health system of the wild life animals and the species of the Sundarbans. The bird scientists are concerned that the coal-fired pollution may hamper the existence of at least 3 rare species of bird, which shelter in the Sundarbans.

The experts and engineers have long suggested that Ultra Super Critical Technology itself is only capable of reducing pollution only at a rate of 8 to 10 percent. Even if other pollutant reducing technology should be used, no record suggests that risk of pollution could be entirely eliminated.  For instance, the installation of FGD may reduce the risk of SO2 pollution, while increasing the chances of water pollution through the release of heavy chemical materials including Arsenic, Mercury, Selenium and Boron7. If low NOX Burner should be used, pollution could be reduced up to 40 to 60 percent, nevertheless, the rest of the toxin chemicals would remain hazardous enough to spoil the environment8. Though the authority has assured the use of FGD and ESP, the combined application of all such technology is capable of dropping the contamination level merely up to 48 percent9. On the other hand, the risk of release of an extensive amount of Mercury still persists, as there is no mention of applying any technology in tender document that regulates or controls the release of Mercury into the forestry and water10.

In the last few years, a number of accidents in the water routes, including deadly oil spill had left its long term footprints on the sensitive forest lives. The current transportation system on the Sundarbans area itself is creating severe sound and water pollution around the forest ecology. Lately, some sensitive locations around the forest have been announced as ‘endangered’ for the Irrawaddy Dolphins by the Government of Bangladesh. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh previously suggested bringing a complete halt to the transportation routes in the Shela River. However, the attempt failed. In these circumstances, we simply cannot take further risk by allowing a 1320 MW capacity of coal-fired plant on the backyard of the Sundarbans. Our experience with institutional capability is also frustrating11.

A coastal belt, in general, survives on the resistant capacity of the mangrove swamps. For instance, extensive commercial establishments in the coastal bodies of the New Orleans state of the USA have ultimately damaged the natural flow of Mississippi river. Due to the vulnerability of these coastal belt areas, Hurricane Katrina could make unprecedented damage to the coastal areas of New Orleans. In Bangladesh, during Hurricane Sidr and Aila, the Sundarbans has largely protected the people and resources of the southern coast. If the Sundarbans is damaged, the people and the species of the entire coastal belt will be practically unprotected.

We would like to stress on the point that no deadly experiement should be taken when the Sundarbans is concerned. Rather we demand to cancel the project, along with every other pollution enhancing projects and commercial activities around the Sundarbans. We also demand to bring a halt to the transportation of hazardous commodities around the Sudarbans. As Rampal power plant is not only a risk by itself, but also has consistently attracted a range of commercial ventures into the area; by scrapping the deal, the Indian government could play a crucial role in protecting the Sundarbans from all kind of forest damaging ventures.

The Sundarbans to us is not a subject of negotiation. Meanwhile, alternative locations and technology is available for power generation. Lately, the Srilankan government had cancelled a similar power plant deal with India (May 18, 2016)12. If Srilanka and India could scrap it, why not Bangladesh to prevent much bigger disaster?

Honourable Prime Minister,

We gratefully remember the contribution of India during the time of our liberation war in 1971. The people of Bangladesh have not forgotten the safe shelter that was provided by the people of India in a time of despair and misery. Nevertheless, it is also observed that the people of Bangladesh also hold much resentment towards the state of India due to its consistent measures of oppressive and humiliating policies. The Farakka dam, the upcoming dams along with the Indian river linking projects, border killing, the building of border fence, unfair trade agreements and loan terms, and the one sided transit deal are few Indian policies which have generated discontent in the minds of people of Bangladesh. And now it is the destructive power plant project.

We would like to stress on the point that people still expect solution of all earlier disputes, but if Sundarban is affected, the damage would be irrecoverable and there would be no turning back. The resentment and anger would stay for ever, the ‘friendship’ company will turn into permanent ‘source’ of hostility. We certainly do not want to create a condition as such. Rather we expect, for the sake of the friendship, the project should be called off. We believe, peaceful co-existence of the two nations could only be achieved through mutually respectable agreements and arrangements that would reflect the aspiration of both people in a fair and just manner.

Based on such aspirations, we hope that, you, as the Head of Indian government, along with our Prime Minister, would consider the genuine concerns of the people of Bangladesh and immediately scrap the Rampal Power Plant project.

 

Sincerely,

On behalf of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resource, Power and Port in Bangladesh

 

Engineer  Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah, Convener,           Prof. Anu Muhammad, Member Secretary

 

#SavetheSundarbans #StopRampalCoalPowerPlant #NOtoRampalCoalPlant

 

References:

1) ¶wZ n‡jI mi‡e bv ivgcvj we`¨yr ‡K›`«: A_©gš¿x

Ittefak, 15 February, 2016

http://www.ittefaq.com.bd/national/2016/02/15/55597.html

Rampal power plant to be commissioned despite risk to ecology

http://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2016/02/15/rampal-power-plant-to-be-commissioned-despite-risk-to-ecology

2) “Locations of thermal power stations are avoided within 25 km of the outer periphery of the following:

– metropolitan cities;

– National park and wildlife sanctuaries;

– Ecologically sensitive areas like tropical forest, biosphere reserve, important lake and coastal areas rich in coral formation;”

http://envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/TGM_Thermal%20Power%20Plants_010910_NK.pdf

3) The need to preserve the Khajuraho temple, famous for its erotic sculptures, as well as nearby tiger and crocodile sanctuaries has prompted a government panel to hold off on clearing a Rs.18,000 crore thermal power plant in Madhya Pradesh.
http://www.livemint.com/Politics/k9O019qiWVwh1r6iyESE0K/Panel-defers-green-clearance-for-NTPCs-Rs18000-crore-plant.html

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) .. .. quashed the environmental clearance for the 3,600-MW thermal power plant proposed by IL&FS Tamil Nadu Power Company Limited in Cuddalore, on the grounds that no proper cumulative impact assessment was done.
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/ngt-quashes-eco-nod-for-cuddalore-power-plant/article6587910.ece

Noting that a thermal power plant near human habitat and on agricultural land was not viable, a Central green panel has refused to give approval to the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to set up a 1320 MW coal-based project in Madhya Pradesh.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ntpcs-coalbased-project-in-mp-turned-down/article819873.ece

4) Rampal EIA, page 378

http://bifpcl.com/new/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/EIA-Report-Volume-I.pdf

5) Rampal EIA, page 117.

6)“Temperature of discharge water shall never be more than two degree Centigrade (2OC) above river water temperature”- Question To Answer From Rampal Authority

http://energybangla.com/question-to-answer-from-rampal-authority/

7) Cleansing the Air at the Expense of Waterways

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/13/us/13water.html?_r=0

8) AN OVERVIEW OF TECHNOLOGIES FOR REDUCTION OF OXIDES OF NITROGEN FROM COMBUSTION FURNACES, page-4

http://www.mpr.com/uploads/news/nox-reduction-coal-fired.pdf

9) https://netl.doe.gov/File%20Library/Research/Coal/ewr/mercury_-FGD-white-paper-Final.pdf

10) State-of-the-art technology for mercury control is sorbent injection in the boiler or in the flue gases followed by capture of the resultant particulates in a bag house. These technologies are simply missing in the tender document.

http://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/10-questions-authorities-answers-counter-response-1281937

11) “90,000 m3 polluted water flowing into rivers around Dhaka every day”. Banik Barta, 2 April, 2016

https://goo.gl/GEzbpc

12 ) Sri Lanka scraps NTPC’s plan to build coal plant

http://www.thehindu.com/business/sri-lanka-scraps-ntpcs-plan-to-build-coal-plant/article9104518.ece

Indian people’s movements and civil society call upon Modi to withdraw India’s support from Rampal Coal-Power Project

 

Following the ongoing human rights violation of the National Committee activists and front-line organisers against Rampal coal-fired plant in Bangladesh, many concerned Indian green and human rights organisations have written an open letter to the Prime Minister of India to withdraw support from the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company, thereafter the destructive Rampal Power Project.  The letter signed by 43 organisations and many activists is as follows.  

 

October 18, 2016

 

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister on Rampal Power Project

 

Respected Prime Minister,

 

We, the people’s movements and other civil society organisations in India, draw your urgent attention to the serious issues emerging from the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (Rampal Power Project), being built near the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sundarbans in Bangladesh.

 

This project is opposed by people in Bangladesh and India for its monumental social and environmental negative impacts, particularly the irreversible damage to Sundarbans and the fragile ecosystem around it.

 

40% of the Sundarbans is in India and any damage to that will have devastating impacts on thousands of fishworkers and forest dwellers depending on it, apart from the damage to the natural protection from natural calamities like tsunami and cyclones.

 

The project is partly owned by NTPC, financed by Indian ExIm Bank, equipment’s supplied by BHEL and PricewaterhouseCoopers Private Limited, India contracted for long term coal sourcing. Hence India’s share in this project is significant.

 

People in Bangladesh, under the umbrella of National Oil, Gas, Mineral Resource, Power and Port Protection Committee, have been opposing the project with support of movements from different parts, including India. Leader of the National Committee Prof Anu Muhammad has been receiving death threats for the role he is playing for opposing the project.

 

While we condemn univocally death threats to Prof Anu Muhammad, we would urge you to request the Bangladesh government to ensure the safety of political activists there.

 

Further, we urge you to look at the colossal damage this project is causing to people and environment in India and Bangladesh and withdraw India’s support to the project.

 

 

Signed by:

Ashok Chowdhury & Roma Malik, All India Union of Forest Working People

Madhuresh Kumar, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)

Narmada Bachao Andolan

Soumya Dutta, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha

National Hawker Federation

Abhijit, Lokayat, Pune

Afsar Jafri, Focus on the Global South

All India Forum of Forest Movements

Ashok Shrimali – Secretary General of mm&P

Ayesha DSouza, Centre for Financial Accountability

Bharat Patel, Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan

Environics Trust

Environment Support Group – Trust, Bangalore

Equations

Gautam Bandyopadhyay, Nadi Ghati Morcha

Gururaja Budhya, Urban Research Centre, Bangalore, India.

Himanshu Damle, Public Finance Public Accountability Collective (PFPAC)

Himanshu Thakkar. South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People. Delhi

Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)

Indigenous Perspectives

Jiten Yumnam, Secretary, Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur

Kiran Shaheen, Aql ki Dhaba,

Krishnakant, Mithi Virdi

Maglin Peter, Teeradesa Mahila Vedi

Mahan Sangarsh Samiti

Manipur Cycle Club

Manshi Asher,  Himdhara Collective, Himachal Pradesh

Muthukrishnan, writer / Activist Madurai

North East Peoples Alliance

Priya Pillai, Greenpeace India

PT George, Intercultural Resources.

Ravi Rebbapragada, Executive Director, Samata India

Samir Mehta, International Rivers South Asia

Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune/Badwani

Shweta Tripatji, Society for Rural Urban & Tribal Initiative (SRUTI)

Sundarrajan, Sundarrajan, Poovulagin Nanbargal, KKNPP

Tarini Manchanda, filmmaker

The Research Collective

Umesh Babu, Delhi Forum

Vaishali Patil, Forum Against Disastorous Project in Konkan.

Vijay Pratap, South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy (SADED)

Vimalbhai, Matu Jansangthan

Xavier Dias, Khan Kaneej Aur Adhirkar

Klimacamp Solidarity Statement on Phulbari Hearing Day

Today when 26 Phulbari  activists have been faced with trial and GCM’s corrupt CEO, Gary Lye and Asia Energy gangs, filed multiple arbitrary cases against Phulbari people in Dinajpur Magistrate Court, a beautiful and powerful message of solidarity came from Rhineland Klima Camp to Phulbari Solidairty Group in support of both the brave activists in Phulbari and the save Sunderbans movement. The message states that the fight against coal miners and corrupt multinational corporations has to continue.

Activists at the Klimacamp in the Rhineland in Germany wanted to send the following message and photograph on the tenth anniversary of the Phulbari killings. It was delayed to reach us due to unforeseen.  The message from Klima Camp resistance is as follows:

A thousand of people at lunch of Rhineland Klima Camp in resistance from Germany, around Europe and beyond stood in Solidarity with Phulbari protesters on the tenth anniversary of Phulbari outburst on 26 August 2016. Photo credit: Klima Camp Solidarity

A thousand of people at lunch of Rhineland Klima Camp in resistance from Germany, around Europe and beyond stood in Solidarity with Phulbari protesters on the tenth anniversary of Phulbari outburst on 26 August 2016. Photo credit: Klima Camp Solidarity

Dear people fighting against the Rampal coal-power plant and the coal industry in Bangladesh,

As activists at the Klimacamp in Germany we want to express our solidarity with people fighting against the destructive Rampal coal-power plant and the coal industry in Bangladesh. We know that we are battling against the same issues – the coal industry, state power, climate change, human displacements and ecosystem destruction. However we acknowledge that the situation for people protesting in Bangladesh is much more severe than for those of us who live in Germany and Western Europe.

When we protest in our countries we may be arrested and treated harshly by the police, but we know that we will not be intentionally killed. We are aware of our nations’ involvement in the destruction of your country – that the company that wishes to mine at Phulbari is listed on the London Stock Exchange and that our countries cause climate change but Bangladesh is at the forefront of climate change impacts.

At the Klimacamp we are taking actions against the coal industry and other polluters in Germany. We see this as a small piece of the bigger picture in the battles against coal and for a liveable climate. We want to send our support and solidarity to you, especially as you mark the tenth anniversary of the Phulbari demonstration and the murder of villagers.

There were a thousand people at lunch on our resistance camp today, from Germany, around Europe and beyond. They were told your story, and invited to join the photo to send you solidarity. So many people wanted to take part that we couldn’t fit them all in the shot. Your work is an inspiration to us.

In solidarity,
campaigners at the Rhineland Klimacamp 2016.

Protesters Call To DE-LIST Global Coal Management PLC.From London Stock Exchange

Commemoration and celebration go together at London Stock Exchange 26 August 2016 Photocredit Peter Marshall

Commemoration and celebration go together at London Stock Exchange 26 August 2016 Photo credit Peter Marshall

PHULBARI DAY VIGIL TURNS INTO HEATED DEMO

By Paul Dudman

 

Friday the 26th August, marked a decade of halt to plans by an AIM-listed British company, Global Coal Resources Management (GCM), who want to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in Phulbari, northwest Bangladesh. A four day long Commemoration for victims of Phulbari outburst, where three protesters were shot dead by police in 2006, was held in Dkaka, Dinajpur, Phulbari, London and Germany. On the final day of remembrance, on 30th August, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh has declared a fresh programme in Phulbari to kick GCM out of Bangladesh as the CEO of the company has recently filed multiple arbitrary charges against indigenous farmers, small businessmen and local leaders who opposed the mine.

 

In response to the call by National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh, community activists under the banner of Phulbari Solidarity Group and Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh held a colourful and powerful commemoration rally and protest at London Stock Exchange , calling for the de-listing of the company from London Stock Exchange. Despite heavy securitization and repeated attempts of interruption by British police, angry protesters blocked the pavement of the main entrance of London Stock Exchange for two hours and demanded immediate de-registration of GCM for its unethical business, deceitful marketing of Phullbari project, and for human rights abuse in Dinajpur and Phulbari. Of what was meant to be a Red Vigil for Victims of Phulbari has turned into a commemoration come noise demo as the CEO of London Stock Exchange, Xavier Rolet KBE, failed to respond to the protesters’ call for de-listing of GCM. The Phulbari Solidarity Group has contacted the CEO of London Stock Exchange and submitted evidence of unethical business of the company before the demo.

 

Police objects to PSG Founder Rumana Hashem to remove the banner from the pavement copyright Peter Marshall

Police objects to the blockade of LSE pavement but  PSG Founder Rumana Hashem says:” the banner for the victims will not be removed.” Photo credit: Peter Marshall

A remembrance vigil was held, followed by an angry demo with Santal and Tamil drumming, and ended with tribute by flowers and candles being paid to the three people who were killed by paramilitary force, allegedly paid by the company, in Phulbari on 26 August in 2006. Wearing masks of Gary Lye (CEO of GCM) and Michael Tang (the Chairman of the company), the protesters sang Phulbari jingles against coal mine. The protest observed a three-minute silence for the three victims, Al—Amin, Salekin and Tariqul, who died in the Phulbari shooting. Dressed in red, blue and black, protesters laid down a banner for victims, stating “YOUR DEATH WILL NOT BE IN VAIN”, on the pavement of the London Stock Exchange. Protesters from Bangladesh were joined by international and British environmental campaigners, and advocates for human rights, anti-mining movement and workers rights.

Shameless Gary Lye and Blatant lyer Michael Tang dance with coal over deadbodies Photocredit Peter Marshall

GCM CEO Gary Lye and company Chairman Michael Tang stood as numb and blatant guilty copyright Peter Marhsall

GCM CEO Gary Lye and company Chairman Michael Tang stood as numb and blatant guilty. Photocredit: Peter Marhsall

 

 

Dressed in red, blue and black protesters outside the London Stock Exchange paid a two-hour homage to the victims. A banner, stating “YOUR DEATH WILL NOT BE IN VAIN” was laid on the pavement of the London Stock Exchange Group’s Headquarter for International Trading.

 

Hand-painted banner for victims of Phulbari shooting. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Hand-painted banner for victims of Phulbari shooting. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Protesters from Bangladesh were joined by international and British environmental campaigners, and advocates for human rights, anti-mining and workers rights. Among others, Foil Vedanta, European Action for Climate, London Mining Network, Global Justice Campaign, the Socialist Party of England and Wales, Tamil Solidarity and Voice of Freedom have made it explicit that they will stand with Phulbari people in their struggle. The sound of compassion, sadness, empowerment and resistance echoed in the protest, and the firm speeches by passionate activists and outrageous crimes by British multinational companies overseas was heard by the entire Paternoster Square on Friday – although none from London Stock Exchange seemed concerned about these crimes.

 

Simultaneously, tributes were paid to the victims of Phulbari at National Martyrs Monument in Dhaka, and red vigil and cultural events took place in Phulbari under the banner of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh (NCBD in short). In the four-day commemoration events (26-30 August) and celebration of the halt, they demanded the ban of the company in Bangladesh for its ongoing abuse of activists in Phulbari and increasing corruption in Bangladesh.

 

 

Christine Hague of Global Justice told how partially OECD complaint agaisnt GCM was treated by UK NCP Photocredit Peter Marshall

Christine Hague of Global Justice told how partially OECD complaint against GCM was treated by UK NCP. Photo credit: Peter Marshall

The company has been allegedly involved in various forms of abuse and harassment of local activists and opponents of the proposed Phulbari mine. Media report on the brutal death of Nasrin Huq , the former executive director of Action Aid in Dhaka, revealed that in 2005 Huq was killed brutally in her car park for her opposition to the project. A report to which the company was unable to respond was published in the Observer.[i]  Later in 2006 three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against plans by the company. Local organisers have reported that the company has bribed the paramilitary personnel and forced them to open fire against the decision of the Police Magistrate on duty who stated that there was no permission for shooting on people. There were over 200 people injured and many abused on the same day. The day has been called Phulbari Day since, and powerful resistance in the aftermath of the shooting against open-cast mine in Phulbari has put a decade long halt to the project. Government has cancelled the company’s license. But the company has been pushing the government to give them a go ahead.

 

Shameless Gary Lye and Michael Tang dance with coal over deadbodies Photocredit Peter MarshallThe company’s CEO, Gary N Lye, has been allegedly harassing opponents of the project and the company has been extremely abusive to indigenous farmers, local organisers of Phulbari outburst, and small business entrepreneurs who demanded the company’s ban in Phulbari. After the shooting and deaths of three people on 26 August in 2006, Gary Lye stated that he is businessman and he understands nothing but coal. In a live interview with Farzana Rupa on ATN Bangla TV, Lye said: “I am a businessman , my business is to extract coal. It is not my business to know who dies and who cries” (ATN Bangla News, 26 August 2006).  Locals have declared that this CEO is unwanted in Phulbari and when he attempted to re-enter Phulbari town he was resisted by locals in November 2014.

 

Last month, a day before the International Mangrove Action Day when Bangladeshis was focused on the controversial deal on Rampal power plant, the company has filed multiple cases against 26 key indigenous organiser’s, local leaders, farmers, small scale business entrepreneurs and students who opposed the mine in Phulbari. The arbitrary charges formed on 25 July, 2016, at Dinajpur Magistrate Court appeared as extremely abusive and the next hearing on 7 September will be a crucial day for all those fighting the fraught.

 

The NCBD has declared a fresh programme on Phulbari Day to fight GCM and ban the Phulbari project. This includes rally demanding a ban of the company in Phulbari on 25 October, blockade of the Dinajpur District Commissioner’s Office on 21 November and half-day strike in Phulbari on 21 December. If demands are unfulfilled by December, intense and unending strike would start. Phulbari Solidarity Group believes that that this will not be needed as activists in London will hold the company to account and will ensure a ban of GCM from London Stock Exchange before the end of this year.

Paying tribute to the victms of Phulbari with flowers and by lighting candles on 26 Aug 2006 at London Stock Exchange

Paying tribute to the victms of Phulbari with flowers and by lighting candles on 26 Aug 2006 at London Stock Exchange. Photo credit: Kerima Mohiuddin

 

Although GCM does not have a valid contract with Bangladesh, they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project. The company has changed its name from Asia Energy to Global Coal Management in 2010, and continued lobbying for Phulbari coal mine in Bangladesh. If the mine is built, 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari would be forcibly displaced. It would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land, would pose threats to clean water resources and would leave devastative impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans.  Despite grave concerns at national and international level, and declaration made by seven UN rapporteurs, GCM is pushing the government to give it a go ahead.

 

 

Arguments with Police who prohibited Rumana Hashem to display the banner for the victims on the pavement Copyright Peter Marshall Gary Lye and Michael Tang shamelessly danced with coal over deadbodies Photocredit Peter Marshall

Arguments with Police - a community leader tells Police not to interfere with demonstrators. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Arguments with Police – a community leader tells Police not to interfere with demonstrators. Photo credit: Peter Marshall

 

Phulbari Solidairty Group Founder and an eye witness to the shooting in 2006 lights a cnadle for the victims of Phulbari on 26 August 2006 at London Stock Exchange. Photocredit : Peter Marshall

Phulbari Solidairty Group’s Founder and an eye witness to the shooting in 2006, Dr Rumana Hashem, lights a candle for the victims of Phulbari at the entrance of London Stock Exchange. Photo credit : Peter Marshall

Contact for further information:  07714288221, 07956260791.

Further news, photos and videos:

Ten years of Resistance to Phulbari Open Cast Mine: Peter Marshall’s Mylondondiary.co.uk

A video of the noise-demo to de-list GCM from London Stock Exchange (by Pete Mason of Socialist Party of England and Wales): https://youtu.be/-_cKiRWt9NI

London Stock Exchange targeted by Bangladeshi activists: Foil Vedanta report

Phulbari Day protest outside London Stock Exchange: Begum24.com by Ansar Ahemd Ullah

[i]  The mystery death of Nasrin Huq –a report to which the company was not able to respond to, was derived from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/sep/03/bangladesh, last cited on 01. 01. 2013

An Eye Witness of the shooting and outburst in Phulbari: Keeping Coal Resources under the Ground with Blood, A Different Revolution

New Programme to Kick GCM out of Bangladesh declared on Phulbari Day: BNP is Not our Friend 

Mark the Decade of Resistance, Mark Phulbari Day!

Celebrating 10 years of Halt to Open Cast Mining, Commemorating the lives of brave Villagers

What? RED Vigil at London Stock Exchange

 When? 11am to 1pm on Friday, 26 August 2016

Where? London Stock Exchange HQ for International Trading , 10 Paternoster Square, London EC4M 7LS  (nearest tube station: St Paul’s)

Find Map

Phulbari 2014

 

Friday, the 26th of August marks a decade of the Phulbari outburst. In 2006 three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against plans by an AIM-listed British company, Global Coal Resources Management , who wants to build a massive open cast coal mine in Phulbari, a location in northwest Bangladesh. The day has been called Phulbari Day since, and powerful resistance in the aftermath of the shooting against open-cast mine in Phulbari has put a decade long halt to the project. Government has cancelled the company’s license. Although GCM does not have a valid contract with Bangladesh, they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project. The company has changed its name from Asia Energy to Global Coal Management in 2010, and continued its dodgy deals and lobbying for Phulbari coal mine in Bangladesh.

If the mine is built, 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari would be forcibly displaced. It would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land, would pose threats to clean water resources and would leave devastative impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans.  Despite grave concerns at national and international level, and declaration made by seven UN rapporteurs, GCM is pushing the government to give it a go ahead.

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Port-Power and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh has called upon national and global environmentalists to observe 10th anniversary of Phulbari outburst and to protest against GCM’s dodgy business and to mark the decade of Phulbari Resistance.  In conjunction with the Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Port-Power and Mineral Resources, we will celebrate the decade-long struggle in London.

Phulbari Day POster by NCBD 2016

We will hold a Red Vigil for Victims of Phulbari outside the London Stock Exchange at 11am next Friday. We will ask London Stock Exchange to De-list GCM Plc and to show cause Gary Lye’s gang for selling fake shares. We will commemorate for the lost lives by rallying against GCM. We will celebrate our decade-long resistance by turning the commemoration event into a powerful rally against dark coal business.

JOIN US at London Stock Exchange (nearest tube station: St Paul’s).

Bring your organisation’s banner, noisy/music instruments and flowers for the victims if you can. Wear Red, Black or Blue as symbols of Resistance, Anguish and Celebration of struggle!

Please confirm participation via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/641147849383562/

Contact for further information:  07714288221, 07956260791, 07861686036

Email: nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com , phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh, UK branch     Phulbari Solidarity Group

Download Mark the Decade of Halt, Observe Phulbari Day Flyer August 2016

LMN call out for Phulbari Solidarity demo in London on 19 dec 2012

Local women, men and children cried out to save their homes, lands and lives in Phulbari in the aftermath of the GCM-provoked shooting in Phulbari. Photo: 28 August 2006

Mothers, sisters, wives and all the effected women vowed to protect  Phulbari through outburst after the shooting on 26 August 2006. Copyright: PSG

 

Be There! We Are Coming to Your Door This Saturday!

Sundarbans, the World’s Largest Mangrove Forest is Under Attack. Save the Sundarbans and Stop Coal Fired Rampal Power Plant.

Recently, the Government of Bangladesh has signed an agreement with India’s state run Bharat Heavy Electrical Ltd to set up a coal fired 1320 MW power plant on the edge of the world’s biggest heritage-listed mangrove forest, the Sundarbans. Rampal power plant will emit huge amount of carbon, sulphur, toxic gases, smoke and ashes which will destroy the forest.

Pollution from Ash and Smoke: – Annually, around 0.94 million tons of ash will be generated from the plant, of which 80% will be dry fly ash and the rest of the 20% will be bottom ash. This ash will contain many heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmigreen cultural activists at samageet brought in a a procession with a royal bengal tiget on Bangla New year 2016um, chromium, selenium and, radium, which are dangerous if released into environment. Toxic ash and smoke from burnt coal will pollute the air, land and water bodies and will endanger plant and wildlife.

 

Water Contamination: Water will be contaminated due to toxic ash, oil and coal spillage from the coal carrying vessels and other waste discharge.

 

Noise Pollution: There will be a lot of noise pollution from coal power plant itself, from transportation of coal carrying vessels and loading and unloading of coal.  Noise pollution will endanger wildlife.


Destruction of the Forest:

All the above mentioned disadvantages will results in destruction of Sundarbans, wildlife, flora and fauna, ecology and the environment.

Friends, please join us to stop this poisonous coal fired Rampal power plant and save Sundarbans!

Say NO to DESTRUCTIVE #RAMPALCOALPOWERPLANT

National Committee to Protect Oil Gas and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh, The UK branch

Contact 07714288221/ 07956260791/ 07506709691. Email: nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com

 

When will Vedanta be ashamed for their misdeeds?

A personal reflection on notorious Vedanta’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) 2016

Rumana Hashem

Last Friday we saw fantastic global actions against a British mining company, called the Vedanta Resources, who attempted to hold their Annual General Meeting in London but ended up being interrogated by dissident shareholders. The British mining company, Vedanta Resources, is known as notorious for abuse and destruction in the name of development overseas. According to Foil Vedanta report (2016), Vedanta is controlled and 69.6% owned by Brit Anil Agarwal and his family through a series of tax havens and holding companies. It was launched on the London Stock Exchange in 2003 with the assistance of the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), who continue with their support for the company. I witnessed their misery in the AGM on Friday the 5th August.

A board member - Anil Agarwals family member needed to be escorted by British police as protesters were angry against Agarwal family for destroying communities . Photocredit: Peter Marshall across the south Photo by Peter Marshall

Foil Vedanta demo shows how British Police was caught by the Vedanta monster on Friday at Ironmongers Hall  by Peter Marshall

A Police was caught by the Vedanta monster on Friday at Ironmongers Hall. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

 

Like every year, protests have been held in India, London and Zambia during the AGM of Vedanta Resources’ at Ironmongers Hall, Barbican, London. A loud protest outside the meeting was organised by Foil Vedanta and was joined by many southern grassroots organisations and community activists from India, Indonesia, Namibia, South Afrika and Zambia. Protesters demanded that Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines publish its hitherto secret annual accounts in Zambia. Community activists accused the company of pollution, human rights abuses and financial mismanagement in India and Afrika.

At Vedanta’s AGM activists from Foil Vedanta , Phulbari Solidarity Group, London Mining Network and Mines and Communities interrupted the meeting by asking incisive questions to the board. I joined the meeting with dissident shareholders who raised questions on Vedanta’s pollution in Zambia, and human rights abuses and worker’s deaths in India. We asked questions on behalf of the Zambian Copperbelt villagers living downstream of Vedanta’s Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), who have been demanding an end to twelve years of pollution by KCM, which has turned the Kafue into a ‘river of acid‘ and left them with no access to clean water.

 

We asked why KCM has never submitted annual accounts in Zambia in accordance with national laws, and whether Vedanta’s deliberately obstructive approach to compensation cases as revealed in a recent London judgement was company policy. With regard to the serious safety conditions at Bodai Daldali dissident shareholders asked, “whether the mine is one of the certified 48 mines.” Independent and senior researchers who visited the area in India said that seven years ago he had asked about bauxite operations in Chhattisgarh, including the fact that children were working in the mine, which still await answer. Why had researchers and journalists been stopped at the entrance to the site? How can Vedanta make claims in their CSR reports and not even be bothered to share the report with  villagers? Most of our questions received no clear answer from the board. Vedanta board, led by Anil Agarlwal, appeared perniciously barefaced in the AGM, and failed to answer important questions concerning the abuse and destruction that the company has been doing to the communities across the south. Instead of engaging with our questions, Anil Agarwal ended up flattering us as ‘ladies first’, ‘I like girls’, ‘I am fond of Bangladesh’ so on and so forth.

Foil Vedanta demo at AGM  5 August 2016. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Foil Vedanta demo at AGM 5 August 2016. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

The meeting began by a rather long introduction by Deepak Kumar, who went into immense detail for around ten minutes over the instructions for use of the handset provided for voting. It followed by the company Chairman, Anil Agarwal’s long speech followed by Vedanta CEO, Tom Albanese’s ever bizarre presentations. In their “sustainable development” report both Mr. Agarwal and Tom Albanese stated that “the priority is”, on the one hand, to focus on “zero harm” and “to ensure zero discharge and waste”, on the other hand. Note this is a mining company that is known as notorious for abuse in India and Zambia. Agarwal insists, even if the company has been causing colossal problems which has landed them in the court, ‘there will be incremental technical improvements that will make things alright eventually’. As Andy Whitmore notes correctly, ‘his slumber is assured by the promise of “zero harm” which is the most peculiar fashion distressing large extractive corporations, or those financing them. But question is: how can a company displacing people to rip up the earth on a vast scale do “zero harm”?

After Tom Albanese presentation, Chairman Agarwal then invited questions from the floor – and there were lots of them. A dissident shareholder from Afrikan communities raised the first question. As he waved his hand to Anil Agarwal and stood up to ask a question, which he drafted on his notebook and intended to read out for the board, Anil Agarlwal interfered, impatiently, and said: ‘you can speak for yourself, we want to hear your voice’. The dissident shareholder, Cecil Gutzmore,  replied, with mild smile: ‘my voice is here. My voice is on the microphone. Do you hear?’

He continued: The 27th May judgement by Justice Coulson in the case Domonic Liswaniso Lungowe verses Vedanta Resources and Konkola Copper Mines gave 1800 Zambian villagers the right to sue Vedanta and KCM in London for loss to their livelihood and health due to KCM’s pollution since 2004. In the judgement Justice Coulson indicted KCM for financial secrecy, historic dishonesty and attempts to pervert the course of justice, and on p.5, paragraph 18, quoted a 2014 London judgement against KCM for failing to pay a contractor – U&M mining. In that case Judges Eder, Cooke and Teare JJ called KCM (and I quote):

 

‘…an entity which has employees willing to give untrue evidence, to cause unnecessary harm, to be obstructive of the arbitration process and to take untenable points with a view to delaying enforcement…a party willing to do all it can to prevent the other party from enforcing its legal rights.’

Cecil continued and said that in paragraph 19 Justice Coulson further stated:

‘there was a revealing statement in those proceedings by the executive director of the mine who said that, although KCM acknowledged that they had failed to pay sums that were due to the claimants in that case, they “would hold on to the money to the end of the dispute, which it would fight bitterly, no matter how long it took, including in Zambia where proceedings would take many years.’

 

He noted further: this attitude is not limited to KCM alone and claimants who have been granted compensation in Talwindi Sabo, Tuticorin and Jharsuguda are also still awaiting payment. Can the board confirm whether obstructing legal procedures and delaying payments is a company policy?

 

An affected community member holds placard and say why he wants to stop Vedanta. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

An affected community member holds placard and say why he wants to stop Vedanta. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Anil Agarwal and Tom Albanese hardly answered the question. Tom Albanese replied that he had a lot of respect for legal processes (just as well!) so he took Cecil’s comments seriously. He said that the 2014 case referred to was a commercial case which was settled amicably last year. In the process of the resolution of any commercial litigation tensions develop which have to be worked through, and it is the job of management and the board to solve problems and Vedanta satisfied the other party. In Zambia, the case was currently being heard in the UK and Zambia. The company had to recognise that the court will go through its own process but the case will be appealed and heard next year. Vedanta’s position is that the Zambian courts are fully capable of hearing a case like this.

Albanese said that Cecil had referred to a judgement against KCM, which was related to a 2006 spill, a case which Vedanta recognises went against it. He said that ‘not many people have come forward on this’ (it was not clear to me quite what he meant by that) and it ‘shows that the Zambian courts work’. He said that Vedanta should be respecting the courts in the countries where it operates. Vedanta reports transparently and if people want to know KCM’s financial details, they are in the newspaper. KCM has not been making money recently and has been requiring investment from Vedanta to ensure it is still in a position to hire Zambian employees and contractors. The government has conducted forensic audits and nothing has come out. Albanese said he was confident that the company is fully disclosing its Zambian accounts. From time to time there are commercial disputes. Sometimes they can resolve these things and sometimes they cannot, but they respect court proceedings in Zambia.

Cecil drew the CEO’s attention once more to the 1800 Zambian villagers who had recently been given the right to sue the company in London. There was a conversation between Cecil and Albanese about the extent to which Albanese had, or had not, answered Cecil’s questions. Cecil was not convinced that he was being told the truth. That is a suspicion fairly widely held among activists attending Vedanta AGMs.

Anil Agarawal concluded the matter by stating, ‘We will follow all the procedures. The matter is sub judice. We are absolutely transparent and whatever judgement comes in we will follow it.’ That would certainly be welcome. As our friend Simon noted later in the AGM, there are questions over the extent to which Vedanta has respected previous court judgements.

 

So the shareholder commented, twice, that he was not convinced that they were telling him the truth. He said that the answers to his questions were partial and that Agarwal did not engage with his questions to the extent that he should have. I did wave my hands at that time but was not given the microphone, probably because they did not consider me as important as male shareholders. The board was, however, populated by male heads. Except one woman (Katya) who never spoke and appeared as a token representative of female members, all 10 heads out of 11 board members were male. Indeed, we had to put up with a gendered corporate board for nearly three hours. Microphone therefore went to someone else. The speaker, representing campaigning organisation ShareAction, asked how the company reports on risks from waste management. But he was frustrated by the answer of the CEO, Tom Albanese, with no surprise.

 

This is when I spoke up and said that I am working closely with community activists and groups from India, Zambia and South Africa who have gathered outside Ironmongers Hall and told me a different version of what Vedanta’s annual report was claiming. I then asked, by thanking the board for trying to present a report and for producing an annual report even if it was a partial one, that:

 

Mr Chairman, both you and your CEO have said that you are committed to ‘zero harm’ and ‘zero damage’ to people, but these people and communities are saying that they are at great loss by the harms and damages that you and your company have done to them. Your company has been destroying many communities. When I was entering the building for this AGM, I have seen community representatives from Orissa, Zambia, South Africa, Indonesia, Namibia and all India were crying outside the AGM that their people have been abused and faced with great loss by the undertakings of your company.  I am sure you have seen people’s outcry outside the AGM, too, when you entered the building. What is your response to these people that are protesting outside the AGM?

Foil Vedanta demo on 5 August 2016.  A Protester from affected community holds a placard. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Foil Vedanta demo on 5 August 2016. A Protester from affected community holds a placard. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

I asked, again to Tom Albanese that I am glad that you have taken the effort to produce a report for the shareholders but I have to say that I am appalled at your presentation because of the level of fraught and misinformation this report involved. I am shocked by the way you have totally overlooked the issues that the May 27th judgement in the case of Dominic Liswaniso Lungowe versus Vedanta Resources  and KCM in London which Cecil has just mentioned. This May 27th judgement by Justice Coulson has been a major challenge against Vedanta’s ongoing abuse and misconducts across Zambia, and a big news for the company which the shareholders should be made aware of . I have been reading about this judgement for the last two months as this became important news in London. How was it possible for you to overlook the matter in your whole 30 minutes long presentation?

Is this how you can prevent from doing harm and abuse to communities? I would appreciate to have your straightforward and a clear answer to this question. Now I have a second question to both of you (Anil Agarwal and Tom Albanese) in relation to the judgement and the question that my dissident shareholder, Cecil has asked before. May I continue?

 

The board kept silent and Anil Agarwal, Tom Albanese, Katya and Deepak Kumar looked at me in their eyes, with clear discomfort. Anil Agarwal seemed most uncomfortable (or perhaps angry inside) but did not stop me from continuing. So I continued and said that:

 

Justice Coulson’s recent UK judgement on the right of Zambian villagers to sue KCM and Vedanta in London for loss of livelihood and health, revealed that KCM has never filed annual accounts in accordance with the Zambian Companies Act. Meanwhile an UNCTAD report published in July 2016 found ‘systematic export under-invoicing’ of copper from Zambia starting in 2005, the year after Vedanta took over KCM (which is Zambia’s biggest copper exporter). Why have you been keeping your finances secret? What exactly are you hiding from the Zambian government?

Foil Vedabta demo against Vedanta AGM at Barbican Aug 5th 2016. Photocredit: Peter MarshallFoil Vedabta demo London Barbican Aug 5th 2016

Tom Albanese replied that when he made a public statement he was making a statement on behalf of the board and is personally liable for it under the law in both the UK and Zambia. He continued, ‘What I say, I say with assurance: we produce and provide transparent financial reports for our operations in Zambia and submit them to the Ministry of Mines and publish a summary in the newspaper, and if you want to see them you can apply to the government and they will send them.’ He said that the other shareholder in KCM’s operations is government-owned ZCCM, so on the board of KCM there are people who represent ZCCM and the government of Zambia. Everything is disclosed. He said he is under a requirement to comply with the law and tell truth about what the company is doing.

I asked again whether he really thought the company was doing zero harm.

This time Anil Agarwal replied, by saying that: ‘What we say we believe, and we do it. You can believe what you want to believe. KCM involves the government and public as well as us. KCM has its own legal team and what we do, we do with proper governance and transparency. There is strong law and nobody is allowed to do anything that is not right.’

Tom Albanese added that he believed in his heart that KCM is a better company and a better employer than it was when it was controlled by the government, which had under-invested since Zambian independence as it did not have the money. Vedanta’s chairman himself had funded improvements. There had been no water pollution control at the time Vedanta took over. The company had put in the most modern sulphur capture equipment at the smelter. ‘We have not arrived at zero harm,’ he said, ‘but we are going in that direction.’

Both Tom Alabanese and Anil Agarwal claimed that they had no wish to hide anything and that there was no hidden finance that they have avoided to report. Tom Albanese said that he knows of nothing more than what he has already presented in his report. Anil Agarwal supported him and said that they did their best to keep everything transparent and open to shareholders. He then added:

‘Yes, I have seen people were playing music and making noise outside the AGM. I don’t know why they are doing so. If you don’t believe me, I can only advise you, you need to visit the areas yourself and then tell me what you have found there. You cannot know what is happening there without paying a visit to the communities. If you do not believe my words, I cannot do anything about this. I can only say what I know about. It is upto you whom you will believe.  There is nothing that I can do if you say that I am wrong. It is your liberty to believe whom you like to believe. If you want to believe the other version of the story, you can do. I can only say that we are committed to do no harm. We are working on the issues and some damages that have happened. I am confident that we can reach to our ‘zero harm’ promise in five to ten years time.’

 

I picked up the point and answered without microphone: ‘Mr Chariman I appreciate your wish to do no harm but you are aware that you have already done harms to people. You are saying that you want to reach zero harm after doing so much damage and abuse to people. You are saying that you want to stay for another five years but people don’t want you for another year, they don’t even want you for a day there. You have seen the outcry of people outside the AGM. They are saying that they want to kick Vedanta out today. They don’t want you there because of the harms that you have already done to them.’

 

Anil Agarwal replied, as fantasised, that ‘we are committed to do zero harm and damage to people but we are not saying that no harm has been done. Despite our continuous effort to avoid damage, we have received reports of some damages which could not be helped. You know that any development projects and technological development involve some risks which could not be totally avoided. But I am committed that our company will work on this and we will overcome these damages in future.’

Tom Albanese added, ‘I see fifty years of efforts to come, and we are keeping the largest employer in Zambia afloat.’

I gave in and wanted to take a break so microphone went to someone else.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA via Miriam Rose

Anger over Vedanta at their AGM in London. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Several other shareholders raised the issue of ongoing abuse of communities by the company. Some have expressed their concerns to the company reputation as situation is not improving for years. One has expressed his frustration over the answers to his questions from the board for several years which, in his views, discouraged him to ask a question. One (company agent) has accused some of us are causing trouble in the AGM.

This shareholder addressed the board as “Sirs” and said that he had been listening to the ‘dialogues’ at the AGM and that these were not really questions and answers. For him, ‘shareholders could have dialogues with the board elsewhere, in “private”‘. People were at the AGM to ask questions on the annual report, and if people were not happy, they should present their views elsewhere, not at the AGM.’ He continued, saying that he had got a fright when the share price went down below £2. He then asked a question about bonuses. During his speech two women shareholders behind me had left the meeting room, and a peer sitting in front of me has smiled while the other peer two rows behind me had nodded off.

There were irritations, frustrations and heated discussions that I do not aim to note word by word here to void killing reader’s time. One community member from Niyamgiri said the the board is doing utter lies to the shareholders. Two of our friends raised questioned in relation to the Buxi. One had asked a long question which in short was as below:

The Buxi Commission report on the Korba Chimney disaster, which found BALCO guilty of negligence causing at least 40 workers deaths, has now been leaked to the public. Why are you still trying to suppress this report? Anil Agarwal and his CEO had totally misinterpreted the question or deliberately denied to pretend that they did answer his question to their level best. At this point two shareholders who had visited mine sites in India and Zambia had illustrated the differences between the reality and the fantasy of the annual report. They have come back to report on what they had seen. They asked, when will you close down Lanjigarh refinery which has now been operating at a loss for too long due to lack of raw material? At one point a questioner noted he ‘had shown the company’s shiny new “sustainable development” [sic] report to villagers who were shocked by its contents, noting that one person quoted in it – fulsomely praising the company – did not exist in the village to which he was attributed.

The board’s primary response was that they would investigate. But this caused more frustration in heated discussions rather than hope, because this was what had been promised before. One shareholder, raising the issue of the appalling lack of health and safety at the Bodai-Daldali mine in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh noted the issues had been reported before, with promises of investigation, but little seemed to change. Vedanta’s CEO, Tom Albanese, said he was shocked by what he had seen (although the Chair Anil Agarwal seemed to suggest the footage may not be genuine). As was pointed out by the shareholder, it seems head office booked inspection visits in advance; maybe if they really wanted to see what was going on perhaps they should pop along unannounced?

 

After two hours of heated discussions by dissident shareholders and the failure of the  board to address the issues in relation to Niyamgiri and Zambia, I got the microphone again and followed from an unresolved question. The microphone was given to me after I waited, patiently, for nearly 30 mins. It was finally Anil Agarwal who asked the person with the roving microphone to give the microphone to me. At this stage he was not only fantasising but also attempted to flatter and flirt with us.  Anil Agarwal said to the microphone holder: ‘give it to the girl, this young girl here’!

I said: Thank you for giving me the microphone again!

Anil Agarwal smiled at me and said: ‘you are welcome. I like girls. Girls are good.’

I said: I am not a girl anymore!

Anil Agarwal said: oh, I know. You are not a girl. You are a lady.

I said: Actually, I am a woman. I am quite old!

Anil Agarwal, Tom Albanese and Deepak Kumar laughed. Anil Agarwal said: oh, you are old?

I did not tell him what’s my correct age but I pointed out that if he wished to flirt, he would have to flirt with an old woman.

He changed the topic and said: you are an academic. I like academics’.

I said: I am a researcher and a community activist.

Anil Agarwal said: yes, yes, researcher. Research is good profession.

He was clearly judging my work or me, nevertheless, we let it go. As I wanted to move on to my point, Agarwal interrupted me again and said: You are from Bangladesh, right?

I said: yes, that’s correct.

He said: I love Bangladesh. I am very fond of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a nice country. It is rich in natural resources. It has gas, oil, coal and other mineral resources.

I said: indeed, yes. But you are not welcome to Bangladesh. I am not inviting you to visit Bangladesh. We don’t want your company to go there to extract our natural resources in Bangladesh. We are rich in natural resources but we don’t want to disturb the soil and the nature by smuggling coals and gas. We don’t want any multinational corporation to exploit us and destroy our natural resources. We have been fighting multinational corporations for years and we have put a decade long halt to a massive open cast coal mine in Bangladesh that you might have heard about. I coordinate a community activist group, called the Phulbari Solidarity Group, which is working to prevent further aggression of multinational companies in Bangladesh. We will be celebrating ten years of resistance in Phulbari and in London on 26th August this year. You can come to our London protest to be held on 26 August, if you like. You can also come to visit my home in the UK, and I can cook for you if you wish to have a Bengali dinner. But you are not welcome to Bangladesh.

 

Anil Agarwal and his board members looked terribly Foil Vedanta demo by pic by Peter Marshalluncomfortable. Agarwal lost words as being embarrassed. He only nodded head by indicating that he got the message.

Then I continued, and said: my question is related to my dissident shareholder Samarendra Das who has given us some extremely important information which I found immensely useful. Unlike you, I was not bored. I am rather grateful to him for providing us those useful information that enriched my knowledge on the subject. You said to Mr Das that you don’t have anything to do with Niyamgiri. My question is: will you do a fresh press statement by clarifying that Vedanta will never go back to Niyamgiri in future? Can you put on an official statement on your website by stating what you have just said to Samarendra Das?  Can you confirm that it is not in your interest and there will be no future interference from Vedanta in Niyamagiri?

 

I continued and said that my second question is also in relation to Niyamgiri: You have claimed that you will respect the decision of the people who rejected the mine, yet new Mines Minister Piyush Goyal has been making statements about pushing the project through. What are your intentions regarding the Niyamgiri mine? Are you still lobbying the Odisha government to overrule the democratic decision and force the mine through?

 

I continued and said that these two were my main questions though I would love to respond to a shareholder who appeared to have been advocating for an ill process to be practised in the annual general meeting of the company.  The shareholder behind me had asked the board to prohibit people to raise open questions. He asked people to stop spending time by raising issues around how the company made its money, and only to talk about the returns to investors and financial issues. Yet he then proceeded to do at great length. In his opinion, we should only raise questions based on the annual report produced and distributed by the company executives. He suggested that we should not comment on anything else, and that any discussion beyond the annual report should be discussed outside the AGM and in private. He thought that we were having a dialogue with the board which he suggested to do in private. He also claimed that dissident shareholders were bored by many questions that some of us have been raising in the AGM today.

We entered the AGM  to represent communities inside the AGM during loud protest outside. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

We entered the AGM to represent communities inside the AGM during loud protest outside. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

 

I objected to his suggestions and said that ‘we should develop appropriate ethos that enables an environment to discuss complicated issues and complex truth openly. Multinational corporations must practice transparency and the Vedanta board should be accountable to all shareholders rather than only producing an annual report distributed to us. The company should follow “good” corporate “ethics” which would allow space for any discussion related to the company to take place in the same room where the AGM is taking place so that all shareholders and people involved in the company can be aware of what is happening in reality.’

 

‘The shareholder who found our questions and comments are “dialogues” between you (the board) and us (as community representatives) is wrong. We are not here for a dialogue with you. We are here to report the abuse that your company has done to people in various countries. We are here to place oral complaints on behalf of the communities. We are here to question you about why you are overlooking these important issues. There is nothing to get bored about. The shareholder who complained that other shareholders have left the room because they were bored by our allegations against the company did not notice that two people behind me left the meeting during his speech. I have an eye witness here [indicating the security guard/peer who sat in front of me] who noticed this and exchanged a smile with me as the shareholder appeared mistaken.

‘People can leave a meeting room for many reasons. Sometimes they might be busy and may have other commitments and appointments that make them leave the room. Other times they might be bored. It is possible that people were bored by the senior shareholder’s speech. It is also possible that some people did not like what we are discussing here. But we have to continue raising all of these issues right here.’

 

The shareholder who complained about our interrogation and addressed the board members as ‘Sirs’ appeared as an academic at LSE, got furious to me at this point and attempted to interfere during my objection to his deliberate allegation against us. He stood up in the midst of my speech and shouted, despite request of the board to wait, pointing at me disapprovingly. He was asked by board members to allow me to finish my remarks. He raised his two pointing fingers to me and swore by words that I couldn’t hear as I was on the microphone. I continued with my speech and told him that I hardly bothered his unexpected ill-manner and threats. I said that I was there to represent large number of effected communities who cannot be silenced by his masculinity and ill manner. I said that I would continue to speak with all of the shareholders in the room, and not only to the board.

I told: ‘Put your fingers down now. I have the right to speak about everything that is related to the company.  We ought to do the interrogation right in the AGM, not outside the room. I do not want to have a private meeting about these general issues which all other shareholders have the right to know. I am here to not only speak to the board members but also to share information with shareholders present in the room. I will speak to all shareholders on behalf of the communities in Odisha and Zambia, and I will speak with permission of the board.’

The entire meeting room was silent during my speech, and some nodded heads in support of what I said to the misbehaving shareholder from LSE. The board looked truly anxious as they feared further disruption. After my last comments, Tom Albanese and Anil Agarwal told that they want to continue the practice of discussing things openly in the AGM. Albanese said: ‘we encourage people to speak openly and ask questions about anything that the shareholders are concerned about.’ Anil Agarwal repeated the words that People have the freedom to discuss all matters that they like to discuss in the AGM. ‘We believe in democracy and freedom of speech. Everybody has the liberty to talk about any aspect of the company. We believe in liberty’, he said.

 

The meeting had quickly wrapped up by Anil Agarwal’s call for votes.  Outside the AGM protesters chanted and drummed for four hours accosting executives of the company as they entered and left the AGM. When Agarwal and other board members had come out of the venue, the protesters surrounded them. But Anil Agarwarl smiled shamelessly, and his gangs left blatant.  We don’t know if they will ever feel ashamed for their continuous misdeeds and abuse to communities.

The above is my personal account on what happened at the Vedanta AGM on 5 August in 2016. For further details, feel free to have a look at the detailed accounts of other dissident shareholders here .

This is how the Vednata board members enter amidst protest and under the shadow of a monster on Friday Phto Peter Marshall This is how the Vedanta investors enter the AGM amidst loud protest and under UK Police protection at Barbican London on 5 August 2016

 

 

 

 

Copyright of all of the images used in this report remains to Peter Marshall. No commercial use o the photos without permission is expected. Thank you!

Further details of protests and actions inside and outside the Vedanta AGM can be accessed from the following url links:

India, Zambia, London protest Vedanta’s AGM

A tale of two worlds – Vedanta AGM 2016

Further coverage in The Mining Journal,  the New International, and Reuters.

 

 

Fascist attack on peaceful march in Bangladesh, Solidarity from London and across the earth to save the Sunderbans

  • 200 mangrove marchers brutally charged by police in Dhaka
  • 16 unarmed protesters seriously injured
  • Six frontline defenders and NCBD leaders imprisoned
  • Cops foiled public statement to cancel dark deal over world’s largest mangrove

By Rumana Hashem and Raj Manik

As you might have awaited update from Thursday’s public march against the destructive Rampal coal-power plant, we are in the process of doing a detailed and analytical report on the attack on peaceful marchers and the fascism of Bangladeshi police. For now, note that the Dhaka protest was attacked by state law enforcement force, and the Prime Minister shamefully denied to meet with the concerned citizens of Bangladesh who wanted to handover a statement to their Prime Minister.

Police opens fire on NCBD marchers in Dhaka 28 July 2016 The masculine male police beaten her so badly the female left activist went unconcious on 28 July 2016 NCBD march against Rampal deal to handover statement to PM of Bangladesh in Dhaka 28 July 2016 Dhaka March to Save the Sunderbans on 28 July 2016. copy right @NCBD Dhaka

When the marchers walked towards the Prime Minister’s office to submit a statement to save the Sunderbans, police unleashed violence on peaceful marchers, threw tear shells over a march of 200 protesters who sought to handover a public statement against the dark Rampal deal that would destroy the world’s largest mangrove, the Sunderbans. Many of our activists, including the Member Secretary of NCBD, Professor Anu Muhammad, were severely injured as beaten up by fascist police force who acted on behalf of a fascist government.  Students and women-environmentalists were beaten to such that several of them were taken to hospital in critical condition.

The leaders of National Committee and frontline organisers of the march were abused and six front-line protesters, including Anu Muhammad, were detained on arbitrary charges. Police did not only abuse and charge activists but also foiled the well-written public statement, which demanded the immediate cancellation of the destructive Rampal coal-fired plant, to symbolise that commons and citizens do not have the right to express opinion on natural and national resources in Bangladesh.

In a nutshell, we have seen a fascist face of the government of Bangladesh in the month of Mangrove Action. We have witnessed how a so called pro-independence government deployed fascist police to dismiss people’s urge to preserve national sovereignty. The state-law enforcement force had foiled demands to conserve the world’s largest mangrove forest just a day after the International Mangrove Action Day. This is shocking and sickening.

So proud of our women activists taking on frontline to defend environment and mangrove in Bangladesh 28 July 2016 environmental activist tortured by facist police in Dhaka on 28 July 2016

Dhaka March to PM office on 28 July 2016

Dhaka March to PM office on 28 July 2016. Copyright @NCBD

Although media coverage of this heinous attack on peaceful marchers was poor, we have heard the sound of angers, condemnation and protests across the earth on Thursday.  In London, the Bangladeshi community rallied under the banner of protect resources of Bangladesh, the UK branch, and unreservedly condemned the attacked on environmentalists and progressive activists in Dhaka.

protest against rampal in london on 28 July 2016 PROTEST at Altabl Ali Park on 28 July 2016 protest at altabl ali park in london on 28 july 2016

London protest against destructive Rampal power plant on 28 July 2016

London protest against destructive Rampal power plant on 28 July 2016. Photo credit: Shefa Ahmed and Rumana Hashem

Despite miserable weather and a week day afternoon, there was a great turn up of saddened Bengalese at Altab Ali Park at Aldgate East. Speakers include Bangladesh Socialist Party leader, Mostofa Kamal, European-Bangladesh Climate Change, Ansar Ahmed Ullah, Communist party leader, Dr Mohammad Ali Khan Jinnah, Photo journalist Peter Marshall, Worker’s party leader Ishaque Kajole, Dr Mokhlesur Rahman of NCBD UK , Dr Rumana Hashem of PSG and other community organisers. We were, of course, present at the rally from Phulbari Solidairty Group. But the question is: does the Bangladesh government care for what we think and say about our national environment and national resources?

We will be updating you on further development on this via twitter, blog and mailing lists.

What you can do to help us:

  • We would appreciate it if you can re-tweet our news and if you can tweet @PSG-BD
  • Please do your own outreach by using hashtag #Rampal and #SavetheSunderbans
  • We would appreciate it if you can avoid asking for money/donation from people for this mangrove action. Any sort of donation based campaign can undermine our cause and would let down the movement to save the Sunderbans.
  • If you need help, please do contact us for connecting on how to organise in your own locality and how to express solidarity with the protesters back home. You can email us: phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com and rabbani.enpolicy@gmail.com

#SavetheSunderbans #StopRampalCoalFiredPlant

Further news:

Police foiled march: The daily Star report http://www.thedailystar.net/city/demo-sundarbans-foiled-10-held-1260748

 

Protest against Destructive Rampal Power Plant this Thursday

By Rumana Hashem

Despite nationwide protests and international campaigns against the controversial coal power plant in Rampal, Bangladeshi government has approved India‘s NTPC proposed Rampal power plant which, if implemented, will destroy the world’s largest mangrove, the Sundarbans. Bangladeshi and Indian governments have signed a destructive deal in July, the month of International Mangrove Action, when the world is supposed to celebrate International Mangrove Day.

On 13 July, Bangladesh and India have signed an agreement which enables India’s state run Bharat Heavy Electrical Ltd. to implement the Rampal thermal power plant. The proposed plant would be built in 14 kilometres to the Sundarbans, a treasured ecosystem along Bangladesh’s coast.

It is outrageous that the governments of the two neighbouring states, Bangladesh and India, have disregarded the global calls and conspired to abandon people’s urge to prevent the construction of disparaging coal-power plant in Rampal from happening. They let Bangladesh’s only mangrove forest, Sundarbans, to be destroyed for self-interests. This deal has been signed at a time when Bangladesh has been undergoing political turmoil and religious genocide. The nation was focused on Gulshan attack when the two governments have approved the destructive deal.

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Port-Power and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh (NCBD) will march to the Prime Minister’s Office this Thursday, 28th July, to protest against the deal.

 

2

In solidarity with the protesters in Bangladesh, the UK branch of NCBD will rally against the destructive deal at 6.30pm on the same day at Altab Ali Park in East London.

Please join us along with your friends and raise your voice against this destructive project. Our outcry can protect the world’s largest mangrove forest, the local environment in Bangladesh, its ecology and species. #SavetheSundarbans

 

Read further news here:

A new power plant could devastate the world’s largest mangrove forest

Bangladesh, India sign Rampal power plant construction agreement

Additional information and news:

1.“Bangladesh Sticks With Coal Power Plant Project Despite Major Backlash,” Mongabay, February 16, 2016,
http://news.mongabay.com/2016/02/bangladesh-sticks-with-coal-power-plant-project-despite-major-backlash/

2. Anu Muhammad & Sheikh Muhammad Shaheedullah, “Manipulating Rampal,” Dhaka Tribune, March 31, 2016,
http://www.dhakatribune.com/op-ed/2016/mar/31/manipulating-rampal

  1. Dr. Abdullah Harun Chowdhury, “Environmental Impact of Coal Based Power Plant of Rampal on the Sundarbans and Surrounding Areas,” Khulna University, http://bagerhatsociety.com/apanel/admin/download/tdwn2573136.pdf
  2. “Ganges River Dolphin,” World Wildlife Foundation,http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/ganges-river-dolphin
  3. “Orion Signs Deals for Generators for its 660MW Power Plant,” The Daily Star, May 11, 2014, http://www.thedailystar.net/orion-signs-deals-for-generators-for-its-660mw-power-plant-23556
  4. Sönke Kreft, David Eckstein, Lukas Dorsch, and Livia Fischer, “Global Climate Risk Index 2016,” GermanWatch, November 2015, http://germanwatch.org/fr/download/13503.pdf

It is time for Global Day of Action against Vedanta

Phulbari Solidarity Group extends unconditional solidarity with Foil Vedanta in their fight against notorious Vedanta. Foil Vedanta, a campaign group against extractive corporation, has produced invaluable reports on mining effected areas in India and Afrika, and global trade of metals by notorious multinational company, Vedanta. We will join Foil Vedanta on their annual Global Day of Action at Vedanta’s AGM again this year. Like previous years, we will join activists to bring the defiant energy of communities fighting and winning against Vedanta around the world to London on Friday, 5 August.

The main event will be held on Friday 5 August 2016, 14:00 – 16:00 at Ironmongers Hall, Barbican, EC2Y 8AA (nearest tube Barbican).

Foil Vedanta AGM 2016 poster. Source: Foil Vedanta campaign letter 6 July 2016

Foil Vedanta AGM 2016 poster. Source: Foil Vedanta campaign letter 6 July 2016

 

This year, pollution affected communities of Zambia won their nine years battle in their Supreme Court, and now won the right to have their case heard in Britain. In India, the Dongria Kond of Niyamgiri in Odisha are now demanding to dismantle Vedanta’s aluminium refinery in Lanjigarh, after winning their case in the Supreme Court of India.

Parallel demonstrations are already planned in Zambia and India on the 4th August and questions raised by the communities will be asked inside the AGM meeting.

 

We encourage our supporters and readers to join Foil Vedanta on Friday the 5th of August to tell Vedanta to stop its notorious activities overseas.
For more information please follow the link:
http://www.foilvedanta.org/actions/global-day-of-action-against-vedanta-5th-august/

Mining is in Rapid Fall

People, climate change and future of the industry

By Raaj Manik

An international workshop on mining in South Asia was organised by Activists and Academia Network, called, the Centre for World Environmental History (CWEH) at University of Sussex in which Phulbari Solidarity Group made a robust contribution. On Wednesday 11 May 2016, a remarkable delegation of activists from the global South has shared their anti-mining community activism, and engaged with experienced colleagues in the global North working to expose the brutality of northern extractive companies in the South.

Speakers included Gladson Dungdung, who was offloaded from the Air India flight on his way to the workshop, was due to report on threats to Saranda Forest in Jharkhand, human rights abuses and the destruction of the environment by iron ore mining companies. Also front-line environmentalists and researchers from Bangladesh and India, including Malvika Gupta from University of Delhi, Rumana Hashem of Phulbari Solidarity Group, Roger Moody of Nostromo Research, and Miriam Rose of Foil Vedanta delivered insightful work and narratives of excellent grassroots struggles against mining and corporations.

Vedanta demo London 2015

Vedanta demo London 2015

Phulbari outburst on 26 August 2006.

Phulbari outburst on 26 August 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PSG founder and eye-witness to Phulbari carnage in 2006, Rumana Hashem, has delivered a talk,titled “Translating Phulbari Resistance and anti-coal struggles in Bangladesh: A bottom up approach to social movement to protect environment and indigenous rights from corporate excess”. Hashem advocates for and showed how a bottom up, informal and non-bureaucratic approach to anti-mining and environmental movement have become tremendously powerful and successful in north-Bangladesh.   

The drastic increase of privatisation and multinational corporations has not only caused environmental damage and energy injustice but also induced forced-displacement, destitution of indigenous people and farmers in southern countries, such as, Bangladesh. But resistance to extractive corporations and dodgy deals involving government sponsored companies across the South is in the rise. While Bangladesh has been taken hostage for oil, gas and coal by US, China, Indian, Russian and UK corporations, grassroots activism and people’s resistance across the country are remarkable, notes Hashem.

On 26 August in 2006, three people were shot dead at an anti-open cast coal mining outburst of 80, 000 people in northwest Bangladesh but locals were able to form powerful resistance to fight back the miners for decades. Hashem’s talk analyse anti-coal power struggles and social movements for environment and agriculture-based livelihood in Phulbari, and argued that a bottom up approach to environmental and anti-imperialist struggle has been successful in the northwest of Bangladesh.

Hashem illustrated a three-level socio-political movement, called the Phulbari Resistance, against an UK-listed company GCM Resources, formerly known as Asia Energy, that prevented the implementation of a massive open-cast coal mine in the town of Phulbari which would be destroyed by greedy corporate plans. If the mine is built, it would lead to forced-displacement of up to 230, 000 people over the course (30 years) of the project. It would increase poverty and crisis of food production in a country which struggled to provide food supply to nearly one third of its population in 2006-2010. The project would further cause water pollution and would plunder 94 percent of agricultural land in the region.  It would leave devastating impact on environment.

Hashem’s talk revealed how local farmers and indigenous people formed powerful resistance in Phulbari under the umbrella of an open platform of left-environmentalists, called the National Committee of Bangladesh, and fought a dirty extractive company, GCM Resources, in Bangladesh.  Her report exhibited that the impact of Phulbari resistance on grassroots mobilisation across Bangladesh is so that it led several other social and political movements including Save the Sundarbans, Bashkhali anti-coal plant outburst, and movement against onshore and offshore gas blocks.

Hashem insists that “it is possible to prevent forced-displacement and livelihood from increasing corporate excess only if we followed a bottom up approach to balance power at local, national and international levels, and only if a true solidarity and consensus between the northern and southern grassroots activism has been formed.”

The illuminating talk by Hashem was followed by a researcher and advocate for indigenous rights, Malvika Gupta from University of Delhi, who illustrated how indigenous kids are manipulated and re-colonised by the colonial language and English education in India. The narratives of oppression of indigenous communities by British corporation in India and Zambia were explored and discussed by Miriam Rose of Foil Vedanta, and Roger Moody of Mines and Communities and Nostromo Research, UK.

All speakers have robustly argued that mining is in rapid fall. Despite pernicious oppression and abuse by multinational corporations in the global south, extractive companies and mining across the world have been facing their downfall.

The day-long conference at the Centre for World Environmental History (CWEH) has ended with a hope that mining will continue to fall. The director of the centre, Dr Vinita Damodaran  given a vote of thanks to the superb speakers and activists who brought in new hopes to the conference room that extractive companies are likely to be vanished in near future so long as we continue to fight consistently.

The event was facilitated by Zuky Serper, an Activist and Artist in Residence, and chaired by Dr Vinita Damodaran at CWEH at University of Sussex.

Protesters blockade and shut down UK’s largest open-cast mine in Merthyr Tydfil

Report on Powerful Campaign Against Open-Pit Coal Mine at Ffos-y-fran in South Wales

By Paul Dudman (@PaulDudman)

A red line was drawn by the bodies and banners of passionate protesters through the existing mine to halt open-cast coal mining. Copyright: Reclaim the Power

Tuesday, the 3rd May, has witnessed the successful blockade of the UK’s largest open cast coal mine in Ffos-y-fran, by several hundred protestors as part of a climate change movement organised by the Reclaim the Power oragnisation to help showcase the damage caused by opencast coal extraction to the environment.  This was the outcome of a week-long camping of passionate climate change action organised by the climate action network of Reclaim the Power to highlight issues surrounding the damage caused by mining companies using invasive techniques to harvest the last remaining coal reserves and the impact these procedures can have on the natural environment.  The coal company in question, Miller Argent, are looking to significantly increase their coal mining production in this area of South Wales, which would have a devastative effect on the local environment and wildlife.

The aim of Tuesday’s action was to undertake a mass civil trespass at the existing Ffos-y-fran opencast mining complex, which began at 5:30am on Tuesday morning and has continued through the day.

This is how protesters have drawn a red-line on coal mine at Ffyos-y-fran #EndCoal. Copyright: Reclaim the Power.

A press release by the Reclaim the Power stated that this is “the largest ever action in a UK opencast mine” with activists traveling from all across Britain and internationally to peacefully occupy the mine and show solidarity and support.  Having been fortunate enough to visit the site over the bank holiday weekend, the impact of the existing opencast mine is there for everyone to see and any expansion of this opencast method of coal extraction will have serious implications for the local area.  Two huge mountains of waste slag have already been produced as a bye-product of the extraction process. Locals are concerned that the vague promises of this material being returned to the ground once mining is complete will be ignored in the face of the financial benefits of turning the large open-pit mine into a commercial rubbish tip once mining is complete.

Tuesdays protest has been successful in halting coal mining work at Ffos-y-fran. An activist Hannah Smith, on site stated that :

“Today we’ve shut down the UK’s largest coal mine because we must keep fossil fuels in the ground to stop catastrophic climate change [….] We are taking action in solidarity with the local community who have been battling Ffos-y-fran for nearly a decade, and now face the threat of a new mine next door.”

This action represents national and international support for a long-standing local campaign by the United

The Welsh Dragon standing firm in support of the blockade at Ffos-Y-fran and to protect environment. Copyright: Reclaim the Power.

Valleys Action Group, who have been opposing the further expansion of opencast mining at Ffos-y-fran and are now resisting a proposed mine at Nant Llesg. As highlighted in the official press release, “Caerphilly County Council rejected the application in August 2015 but the company Miller Argent is seeking to overturn this democratic decision.”

Indeed, the decision to look to expand the Ffos-y-fran opencast site seems irrational when you consider that the demand for coal itself is facing a downturn globally, especially with the growth in alternatives to coal within the clean energy sector. Equally, “the Aberthaw power station that uses 95% of the coal mined at Ffos-y-fran announced last week that it is scaling back operations” and many locals are vigorously opposed to expansion of opencast mining in the area hives the devastation that has been caused as a direct result of the mine in the surrounding area.

Tuesday’s protest also demonstrated the [assion and climax of Reclaim the Power’s ‘End Coal Now’  climate camp, situated on a hill side adjacent to the opencast mine. Activists from the UK and abroad have braved the wind and the rain to come together and to highlight the importance of fighting to preserve our natural environment and to reduce the impacts of climate change.  Events have taken place for five days to help bring together local residents with UK and international climate change activists, unions, Councillors and Assembly candidates to discuss how to guard against the environmental destruction caused as a result of open-pit mining. Solidarity was expressed by many international organisations to Tuesday’s action to end coal in Wales and the UK. Phulbari Solidarity Group has expressed unconditional solidarity with the protesters who blockaded the open-cast mine at Ffos-Y-Fran in Merthyr Tydfil.

Dr. Rumana Hashem holds a red banner to end coal, presented by an activist from Germany at Ende Gelaende, as a form of expressing solidarity on Solidarity Sunday at the End Coal Now camp in Merthyr Tydfil. Copyright: Paul Dudman.

Rumana Hashem, founder of the Phulbari Solidarity Group and executive member of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Respurces, Power and Port in Bangladesh, joined the camp and spoke to a full tent of activists on Sunday evening. Rumana shared her decade-long experience in stopping an open-pit coalmine in northwest Bangladesh, highlighting the successful campaign against Global Goal Management (GCM), a London-based mining company, who wants to build an immense open-pit mine in the Phulbari region of Bangladesh. She discussed GCM’s attempts to obtain approval for Phulbari open-pit mine, which if constructed, would result in the forced displacement of 120,000 people and would cause extensive environmental degradation to prime agricultural land in Bangladesh. By illustrating her eye witness to the shooting on a demonstration of 80,000 people that left three people shot dead in spot and over 200 injured in 2006, Rumana emphasised that strong opposition and long-term constructive actions could stop any mining company and government from destroying our planet.

Rumana also discussed the campaigns against the building of new power stations in the port city of Chittagong, and in Khulna. In describing the threats posed by the to be constructed Rampal power plant close to the Sunderbans in Bangladesh, the world’s largest mangrove forest and a World Heritage site, she said that: “in Bangladesh, coal power plant does not only take away land but also kills people and rare animals.”

In conjunction with speakers discussing the impact of coal extraction on local communities in Germany, the USA and Russia, and the current concerns over the burning of fossil fuels and the impact of carbon emissions on climate change, the Sunday Solidarity panel was organised by the Coal Action Network and Reclaim the Power. The panel went to highlight the importance of environmental activism in order to bring these issues to public attention.  There were many more interesting and action-based workshops which took place or four days prior to the action at the End Coal Now camp in Fochriw.  Tuesday’s action has been an outstanding success of the organisers who were able to achieve wide media coverage and positive response in mainstream national media including BBC, the Guardian, the Daily Mail and many more who highlighted the action as a successful blockade at the UK’s largest open-cast coal mine.

Thanks to the many hundreds of activists who were able to contribute to the climate camp in Ffos-y-fran over the post few days.  The public action at the coal face itself is an example of the amount of hard work and effort that many committed environmental activists are prepared to undertake in support of such an important cause. In addition to this, there has been a large amount of hard work undertaken behind the scenes in order to ensure that the “End Coal Now” camp has been a success. From organising free catering over several days, to inviting speakers from across the world and to the practicalities of arranging this type of open event on a large scale, demonstrate the passion, ability and commitment of the climate activists that they would continue to resist and halt the proposed open-cast mine in Nant Llesg.  This has certainly been an inspirational event to many and we hope this will act as a spur to all of us to continue the fight to protect our environment.

Download the Reclaim the Power Press Statement – HUNDREDS SHUT DOWN UK’S LARGEST OPENCAST COAL MINE.

Follow @reclaimthepower on Twitter or on live blog: www.reclaimthepower/endcoalnow/live

 

Read More:

The Guardian – Climate protesters occupy UK’s largest opencast coalmine – in pictures.

The Guardian – The time has come to turn up the heat on those who are wrecking planet Earth

BBC News – Hundreds protest at Ffos-y-Fran opencast mine in Merthyr

BBC News – Ffos-y-Fran opencast mine in Merthyr Tydfil ‘unbearable’

ITV News – Hundreds gather to halt operations at Ffos-y-fran opencast mine

 

 

 

 

 

Bashkhali Tragedy: Loopholes behind the story of Coal Shooting

FILED VISIT and REPORT BY A BANGLADESHI FEMINIST-ANTHROPOLOGIST AND FILM MAKER  REPRODUCED FROM NewsBangladesh.com

By Nasrin Siraj

A team of 13 leaders and activists of Chittagong chapter of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port visited, on April 6, Gondamara union under Bashkhali upazila in Chittagong district where four unarmed villagers were killed allegedly in police firing on April 4. I was a member of the team. A schoolteacher from Gondamara union was our guide during the visit.

Gondamara is a shoal area between Jolkodor canal and a seaside embankment. Salt, shrimp and rice are produced here. Crossing the bridge over the Jolkodor canal, we found a group of villagers of different ages sitting at small tea stalls. No sooner had we descended from our vehicles, they surrounded us and started talking altogether, narrating the harrowing details of the immediate past tragic killings.

From there, we started on foot for the nearby village. We met a huge crowd of villagers at a place where a live programme of Jamuna TV was being telecast. A teenage boy of 16/17 years joined us on the way, a scratched scar glowing on his cheek. This is his story:

“(Indicating at the motorcycle of one of our team members) they came by motorcycles like this, wearing helmets like this…those who shot us that day…the hired goons of S Alam…they were accompanied by police.”

Question: How did you know that they were S Alam’s hired goons?

The teenage boy: “They wore police uniform and covered their faces with masks…but we are the local people…don’t we know S Alam’s goons? They come here all the time.”

“(One standing beside him added) haven’t you seen the S Alam office on the way coming here? There are at least 2,000 police uniforms at that office. Wearing those uniforms, the goons came here on that day riding motorcycles. They came from that office.”

The teenage boy: “The local police station has only 20/25 policemen, but on that day about 200 policemen came here.” Another from the villagers, standing beside the boy, added: The OC, UNO, MP Sahib all are sold to them (to S Alam)…

The people surrounding us altogether were trying to describe the horrific incident that took place only two days ago. They were also inquiring about our identities and purpose of visit. Listening to their gory details, suddenly I remembered the first wounded person I met the previous day at Chittagong Medical College and Hospital, during a visit in search of Bashkhali victims. I asked, “Was not a shopkeeper shot here?”

All of them answered at a time, “Yes, yes…this is his shop…this Medina…shooting on his leg from point blank range, they took him to that bridge from here, dragging him all the way…he suffered severely and painfully, you see, the road is pitched…even the soldiers of Pakistani occupation army were not so brutal…we were not tortured so much even during the liberation war…”

We were still a little away from the spot where the shootings took place. Meanwhile, National Committee leaders and activists had completed their procession and rally, expressing solidarity with their movement. Someone then proposed that we should visit the wounded villagers. It may be mentioned here that the National Committee organised the visit without any prior preparations. The visit was organised all of a sudden. The leaders and activists of the committee are not well familiar with this locality and people. That’s why they did not have any particular plan. The villagers then took us to Moriom and Kulsum. Here is the story in short they told us:

“Police on that day not only killed four people firing indiscriminately, but also entered home to home and shot women. Kulsum was breastfeeding her child, and Moriom was peeping through the window to see what had been happening outside when the police entered their homes and shot them. The main problem regarding the bullet-wounded ones was to take them to hospitals as, after filing cases against 3,000 unnamed accused, police have been arresting all the wounded persons whoever had gone to any Chittagong hospitals from Godamara. So, apprehending detention, wounded people are not going to the CMCH, or concealing their names and addresses if anybody is going.”

Moriom showed us her terribly shaking bullet-ridden hand. With tearful eyes, she told us, “Kulsum conceived four months ago. She has five children also. Who will take care of them now? Who’ll take care of those motherless children?”

The women present there then oragnised Kulsum’s children and father so that we can take a family photo.

Kulsum’s children with their father

I asked Kulsum’s husband, “How is your patient now?”

Kulsum’s husband: “Being afraid of arrest, I didn’t accompany her to the hospital. Police is waiting there to arrest us if we come out on the street (meaning the road leading outside the village)…her brothers are there, they are taking care of everything.”

Mentionable, most of these villagers surrounding us are day labourers, involved either in farming or fishing, or in salt production. Some of them took us inside their homes to show the place where, under what situation, they were shot, to show us bullet scars on mud walls.

From there the team brought out a procession, accompanied by the guide as well as the villagers, and marched towards the school field where the shooting spree took place. Instead of taking part in the procession, I was loitering slowly. Kulsum’s husband and other 5/6 villagers accompanied me and there started a conversation.

I asked, “What happened here? Why police shot the villagers indiscriminately?”

Again I was bombarded by a bunch of answers delivered simultaneously. I am trying to tell the story in short what I understood from their answers:

“At the wee hours of April 3 (another interrupted to clarify that after 12pm, new date starts), police arrested some villagers who were sleeping on the seaside embankment. Protesting the arrests, we were holding a meeting presided by Liakat Chairman, president of Vumi Rokkha Committee, meaning land protection committee. Police reached the spot after the meeting started and without any warning started shooting us indiscriminately.”

Q: But why police arrested those villagers?

A: Someone or other vandalised a car of the power project. Not a single journalist writes the truth. Three to four journalists have come so far, but taking S Alam’s bribe they all published fake stories. They wrote about that car-vandalising, but forgot to mention that we don’t want any coal-based power plant in our locality.

Q: But what is your problem with setting up power plant?

A: Hey, coal-based plant has many problems…aren’t they trying to set up another coal-fired power plant at the Sunderbans? If it becomes reality, the trees and tigers will surely die…nothing will remain on the ground…the same will happen here. Our trees, our plantations nothing will remain in place. We will have to abandon our forefathers’ land. A rivalry has erupted and is going on centering the issue since many days. The rivalry reached its peak for the last 2/3 months.

“(Another one ads from aside) you are not being able to tell Apa anything. Listen, Apa, the whole clash erupted over sharing of the money. Just a few days ago, a clash took place between two groups of people of our locality over sharing of money at the home of the local MP Sahib. In between their rivalries these innocent four died. I am an Awami League activist for the last 40 years. None of the Awami Leaguers knew this new MP before he was nominated. This MP only knows money.”

The topic of the conversation then changed, and all of them started showing me bullet scars on walls and tins beside the village road. It is obvious that bullets were fired literally indiscriminately. Were the police afraid that they would be attacked by the villagers, I thought. Or else, why such indiscriminate firings? But before I could ask the question, we reached the school field where the National Committee had already started a spontaneous meeting. Villagers continued showing me bullet scars…

“look here”, “This way, come here…”

Again I tried to listen to their stories coming from all sides. I tried to understand—why the police started shooting on a visibly unarmed meeting. How many police personnel were there? How many rounds of bullet were shot at public on that day?

At one time I understood that the villagers were not at all aware that a Section 144 had been imposed. That’s why they were dumbfounded by the police action. Public interpretation of the incident is like this: “We were not armed at all (javelin or spear is household weaponry in this locality). We heard that a meeting had been called and we went to join the meeting. Had we joined the meeting readily, not a single police would be spared alive on that day.”

I noticed one thing; the villagers repeatedly alleged that on the fateful day of April 4, a number of hired goons wearing uniforms accompanied the police. They engaged in an argument right in front of me over the number of goons and police. Some said there were 200 police, some said 50 while a third group said 70 were real police and the rest were hired S Alam goons. “At first they fired at the sky. They fired at least 20 rounds of bullet per second and over all 1000 rounds of bullet were fired,” said these witnesses.

Mortuza nana was eating this bread at my tea stall. He could not finish it. They shot him on the chest from point blank range

“They wore masks (because they were firing tear shells)…they shot Murtaza and Ankur from point blank range just because they identified them…they (Murtaza, Ankur) tore up their masks…We are locals…we know them all…They started from the S Alam office riding motorcycles (I have heard the same allegation earlier from another one just a while ago)…they started from there. They live there.”

“Phew…those were all polices…UNO, OC all were present…

I said, “Maybe, they all were policemen…”

”They (police and local administration) are acting on behalf of Mafia Don S Alam…taking S Alam’s money police fired on the public…”

This is not the first time I am experiencing Bangladeshi people’s anger, rage, fury and lack of confidence on police. I had heard the same terrible allegations against police, administration and government while doing my research work with the activists of Phulbari anti-coalmine movement.

Meanwhile, National Committee had completed their rally. Liakot Chairman was present there, but, I think National Committee activists were not interested to talk to him, rather they were interested to meet the relatives of the deceased ones. So, we went to meet them.

Our motorcade started for the relatives of the deceased, stopping here and there to inquire about the direction. We had to stop at one place where a group of villagers wanted to talk to us. A number of women were present there beside the males. As I advanced towards the women, they altogether started talking expressing anger and fury and objection over and to the coal-fired power plant.

My two maternal uncles and one of my cousin’s husband have been killed. Let them kill us if they want, not even then will we agree to set up coal power plant. They are oppressing us like the Pakistani occupation army. Our fathers-mothers-brothers can’t stay at home to sleep apprehending detention, they sleep at fields. And in the name of arresting the accused they are entering our homes wearing police uniforms to snatch away our ornaments, valuables and mobile phone sets. We cannot sleep at night in fear.

This is the moment when I came to know that three of same family had been killed on that day. I understood that late Anowarul Islam and late Mortuza Ali were two siblings and late Zakir Hosain was the son-in-law of Mortuza Ali. With tears rolling down on their cheeks, the women were telling their plight and I was thinking, “So many deaths in a single family…how are the living members of the family bearing the grief…administration, government and businessmen are considering these people as a hindrance to development…we are recognising them as protestors, but are we at all identifying them as humans? If my father, mother, sister, brother, husband or son dies normally instead of being killed by police, won’t I grieve equally like them…at the end of the day we are all humans…all are same, and our capacity to face and tackle grief are also equal…”

Reaching late Anwarul Islam, Mortuza Ali and Zakir Hossain’s home, National Committee leaders-activists started talking to the male members of the family. Women of the family took me inside the home. In between the waves of sobbing and whimpering, the eldest daughter-in-law of the family asked me about all the members of my family, entertained me with juice, orange and biscuits. A teenage girl from the family refilled my water bottle as she noticed that it was empty. We were informed that in an attempt to save his father, Anwar’s son Arafat was also hit by spray bullets. His uncle would take him to doctor after our departure.

What is going on inside this youngster’s mind, my attempts to understand how he is surviving the trauma reminded me of my sister’s daughter…so much caring, so many insisting all through the day addressing ‘baba baba’…

Gondamara has 500 acres of land. S Alam Group already has bought 1700 kani of land (as I am weak in land measurement, I am not going into details). But the villagers repeatedly clarified me that the problem is not with land purchasing procedure, because S Alam Group has already finished purchasing land. Those who had sold their lands have already received their dues. Those who are protesting at present are not land owners or anything, almost all of them are day labourers. And their demand is very simple —  entire population of Gondamara will not be able to continue living in the union due to the effect a coal-based power plant will make on its adjacent arable land, water and plantations. But where will they go? How will they live by? They don’t have anything else for survival save their own two hands.

My demand is very simple also—1) The allegation local people of Gondamara is raising that police killed innocent people must be investigated fairly and the criminals must be punished. 2) Were they really hired goons under police uniform? Is the administration really acting as a private force of S Alam Group? As a citizen I want this allegation to be investigated also, and if proved, I want the public servants acting as accomplices of criminals to be punished. 3) This harassment of the villagers, filing cases against unnamed 3000 and detaining the villagers indiscriminately, must be stopped.

I am ending this reportage citing a dialogue of the son of a killed one. The National Committee activists were trying to console and pacify him stressing on the necessity of law-abiding movement.

In reply to the consolations of the Committee activists, the boy said, “If my father had been taken to hospital, he might have survived. But the Police did not allow us to do so. We have shown enough respect to the law enforcers; no more.”

 

Translated by Tariq Al Banna from the Bangla version of the reportage.

newsbangladesh.com/tab

Read original report here: http://www.newsbangladesh.com/english/Banshkhali–Loopholes-behind-the-story/13361#.VwlPVOhvxs0.facebook

Nationwide protests against Bashkhali Tragedy: Criminals for Coal-shooting Must be Prosecuted

Press statement by National Committee in Bangladesh has released the following statement on Bashkhali killing on 8th April 2016

 “We demand exemplary punishment for the persons responsible for killing innocent people. We also demand to scrap projects with irregularities, corruption, and threat to human livelihoods and environment including coal fired power plants in Bashkhali and Rampal.”

“Being a close ally of present ruling party, S. Alam group, a Bangladeshi business house, has managed to acquire a permission from the government to set up a 1224 MW capacity coal plant in a populated location in coastal area, Bashkhali, Chittagong. The area is well known for its salt farming along with various fish and agro-cultivation.

“S. Alam group signed an agreement with two Chinese companies, SEPCOIII Electric Power and HTG to set up a coal based power plant back in 2013.  On 16th February, 2016, the government of Bangladesh approved the deal and set a price to purchase electricity from S. Alam Group at a rate of BDT 6.61 per unit. S. Alam group managed to showcase a total of 600 acres of  land for this plant. As much as 75 percent of the investment is reported to be borne by Chinese lenders.

“It is important to note that, no environmental impact assessment(EIA) report has been prepared on this plant. In addition, incidents of fraudulence and lack of transparency was visible from the very beginning of the project. Along with 7 thousand households, the propsed landmass for the plant also includes around 70 mosques, grave yards, a technical education institution, around 20 cyclone shelter houses, 1 high school, 8 primary government schools, 2 Alia Madrassa, 5 kaomi Madrassa, 5 markets, and 1 government hospital. Despite of the existence of such intense locality, a total of only 150 households have been reported in the area by the local administration in order to be able to handover the land to S. Alam group.Massive level of illegal practices have also been observed on the dealings of land. A good number of people have been reported to be victimized by the fraudulence of the agents of S.Alam group.

“People of Gandamara Union have been protesting against the proposed plant along with range of illegal activities associated with land purchase/acquisition for long. Assaults and threats became common in the process. The local people had tried to negotiate over the choice of location of the plant, appealing to spare the heavily populated areas. On March 23rd, a peaceful protest was organized in the area with the presence of the officials from the administration, in which around 30 thousand people participated. They demanded to spare the heavily populated segments of the area from the already chosen location for the plant. On 2nd April, the local villagers attempted to obstruct the entry of the officials of the S.Alam group into the area, 7 locals were arrested based on the incidenton April 3rd. On April 4th, a protest was organized under the banner of “Boshot vita rokkha Committee” (committee to protect housholds) demanding the release of the arrested ones. Meanwhile, the paid locals of the company called for a counter program in the same location to spoil the event. Following the situation, a restriction was imposed by the local police administration. However, while the angry protestors continued to gather on the spot, around 30 to 40 goons hired by the company began to fire on the unarmed villagers. A large number of people were shot on the spot. At least 4 have been reported to be confirmed dead.

“We would like to ask, if the state chooses to call it ‘development’, then where is the Environmental Impact Assessment report? Why is this atrocity? How come there is no space for people’s opinion? Why is the government so afraid of protest? What sort of democracy is this in which the police administration and armed goons are consistently used to assault the people in protest?  We have seen it in phulbari. Now witnessing the same in Rampal coal project near Sundarban, Ruppur nuclear power plant and in Moheshkhali in Cox’s bazar.

“As long as assault, land grabbing, evicting people, and threat continue in the name of development, discontent would prevail. If the interest and consent of people are not prioritized, people will reject every so called development project.

“We demand exemplary punishment for the persons responsible for killing innocent unarmed people. We also demand to scrap projects with irregularities, corruption, and threat to human livelihoods and environment including coal fired power plants in bashkhali and Rampal. We call for a protest rally in Dhaka and Chittagong on 5 april and call for nationwide protest on April 8th, 2016 to express solidarity with the people in Bashkhali and to press the government to fulfill above demands.”

Five killed at anti-China power plant protest in Bangladesh: Rally against Coal-Murders at Dhaka and Chittagong Press Club on Tuesday

By Raaj Manik

At least five innocent protesters were killed after police opened fire on a protest of 1500 villagers who were protesting against two China-backed power plants at Bashkhali in Chittagong, a location in southeastern Bangladesh on Monday, the 4th April.

 

“This is a terrible tragedy and major news. It is the largest loss of life at an anti-coal protest in Bangladesh since the tragic deaths in the August 26, 2006 killings at Phulbari, Bangladesh, where three people were killed and 200 injured by paramilitaries. It is the worst overall loss of life in anti-coal protests worldwide since the killings of six people in Jharkhand, India, at two protests in April 2011” , noted Ted Nace, the editor of Coal Swarm.

 

Professor Anu Muhammd, the Member Secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh, noted: “the villagers in Bashkhali have been loud against the destructive plans of S. Alam Group for months because the company wants to build two coal-fired power plants in the area by evicting thousands of villagers and land owners. The coal-businessmen of S. Alam Group, financed by two Chinese firms — SEPCOIII Electric Power and HTG, were fully aware of the strong opposition to the coal-power plant.”

 

The shooting on villagers started dramatically. Around 1500 villagers had gathered in Gandamara, a remote coastal town, to protest against the construction of two coal-fired power plants that they say will evict thousands from the area. Local authorities had banned the demonstration from taking place and the police opened fire on the crowd when the protesters needed support of police as they were demonstrating against a greedy company.

 

District police chief Hafiz Akter told AFP that ‘Four people died, including a pair of brothers’ while informal sources and witnesses said, at least five were dead. More than 100 were injured. The causality initiated by the state security forces caused injury of 11 policemen. One officer was shot in the head also.

 

The state administrators are fabricating information. M. Mesbahuddin, a government administrator in Chittagong district, told: “The clashes erupted when police came under attack by local villagers protesting against the move to install the power plant by S. Alam group with finance from China”. This statement has been challenged by the survivors and eye witnesses.

According to AFP, Abu Ahmed, a member of the village committee that staged the protest told: “Police opened fire as we brought out a procession against the power plants. They even chased the villagers to their homes”.

Abu Ahmed was shot in his leg. He said that the villagers had been holding peaceful protests for days after S. Alam, the local conglomerate behind the project, started purchasing land for the plants in the village, which lies on the edge of the Bay of Bengal. But government did not pay attention to the village-protests and the district administration remained silent for months. This led the villagers to stage a mass-protest which turned into the worst tragedy in the history of coal-killings in Bangladesh.

A Doctor at Chittagong Medical College Hospital, Saiful Islam, said that seven people, including four who were shot by live rounds, were brought to his clinic. The condition of each of them were critical.

Rumana Hashem, the founder of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye witness to Phulbari tragedy in 2006, noted in an email:

“You know what? Only less than half of the information is coming out of the villages because mainstream media is not willing to cover the news in detail or as widely as it needed.  This has always been the case in Bangladesh. I remember that night on 26 August in 2006, when Police raided our house, broke into housewife’s bedroom and warned us (without written warrant) that they would arrest us all, nobody knew the dirty crime of policemen and the male state security forces who entered the house in absence of men in the town. Only few media had covered how we survived the night under outrageous atrocities by state security forces, including BDR and RAB. I am sure there have been arbitrary raids and harassment of villagers by police in Gandamara, which we are not supposed to know. Only little news is coming out of the villages which are currently under attack of coal-businessmen.

 

Chittagong-based S. Alam Group, as the Bangladesh developer,  plans to build two coal-fired power plants in the area, which will have the capacity to produce 1,224 megawatts of electricity. Two Chinese firms — SEPCOIII Electric Power and HTG — are financing $1.75 billion of the the plants’ estimated $2.4 billion cost. This attack in the port city has been a simultaneous attack by coal criminals when the nation has been protesting the coal-fired power plant in Rampal, a close vicinity of the country’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans.

 

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh has extended its support and full solidarity with the protesters in Bashkhali, Gandamara in Chittagong. There are two solidarity demonstrations to be held, simultaneously,  at Dhaka Press Club and Chittagong Press Club this afternoon.

 

Further news and updates:

Bangladesh coal plant protest continues after demonstrators killed:  The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/apr/06/bangladesh-coal-plant-protests-continue-after-demonstrators-killed

Bashkhali: loopholes behind the shooting: http://www.newsbangladesh.com/english/Banshkhali–Loopholes-behind-the-story/13361#.VwlPVOhvxs0.facebook

Of Deception and Development: article by Any Muhammad  http://www.dhakatribune.com/op-ed/2016/apr/11/deception-and-development

Scrap deals of destruction: The Daily Star op-ed http://www.thedailystar.net/op-ed/politics/scrap-projects-destruction-1207177

Bashkhali Coal Power Plant: Propaganda and Reality: by Kallol Mostofa

http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/news/asia/377197/four-killed-at-anti-china-power-plant-protest-in-bangladesh

http://www.breitbart.com/news/four-killed-at-anti-china-power-plant-protest-in-bangladesh/

‘The Sundarbans Declaration 2016’ by the National Committee of Bangladesh

Translated By Tanmoy Karmokar

 

Following a three-day nationwide long march to the Sundarbans, held between 10th to 13th March, 2016 by demanding a capping of all breeds of devastative – mischeivious activities surrounding the Sundarbans, including the Rampal and Orion coal-based power projects, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral resources, Port and Power in Bangladesh has declared the following ‘Sundarbans Declaration 2016’. The declaration is a demand for the enactment of 7-points programmes in order to resolve the country’s power crisis. The declaration was agreed by the protesters and marchers who joined the three-day long march to protest the coal based Rampal power plant. It was signed by the central leaders of National Committee and was read out at Kantakhali on 13th March, 2016.

banner Sundarbans 2016 2

We, the people on the march, have reached Katakhali, adjacent to the Sundarbans, on 13th March noon, by crossing 400 kilometers in 4 days after the long march has started on the 10th March. Starting on 10th March, 2016 at the Press Club in Dhaka, we have marched to Katakhali via Manikganj, Rajbari, Faridpur, Magura, Jhinaidaha, Kaliganj, Jessore, Nowapara, Fultola, Doulatpur, Khulna and Bagherhat. Hundreds of thousands of community folks have expressed their solidarity with us in the course of progression of this long march and during the time of preparation focusing the 7-point demands and to protect the Sundarbans. People of Bangladesh from all walks of life have participated here. Some of the many organisations are: leftist progressive democratic political parties, farmers-day labours-women-students-youth-science organisations, music groups, theater groups, film organisations, study circle groups, little magazine groups and many more. Along with the political activists and leaders, there are participants from academics, school and college teachers, students, scientists, engineers, professionals, artists, writers, journalists, filmmakers, farmers, workers, housewives, and community women and men. During the long march, several solidarity demonstrations and public meetings were also held in London, Amsterdam and Paris.

During our long march in Bangladesh, we had been faced with administrative threats and harassment by Police when our long march tried to enter the district of Jessore. They attempted to downfall the long march by rescinding approval of a pre-scheduled demonstration in the final phase. Not only revocation but also had they tried to obstruct the program by menacing when entering Jessore and during our stay inside the city. But the Sundarbans long march had entered the district of Jessore by passing all the stumbling blocks, and successfully completed its journey by organising protest-rallies and processions. From today’s meeting, we, once again, strongly protest the odious conspiracy of the government and administration.

This long march has been organized with a view to voicing the ‘7-point demands’ to mitigate energy crisis, including immediate annulment of the  Rampal and Orion power projects, and to avert destruction of the Sundarbans. While the government is leading the violent invasion of the profiteers on the Sundarbans by wreck, ravage and appropriation in the name of power generation and development, people at the same time by virtue of their sovereign rights are forming a domain of resistance. This long march is part of that long-term resistance.

The Sundarbans is not just some flora and faunas but a splendid mangrove forest that offers much more than one sees. It is the noble sum of myriad lives, a peerless ecosystem and natural safety net as an extraordinary resorvour of biodiversity and a renowned world heritage. This mangrove forest does not only provide the livelihood of millions of inhabitants but also saves the life and belongings of about 40 million people from natural catastrophes like Sidr and Aila. The vast coastline area alongside the country’s geographical border and outside the border is in effect allied with the existence of the Sundarbans.

The agreement signed between the National Thermal Power Corporation  of India and the Power Development Board of Bangladesh is totally unequal, one-sided and against the national interest of Bangladesh. Likewise the Orion Company of Bangladesh- it was given permission to set up coal-based power plant by turning a blind eye to all kinds of laws and rules. Apart from the irreplaceable destruction of mankind and nature, Bangladesh will suffer from huge financial loss if this project is executed. Earlier land acquisition by abnegating the codes of environmental assessment, persecution and eviction of local inhabitants, rejection of the High Court ruling and late formulation of a self-contradictory, flawed, incomplete, and preposterous environmental assessment – all emphasised that the local and international groups are frenzied to establish these power plants. However, independent studies on and investigations about the Sundanbans implied that our forest will face a catastrophe once the power plants are established and the entire Bangladesh will be susceptible.

Long-term research by the environmental and climate scientists show that the Rampal coal-based power plant will annually generate 52 thousand tons of toxic Sulfur dioxide, 30 thousand tons of Nitrogen dioxide, 0.75 million tons of fly ash and 2 hundred thousands of bottom ash. Further, water withdrawal from the River of Pashur at a rate of 9150 cubic meter per hour, subsequent colossal discharge of the polluted water into the river, and temperature of the discharged water and various toxic elements dissolved in the water will damage the natural water flow of the river, its ability to carry sediment and the life cycle of fishes, plants and other living beings. Indeed, what we see is that ultimately aquatic ecology of the Sundarbans will be destroyed by those coal based projects. Coal transportation through the Sundarbans, liquid and solid toxic wastes from the ships, oil spillage, flood lights will be devastative for normal life cycle and biodiversity of the Sundarbans. In addition, the pollution will take on its worst form if the 565 MW Orion plant and another 1320 MW unit in Rampal will be established.

As it seems now all arrangements to assassin the Sundarbans are in full swing. The massive shelter of life by establishing Rampal and Orion power projects on the one hand, by ignoring all forms of protests from the people and rejecting expert opinions on the dire consequences, and on the other hand, various projects in the name of power plant are being undertaken for the interests of land-grabbers. The forest is getting damaged everyday by the aggression of the profiteers. Various commercial and illicit activities like shipyards, silos and cement factories are on the rise. While the country, especially the coastal areas, are facing climate change threats, many indiscreet projects along the coastal line, such as, Rampal and Madarbari are simply worsening the situation and posing new dangers to our climate and livelihood. A nuclear power plant in Rooppur is also under process of construction, posing grave threats to our environment and communities.

We want to declare firmly that sustainable solution to country’s power crisis can only be found in the implementation of the 7-point programmes of the National Committee. Sustainable development or solution to energy crisis cannot be found in destructive projects like Rampal, Rooppur or Moheshkhali power plants.

For the last one and a half decades, one of the leading issues that National Committee has been working on is how to ensure a sustainable system of constant power supply. We said:

  • If the primary fuel for energy production remains under national ownership,
  • if a ban on export of mineral resources can be legally adopted,
  • if the renewable and non-renewable fuel-based segments of power generation can be expanded,
  • if the growth of national capability can be prioritized in all these aspects, Bangladesh can very soon attain its level of self-dependency.
  • It is very much possible to deliver power in every household and a major change is agro-economy is also probable. But the power sector remains with crises and it has become increasingly expensive and aid-dependent for the government is engaged in nourishing the local and foreign plunderers instead of adopting the right path as per continuation of the previous governments. What the government has adopted in the name of energy-crisis mitigation is actually serving the local and international looters. Terrible burdens of aid along with newer threats of environmental dangers are being imposed upon people. This is why this public-march is strongly demanding the execution of the 7-point demands of the National Committee, including immediate annulment of PSC agreement, immediate cessation of handing of oil and gas resources of the Bay of Bengal over to the foreign companies without any tender process, and complete enactment of Phulbari agreement and legal ban on export of mineral resources.

We have been constantly illustrating examples that there are many choices for power generation, but there is no substitute to the Sundarbans. This mangrove forest along with the country is now bearing the bruises due to adoption of wrong governmental policies, corruptions and invasions slanted towards profits, over and over. We showed with evidence that the Rampal and Orion power plants will be the death blow. We will not let the Sundarbans, the part of our existence to be destroyed for the sake of span-less profit of some Indian Company. We will not let the local land grabbers go uninterrupted. We cannot allow our Bangladesh go in the hands of occupant pillagers – regardless of whether it is India, China, the USA or Russia. We cannot let our Bangladesh emerging from the freedom fight drag into some imperial ploy.

In order to save the Sundarbans, situated alongside both the borders of Bangladesh and India,  and to prevent our existence from being destroyed by a coal-based project, this is a timely call to join our hands with our Indian activists and community people. We are demanding the Indian government to repeal this project and also urging the people of India to join the fight. It is also a juncture when we need to interconnect the fight of the people across the world. Many have already expressed their solidarity with us, whom we would like to thank and congratulate as timely comrades.

We demand the Bangladesh government to immediately stop all kinds of vindictive activities against the Sundarbans. We also demand an immediate constitution and implementation of ‘The Sundarbans Policy’ to help the forest develop in a healthy and regenerative way. We are demanding from the long march that, Rampal, Orion and all other harmful projects around the vicinity of the Sundanbans must be turned around within 15th of May. If necessary, we urge the government to come to an open discussion or debate with us. And if the government fails to abandon this cataclysmic project within this time line, we with the rank and file of the country will be compelled to declare Dhaka going long march, sit-in, besiege, strike, blockade and other programs to trigger a larger movement.

We urge scientists, engineers, academics, writers, artists, day-workers, farmers, students, teachers and community women and men at all levels of the society to strengthen the national defense by collective and active participation. It is this Sundarbans that protected us from dangers in many ways. To protect these beautiful and kind forests is our national obligation. We all have to come forward with this obligation. We shall in no way let our noble and motherly icon Sundarbans be a victim to profits of the local and international extortionists.

 

Kantakhali. 13th March, 2016

#SAVEtheSUNDARBANS   #StopRAMPALPowerPlant  #NOCOALbasedPOWERPLANT

Homage paid to murdered indigenous Lenca leader and environmental activist, Berta Cáceres

By Rumana Hashem

On 3rd March, 2016, armed individuals forcibly entered and assassinated Honduran activist Berta Cáceres, a great community organiser and the founder of COPINH, in her home in La Esperanza, department of Intibucá in southwestern Honduras. This is outrageous and intolerable.

Honduras has been the most dangerous place to protest against corporeal developments. This has been a  scene of a widening crackdown on peaceful dissent since the coup in 2009. Communities and organizations opposing destructive projects, such as Berta and her comrades at COPINH – the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras – organisation co-founded by Berta in 2003, have been intimidated, persecuted and murdered. According to the community leaders, the government is aiding and abetting the theft and appropriation of the commons and peoples’ territories by large transnational corporations. Most often mining and damming projects are being rolled out with little or no consultation with the peoples affected.

On International Women’s Day, 8th March 2016, anti-mining activists and environmentalists at Friends of the Earth (FoEI) have paid homage to and raised voices in indignation at the brutal murder of Berta Cáceres. So did we. Berta was an indigenous Lenca leader, a community organiser, a grassroots feminist and an environmental- justice activist. Berta was murdered in the early morning of 3rd March in her home at the side of Mexican activist Gustavo Castro Soto from Otros Mundos / FOE Mexico, who was  badly hurt by the same gunmen.

Berta Cáceres was a leader who had inspired many of us for many years as an indigenous woman activist raising her voice in the defense of women’s bodies and community, land, water and the commons. Through her actions, she has strengthened the role of women in resisting destructive corporations and macro-level repressions, and in constructing alternatives based on aboriginal knowledge and collective practices. In recent interviews, she encouraged many to rise up in collective solidarity in the global South and North against the predatory capitalist and patriarchal society in order to save women’s lives, human lives and the planet.

Berta has shown us in practice that there is no environmental justice without an end to all forms of violence against women and to the exploitation of women’s reproductive and productive work. Violence is used as a tool to control women’s lives, bodies and work within the patriarchal and capitalist society, just as much as it is used to control community territories and the commons. Capital accumulation in a time of multiple crisis – economic, social, environmental – is made possible through the oppression and domination of both nature and women’s work: both are considered infinite, elastic resources, to be exploited according to the interests of elite groups.

 

In order to raise our concerns and to seek justice for Gustavo Castro Soto, the eye witness to Berta’s murder, we wrote letters to Sr. Presidente de Hoduras Juan Orlando Hernández (Twitter @PresidenciadeHN)
Sr. Embajador José Mariano Castillo -Embajador de Honduras en México <emhonmex@gmail.com>
Sra. Embajadora Dolores Jiménez Hernández -Embajadora de México en Honduras <embhonduras@sre.gob.mx>

If you wish to join the protest, you can write to the Embassy of Honduras in Mexico by clicking on here  signing the petition below

 

Embassy of Honduras in Mexico
Mexican Consulate in Honduras
Inter American Commission on Human Rights

Early this morning, March 3, 2016, armed individuals forcibly entered and assassinated Honduran activist Berta Cáceres, founder of COPINH, in her home in La Esperanza, department of Intibucá in southwestern Honduras.

Our friend and colleague Gustavo Castro Soto was injured during the attack. Gustavo is Mexican and a member of the organization Otros Mundos Chiapas/Friends of the Earth-Mexico, the Mexican Network of Mining-Affected Peoples and the Mesoamerican Movement against the Extractive Mining Model (M4). Gustavo survived the attack and has become a key actor in the investigation into the murder of our friend Berta.

Berta and Gustavo are two people known for their role in international social and environmental struggles, evidence of their dedication to defending the rights of Indigenous and campesino peoples, who have accompanied processes of organized and peaceful resistance to prevent territories within Mesoamerica from being appropriated by regional governments at the service of the neoliberal project being implemented through extractivist projects, considered projects of death.

In the context of the terrible assassination of the much loved Berta Cáceres, we call on the government of Honduras to pay immediate attention, to intervene, and to follow up on this devastating moment for the Honduran people. We also call for all legal and political measures possible to guarantee the immediate protection of our friend and colleague Gustavo Castro so that, once he has given his testimony to the Honduran state, he can safely return to Mexico.

Right now, it is fundamentally important to guarantee the life of our colleague Gustavo Castro given the risk he faces a key witness to this horrible assassination.

The security of all of the members of the Coordinating Group of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) must also be guaranteed.

#SavetheSundarbans Long March – Solidarity Meeting

The Sundarbans is Under Threat!

 

Long march to save the sundarbans March 12 to 15 2016

 

#SavetheSundarbans Long March – Solidarity Meeting in Support of Nationwide march 10-13 March 2016

Friday, 11 March @6:30pm at Montefiore Centre, Whitechapel, London E1 5HZ

 

Despite huge protests and deep concerns of conscious citizens, Bangladesh government has given license to two greedy corporations who want to build a large coal fired-plant in Rampal, which is the close vicinity of the Sundarbans, Bangladesh’s mangrove forest, a UNESCO Heritage and a beautiful home to rare and wild animals including Bangladesh’s well-known Tigers. Sundarbans means “the beautiful forests,” and it lives up to its name in both benefits and productivity. It is not only beautiful but also extraordinarily rich in biodiversity and productivity.

The Sundarbans is the single largest mangrove forest in the world. The Sundarbans has also been a huge natural safeguard against frequent cyclone, storm and other natural disasters in the country. In every natural disaster, the Sundarbans saves lives of hundreds of thousands of people, while nurturing a rich coastal ecosystem. The Sundarbans is vital for all of us on this planet to help counter climate change.

But the proposed Rampal Coal Power Project will destroy the Sundarbans and coastal ecosystem. The project is a highly contested joint venture by the Indian state owned National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and Orion, a corporation owned by Bangladesh state owned Power Development Board (PDB). It needs to stop now.

Bangladeshi environmentalists are marching from Dhaka to Rampal to #savetheSundarbans.

A three-day long-march to #SavetheSundarbans will be held on 10-13 March, when people will walk from different regions to meet in Rampal and demonstrate against the deception and mass destruction. Organised by the National Committee to Protect Oil Gas Mineral Resources Port and Power, the main demand for this long march is to cancel ‘Rampal coal fired power plant’ and stop all activities that would destroy the Sundarbans.

In London, we are holding a solidarity meeting with the Bangladeshi marchers.

Join us with your friends to discuss ways to prevent mass destruction. Demand cancellation of the construction of the Rampal power plant.

Please confirm your participation here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1721329244770557/

For further information contact:   07956260791/07714288221, email: nationalcommittee.uk@googlemail.com

National Committee to Protect Oil Gas Mineral Resources Port and Power, UK branch, London

 

Brave #Heathrow13 Won Massive Boost for the Movement to Stop Airport Expansion

  • Court took U-turn over a prison sentence in the face of huge community support to and solidarity with climate activists
  • 6 weeks suspended sentence for 12 months

By Rumana Hashem

The 13 amazing climate activists at Plane Stupid, who faced final sentencing on Wednesday for protesting against new runways and for attempting to protect the communities from catastrophic climate change, have won a massive boost for the movement to stop new runways in the UK. Although the brave #Heathrow13 were accused of aggravated trespass and entering restricted area of an aerodrome, the district judge was impressed by the defendants’ good character and commitment. They were given sentences of six weeks suspended for 12 months.

The thirteen activists were able to avert prison, following a remarkable protest of more than 300 climate activists who gathered outside the Willesden magistrates’ court in north-west London and demonstrated against the final sentencing of the #Heathrow13, and opposed possible expansion of the airport. The suspended sentence now means that if the 13 activists break the law within a year, they are likely to serve the sentence. This verdict is not fair judgement; however, it is undeniable that the court’s U-turn over a prison sentence was an outcome of the unprecedented support that the passionate #Heathrow13 had received from the community people.

 

The #Heathrow13 returns  from the court by averting jail on 24 Feb 2016

The #Heathrow13 returns from the court by averting jail on 24 Feb 2016. Photo: Plane Stupid

During the trial at Willesden magistrates court in north-west London, over 300 passionate throng of protesters gathered outside the court while thousands of national and international climate activists had shown virtual support, and were vigilant online throughout the day. The support of community activists and environmentalists outside the court was powerful. Supporters had spilled into the road, waved banners protesting against a third runway at Heathrow, chanted slogans, and made robust speeches amid heavy state security. Speakers at the demo include Heathrow’s MP John McDonnell, and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.

As the incredible #Heathrow13 defendants had argued, their actions were reasonable, proportionate and necessary to prevent death and serious injury via air pollution and climate change. They pointed out correctly that 31 people a year die prematurely around Heathrow due to its pollution, and thousands die due to the effects of climate change. Their trial  was not a great a outcome though what it means is that community volunteers will return to community work in near future.

In a published statement Plane Stupid  noted:

This is a huge relief for the activists and their families, and a massive boost for the movement to stop airport expansion. The court’s U-turn over a prison sentence is a vindication of the right to peaceful protest.

As they denounced that: It’s because of people power that we don’t have a third runway now. People power will stop new runways again. We’re in it for the long haul. “No ifs, no buts”.

Phulbari Solidarity Group stands with the #Heathrow13 and colleagues at Plane Stupid who will continue to work on to stop new runway at Heathrow. It is time to join our shoulders, and work hand in hand to prevent climate change and to protect our planet from destruction. Evidently, emissions from aviation are destroying people’s lives. People in the Heathrow area, who already have to breathe illegal levels of air pollution and suffer intolerable noise, would now see their homes destroyed. People across the UK have been flooded at Christmas, and every year hundreds of thousands more people die due to climate change – mostly in countries in the Global South, like Bangladesh, the people least responsible for emissions.

The UK Government is expected to make its decision on whether to expand Heathrow or Gatwick – or neither – this year. It is important for us to succeed to persuade the Government to act appropriately and to cancel new runways.  It’s one or the other: build new runways or protect us from climate chaos. The people in the Global South who are dying due to climate change already have no voice in the debate. We can show them that jailing peaceful protesters will not silence those of us who do.

Therefore, we need to continue to show our support to #Heathrow13 and the campaign against airport  expansion.

Read more here to learn how to take action

Watch the video

Further news  coverage is below:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/24/heathrow-13-climate-change-protesters-avoid-jail

 

Support the #Heathrow13, Join Demo – Stop Airport Expansion

By Rumana Hashem

On Wednesday, 24 February 2016, the #Heathrow13 will return to court for final sentencing. The brave 13 activists, known as #Heathrow13, were found guilty of aggravated trespass and entering the security restricted area of London Heathrow Airport’s (LHR) north runway in protest of plans to build a third runway. All 13 have been told by District Judge Deborah Wright that they “should all come expecting custodial sentences” because they disobeyed security restrictions of Heathrow Airport to save the greens, environment and their very own planet.

Those 13 climate protesters are facing prison to silence protest against new runways which would wreck Government policy to protect us from catastrophic climate change.  Activists of the Plane Stupid stated that they will continue to support #Heathrow13 and that they are determined to oppose and stop airport expansion. They are holding a demo OUTSIDE the court from 9am SHARP tomorrow – together with Heathrow residents and others. In support of the brave #Heathrow13, they will be rallying outside the court and will say that:

  • Climate justice is the only appropriate form of justice here
  • Prison time for protecting the climate is a massive #Redline
  • We need to Stop Aviation Expansion & Stop Co2lonialism!

Phulbari Solidarity Group stands in solidarity with the Plane Stupid activists, and strongly oppose the final sentencing of #Heathrow13 . In support of the #Heathrow13 we signed the petition to Stop Airport Expansion.   We ask everyone to sign and share the petition against aviation expansion  https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/support-the-heathrow-13-and-stop-the-new-runway-1

The PSG also calls upon everyone to come and join Plane Stupid’s demo: #Heathrow13 – FINAL SENTENCING which will be held between 9am to 12 noon, at Willesden Magistrates’ Court, London.

The full address for the court is:
Willesden Magistrates’ Court
448 High Road
London
NW10 2DZ
Nearest tube: Neasden OR Dollis Hill (Jubilee Line)

The demo will start at 9am, and the sentencing hearing will start at 10am. Outcome of sentencing is expected around 12noon. Those who could not make it physically can express solidarity on social media – on Facebook event page  and on Twitter @PlaneStupid #Heathrow13

Read further news about the #Heathrow13:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/11/prison-sentences-for-heathrow-13-activists-would-threaten-our-right-to-protest

https://newint.org/blog/2016/01/26/mass-civil-obedience-is-killing-us/

http://newint.org/blog/2016/01/12/stop-aviation-stop-co2lonialism/

http://newint.org/blog/2015/08/20/heathrow-expansion-protest/http://www.planestupid.com/

Bangladeshi Protesters served notice of closure to British coal mining company

11 months old Usha says NO to Coal Mine, GCM receives warning at AGM  

By Raaj Manik

OFFICIAL NOTICE to GCM RESORUCES FROM PHULBARI PROTESTERS AND PEOPLE

Effective Immediately

Phulbari Solidarity Group Founder read out a Notice of closure to GCM at the demo on Friday Photo by Pete Mason

Friday, 18 December at 10:30am|4 Hamilton Place | London W1J 7BQ

This is to notify the London-based company, Global Coal Management Resources Plc., formerly known as Asia Energy, is coming down. The company has been hotly resisted by locals for its fatal business policy for nine years. Three people were shot dead and two hundred injured by company-provoked shooting by paramilitary force in a demonstration of 80,000 people opposing plans by GCM in 2006. The project has generated grave concern at national and international levels including the United Nations. Bangladesh government has cancelled the contract with the company. The government has repeatedly reassured protesters by official statements that Bangladesh does not want to build open pit mine in Phulbari. This year the UK government has published a statement highlighting the fierce opposition to GCM in Phulbari.

Due to its dodgy and unethical nature of business, the company was unable to register to London Stock Exchange. GCM is a member of London’s Alternative Investors Market. We note its business is dire. The company’s share price is falling every year. But the company is still pushing the government of Bangladesh for a fatal deal. In the month of the climate summit #COP21, when climate protests erupted across the globe seeking climate justice, they announced AGM to discuss a noxious deal to implement a massive open-pit coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 families in Phulbari. If the mine is built, it would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land and would pose threats to clean water resources. The project would leave devastating impact on the country’s only mangrove forest and a UNESCO heritage site, the Sundarbans.

We advise GCM to close dodgy business by this year’s AGM. The company must clear their London office with immediate. Failure to do so will result in high penalty.

CONSIDER THIS AS A FINAL NOTICE TO CLOSE YOUR FAKE BUSINESS!

For further information contact: Bangladesh National Committee, UK branch http://protectbdresources.org.uk, http://www.ncbd.org and Phulbari Solidarity Group: https://phulbarisolidaritygroup.wordpress.com/

DSC_0240 (2)

 

On Friday 18 December 2015, the above notice of closure was served to an AIM-listed British mining company by Bangladeshi community and transnational campaigners to save Phulbari and the green land in northwest Bangladesh. After a successful noise-demo outside the company’s Annual General Meeting, the founder of the Phulbari SolidarityGroup and an eye witness to the carnage in Phulbari on 26 August, 2006, Rumana Hashem has read out the Notice of Closure on behalf of the protesters.

The demo organised by the UK branch of Bangladesh National Committee and the Phulbari Solidarity Group was participated by community women and men, and transnational climate change activists. Community women from Dinajpur and Phulbari joined the demo with their children as young as 11 months old.  They chanted slogans, banged spoons and played noisy flute to disrupt the Mayfair AGM of Global Coal Management. They said that GCM has no place in Bangladesh.

DSC_0260 (2)

Little Usha holds placard with his grand dad and mum from who came from Dinajpur to serve a notice of closure to GCM. Photo: Rumana Hashem

In the end of the demo the above notice of closure was served to GCM, which was handed into the board by their dissident shareholders who attended the AGM and questioned the company’s board about the social, economic and environmental impacts of the proposed Phulbari coal project. The dissident shareholders were greeted by other shareholders for raising important and timely questions. The board was clearly embarrassed when the Bangladeshi activists challenged the validity of the suspended contract with Bangladesh government.

Transnational advocates for climate change joined the demo with community activists. Indian anti-mining campaigner and the founder of Foil Vedanta, the activists from the London Mining Networks, leaders of the Socialist Party and the Tower Hamlet’s Trade Unionists and Socialist Coalition stood in full solidarity with the Phulbari activists and community environmentalists. Three representatives of the protesters walked into the AGM and questioned the chair of the company about illegal share business, and workers injuries in the shooting on 26 August in 2006.

DSC_0252 (2)

Protesters took over the entrance to block the investors which led to an argument with the company security personnel who tried to protect the company executives. Photo: Rumana Hashem

Protesters said that this year’s AGM would be GCM’s last ever meeting in London. In a notice of closure, they denounced the company as a fraudulent corporation that does not have any valid contract with Bangladeshi government. The company does not hold any other valid business elsewhere in the globe but they are selling shares in London’s alternative investors’ market. The protesters called upon Michael Tang and Gary Lye to close GCM’s London office without delay. The protesters and the Bangladeshi community activists would lock the company’s head office at Piccadilly in June 2016, otherwise, they said.

Watch video of the demo , with thanks to Socialist Party of England and Wales:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhxPY8LFPxA&feature=youtu.be

A detailed report of the interrogation inside the AGM is here: GCM Withering and Wilting [http://londonminingnetwork.org/2015/12/gcm-withering-and-wilting/]

Photos of the demo can be accessed via Peter Marshall’s London Diary on Phulbari: http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2015/12/dec.htm#phulbari

More photos and video links can be accessed via Facebook Action-demo event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/180360322310156/

Further press coverage can be accessed via below links:

Protest in London against Phulbari coal mine: http://en.prothom-alo.com/bangladesh/news/89367/Protest-in-London-against-Phulbari-coal-mine

Protesters fight coal mining project in Bangladesh: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/21925/20-12-2015/protesters-fight-coal-mining-project-in-bangladesh

GCM IS COMING DOWN!

Action Demo in London to Save PHULBARI & Green-Farm Land

Friday, 18 December at 10:30am, 4 Hamilton Place,  London W1J 7BQ (nearest tube station Hyde Park Corner)

In the month of the climate summit #COP21, when climate protests erupted across the globe seeking climate justice, a London-based AIM-listed multinational company, Global Coal Management Resources Plc. , announced its AGM to discuss a noxious deal to implement a massive open-pit coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari. If the mine is built, it would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land in northwest Bangladesh. It would also pose threats to clean water resources and would leave devastating impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sundarbans.

Phulbari outburst on 26 August 2006

The mothers and wives of murdered villagers in Phulbari calling the investors of Asia Energy (now GCM) after the shooting on 27 August in 2006.

The company, previously known as Asia Energy, has been hotly resisted by locals for its fatal business policy. Three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people that took place in opposition to plans by GCM in 2006. Bangladesh government has cancelled all contracts with the company nine years ago. The government has recently reassured protestors by a statement that it does not want to build an open pit mine in Phulbari. The project has generated grave concern at national and international levels including the United Nations. This year the UK government has published a statement highlighting the fierce opposition to GCM in Phulbari. But the company has so far ignored every message. It has been pushing the government of Bangladesh for a fatal deal. We advise GCM to close business NOW!

JOIN US inside and outside the AGM! We will warn them to close AGM forever!

RSVP to join us via https://www.facebook.com/events/180360322310156/

Please Bring along your banner, placards, festoons, whistles, drums, masks and messages against dirty coal miners. We will declare a notice of closure to GCM and we’ll celebrate the news that Bangladesh government has reassured there is no plan to open pit mine.

Contact for further information: Dr Akhter S Khan: nationalcommittee.uk@googlemail.com, Dr Mokhlesur Rahman qmr111@hotmail.com, Rumana Hashem: phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

Bangladesh National Committee, UK branch| Phulbari Solidarity Group, UK| 

Propaganda cannot rationalize Rampal Coal Fired Power Plant Project

Statement by National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Natural Resources, Power, Port

By Rumana Hashem

In response to the latest statement issued by Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company regarding Rampal Power Plant, the Convener of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Natural Resources, Power and Port, Engr. Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah and Member Secretary Prof. Anu Muhammad jointly issued a statement. It was published on national committee website on 22 October. We are reproducing the statement with their permission below.

 

Anup Kundus photo 28 Jan 2015

Rare animals and wild bird died by oil spill in the Sundarbans.  If the Rampal power plant will be built, many more beautiful and rare animals would face the same fate! Photo credit: Anup Kundus 28 Jan 2015.

‘BIFPC, the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company, formed jointly by NTPC, India and BPDB, Bangladesh, in a statement published in newspapers on October 21, harshly criticized the ongoing movement to Save Sundarbans and presented some forged information regarding the Rampal power plant project. They stated, ‘a handful person and organizations are spreading misconceptions regarding Rampal power plant only to create a bar against the current development process of the country’. They also claimed that, ‘This plant will not impose any threat to ecology, environment, and local people’.

 

However, it is well known fact that this alleged ‘handful of persons and organizations’ who are opposing this plant include various organizations working with National Committee, experts from national and international arena, teachers, writers, artists, environmentalists and of course the general people of the country. Even UNESCO, Ramsar, South Asian Human Rights Forum, and Council of Ethics of Norway are also part of these few ‘persons and organizations’ who, according to them, are trying to ‘destabilize the country’s ongoing growth’! Meanwhile, UNESCO has already expressed their concern over this issue and a possibility arises that it might even consider withdrawing the status of Sundarbans from the list of World Heritage sites.

 

‘We would like to stress on the fact that except for few vested interest groups most others have taken a strong position against this plant. Even the Department of Environment and Forestry in Bangladesh opposed this plant in the very beginning. We have mentioned it many times that the conditions of Rampal Power plant largely violates International law. Indian environment law itself disallows such plant to set up within 25km of any ecologically sensitive area.

 

‘The Ongoing Save Sundarbans movement is based on various authentic research and analysis which confirms the destructive effect of the plant on Sundarbans. This plant has raised additional questions due to the lack of transparency, rule of law, and coercive role of the state. The company has claimed in the statement that ‘the plant will not cause pollution, and no amount of polluted or hot water will be released in the water bodies’. However, such pollution is obvious and even the government led EIA report had to admit the severe environmental adverse effects of the project.

 

‘In the statement, the company also stated that the power plant will crate job opportunities for the local people. This is a misleading piece of information as we all know a power plant is capable of employing only an insignificant number of people. Moreover, due to the dangerous impact of the plant on the water bodies and the forestry of nearby areas, nearly a million people, depending on the forest for their sustainable livelihood, would have no other choice but to become environmental refugees.

 

‘Interestingly, the company has blamed the farmers and the fishing community for the gradual decline of Sundarban’s. This is as well a well-planned propaganda against the marginalized communities of Sundarbans. It is very clear that the Sundarban is in danger not because of the communities living around it, but due to the powerful land grabbers and the ecologically disastrous industrial and ‘development’ projects. In addition, if the power plant is constructed, not only the Sundarbans will be affected, the communities of the southern belt of the country will become completely unprotected before increasing natural disasters.

 

‘The company has also claimed that the prime Minister of Bangladesh has recently received the ‘Champion of the Earth’ award, and thus it is out of question for the prime minister to promote any project that impacts the environment negatively. In response to this claim, we would like to remind that after the award, the Prime minister has bigger responsibility now. We expect that by canceling the dangerous project, our prime minister will do justice to her award, and will prove herself as a genuine defender of environment. Otherwise she will be remembered in the history for her flawed policies that is the biggest threat for survival of Sundarban, therefore responsible for the most dangerous environmental destruction of our time.’

UK Government Highlights Powerful Opposition to GCM’s Destructive Plan for Bangladesh Coal Mine

Victory of Phulbari Once Again!

Pupils at Oxford's Rose Hill Primary School painted banner against open cast mine to express solidarity with Phulbari people . 18 June 2015. Photo: Andy Edwards

Pupils at Oxford’s Rose Hill Primary School painted banner against open cast mine to express solidarity with Phulbari people . 18 June 2015. Photo: Andy Edwards

The UK government has published a statement yesterday that highlights the fierce opposition to British company GCM Resources’ plans for a massive open cast coal mine in Phulbari, north-west Bangladesh. The statement notes that protestors are “calling strikes, blockading roads and occupying the company’s local offices”.

The statement by the UK National Contact Point also expresses “regret” that the company had failed to update its plans or produce a human rights impact assessment for the project, as recommended in the findings of its investigation under the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises in November 2014.

The AIM-listed British corporation GCM Resources Plc.’s planned coal mine in Phulbari has provoked repeated protests by local people and communities for nearly a decade. Three people were killed and more than 200 were injured when paramilitary officers opened fire on a demonstration against the project in 2006. Even so, powerful protests by resilient communities in 2013 and 2014 forced the company’s notorious CEO, Gary Lye, to abandon visits to the area.

Campaigners in Bangladesh are clear that any moves by the company to enter Phulbari would provoke further protests.

The UK government’s investigation has followed a complaint submitted by the Global Justice Now and International Accountability Project in 2012. It has condemned the company for breaching international guidelines on ethical corporate behaviour, stating that the project “has aroused considerable opposition in Bangladesh, leading to violent protests, and an even more violent response by the authorities there”.

Yesterday’s statement also notes recent statements from ministers and officials at the Bangladesh Government’s Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Division that GCM does not have a valid contract with the Government of Bangladesh, and that the Government of Bangladesh has no intention for open cast coal extraction to take place in the region, which includes some of the country’s best agricultural land. These statements follow demands made by protesters against the project that the Bangladesh government should ban open cast mining and remove GCM from the country.

Christine Haigh, campaigner at the Global Justice Now, said:

Today’s statement is further evidence that the Phulbari coal mine cannot go ahead. If it does, it will be a human rights disaster. Local people have repeatedly made it clear that they don’t want it and any moves by GCM to move this project forward will be met by further resistance.”

She added: While GCM are claiming this report vindicates them, in reality it does anything but. The main problem is the inability of the British government to enforce human rights standards on companies like GCM, leaving people affected by British companies around the world with no right to legal redress for the injustices they face. This must change.

Rumana Hashem, the founder of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye witness to the 2006 shooting in Phulbari, stated:

It is good that the UK government has eventually recognised that GCM has failed to develop appropriate communication with the communities in Phulbari. It was a mistake for the NCP to take this long to understand the power of people. They have previously undermined the powerful opposition that exists and that has made possible a halt to the detrimental project of the British company.

Rumana added: I have seen how resilient the movement is in Phulbari. Bangladesh government has expressed solidarity with the community’s view and said ‘no to GCM’. GCM must forget this project. It is reassuring that UK government has recognised that local people will not give in. They will fight for their land until last breath.

The mine would force up to 220,000 people from their land, destroying their homes and livelihoods, and would threaten the Sundarbans – one of the world’s largest remaining mangrove forests and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The UK government states that GCM must take into account the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which stipulates that no developments can take place on indigenous peoples’ land without their ‘free, prior and informed consent’. Bangladesh’s National Indigenous Union says the mine would displace or impoverish 50,000 indigenous people from 23 villages

Seven UN human rights experts have called for an immediate halt to the project, citing threats to fundamental human rights, including the rights to water, food, adequate housing, freedom from extreme poverty and the rights of indigenous peoples.

Read Press Release by Global Justice Now here: http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/news/2015/sep/10/uk-government-highlights-community-opposition-gcm-resources-plan-bangladesh-coal

Homage paid to Brave Protesters in Phulbari

By Raaj Manik

It was Phulbari Day on Thursday. It was the day to commemorate mass protests that prevented a UK-based mining company, Global Coal Management PLC, from building a large-scale open-pit coal mine in Phulbari in north-west Bangladesh. Nine years ago, on 26th August in 2006, three brave protesters were shot dead in the mass protest that took place in opposition to plans by GCM, a London based AIM-listed corporation, who wanted to forcefully displace 130,000 people from their homes by grabbing 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land in Bangladesh. The powerful demonstration in 2006 ended in tragedy when paramilitary force opened fire on a rally of 80,000, people, leaving three people killed and two hundred injured.

The 26th August has been marked as a day for commemorating the protesters in Phulbari since then. On the ninth anniversary on 26 August 2015, the day was remembered with respect, as ever, and people’s resistance was celebrated by diverse groups and rights-activists across Bangladesh and in London. In Bangladesh, campaigners of National Committee at Phulbari, Dhaka, Narayanganj, and several other regions were joined by many other human rights and art groups who paid homage to Phulbari protesters.

Rally in Phulbari on 26 August 2015 . Photo credit: Anonymous

Rally in Phulbari on 26 August 2015 . Photo credit: Anonymous

In Phulbari, nearly ten thousands of people have paid tribute to Al-Amin, Salekin and Tariqul – the three innocent civilians killed by GCM-provoked shooting in 2006. People have started to gather in the town as early as seven o’clock in the morning to pay homage to those who died that day and to celebrate the people-powered resistance that has prevented the massive mine being built for almost a decade. Schools, colleges, shops and business enterprises were shut for all day in tribute to those brave protesters who forced the British coal miners to leave Bangladesh. The procession of homage, initiated by the Phulbari branch of National Committee, was joined by farmers, agricultural workers, rickshaw-drivers, van-store employees, school teachers, doctors, medical students, professionals, art-activists, business entrepreneurs, and of course local leaders of political parties. Parents of the dead, Al-Amin and Salekin, and the injured men including Bablu Roy and Pradip attended the rally in the town centre.

Families of the victims and women protesters march towards Shahid Minar in Phulbari to pay tribute. 26 August 2015. Photo: Anonymous

Families of the victims and women protesters march towards Shahid Minar in Phulbari to pay tribute. 26 August 2015. Photo: Anonymous

Locals in Phulbari called upon the government to remove fabricated cases against leaders of the Phulbari movement. They demanded for an immediate implementation of the Phulbari deal and called upon a permanent expulsion of Asia Energy, the Bangladesh subsidiary of GCM , from Bangladesh. Activists have also asked government to compensate the affected people in Borapukuria mine. Leaders of National Committee announced fresh programme to be held later this year against government’s destructive policy of coal-powered plant in other parts of the country. The rally called upon the government to implement the 7-point demands of the National Committee and to prevent Rampal coal-fired power project from happening which would destroy the countries only mangrove forest and a UNESCO heritage, the Sundarbans. They demanded that Orion coal-fired plant must be resisted and suspended immediately.

The same demands were projected in the tribute to Phulbari resistance in other parts of the country, and in East London. In London, members of the UK branch of the Bangladesh National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, and activists of Phulbari Solidarity Group were joined by transnational campaigners and environmentalists from Global Justice Now, UNISON, and the Socialist Party of England and Wales. Messages of support and solidarity were delivered by representatives from Tamil Solidarity, National Trade Union and London Mining Network, also.

In the meeting at the Montefiore Centre in East London transnational activists have taken a pledge to resist all sorts of conspiracy for coal-fired power in Bangladesh. The member secretary of the committee in the UK, Dr Akhter Sobhan Khan, has updated the forum about development in Bangladesh. That Bangladeshi government has eventually recognised that due to the high population density and the fact that much of the local economy is based on agriculture and other land-based livelihoods, open cast mining is not a viable project for Bangladesh. The forum welcomed this news of a recent statement by Bangladesh’s state minister for power, energy and mineral resources, Nasrul Hamid that the government does not want to use open pit mining in the region.

Tribute to Phulbari protesters paid in London by following silence. Photo credit: Rumana Hashem

Tribute to Phulbari protesters paid in London by following silence. 26 August 2015. Photo credit: Rumana Hashem

The meeting, presided by Dr Mukhlesur Rahman, has started by following one minute silence in the honour of Al-Amin, Salekin and Tariqul. Participants have discussed recent developments in the campaign against the mine. The Chair of the meeting has updated the forum about the invalid contract between the government and the company.

The founder of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye witness to the shooting in Phulbari, Dr Rumana Hashem, gave her eye witness to the tragic event and the deadly shootings. She described how local women and men had made the company to leave the area. She noted that locals are still vocal against the mine as they recognised that the mine, if built, would cause mass evictions and destroy thousands of hecters of farmland in an area that forms part of the country’s breadbasket. Rumana’s statement was followed by speeches by comrades such as Dr Jinnah, comrade Moktar, Mostofa Kamal, Ishak Kajol and several others.

Christine Hague, who joined the meeting to represent Global Justice UK, then delivered a message of solidarity from Global Justice Now, in which she said that Global Justice Now has been supporting the campaign against the mine since 2008. They have been putting pressure on investors, which saw Barclays and RBS withdraw their support, exposing the UK government’s support for GCM and joining protests at the company’s AGM each year. They have also supported US-based International Accountability Project to submit a complaint to the UK National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, in the hope of using this mechanism to hold GCM to account.

Although the complaint was accepted for investigation, the UK NCP failed shamefully to consider the impacts of the project should it go ahead, focusing only on the company’s actions in the planning stage to date. GCM was still found to have failed to “foster confidence and trust” in the local community though it was otherwise let off the hook with a recommendation that it update its plans and carry out a human rights impact assessment. This is, as colleagues in Bangladesh noted, likely to lead further unrest. In fact, within four days of the publication of the final statement on the complaint, a visit by GCM’s CEO, Gary Lye, to the area triggered three days of protests and strikes, including an occupation of GCM’s offices in Phulbari.

Part of the London gathering on 26 August 2015. Photo credit Zahanara Rahman

Part of the London gathering on 26 August 2015. Photo credit Zahanara Rahman

But the failure of high level international mechanisms like this made Thursday’s gatherings in recognition of the mass resistance to the project of Phulbari ever more important. A representative from UNISON, Hugo Piere, told the forum that UNISON would be proud to be part of any campaign or action that the community takes against GCM in future. A full-solidarity has been expressed by both UNISON and the Socialist Party of England and Wales.

Likewise, Isai Pryia from National Trade Union and Tamili Solidarity has sent message of solidarity. The message which Helen Pattison of Socialist Party delivered to the gathering states: ‘Although, unfortunately, Tamil Solidarity couldn’t make the meeting today we stand in solidarity with you. We remember the dead and fight for the living. We hope that we will be able to work more closely together in the future’.

Activists take pledge to stand with Phulbari people. 26 August 2015. Photo credit: Rumana Hashem

Activists take pledge to stand with Phulbari people. 26 August 2015. Photo credit: Rumana Hashem

The meeting has ended with a pledge that any attempt to implement coal-fired plant in Bangladesh will be resisted and solar energy should be promoted. People in both Bangladesh and London have acknowledged that despite the tragedy, people in Phulbari have made an example by preventing the devastating project from happening for almost a decade. It is solid people power. And that’s definitely worth celebrating.

But sadly, the news of celebration and commemoration in Phulbari remains under-covered in mainstream media. Professor Anu Muhammad, the member secretary of National Committee and a leading economist in Bangladesh stated: ‘while the significance of Phulbari resistance has been recognised by national and international environmentalists, with the exception of a few newspapers mainstream media has ignored the news of Phulbari Day.’

The fight for people’s right, nature and environment must move forward. Activists in London have now decided to hold a symbolic protest this September when the Bangladesh’s Energy Advisor Toufiq Elahi visits London.

Govt says ‘no’ to open-pit mine in Bangladesh

Another day of victory for Phulbari, another day of loss for Global Coal Management

On Sunday, 23 August, 2015 Bangladesh’s state minister for energy and mineral resources stated that there is no hope for any mining company to extract coal from the coal deposits of Northwest Bangladesh in Phulbari. In a published report yesterday, the country’s national daily newspapers reported the news widely. We have reproduced a detailed report by the staff correspondent of New Age below.

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The state minister for power, energy and mineral resources, Nasrul Hamid, on Sunday said that the government was not interested to extract coal from the deposits in the north Bengal region using open-pit method.
‘We have decided not to extract coal right now… We must consider high density of population and the agro-based economy of the mining area,’ he said while addressing as the chief guest a seminar on ‘Energy Challenges to Vision 2030.’ The discussion was organized by weekly Energy and Power magazine.
Instead, the government is planning to use imported coal to run large power plants to be installed with a combined generation capacity of about 20,000 MW by 2030, he said. Nasrul’s remark came three days ahead of August 26, the 9th anniversary of the killing of protesters who had opposed in 2006 a move for open pit mining by London-based Asia Energy company at Phulbari of Dinajpur.
The then Bangladesh Rifles men had opened fire on a peaceful rally and killed at least three people. On that day, police, RAB and BDR indiscriminately had beaten people, injuring over 200 children, men and women who attended that peaceful rally and demanded cancellation of the project.
The inhabitants feared it could destroy the underground water aquifer, biodiversity, and agriculture of the region.
The government, under the Power System Master Plan-2010, had contemplated to exploit coal through open-pit method from two coal deposits located at Phulbari and Barapukuria of Dinajpur to run power plants with total capacities of 11,000 MW. The plan, however, was dropped from the revised PSMP in 2015.
Energy expert and a professor at Geology Department of Dhaka University Badrul Imam said that it would not be fair to compare the socio-economic and geological realities of Dinajpur with any location in Australia, Germany or even in West Bengal while mining coal, using open-pit method.
He said that the top two leaders of Awami League and BNP had made a commitment to the people of Phulbari that they would not allow such method in future. At the seminar, a number of open-pit campaigners, however, spoke in favour of open-pit method to ensure supply of primary fuel.
Energy expert Khandkar Saleque Sufi and M Tamim presented two papers addressing the potential crisis of energy sector, particularly while ensuring supply of primary fuels to power stations, industries, households and transport sector.
At the seminar, speakers along with Sufi and Tamim argued that the country was going to be entirely dependent on imports of primary fuel as the reserve of natural gas was depleting. Tamim also said that there was a huge disparity in electricity consumption by the rural and urban people.
Tamim showed that the rural people, who constitute 66 per cent of the total population, consume 31 per cent of electricity with only one per cent growth while the urban people, who represent 34 per cent of the population, consume 69 per cent of electricity with four per cent yearly growth.

See more at: http://newagebd.net/150774/govt-says-no-to-open-pit-mine/#sthash.3l1YnBcw.3tVplMM4.dpuf

Or visit: http://newagebd.net/150774/govt-says-no-to-open-pit-mine/#sthash.3l1YnBcw.3tVplMM4.dpbs

Phulbari Solidarity Group Joined Global Demo against Vedanta in London

Vedanta demo 2On 3rd August 2015, the world has witnessed another successful year of global actions against notorious mining company Vedanta. Monday’s eight global protests against Vedanta was a very successful day in London and around India and Afrika. The London AGM of Vedanta 2015 was disturbed by the drumming and chanting outside and questions about pollution in Zambia, illegal mining in Goa, and workers injuries in Tuticorin asked by dissident shareholders.

Photo credit: Rumana Hashem

Phulbari Solidarity Group has shown its full solidarity to Foil Vedanta and global protesters against notorious Vedanta. The founder and coordinator of Phulbari Solidarity Group, Rumana Hashem, joined the noise demo at Ironmongers Hall in London, which turned out as a very successful day in London.

Full coverage, pictures, and a video of the demo can be found on Foil Vedanta website. The press coverage linked below: http://www.foilvedanta.org/uncategorized/eight-global-demos-against-vedanta-in-afrika-india-and-london/
Further coverage, pictures, and a video of the demo can be found below:

http://odishachannel.com/index.php/4956/angry-protests-held-against-vedanta-in-india-africa-and-london/

http://newint.org/blog/2015/08/04/global-protests-oppose-vedanta-mining-exploitation/

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/business/protests-at-vedanta-group-agm-in-london/articleshow/48335484.cms

https://www.lusakatimes.com/2015/08/04/parallel-protests-carried-out-in-india-zambia-and-u-k-against-vedanta/

http://www.demotix.com/news/8246721/activists-protest-vedantas-annual-general-meeting-london#media-8248112

http://www.demotix.com/news/8247682/foil-vedanta-london-protest-mining-giants-agm#media-8247581

http://www.demotix.com/news/8243417/protesters-picket-vedanta-agm-london-ongoing-toxic-leaks-dispute#media-8245906

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/companies/vedanta-resources-agm-day-marked-by-protests/article7495270.ece

Massive human chain against open-pit mine, GCM’s consultant , RWE, in Germany

On Saturday, 25 April, A mass action held in Germany, with over 6000 people coming together to create a 7.5 km human chain that passed through deserted villages in western Germany’s Rhineland to the open cast Garzweiler coal mine owned by  the German utility company RWE.

The chain is to protest RWE’s planned expansion of the mine and passed through  “almost deserted villages” that “have gradually become ghost villages as residents have been bought out and communities broken down by utility company RWE.”

RWE was Contracted by GCM as an advisor for the Phulbari Coal Mine throughout project implementation? This very same RWE mine has been promoted in Bangladesh as a model for how open pit mining can purportedly be done in a socially and environmentally responsible way, and there was some controversy generated by sponsored trips for key decision-makers in Bangladesh to travel to Germany and visit the mine.  At the time, we noted that claims promoting the mine and RWE as “models” for Bangladesh were contradicted by protests against the impacts of the company’s mining operations in Germany and Belgium.

Read detailed report with photos and video clip here: http://350.org/humanchain/

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A new OECD Guidelines case on the Sendou coal-fired power plant in Senegal

SENDOU COAL POWER PLANT COMPLAINT AGAINST NYKOMB SYNERGETICS FOR NON COMPLIANCE WITH THE OECD GUIDELINES FOR MULTINATIONAL ENTERPRISES

Lumière Synergie pour le Développement (LSD) and Takkom Jerry Plyvalence Culturelle et Environnmentale have filed complaints at the Swedish National Contact Point (NCP) against the company Nykomb Synergetics AB, which has contracted with the government of Senegal in 2009 for the construction of a coal power plant of 125 MW in Sendou.

Press release attached here: Complaint against Sendou coal power plant project

The Global System for Holding Corporations to Account Is in Need of Serious Reform

Christine Haigh wrote about how UK’s National Contact Point failed to hold corporations responsible for unethical business in Bangladesh and elsewhere

Article is Reproduced from The Guardian Global Development Professional Network 

    Bangladeshi community and climate change activists protest against the outcome of OECD complaint about Phulbari coal mine. Blockade and action outside GCM's AGM in December 2014. Photo: Golam Rabbani

Bangladeshi community and climate change activists protest against the outcome of OECD complaint about Phulbari coal mine. Blockade and action outside GCM’s AGM in December 2014. Photo: Golam Rabbani

A British company plans to build a huge coal mine, stating in its plans that it says will displace more than 40,000 people. It will destroy over 14,000 acres of land in Bangladesh’s most fertile agricultural region Phulbari in the north west, where most people have land-based livelihoods. Unsurprisingly, local people oppose the plans to destroy the landscape and homes. For over a decade now they have tried in their thousands to prevent the coming of the mine. Three have died when the Bangladeshi paramilitary were sent into confront protesters, and many more have been injured.

To date, these protests, supported by international condemnation from UN human rights experts and NGOs such as International Accountability Project (IAP) and Global Justice Now (GJN), have prevented the mine being built. But London-listed mining company GCM Resources continues to push for their mine.

And so, in 2012, concerned at renewed efforts by GCM to progress the project, IAP and GJN decided to make use of one of the very few mechanisms available to hold corporations to account for their activities overseas by filing a complaint against the company to the National Contact Point (NCP) under the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises.

Read the story in detail here : http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/feb/10/the-global-system-for-holding-corporations-to-account-is-in-need-of-serious-reform

Grand rally  of locals in Phulbari town on 27 December 2014. Photo credit: Kallol Mustafa

Grand rally of locals in Phulbari town on 27 December 2014. Photo credit: Kallol Mustafa

Failing to hold their businessman to account, Rolf Nieuwenkamp, the chair of the OECD working party on responsible business conduct, has done a response piece to Christine Haigh‘s above article about the failure of the OECD process.

The partial and dodgy response can be accessed from: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/feb/24/from-land-grabs-to-anti-union-behaviour-businesses-are-increasingly-being-held-accountable

Phulbari Activists have responded to Rolf Nieuwenkamp’s article in their comments as embedded below .

    Phulbai actvists and protesters against OECD assessment pledged that GCM will be de-listed from London AIM soon. Photo: Stephen Vince

Phulbai actvists and protesters against OECD assessment pledged that GCM will be de-listed from London AIM soon. Photo: Stephen Vince

Read Comments on Rolf Nieuwenkamp’s response:

ritasueandbob

24 Feb 2015 14:54

  • 1 2

When are going to make western companies liable for labour abuses of their suppliers? And directors of western companies personally responsible that certain standards are maintained by their supplier chain?

If directors face prison for a negligent factory fire killing hundreds that should encourage a better commitment to supplier standards.

OneTop

25 Feb 2015 1:26

  • 2 3

From land grabs to anti union behaviour, businesses are increasingly being held accountable

That’s a hilarious joke given that the parties to the TPP and TTIP are about to grant corporations sovereignty, placing their activities above the law. Not to mention the massive frauds and illegal activities carried out by the largest banks.

Trans-Pacific Partnership is a “neoliberal assault”


Critics score against extreme corporate rights in TTIP, but must not be fooled by the Commission’s tricks

hugin1

25 Feb 2015 9:09

  • 0 1

So there are progress in the developing countries; great…. cause for celebration even if big business hardly act exemplary just yet. But in Europe and the US big business increasingly do as they please. There’s no accountability as the political level has been bought through lobbying and financing of career politicians. Only the concern (I wouldn’t even call it fear) that whistle-blowers can trigger the occasional headline acts as a mild deterrent. It’s not like big business has suddenly acquired a moral compass……. the massive, institutionalized tax evasion we know they are all engaged in is evidence to the contrary.

ID8041069

27 Feb 2015 8:58

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Okay, Mr Professor Rolf Nieuwenkamp, as you make me laugh out so loud by reading your hilarious rumbling to Christine Haigh’s polite opinion piece, I think that it is necessary to make a few comments in my own language to your rumbling – what I found not only a poor response but utter lies about the ill process of your NCP. I am sure you are aware that you rumbling failed to respond to the ever constructive article by Christine Haigh, who kindly wrote about us- the people from Phulbari. I wish to add my few comments for other readers who may not know what a hypocritical response it is, and who may not know how inhuman the UK NCP could appear to certain communities and groups of people in the far south who are seen as uncivilized to many Professors like you who serve organisations like the Global Coal Resources Plc.

Note that I am one of those survivors who was nearly killed by your poisonous corporations, those ill-motivated and corrupted businessmen of Britain whom you and your hypocrite board have encouraged to go back to Phulbari to ruin my homeland. You and your colleagues have given a self contradictory assessment to the killer company who killed three people in Phulbari in front of my eyes. Instead of holding them to account, your NCP has decided to publish an ill-assessment, clearly suggesting that the company should go back to Phulbari to consult the local people so that they could destroy our people’s houses, pollute our water sources, and damage our greens and environment in the name of development and fossil fuel. The report which you have published on 20 November 2014, overlapping the OECD process and denying the fact that GCM has already violated human rights in Phulbari, is not only a failure but denial to humanity. Your report has led to fresh violence in a town what was known as Bangladesh’s most peaceful locality. I am the woman who have witnessed both the killing of our people in Phulbari and the betrayal of the NCP to us throughout the OECD process. So please bear with me I have much to say about your failures and inhumanity.

ID8041069

27 Feb 2015 9:45

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In your rumbling, you have failed to reference to the cases brought up in 10 February piece by Christine Haigh, and this indeed side-steps the particular concerns raised about them, in particular the Phulbari case. Several of your points are misleading, Mr Professor, what kind of Professor are you that couldn’t get the point after reading a whole 1000 words delivered by a climate activist?

I have no time to correct you and I believe that it is your responsibility to produce ‘good knowledge’ as a Professor. I am going to speak about just one case, and it is our case – the Phulbari case that you have failed badly to address. Before explaining what harms you did to us let me give you a few facts and self-contradictory statements that your NCP has made about our Phulbari OECD complaint:

The UK NCP’s Final Report on the complaint submitted against GCM Resources notes that:

  • GCM has responded in writing to concerns from seven of the United Nations most senior human rights experts, who have called for an immediate halt to the company’s mine citing threats to the human rights of tens of thousands of people, and has advised the UN’s experts that “it would undertaken a Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) before proceeding with the project.” The company, the Final Statement also notes, “has re-iterated this commitment to the NCP” (paragraph 67 of the NCP Final Report); But then the NCP suggests that GCM has not violated human rights in Phulbari!
    • The NCP states that in order to meet its obligations under the OECD Guidelines on human rights, GCM will need to make and publish the Human Rights Impact Assessment it has committed to “before it begins work to acquire land for and develop the mine” (paragraph 71, emphasis added);
    • Subject to any decision from the Government of Bangladesh on the project’s future, the UK NCP recommends that GCM continues to update its plans in line with current international best practice standards, and in particular to pursue and publish the Human Rights Impact Assessment it has advised the NCP it will include in this (paragraph 80). Yet, the NCP ends up giving a free license for overseas business to the corrupted businessmen who are unable to produce a valid contract with Bangladesh government.

The findings and recommendations of the UK NCP’s Steering Committee, created to carry out the internal review of the NCP’s handling of the complaint which notes that GCM’s project “has aroused considerable opposition in Bangladesh, leading to violent protests, and an even more violent response by the authorities there.” But the internal review has left unpublished, just as the JCHR has left my report about GCM to the Parliament unpublished in 2009. I was told that my report was unpublished to save printing cost (as if the UK Parliament had been facing undescribable financial hardship) at that time, but what was your problem Prof. Rolf to publish your Internal Review online?

The NCP’s Final Assessment stated that GCM has failed to ‘foster mutual trust and communications with locals’ and that they must re-evaluate the impacts of this project before going ahead for implementation. But then it asks the company to carry on with their business in Bangladesh, it approves the company’s attempts to re-enter Phulbari for further public consultation so that Phulbari people cannot sleep in peace.

Please stay with me, I haven’t finished yet.

ID8041069

27 Feb 2015 9:59

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“The NCP finds that GCM partly breached its obligations under Chapter II, Paragraph 7, which provides that enterprises should develop self-regulatory practices and management systems that foster confidence and trust in the societies they operate in.

The finding is repeated in paragraph 50 of the NCP’s Final Statement: “The NCP therefore considers that GCM’s communications did not apply practices or systems that foster confidence and mutual trust with the [local] society in which it [seeks to] operate”, and in this limited respect the company breached Chapter II, Paragraph 7 of the Guidelines for a period beginning after August 2006 and continuing until 2012 when the Bangladeshi government authorized the resumption of activities locally and increased re-engagement began.

As the NCP repeats this conclusion a 3rd time in paragraph 77, it is exceedingly difficult to understand on what ground did the NCP stated that “The NCP finds that GCM did not breach its obligations” under Chapter II, Paragraph 2, and did not breach its obligations under Chapter IV. Could you see Mr Professor that your Paragraphs 1 and Paragraph 5 are those ambiguous findings which created a ground for a judicial review of the OECD? That these mislead many of us including the company themselves, so that the company’s Chief Executive rushed to Phulbari and provoked for fresh violence in our Phulbari?

Mind you, I am not an expert in OECD matter though even I could see the idiotic ambiguity in NCP’s final assessment of Phulbari case. Please beer with me I have much more to say about your failures and the harms your NCP has done to us in Phulbari.

ID8041069

27 Feb 2015 10:07

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The fact that the 2011 OECD guidelines do “clearly” apply to “prospective” or potential human rights abuses was affirmed in an internal review of the NCP’s handling of the complaint. This is documented in paragraph 6 of the Recommendations of the NCP Steering Board Review Committee formed to carry out this internal review.

In paragraphs 20 & 28, the Committee instructed the NCP to re-evaluate the complaint in light of its concern that the NCP made an error (paragraph 15) in not applying the 2011 Guidelines – which clearly include potential impacts – and revise it’s Final Statement in the complaint accordingly. However, the NCP proceeded to publish the Final Statement with no change other than a footnote stating the review had taken place. I have quoted in our press release to your worthless review of our case that the framework within which the UK NCP has assessed our case is extremely narrow, and the issues which were overlooked by the NCP was ill-motivated.

Examination of our Review Request finding of procedural error by the NCP & recommendation to re-evaluate our complaint and issue a new Final Statement:

We formally requested a review of the NCP’s handling of our complaint (on 15 May 2014), and our request was accepted. A Steering Board Committee was appointed to carry out the assessment, and its report (received 30 Oct) is attached. Three important points to note:

  1. The Committee recognized and affirmed that the 2011 Guidelines do clearly apply to “prospective impacts” (para 6): “it is clear from the 2011 Guidelines that the obligation of an enterprise to respect human rights includes the rights of those prospectively affected by its conduct, including planned conduct”;
    2. The Committee upheld our position that the NCP had “misdirected itself” (made an error) in not applying the 2011version of the OECD Guidelines to our complaint (paras 15 & 19);
    3. It recommended that the NCP re-examine the Complaint in light of this concern, and “issue a new Final Statement reflecting this re-examination.” (para 20)

ID8041069

27 Feb 2015 10:16

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We were found badly played out by your colleague and an ever bias woman, Liz Napier. After what you guys (at UK NCP) have done to us by publishing one of world’s most unethical and bias report of our complaint, I had no wish to even write a column about your rubbish failure. We have rather chosen to take to streets to protest and asked our government to close business with your unethical businessmen. I write now as you have made yourself such a deaf by your vague response to the failures that our friend Christine Haigh has noted in her article. You know that you have talked about success by sidestepping, and you didn’t have the courage to challenge any of the cases that we have watched being failed and let down by the UK NCP.

Please take your time to read the Summary of the NCP’s pathetic response to the recommendation of its Steering Committee Review

The NCP wrote us to notify it “believed” it could to this quickly, denied our requests for the usual period granted for comment on the Final Statement, and also refused our requests for a delay in publication to allow its Steering Board to consider our concerns. Literally the only change made in response to the recommendations of the Steering Committee Review was to add a one-paragraph footnote to its existing Final Statement stating that it has carried out a re-examination. Other that this footnote, it did not alter a word of the Final Statement now published to its website (and attached here). It then proceeded to publish virtually unchanged.

This may be seem detail to some readers but we do have two concerns about the review findings:
1. The Committee erred in its findings that our Complaint deals only with “prospective” human rights abuses that have not yet occurred (see paras 5 & 6). For one important example, see comments below regarding ongoing violations of the rights of indigenous people.
2. Para 25 seems to give the NCP far too much leeway in deciding what it can exclude from its investigation of a complaint.

Stay with me please I am showing you how failed you and your board are!

ID8041069

27 Feb 2015 10:29

  • 0 1

To summarize some three of the most serious breaches of human rights by Global Coal Management Resources never adequately addressed by the NCP:

  1. Ongoing violation of the rights to self-determination and to free prior and informed consent (affirmed in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indignenous Peeople) extending back to 2006.

Both the NCP and the Steering Board Committee have erred in saying that all concerns raised in our complaint are about “prospective” or “potential” rights. This is factually untrue as indigenous people have been fighting this project for over eight years. The NCP has incontrovertible evidence of this, including: its written notes from an interview with an indigenous leader who told her that indigenous people were willing to go to war to halt the project; Rabindranath Soren’s letter to the UN Forum on Indigenous Issues (attached); and the 2008 community letter to the ADB signed by several indigenous leaders. The former UN Special Rapportuer on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Aanaya, has twice conveyed his concerns about this in his official communications in the record of the UN (one is attached), and you will find detail on this in our letter of 3/12/14 as well.

  1. Forced eviction of tens of thousands of people (over 40,000 by GCM’s count, far more by others). Important: these are “forced evictions” as defined in international law and in the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement authored by Miloon Kothari in his former capacity as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing. International law recognizes that forced evictions are a gross violation of human rights in themselves. You can find content on this on in the attached letter from Miloon Kothari.

The NCP said it was limited the scope of its investigation to exclude any consideration of potential impacts and would only consider inevitable or unavoidable impacts. This is an outrage in itself, because the language of the 2011 OED Guidelines is very clear that they apply to “potential” impacts and impacts that “may” happen.

Even if we agree to this limit to the NCP’s assessment – which we most definitely do not – these forced evictions are unavoidable or inevitable if the project goes forward. Even GCM does not take the position that these the eviction of tens of thousands of people in order to implement its project.

  1. The restrictions on civil and political rights of people opposing the project and high potential for further violence if GCM persists in its efforts to force the project forward despite massive opposition in communities threatened by its project, including the state-backed use of lethal force already seen in 2006.

As you are aware Professor, the Final report of an Expert Committee formed in 2006 and tasked with assessing the proposed project warned of the high risk of social conflict and unrest if as many as a million people (their estimate) are displaced and numerous international organizations, including IAP and the World Organization against Torture have repeatedly expressed grave concerns about the high potential for further violence and loss of life. The NCP is also aware the RAB, denounced as a “death squad” by Human Rights Watch, has repeatedly been deployed to demonstrations against the mine and is also aware of the bloodshed and loss of life in 2006.

The NCP dismissed the findings of the attached submission of the Essex Business and Human Rights Project as being “commissioned” by the complainants. The study finds that GCM failed to meet its due diligence requirements to avoid further human rights violations associated with this project.

ID8041069

27 Feb 2015 10:55

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There are so much more to expose your ill-process and ill-motivated assessment to our Phulbari case Professor that I couldn’t finish in commenting here. I think that I will better go for a proper response by one another powerful article in a social media who may not reduce our response to comments only. I want to elaborate how badly I felt being played out by your colleague Liz Napier. I was meant to be an eye witness, and I have given two hours long account/interview to Liz Napier at a moment when my dearest mother was at the Intensive Care Unit, when she was dying at home. But neither she nor any of you did cite one line from my eye witness. You simply didn’t recognise the significance of our accounts. Indeed, you failed to cite any of the first hand accounts from Phulbari where people said that they would die but would not give their land. You did not think that these comments demonstrate the severity of the concerns and the risks (possibility for further human rights violation).

The NCP’s carelessness, irresponsibility and unethical attitude were obvious in a comment by your colleague Liz Napier. In October 2013, when I have emailed her informing that I was receiving malicious calls and harassment on telephone at mid night which were similar to 2010 (when my house was burnt down), and I requested that the NCP UK shouldn’t share my contact details with any third party, Liz Napier replied -in one line-that ‘we have no reason to share your contact details with anybody’!

I saved that email of Napier. This response was not only callous but also intentional because Napier failed to assure the interviewee that the NCP would never share her contact details to anybody by any means. I wondered and wondered why was this so difficult for a communication officer at NCP to say something reassuring to the interviewee, rather than reactionary? Why is it that the affected communities and individuals representing communities have to flatter you guys for our moral rights?

ID8041069

27 Feb 2015 11:28

0 1

And my friend Dr Samina Luthfa, and a community researcher who completed her PhD and explored narratives of the tremendous resistance to open pit mine in Bangladesh, dedicated her valuable time to interpret the interviews from Phulbari. She was dumbfounded by the way your colleague Liz Napier and your NCP board have misinterpreted some of the affected individuals’ accounts. Samina wrote to Liz Napier in June 2014 that the UK NCP has no right to change the original version of the accounts that she has interpreted from Bangla to English. Napier told that she was going to find out the original accounts and would have looked at those accounts which we found as corrupted by the UK NCP board. As usual, shamefully, this has never happened and Napier has never returned to any of us with our original accounts.

I felt really sick, Professor! I am sick of talking about the way our Phulbari case has been handled by the UK NCP. You couldn’t please me by your article about success. It made me rather frustrated and angry so as to expose your corrupted process of OECD. The only one point which makes a little sense to me is that of your bit of realisation, that you realised that your system needs improvement. It is also good to know that you are aware of the fact that there are powerful criticisms: “Yes, there have been serious criticisms”.

But then you spoil your own realisation by the next comment: “but many NCPs are working to improve their structure and also find new ways to deal with challenging cases through both mediation and proactive prevention.” Please can you give us some appropriate examples of those processes and new ways to deal with our challenging cases?

Most hilarious was your last comment: “I agree with Christine Haigh that improvements are needed. But it is important to stress that there are also positive outcomes in OECD’s NCP system. The glass is definitely not full. Rather, it is half full, or half empty, depending on where you stand.”

A friend of mine have asked : Is it a truly satisfactory measurement of the NCP system to be either ‘half-full’ or ‘half-empty’? Regardless of one’s perspective is it a 50 / 50 proposition?

Please answer. In the meantime, I can write my own article which will expose that your whole system needs serious treatment.

 

Phulbari Solidarity Group Stood with Activists at National Climate March in London

Rumana Hashem Declared Solidarity with Thousands Demanding ‘its Time to Act’

By Raaj Manik

Saturday's National Climate March in London Photo credit: Jonathan Chater

Saturday’s National Climate March in London Photo credit: Jonathan Chater

After joining the protest on Global Divestment Day at City Hall, activists of Phulbari solidarity group joined the UK’s national climate march, expressing full solidarity to the agenda of the Campaign against Climate Change (CCC). On Saturday the 7th March, in the sea of vibrant, peaceful, powerful, and colourful protesters against climate change, the founder of Phulbari Solidarity Group (PSG) and a steering member of Bangladesh National Committee, Rumana Hashem, declared unconditional solidarity to the climate marchers and green planet seekers in London. The PSG and Bangladeshi activists in London marched with the protesters who said that  ‘It’s Time To Act‘.

By waving a Bangladeshi national flag at Westminster, Dr. Hashem expressed solidarity and gave an inspiring speech at a gathering of some 20,000 amazing marchers against climate change. Rumana started by saying: ‘Okay, I am here to express full solidarity with you. I would like to let you know that we, the activists from Bangladesh and Phulbari Solidarity Group, join our hands with you today to urge the UK government and world leaders to take a strong action to save our planet.”

She added, “Change is possible, stopping greenhouse emissions is possible. All we need is a combined action – from the south to the north for a green planet without delay.” In describing the way that people in Phulbari have resisted the immense open-pit coal mine which was proposed by an AIM-based British corporation, Global Coal Management Resources Plc, Rumana Hashem said:

Rumana Hashem of Bangladesh National Committee and Phulbari Solidarity Group waves Bangladeshi flag to cheer up the protesters. Photo credit: Paul  V. Dudman

Rumana Hashem of Bangladesh National Committee and Phulbari Solidarity Group waves Bangladeshi flag to cheer up the protesters. Photo credit: Paul V. Dudman

“In Bangladesh, we have ensured a halt to the project for over 8 years. It was made possible by coming together and taking to the streets against those blood-suckers and corporate grabbers who were determined to destroy our green fields by building a massive coal mine. Our people did not allow this to happen, they are fighting for their green fields and homes every day. Indeed, we could help build the climate movement by inspiring people from different countries to join us and join hands. We need to connect those grassroots struggles in the south with the north. We need to connect the northern activism with the southern movements.”

The vibrant-marching crowd who gathered outside British Parliament to hear from speakers, chanted slogan, in response to Rumana’s inspiring speech, “we will save our planet”. The march, called “Time to Act”, was designed to increase support for action ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris. The peaceful yet powerful climate activists who marched from Lincoln’s Inn Fields to Westminster have demanded strong action of the UK government and world leaders at the Paris climate conference in December.

An activist representing the vibrant and colourful protest at Time To Act Climate March. Photo credit: Jonathan Chater

The slogans and organisations taking part in the national climate march were diverse. Protesters came from different cities and villages of the UK, and many had traveled with their kids and young children, demonstrating the severity of the cause. Despite the differences in the protesters’ backgrounds in terms of age, class, race, ethnicity, religion and nationality, many of them appeared clearly positive that preventing greenhouse emissions is possible. There was also a consensus that one way of bringing in change is to end capitalism without delay – because it stands in the way to prevent our earth from destroying.

Some sixteen inspiring speakers, from across world, have addressed the fascinating crowd. Many of them were women and one was just twelve year old girl. Powerful speakers include MP Caroline Lucas of Green Party, stand-by comedian Francesca Martinez, left wing Labour MP John McDonnell, the head of Greenpeace UK John Sauven, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, Bangladeshi environmentalist-feminist Rumana Hashem, and author Naomi Klein.

Most amazing speaker of the day was that of a 12 year old Laurel who spoke at the end of the rally and warned everybody that the earth is to be destroyed unless we act now. Also speakers from Caat, Avaaz, People’s Assembly, Axe Drax, Frack Free Lancashire, Stand Up to Racism, UK youth against climate change and the French climate coalition spoke powerfully at the march.

The protest was called by the Campaign against Climate Change (CCC) in conjunction with many other organisations. The powerful march ended by a beautiful choir let’s “unite voices, voice-unite, its time to act” . We were only four from Bangladesh National Committee and Phulbari Solidarity Group who attended the rally though it meant a lot to us. The power of people was felt throughout the sunny afternoon, and through our hearts. It was a real life-experience in London. The National Climate March in London reassured many that change is not only required, change is possible. Detailed report and updates with footage and photos are available in the below links. More photos and footage of the participation from Bangladesh and Phulbari Solidarity Group will be uploaded shortly.

Read further reports:

Climate Change: ‘Its Time To Act’ http://www.timetoact2015.org/

Time to Act National Climate March 2015 https://www.facebook.com/events/770415883032572/

Thousands take to the streets of London http://socialistworker.co.uk/art/40074/Thousands+take+to+the+streets+of+London+to+demand+action+on+climate+change

The Guardian report: ‘Climate change protesters march in London’ http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/07/time-to-act-climate-change-protest-london

Save the Sundarbans Save Our Mangrove Forest: Join the Global Movement

By Rumana Hashem

The Sundarbans mangrove forest is struggling to survive a 350,000 liter oil spill. On 9 December 2014, the oil tanker carrying more than 350,000 liters (92,500 gallons) of bunker oil sank on a major river, called Shela, flowing through the Sundarbans after being hit by a cargo vessel. Its been nearly two months and the threats are yet to be over.

Rare animals and wild bird died by oil spill in the Sundarbans. Photo by Anup Kundus 28 Jan 2015.

Rare animals and wild bird died by oil spill in the Sundarbans. Photo by Anup Kundus 28 Jan 2015.

Sundarbans, a UNESCO-projected World Heritage site that is the largest remaining mangrove forest in the world, has saved millions of Bangladeshi lives by offering critical protection against devastating cyclones. It provides a vital habitat for many rare and endangered species, sequester carbon, and serve as a life-saving buffer against the devastating tropical storms that are increasing in frequency and intensity with global warming. But the massive oil spill from a tanker accident has spelled disaster for its delicate ecology. Officials said that the slick had spread over up to 70 kilometers (45 miles) of the Shela river, a major sanctuary for aquatic animals in the Sundarbans. At least 20 canals connected with the Shela as well as another major river, Pashur, have also been affected.

To make it worse, Indian corporations are pushing the government in Bangladesh for other commercial projects like the Rampal coal plant which, they call, a Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company (BIFPC),which pose further huge threats to the Sundarbans. The proposed coal-fired power plant at Rampal, just 14 km, from the Sundarbans Reserve Forest, would destroy a vital habitat for many rare and endangered species, and million of Bangladeshi people.Thus the next accident is right around the corner unless we are able to form a global movement, joining the hands of national and local struggles against this corporate grabbing in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government is relentlessly pursuing major industrial projects like the 1320 megawatt Rampal coal plant that will generate enormous volumes of toxic waste and leave the forest waterways vulnerable to future hazardous spills.

Common people in Bangladesh are deeply concerned to the threats, and the majority of Bangladeshis are desperate to save the Sundarbans. On 6 February, the Bangladesh National Committee is holding a convention in Dhaka to address the gravity of the concerns and associated threats to the Sundarbans. The National Committee has declared a 5-day nationwide long march from Dhaka to Sundarbans which will be held in mid-March to re-mobilise peoples voices against this devastating project.

We call upon every concerned citizen of the world to take action, to join our campaign and fight against this devastating coal based power plant in Bangladesh. We express full solidarity to the 6th February Dhaka Convention to Save the Sundarbans, organised by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh. We extend our support to and call upon every Bangladeshi to join the long march from Dhaka to the Sundarbans. We support also the petition of Avaaz https://secure.avaaz.org/en/protect_sundarbans_r2/?bzrstbb&v=52337

As our friends at Avaaz points out, UNESCO is concerned about the situation, and if enough of us raise our voices now, we can persuade them to officially declare the Sundarbans as a “World Heritage in Danger” and force the Bangladesh government to protect the forest.  Let’s sign the petition of Avaaz.org. whilst sharing news of protests in Bangladesh and beyond.

For further Information read:

Oil Spill in Bangladesh Threatens Aquatic Animals (NYTimes)
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2014/12/12/world/asia/ap-as-bangladesh-oil-spill.html?_r=0

Sundarbans Threatened (The Daily Star)
http://archive.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/sundarbans-threatened/

Rampal power plant: A project of deception and mass destruction (BDNews24)
http://opinion.bdnews24.com/2013/09/19/rampal-power-plant-a-project-of-deception-and-mass-destructio…

Threat to Sundarbans Concerns UNESCO (The Financial Express)
http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2014/12/14/70905

Wake-up Call: Save Forests in Bangladesh (Asia News Network)
http://www.asianewsnet.net/news-69888.html

List of World Heritage in Danger (UNESCO)
http://whc.unesco.org/en/danger/

Report of Oil Spill in the river Shela: http://ncbd.org/?p=1338

Preliminary Research Outcome of the impact of Oil Spill (by Dr. Abdullah Harun)          http://ncbd.org/wp-co

ntent/uploads/2014/12/Impact-of-oil-spills-on-the-Sundarbans_AHC.pdf

In defence of national and environmental interest

By Samina Luthfa, 18 January 2015

Phulbari is not a controversy. It is the name and symbol of a successful resistance by community people threatened with displacement by a proposed open-pit coal mine by GCM Resources in 5,600 hectares of land (including arable land with high cropping intensity) in four thanas of Dinajpur. Open mining requires stripping off the soil over the deposit that lies at least 150 meter or deeper (upto270 meters) under the earth. The mining company has changed its names twice after a community protest rally against the Phulbari project was attacked and protestors shot at, killing three young protestors in 2006.

Grand rally  of locals in Phulbari town on 27 December. Photo credit: Kallol Mustafa

Grand rally of locals in Phulbari town on 27 December. Photo credit: Kallol Mustafa

Although the company’s revised documents say that the stripping will be done in phases, two highly placed government-led expert committees were not convinced in favour of the mine that will directly affect the lives and livelihoods of at least 1,00,000 people (2006). Foreign environmental experts extensively criticised the company’s Environmental Impact Assessment for being incomplete and vague. The human displacement and environmental costs are so high that United Nations’ rapporteurs also made statements expressing opposition to the proposed mine.

‘Self-proclaimed’ or not, local communities and environmental justice platforms like the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port must have had logical objections against the proposed project; why else would international financiers like the Asian Development Bank and Barclays Capital feel compelled to withdraw their financial support from the project since 2008? Long before the incident of November 24, 2014, the project based in London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market had been termed ‘risky’ by industry experts like Rosie Carr in 2006 (Identify the Risks, The Investors’ Chronicle, the Financial Times).

My own doctoral research from the University of Oxford quantitatively compared incidences of community-based protests against 398 open-pit mines in South Asia. Factors like density of population, proportion of area under forest cover, and ownership by a multinational company predicted the highest probability of protest in the proposed Phulbari deposit. This research result was formally conveyed to the shareholders of GCM in their Annual General Meeting of 2011. This means that the investors are well aware of the financial risks they are taking by investing in the Phulbari project.

When such a volatile project with a high degree of environmental, political and social risks and very strong local-national-transnational opposition is supported by a quarter, what I see is unfettered greed of profiteering by some people with no environmental, social and cultural conscience at all. No matter how strongly the locals protest it, or how persuasively the experts explain that the mine would be devastating for the water aquifers, for example, they will not stop. Because they do not care about Bangladesh or its FDI rates; they are only worried about their profit, with every pence increasing their share value in the AIM. The ranting of these ‘investors’ about our country and our politicians in their discussion forums clearly show that all they care about is profiteering through stock manipulation in London that is independent of what the marginalised protestors at Phulbari do or do not do.

Placard used in a protest against the exploitative British company. Photo: Golam Rabbani

Placard used in a protest against the exploitative British company. Photo: Golam Rabbani

The company, as erroneously suggested by some, does NOT have a ‘permission for mining’ yet from the government. A letter from the government that is often used as an evidence of contract clearly states that the permission to mine is dependent on the following: “on receipt of the Feasibility Study Report, the technical aspects of the project will be examined and evaluated by experts and on the basis of this government will take final decision regarding real mining operation…Within this time, the lessee will not conduct any commercial activities of the mine.” On one hand, the expert committee formed after this letter expressed opposition to the project, and on the other, the Phulbari Chukti that said ‘no open mine anywhere in the country’ was signed by the BNP-led government representatives in 2006 and was supported by the then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina. It is an obligation for any incumbent politician to uphold these.

The local resistance started in 2005, gathered momentum and peaked in 2006. National committee joined the locals later to support their resistance. The locals successfully showed how the mine was not only threatening for them but also for our national interest. It wouldonly benefit the company as it would have owned all the coal, giving a small amount of royalty to Bangladesh (much lower than the convention) and some supply of coal for our power generation. 80% of the coal produced was earmarked for export to India through a very vulnerable eco-system in Southern Bangladesh — the Sundarbans. The far-reaching probable effect of this on the mangrove forest is probably clearer now after the oil tanker spill in Shela river in December 2014.

There exist several doctoral and post-graduate dissertation-based research from well-reputed western universities like Chicago, Sussex, Amsterdam, and faculty and NGO level research in Bangladesh, UK and USA, that show how strong the opposition against the mining project is and why it is the case: too costly for communities due to huge displacement, high environmental risk in a riverine area like Bangladesh where any seepage or extraction of water table has a far reaching environmental impact and increase in food insecurity with the loss of highly active arable land to the mine. All these for whose benefit: to produce electricity to export to India! Farewell to national interest, eh?

Last but not the least, FDI inflow increased 98% over the last fiscal year according to the Board of

Bangladeshi activist protests against the company outside the AGM. Photo: Paul V Dudman

Bangladeshi activist protests against the company outside the AGM. Photo: Paul V Dudman

Investments’ own records, which proves that although Phulbari is in stalemate for the last 8 years, the national investment scenario looks pretty good. I am no economist but my common sense suggests that first, foreign investment depends on global trends and is therefore dependent more on global crises than one single project. Second, GCM’s investment is not that big given the country’s whole investment scenario. Third, there are other more profitable sectors in the country where foreign investment is less risky and better-suited for investors who care for long-term returns rather than the short term return required by GCM’s short-sighted investors, whom I closely observed for one year in 2010-11. Finally, increase in FDI in power sector without a concern for sustainable growth often is responsible for creating a ‘resource curse.’ Experiences of countries like Nigeria, Sudan, Columbia and Afghanistan tell us how an increase in FDI in the energy sector negatively trapped the countries into poverty and dependence. Are we to welcome any investment that intends to export our resources at high financial, environmental and social cost and benefit only a few investors and some corrupt government officials? Or are we to bid farewell to the bad investments and welcome those that propose to extract responsibly keeping in mind the prospect of future generations to come?

**The above article is reproduced, with thanks to the Daily Star

The writer is Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Dhaka. She earned her doctorate from the University of Oxford, UK, in 2013 on the Phulbari Resistance. The research was funded by the Commonwealth Commission.

Challenging the Invisible and Invalid Contract

Response to ‘Farewell to FDI?’ Reproduced op-ed from the Daily Star  

By Kallol Mustafa, 20 January, 2015

The op-ed piece (‘Farewell to FDI?’,The Daily Star, Jan 13, 2015) is based on some misleading and partial information regarding Asia Energy’s (GCM) Phulbari Coal Project and the peoples’ protest against it. The writer termed the peoples’ protest against Asia Energy chief’s visit to Phulbari as ‘vandalism’ but did not mention how, for a long time, Asia Energy has been trying to bribe the local youth, provide them with drugs and destabilise the local situation. He blamed the government and local administration for not taking action against the protesters and warned that this might harm foreign investment, without even mentioning the responsibility of the government to implement the Phulbari agreement signed with the local people and honour expert opinion against open pit mining on different occasions.

The writer declared the government official’s denial of existence of mining contract with Asia Energy as “erroneous,” as he completely relied on Asia Energy propaganda published in Energy & Power, but failed to present the correct picture based on original documents and experts’ opinion already submitted to the government.

Based on the article ‘Records Need making Straight’, published in Energy & Power, widely known as lobbyist of Asia Energy, the writer states that Asia Energy has valid contract for mining with the government of Bangladesh and it obtained ‘mining lease’ in April 2004.  But the April 2004 letter, which the Energy & Power article referred to as evidence of Asia Energy’s mining contract, was indeed issued “…in the interest of preparing feasibility report and submitting to the government” and in no way can be used as a valid contract for mining operation. It was very clear in its following statement:

“(c) On receipt of the Feasibility Study Report, the technical aspects of the project will be examined and evaluated by experts and on the basis of this government will take final decision regarding real mining operation.

(d) Within this time, the lessee will not conduct any commercial activities of the mine.” (Emphasis added)

He also missed the evaluation and recommendation of the expert committee (formed by the government and headed by Prof. Nurul Islam) on the development plan submitted by Asia Energy. The expert committee in its report rejected the development plan of Asia Energy saying that:

According to the Mines and Minerals Rules prepared in 1968 under East Pakistan Mines & Minerals act 1967 (Regulation & Development) and amended in 1987 and 1989, royalty rate was fixed at 20% of the price of produced coal at the mine mouth. Accordingly, the Bureau of Mineral Development (BMD) signed an agreement for Boropukuria coalmine on 10/07/1994 at 20% royalty rate. Yet, on 20/08/1994, only a month and ten days after having signed this agreement, the BMD signed another agreement with BHP for coal mining in Dinajpur and Rangpur areas at only 6% royalty rate. This agreement with BHP is illegal as per the then existing mining law. In this situation, this illegal contract may be declared invalid and steps should be taken against concerned persons according to Article 5 of Mines and Mineral Act 1992.

According to Article 32 of Mines and Mineral rules 1968, which was in effect during the signing of the contract, as 3 years had already passed after first issuance of the license, the authorities did not have any right to extend the license period beyond 15/01/1998. For that reason the license renewal order on 26/01/98 for Area ‘B’ was illegal. During handover of the license for Area ‘B’ under the Assignment Contract [the transfer of contract from BHP to Asia Energy], BHP did not have any valid license to transfer as the license was already expired. That’s why all actions taken by the Asia Energy in that block are illegal. BHP lost permission for all kind of activities in Block ‘B’ on 15/01/98 in consequence of which Asia Energy did not have any valid permission to work in that block. So Asia Energy never had any right to apply for mining lease.

For the above two reasons, the Assignment contract signed with Asia Energy on 11/02/1998 has no legal basis. Alternatively, if it is considered that the application for the mining lease will be operated under Mining Rules amended in 1995, the government still cannot consider the Mining Lease Application because 3% of the estimated cost of the scheme has not been deposited with the application as Bank Guaranty as required by the Rules. It is to be noted that 3% of the total estimated cost — $12,460 million (capital cost $2090 million + operating cost $10,370) is $373.8 million, i.e Tk. 2, 616 crore.

(Source: Article 5.2, Report of the Expert Committee (REC) to Evaluate Feasibility Study Report and Scheme of Development of the Phulbari Coal Project, submitted by Messieurs Asia Energy Corporation, (Bangladesh) Pvt. Ltd. (AEC), 20 September 2006 [Author’s translation])

In brief, according to the expert committee, the contract and exploration license which Asia Energy received from BHP have no legal basis and the so-called mining lease (without permission of mining!) granted to Asia Energy under this contract is also legally invalid. That’s why there was nothing wrong or erroneous when Energy and Mineral Resources Division Secretary Abu Bakar Siddique said: “Asia Energy has no valid licenses to develop Phulbari coal mine” (Daily Sun, 8 Dec 2014).

Therefore, the government of Bangladesh (GOB) has no legally binding obligation to allow Asia Energy to do open pit mining and mining related activities in Phulbari, and there is no question of damage payment to Asia Energy for scrapping the Phulbari project as feared by Mr. Syed Mansur Hashim. Rather, the GOB can easily reject its Feasibility Study and Mine Development Scheme for open pit mining following the recommendations of the expert committee.

In fact, the GOB has legal and moral obligation to scrap Phulbari coal project according to the agreement signed between the government of Bangladesh and the people (National Committee to Protect Oil Gas Mineral Resources Port and Power represented the people) on August 30, 2006. The agreement was fully supported by the then opposition leader and current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The main point of the agreement was: “Phulbari coal project will be scrapped and Asia energy will be ousted from the country.” It is now the duty of the GOB to implement its legal and moral obligation to the people by taking action against illegal activities of Asia Energy.

Read this article on the Daily Star (20/01/15): Response to ‘Farewell to FDI?’

Meet demands or face blockade programme on 7 February 2015

Declaration of Phulbari Grand Rally

By Kallol Mustafa, 30 December, 2014


National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports at a rally at Nimtola in Phulbari upazila under the district yesterday warned of tough programmes if their demands were not met within January 31 of the year ahead.

Grand rally  of locals in Phulbari town on 27 December. Photo credit: Kallol Mustafa

Grand rally of locals in Phulbari town on 27 December. Photo credit: Kallol Mustafa

The demands include arrest of Gary Lye, chief executive of Asia Energy Corporation of Bangladesh,  withdrawal of a case filed against the local committee members by Asia Energy,  government’s assurance to avoid open pit mining in Phulbari and implementation of the six-point agreement signed in August 2006.

The local chapter of the committee organised the rally yesterday afternoon protesting Gary Lye’s visit to Phulbari from November 24 to 26.
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Villagers from the country side heading to the rally against Asia Energy’s Chief Executive Officer, Gary Lye . Photo: Kallol Mustafa

Addressing the rally, Anu Mohammad, member secretary of the central committee, highlighted the bad impact of open pit mining in Phulbari, if implemented.

The speakers urged the government to meet their demands or face blockade programme in northern districts on February 7 next year.
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Grand rally in Phulbari demanding arrest and expulsion of GCM’s CEO, Gary Lye, from Bangladesh. Photo: Kallol Mustafa

Protesters from different areas of Dinajpur district joined the rally with processions.
Read news of the grand rally in national media:
More images and footages can be accessed on request.

Demo raged in London at British coal company GCM

  • Noise-Demo, Drumming, Coal Play and Interrogation at GCM’s AGM
  • AGM Disrupted by Protesters’ Interrogation
  • Protesters Demand Arrest of Gary Lye and De-listing of GCM from London AIM

by Raaj Manik, 10 December  2014

Protesters pledge GCM will be de-listed from London AIM soon. Photo: P V Dudman

Protesters pledge GCM will be de-listed from London AIM soon. Photo: P V Dudman

Yesterday, Bangladeshi activists in conjunction with a diverse group of environmental and left political activists in London, heckled the investors of Global Coal Management Resources by their noise demo and coal play. Activists blocked the entrance to the Aeronautical Society by dumping coal in the doorway. They surrounded GCMs’ CEO Gary Lye and his fellows who are aggressively moving ahead to implement a massive open-pit mine in Phulbari, the northwest region of Bangladesh. At the same time a delegation of protesters disrupted the AGM of GCM by questioning the investors inside the AGM about their fraudulent business in London’s Alternative Share Market (AIM).

Community activists (from left) of Swadhinota Trust, the UK branch of National Committee and Bangladesh Workers Party (UK branch) chanted slogans defying the company's CEO Gary Lye's pervasive propaganda about the protesters in Phulbari. Photo: P V. Dudman

Community activists (from left) of Swadhinota Trust, the UK branch of National Committee and Bangladesh Workers Party (UK branch) chanted slogans defying the company’s CEO Gary Lye’s pervasive propaganda about the protesters in Phulbari. Photo: P V. Dudman

The demo was organised by the UK branch of the National Committee to Protect Oil- Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh, in conjunction with Phulbari Solidarity Group. The event was endorsed by Socialist Party of England and Wales, London Mining Network, World Development Movement, Occupy London, Foil Vedanta, European Action Group of Climate Change in Bangladesh, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, UK, and several community organisations including Nari Diganta, Swadhinota Trust, Udichi Shilpi Gosthi, Jubo Union, Friends of Chatro Union, Bangladesh Workers Party (UK branch), Bangladesh Communist Party (UK branch), and Bangladesh Socialist Party (UK branch).

The Sculpture in Tangail and Silk Sari, held three sacks of coals, symbolising the livelihood, culture, struggle, and resistance of Phulbari people. Photo credit: Stephen Vince

The event kicks in with the launch of artist Stephen Vince’s beautiful sculpture, symbolising the protest against the miners and the livelihood, culture, struggle, and resistance of Phulbari people. The sculpture, wearing a Tangail and Silk Sari, held three sacks of coals to symbolise the significance of the number three and a tribute to the three people who were killed in the dirty coal game of GCM in Phulbari.

Bangladeshi activists, carrying the sculpture and holding a banner saying – GCM hands off Phulbari, No open pit mine in Bangladesh- started to chant slogans and sing ‘tomar bari amar bari, Phulbari Phulbari’.  Some protesters played drum and samba when Rumana Hashem and Shahriar Ali gave vocals, deriving slogans from Phulbari in Bangla basat vita dhongsho kore koila khoni hobena [destroying homes and land, no mine no mine]. Others attempted to enter the block calling the investors to come out of AGM and to apologise for their misdeeds and abuse in Bangladesh. Loud protesters were repeatedly warned about potential arrest by the authorities of Aeronautical Society (AS) who did not call police but appeared as racist.

coal dumped on the front door and stairs of Aeronautical Society. Photo: Ansar Ahmed Ullah

Angry protesters dumped coal on the front door and stairs of AS, as they were prevented from taking out Gary Lye. Protesters said that they would not leave the venue before the interrogation of Gary Lye and his fellows was over. Meanwhile, a group of protesters went to check the investors’ vehicles and took over the car park as part of the blockade against Gary Lye, the company’s manipulative CEO, who was expelled from Phulnari for a 3rd time this year, on 26 November, but still continues to abuse Bangladesh government and Phulbari people.

When protesters outside the AGM were checking investor’s vehicles, a delegation of the climate justice activists attending the AGM interrogated Gary Lye and the board inside the AGM about GCM’s unethical business in London and abusive activities in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi activists rattled the investors to an extent that the Chair was fade up and it was Gary Lye who ended up facing the interrogation about the paperless contract and propaganda of GCM. Phulbari activists challenged that GCM does not have valid contract with Bangladesh.

Diverse group of climate activists and protesters holding placards and listening to speeches by community leaders. Photo: P V Dudman

Climate activists of World Development Movement and London Mining Network supported Phulbari activists, and asked numerous questions about the highly contentious Phulbari project, its huge human rights impacts and the OECD Guidelines as GCM has breached 2011 Guidelines, which do apply to the planned conduct of an enterprise in terms of prospective impacts on human rights. Activists said that ‘the company was illegitimate, the project illegitimate and the annual general meeting of GCM was illegitimate’. The meeting broke up unceremoniously and the shareholders broken up into two groups.

Richard Solly of London Mining Network is briefing the demonstrators about the interrogation inside the AGM and the failure of GCM board to answer the questions of Bangladeshi activists. Photo: P V Dudman

Richard Solly of London Mining Network is briefing the demonstrators about the interrogation inside the AGM and the failure of GCM board to answer the questions of Bangladeshi activists. Photo: P V Dudman

The delegation of climate activists came out of the AGM and joined the protesters where Golam Mostofa, Richard Solly, Zahanara Rahman and Sam Sender updated the demonstrators that Gary Lye and his fellows have failed to answer the questions of Bangladeshi activists. ‘They are even lying about national media and the government in Bangladesh’, said Mrs Zahanara. Protesters chanted slogans ‘Gary Lye is a Lier, Shame on Gary Lye’, GCM and Asia Energy, hushiar sabdhan [be aware of peoples’ power]’. One angry protester walked into the building with a sack of coal to dump on Gary Lye’s chair, but was prevented from entering the meeting room by the AS’s equally racist authority who received the coal on behalf of the investors.

Speakers in the demo asserted that there is no hope for Asia Energy and GCM in relation to coal business in Bangladesh when the government including the Prime Minister, Energy Minister and Energy Secretary of the country have reaffirmed that Bangladesh will not go for open pit mine in Phulbari. Speakers include  Dr Akhter Sobhan Khan, Abed Ali, Ahmed Zaman, Ansar Ahmed Ullah,  Effie Jordan, Ishak Kajol, Mostofa Farook, Nurul Islam,  Peter Mason, Syed Enam, Shah Enam, Julie Begum, and many more. The Masters of the event were Shahriar Ali and Akhter Sobhan Khan Masroor. The event was volunteered by a number of left activists and professional photographers including artist Stephen Vince, Golam Rabbani of Diamond Studios, Nicole Meedrum, Patrick, Chris and many more. The chairperson of National Committee’s UK branch, Dr Mokhlesur Rahman, thanked everybody for coming along and for taking on important theatrical roles.

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Diverse group of climate activists kept coming and joining the demo which they found extraordinary in London. Photo: P V Dudman

The demo ended with a manifesto calling for an end of GCM’s Phulbari project, and by criticising the UK NCP’s controversial recommendations to the company. The founder and coordinator of Phulbari Solidarity Group, Dr Rumana Hashem, read out the manifesto of the demo and called the London’s AIM to de-list GCM. The manifesto concludes by expressing full solidarity with the Phulbari people’s struggle and by condemning the UK government for failing to hold the UK-based company to account.

Dr Hashem reads the statement of the demo. Photo: P V Dudman

Dr Rumana Hashem reads the statement of the demo. Photo: P V Dudman

Miners GCM Resources is the subject of a complaint to the Organisation for Co-operation and Development over the controversial coal mine. They have only one active project, the Phulbari coal project, which awaits permission from the Government of Bangladesh to go ahead. But the people in Phulbari want to put the company out of Bangladesh, ban the Phulbari project and to take the company and its investors to public court for their abusive and fraudulent activities.

Phulbari, the town in upheaval in northwest Bangladesh where three people were shot dead during the protest against immense open pit mine in 2006, has become volatile again since, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the AIM-listed British company, Gary N Lye, attempted to conduct consultation with locals in the town centre. There were two days long blockade in Dinajpur-Dhaka highway, and over a thousand people braved cold to raise their protest at Gary Lye’s visit last month.

Phulbari demo and protest in London ends with a pledge that there will be no mine in Phulbari. Photo: P V Dudman

On 26 November, locals in Phulbari surrounded Lye and GCM’s Bangladesh subsidiary Asia Energy‘s local office, and the CEO had to leave Phulbari and Dinajpur in police protection. Violent protests erupted where 2 were injured. Protesters have demanded Gary Lye’s immediate arrest and expulsion from Bangladesh. A month-long programme including nation-wide protests have followed. Protesters will not go back home until their demands are full-filled.

Read also report of LMN about the AGM of GCM here

Watch demo video by Socialist Party of England and Wales  http://youtu.be/pI2_jfGA5wA

Watch News by Channel24 http://youtu.be/srx80GbFQPs

Check out the Photo gallery here

Read also Foil Vedanta report here

Read Campaigners keep up fight to stop Bangladesh coal

More news can be found here on GB News24.com

Read Bangla news about Phulbari demo in London: Prothom Alo news

More news: http://www.m.banglanews24.com/detailnews.php?nid=348121&cid=1018

More Bangla news can be accessed from Protect Resources of Bangladesh

Read News about GCM’s/Gary Lye’s paperless business in Bangladesh here

Read also how Asia energy’s day are ending in Bangladesh

News about Bangladesh government’s latest position about Asia Energy/GCM

News about volatile Phulbari can be accessed here

Surround GCM! Surround the Dirty Coal Miners!

Manifesto of the Demo against the Dirty Coal Miners of Asia Energy/GCM 2014

Tuesday, 9 December, 2014. London

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Today we, the activists from Bangladesh,  East London, the Borough of Tower Hamlets, and London’s environmental organisations, have gathered to call upon the AIM-listed London-based multinational company, GCM Resources Plc, to end its unethical business. The company, GCM Resources, is desperately moving to implement an immense open pit coal mine in northwest Bangladesh, forcibly displacing an estimated 130, 000 people and destroying the homes, lands, and water sources of as many as 220,000 people. If the project is implemented, it will destroy over 14,660 acres of fertile agricultural land that produce three food crops annually, threatening to increase hunger in a country in which over a third of all children and nearly 17 percent of the entire population are undernourished.

GCM’s planned Phulbari coal mine has provoked repeated protests by local people. Three people were killed and over 200 injured when paramilitary officers opened fire on a protest against the project in August 2006. Protests in 2013 forced the company’s CEO, Gary Lye, to abandon a visit to the area.

 

The project has generated grave concern at national and international levels including the United Nations. On 28 February, 2012, seven UN human rights experts have called for an immediate halt to the project, citing threats to fundamental human rights, including the rights to water, food, adequate housing, freedom from extreme poverty and the rights of indigenous peoples. But GCM is aggressively moving ahead to implement this project.They are selling fraudulent shares in London’s Alternative Investors Market (AIM) without any valid contract with Bangladesh Government.

 

The situation in Phulbari has become tense and volatile again since Tuesday the 25th November, when the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Gary N Lye, attempted to visit Phulbari. Gary Lye is the man who called the protesters outsiders in 2006, and commented, after the death of three people shot by police at a demonstration, that “I am a businessman, [ …] I will continue my business in Phulbari’ regardless of whether there was a bloodshed or not. Therefore, people in Phulbari braved cold to raise their protest at Gary Lye’s attempted visit. Over a thousand people blocked the Dinajpur-Dhaka highway for five hours, demanding Lye’s arrest and expulsion from Bangladesh. In Phulbari there were two days long protests outside GCM’s Bangladesh subsidiary Asia Energy’s local office. Violent protests erupted where 2 were injured.

 

On Wednesday, 26 November, the company’s CEO, Gary Lye, attempted to conduct consultation with locals in Phulbari following advice of the UK government which was released on Thursday, 20 November. The UK government’s statement follows an investigation into GCM’s activities in Phulbari, and it concluded that the company had breached the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises by failing to “foster confidence and mutual trust” with the people who would be affected by the mine. We welcome the Board’s affirmation that the 2011 Guidelines on human rights do apply to the planned conduct of an enterprise and its prospective impacts on human rights (para 6).  We welcome also the finding that the 2011 Guidelines would apply if GCM “continued to be “actively involved in the project” (para 19).

 
But we are hurt by the ambiguous conclusion of the investigation. The investigation does not ask the company to pull off from the devastating project. Its recommendations are reduced to re-evaluation of the risks and impact. It asked the company to foster communication with the locals following a narrow approach. The final-published investigation failed to consider how the mine would affect the people of Phulbari if it were built, and its conclusions were limited to GCM’s record in the planning phase of the project to date. Although an internal review of the investigation affirmed that the OECD guidelines do apply to human rights abuses that would occur if the project went ahead, the final report failed to address the concerns of the internal review and did not correct the decision to exclude all potential impacts of the project from the investigation. We condemn the UK government for failing to hold their businessmen to account. We condemn the UK National Contact Point for failing to cite the extremely important first-hand accounts from Phulbari. We believe that it is the chair of the NCP, Liz Napier, who played a dirty game in this whole OECD investigation.

 

Liz Napier and her team at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have overlooked many of our first-hand accounts, allowing the dirty coal miners of GCM Resources, Gary Lye, to go back to Phulbari for an unexpected re-evaluation of the situation. The visit of dirty miner, Gary Lye, has sparked protests leading to fresh violence in one of Bangladesh’s most peaceful town, Phulbari. We demand that Liz Napier and her team at UK National Contact Point must take the responsibility for the recent turmoil in Phulbari. We call for a suspension of Liz Napier from her current post at UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

 

The OECD investigation followed a complaint submitted by the World Development Movement and International Accountability Project. We appreciate the initiative of International Accountability Project and World Development Movement (thereafter Global Justice Now) in support of the people in Phulbari. Although the UK government has failed to hold this UK-based company to account, it is clear that the people of Phulbari will resist GCM’s project going ahead. Phulbari people have made it clear by declaring their month long programme in demand of GCM’s CEO’s arrest and expulsion from Bangladesh. We extend our full solidarity to the people in Phulbari.

 

We will continue to call upon the London AIM to delist the dirty miners, GCM Resources, from London’s Alternative Share Market. Our Secretary of Energy and Mineral Resources Division,  Abu Bakar Siddique, reaffirmed that Asia Energy has no valid licence to develop Phulbari coal mine. Miner GCM must stop the propaganda about Phulbari coalmine. Our people do not want to leave their homes and land. Phulbari people will not work in a coal mine. GCM’s propaganda to create 17,000 new jobs in coal mine cannot ensure livelihood for 130,000 people feared to be affected during exploration in open pit method over the next 35 years. We will not let our people to die and our environment to de destroyed by dirty miners of GCM.

 

The UK Committee (National Committee) to Protect Oil- Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh, in conjunction with Phulbari Solidarity Group, London Mining Network, World Development Movement, Foil Vedanta, Socialist Party of England and Wales, Occupy London, European Action Group of Climate Change in Bangladesh, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in UK and all our co-worker organisations, will continue to call for the company to be de-listed from the London Alternative Investors Market. We declare, on behalf of the people in Phulbari, this UK based company will never go back to Bangladesh. Asia Energy’s Chief Executive Officer, Gary Lye, and investors of GCM Resources were ousted from Phulbari.  They will be resisted and the company will be uprooted from London soon.

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Let’s Stop the Coal Thieves: Phulbari Demo in London

by Golam Rabbani, 9 December, 2014

In a cold morning on a week day in December, the Bangladeshi community of London in conjunction with a diverse group of environmental and left political activists heckled the investors of Asia Energy (thereafter Global Coal Management Resources) today. In a successful demonstration outside GCM’s Annual General Meeting at London Aeronautical Society, 4 Hamilton Place, W1, London  protesters surrounded GCMs’ CEO, Gary Lye, and his fellows who are doing a fraudulent business in London’s Alternative Share Market (AIM), cheating with people of Bangladesh and UK.

Protesters told that GCM has no contract with the Government of Bangladesh but they are selling illegal shares in the London AIM. Protesters, calling in an end of GCM’s corruption and abusive activities in Bangladesh, demanded the de-listing of GCM from London AIM. They dumped coal at the entrance of the Aeronautical Society, and locked the investors into the building for two and a half hours. A group of demonstrators turned back the investors’ taxis, making the investors to walk.

A delegation of protesters interrogated Gary Lye and his fellows inside the AGM. In the share holder’s meeting Gary was asked by the share holders to present the contract of the Phulbari Project which he was unable to produce. Gary does not have any appropriate answer to justify his position in relation to the impact of open pit mining in Phulbari. Protesters demanded his arrest and expulsion from Bangladesh alongside the de-listing of GCM from London’s Alternative Share Market.

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Photo Credit: Diamond Studios.

The manifesto of the demo reads that GCM is shamelessly lobbying with a few greedy government officials to get the contract yet they fail to recognise the fact that the people of Phulbari will not give their land, their environment and ecology to dirty coal miners. Local people will ensure that GCM is never going back to Phulbari. They will resist the destructive project of GCM, rather than so called jobs, cash and energy flow.

Protestors have successfully delivered the message to GCM’s dirty coal miners that although Bangladesh is eager for energy,  they will not make the same mistake as the so-called developed world in terms of climate change and environmental degradation. We will ensure that GCM and Gary N Lye’s dirty hands are off the Phulbari coal mine.

Detailed report of the action at GCM’s AGM and the demo outside the AGM will be followed soon.  Meanwhile readers can view photos of our action below.

A photo gallery of the 2014 London Demo Against the dirty coal miners GCM (Photo Credits: Paul Dudman and Julie Begum of Swadhinota Trust):

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Public Meeting in London with Professor Anu Muhammad

Corporate Grabbing and Plundering of Resources in Bangladesh: Who Runs the Country  – Government or the Greedy Monsters

On the 28th of September 2014, Professor Anu Muhammad, the member secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Port-Power and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh, has delivered a keynote speech in a Public Meeting about ‘Corporate Grabbing and Plundering of  Common Property in Bangladesh, in London.

In a packed meeting at the Montefiore Centre in East London community representatives and transnational activists have heard him and condemned the plundering of Bangladesh by companies such as the UK based Global Coal Management Resources (GCM), and American multinational energy corporations, namely ConcoPhillips, Chevron, and Occidental. Bangladeshi community organisers and transnational environmental campaigners have made it explicit once again that Bangladesh will not tolerate any corporate plundering of the Energy and Power Sector in Bangladesh.

With thanks to Diamond Studios, a recording of Professor Anu Muhammad’s presentation is available here:

 

Surround GCM! Surround the Dirty Coal Miners! Flyer for Demo 2014

Surround GCM! Surround the Dirty Coal Miners!

Action to Save Lives and to Halt the Devastating Phulbari Coal Project

Phulbari 2014

Tuesday, 9 December 2014 at 10:30am-12pm

Venue: 4 Hamilton Place, London, W1J 7BQ

An AIM-listed London-based multinational company, GCM Resources Plc, is desperately moving to implement an immense open pit coal mine in northwest Bangladesh, forcibly displacing an estimated 130, 000 people and destroying the homes, lands, and water sources of as many as 220,000 people. If the project is implemented, it will destroy over 14,660 acres of fertile agricultural land that produce three food crops annually, threatening to increase hunger in a country in which nearly half of all people currently live below the nutrition poverty line.

Phulbari Demo Flyer 2014

Download Flyer

Locals have protested the project for seven years by forming powerful human chains and rallies. On 26 August 2006, three people were killed and over 200 injured when paramilitary troops fired on a massive protest of some 80,000 demonstrators in Phulbari. But people in Phulbari are determined to resist this project and to stop GCM Resources plc. The potential for violence has remained high in this project ever since August 2006. Last year the situation sparked by the CEO’s planned visit to Phulbari. People in Phulbari have given verdict against this project. We have served two eviction notices to the company. On 28 February, 2012, seven Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations issued a joint UN press release, calling for an immediate halt to the project on the grounds that it threatens the fundamental human rights of hundreds of thousands of people, including entire villages of indigenous people, and poses “an immediate threat to safety and standards of living.” Still GCM is aggressively moving on to implement this open pit coal mine ignoring the human rights and environmental degradation the project would leave.

We want to teach GCM to keep its hands off Bangladesh. We will surround the corrupted miners this December at their AGM. Will you join us in surrounding the dirty coal miners? Will you tell GCM to leave this project?

For further information contact akhtersk@gmail.com or phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com. Visit https://phulbarisolidaritygroup.wordpress.com/, http://protectbdresources.org.uk,www.ncbd.org

Download PDF of Flyer.
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The UK branch of the National Committee to Protect Oil-Gas Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh.

UK urges GCM Resources to assess human rights impact of Bangladesh coal mine

Today, Thursday, 20th Nov 2014, the UK government has urged British company GCM Resources to assess how its planned coal mine in Bangladesh would affect the human rights of local people, and has condemned the company for breaching international guidelines on ethical corporate behaviour. Its findings, released today, state that the project “has aroused considerable opposition in Bangladesh, leading to violent protests, and an even more violent response by the authorities there.”

The UK government statement follows an investigation into GCM’s activities in the Phulbari region of north-west Bangladesh, where it wants to open a massive open-pit coal mine. The investigation concluded that the company had breached the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises by failing to “foster confidence and mutual trust” with the people who would be affected by the mine.

The investigation failed to consider how the mine would affect the people of Phulbari if it were built, and its conclusions were limited to GCM’s record in the planning phase of the project to date. An internal review of the investigation affirmed that the OECD guidelines do apply to human rights abuses that would occur if the project went ahead. However, the final report failed to address the concrens of the internal review and did not correct the decision to exclude all potential impacts of the project from the investigation.

The investigation followed a complaint submitted by the World Development Movement and International Accountability Project.

Christine Haigh, campaigner at the World Development Movement, said:
“The UK government’s investigation is right in pointing to the company’s failures to date. But by omitting to consider the inevitable effects this mine would have on the region’s population, the investigation does little to ensure that their rights are protected. If it goes ahead, the Phulbari coal mine will be a human rights disaster. Local people have repeatedly made it clear that they don’t want it and GCM should expect continued resistance if it pushes ahead against their wishes.”

 
Kate Hoshour from International Accountability Project said:
“There are grave concerns about the high risk of further violence in Phulbari if GCM persists in its efforts to force this project forward despite massive local opposition. The UK government should be taking all possible action to avert further harm, rather than restricting its assessment to harm that has already been inflicted. The government should also recognize and condemn the ongoing violation of the rights to self-determination and to free, prior, and informed consent for indigenous peoples who have been fighting to halt this project since 2006.”

Rumana Hashem, co-ordinator of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye witness to the protests against the project where three people were killed in 2006, said:
“It is good that the UK NCP has recognised the considerable opposition to this project in Bangladesh. But the investigators simply failed to highlight the concerns for human rights violations and the severity of the issues. I have seen how local people died protesting about how the project would rob them of their homes and land, and how the locals have resisted the project so far. I am appalled that after receiving several first-hand accounts from Phulbari, the UK government has reduced its recommendations to this narrow framework.”

Locals cried out to save their homes, lands and lives in Phulbari following the shooting by GCM-provoked shooting by Bangladesh paramilitary. Photo: 27 August 2006

Locals cried out to save their homes, lands and lives in Phulbari following the shooting by GCM-provoked Bangladesh paramilitary. Photo: 27 August 2006

She added: “This report is contradictory. The internal review of the investigation affirmed that the OECD guidelines apply to human rights abuses that would occur if the project went ahead but the final report failed to advise their company to stay away from this devastating project. Despite the failure of the UK government to hold this UK-based company to account, it is clear that the people of Phulbari will resist GCM’s project going ahead.”

GCM’s planned Phulbari coal mine has provoked repeated protests by local people. Three people were killed and many more injured when paramilitary officers opened fire on a protest against the project in 2006. Protests in 2013 forced the company’s then CEO Gary Lye to abandon a visit to the area.

The mine would force up to 220,000 people from their land, destroying their homes and livelihoods, and would threaten the Sundarbans – one of the world’s largest remaining mangrove forests and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The UK government states that GCM must take into account the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which stipulates that no developments can take place on indigenous peoples’ land without their ‘free, prior and informed consent’. Bangladesh’s National Indigenous Union says the mine would displace or impoverish 50,000 indigenous people from 23 villages.

Seven UN human rights experts have called for an immediate halt to the project, citing threats to fundamental human rights, including the rights to water, food, adequate housing, freedom from extreme poverty and the rights of indigenous peoples.
The original complaint submitted by International Accountability Porject and the World Development Movement

UK NCP final statement: complaint from IAP and WDM against GCM Resources Plc in Bangladesh

Find the press release by World Development Movement here

The Daily Star Report here

The Dhaka Tribune’s bias report here

 

Feasibility study on Barapukuria open-pit mining sent back

The Independent news on Barapukuria reproduced below  by Raaj Manik

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Author / Source: SHAHNAJ BEGUM

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The authorities of the Barapukuria Coal Mine Company (BCMC) have rejected the feasibility study report of the Institute of Water Modelling (IWM) on open-pit mining at Barapukuria North, as it did not match the study’s “terms of reference (TOR)”. “The study did not reflect the impact of open-pit mining on the groundwater level as a result of dewatering, irrigation and supply of drinking and industrial water. We need a further detailed report,” a senior IWM official told The Independent on Monday.
With the aim of opening up the northern part of the Barapukuria coalfield on a “small scale”, the energy ministry had launched the initiative 10 years ago. To endorse the plan, it formed different committees and completed two studies, but failed to reach any conclusion. In its third attempt, it engaged the IWM to complete water modelling to preclude any controversy over the method of coal extraction.
“This study is not enough to assess the impact of open-pit mining as it is a highly technical issue. Once again, we want to complete a geo-technical feasibility study before taking any decision on open-pit mining in this area,” Petrobangla’s former chairman Md. Mosharrof Hossain, who is the coordinator of the government monitoring committee that guided the IWM’s survey, told The Independent.
“We can go in for open-pit mining in the northern part of the Barapukuria coalfield, subject to the technical feasibility study on mining issues and the economic viability of water pumping with respect to biodiversity and ecological
stress on food production and their impact on the gross domestic product (GDP). Otherwise, how can we assess the profit and loss of a project? The study has failed to discuss these aspects,” he added.
According to Petrobangla, it was mentioned in the TOR that the study, covering an area of 2.81 sq. km, would assess the impact on the groundwater level as a result of dewatering, irrigation and supply of drinking and industrial water. It would find out possible remedial measures for underground sustainability through different opinion studies and recommend developing mine water management systems. “But the report did not touch on the irrigation and crop issues of the affected areas, which have a great impact on mine design,” an official said.
Though the IWM report said an area of some 560 sq. km of Barapukuria would be impacted if the government decides to open Barapukuria North for open-pit mining and the water table of the areas would go down from seven metres to more than 30 metres at different points, but to make it operational, it would require de-watering from 400 million cubic metres (mmc) to 232 mmc every year.
“The IWM report gave us some sort of relief, as we found the water flow to be almost half of what we had assumed. But a geo-technical issue is a must. After that, we will start the other related task,” Mosharrof Hossain said.
Bangladesh has five coalfields with around 2.55 billion tonnes of reserves, but has been unable to extract the mineral since a national coal policy has not been finalised yet. The Barapukuria coalfield has reserves of around 389 million tonnes, but only 10 to 12 per cent of this can be extracted with the underground method.
The report said over 90 per cent of the total reserves can be extracted through open-pit mining. Underground mining can produce less than 25 per cent. The northern part has estimated reserves of 135 million tonnes of coal.
“The surface of the Barapukuria
coal seam has started at the level of 118 metres. It gradually grows in depth up to 503 metres,” geologist Dr Mushfiqur Rahman told the Independent.
The report of the experts’ committee said the coal seam deposited 200 metres under the surface would be extracted through the open-pit method. The underground mining method would be chosen for those deposits when that depth is more than 200 metres.

Original version of the report can be accessed here

PDF version can be downloaded here feasibility-study-on-barapukuria-open-pit-mining-sent-back 19 Nov 2014

Struggle and Resistance, NOT Submission

Verdict in London meeting about Corporate Plundering of the Energy and Power Sector in Bangladesh

By Raaj Manik

On a sunny Sunday, the 28th of September 2014, the Bangladeshi community organisers and environmental campaigners have made it explicit once again that Bangladeshis will not tolerate any corporate plundering of the Energy and Power Sector in Bangladesh. In a packed meeting at the Montefiore Centre in East London, an estimated 55 transnational activists and community representatives condemned the plundering of Bangladesh by companies such as the UK based Global Coal Management Resources (GCM), and American multinational energy corporations, namely ConcoPhillips, Chevron, and Occidental.

Key note speaker, Prof Anu Muhammad (from left) and the Chairperson of the UK branch of National Committee. Photo credit:  Paul Dudman

Key note speaker, Prof Anu Muhammad (from left), and the Chairperson of the UK branch of National Committee. Photo credit: Paul Dudman

The event kicked in by a key note speech by a distinguished economist and the secretary of the Committee to Protect Oil Gas and Natural Resources in Bangladesh, Professor Anu Muhammad, who was visiting the UK. In his two-hour presentation, Muhammad explored the illegitimate and corrupted activities of various multinational companies in Bangladesh and discussed how these company-aggressions are causing severe threats to Bangladesh’s environment, people’s livelihood and human rights. He highlighted the aggression of a UK based company, GCM Resources, in particular. Despite huge protests and three deaths, GCM is still pressing ahead with a massive open-cast coal mining operation in Phulbari, the north-west Bangladesh, which will displace up to 200,000 people, destroy over 14,660 acres of agricultural land and devastate the water resources of another 220,000 people. If implemented, 94% of the revenue generated by the planned mine will be taken by GCM, leaving only 6% for the government. ‘It is a daylight robbery’, says Anu Muhammad.

But the ‘spirit of resistance is still very active’, he added. Three activists were killed during a mass movement which forced the government to completely withdraw the entire open-cast coal mining operation in Phulbari in 2006, a promise it appears not to be keeping. People’s powerful resistance has forced the GCM’s chief executive, Gary Lye, to cancel his plans to visit Phulbari last year. Due to the ‘volatile situation prevailed at Dinajpur’s Phulbari’ in Bangladesh, Gary left the area, quickly, with the help of the District Commissioner and local police. There were all-day protests against his visit by locals ‘carrying sticks’ and ‘home-made dusting brushes’.

Audience with Anu Muhammad and leaders of UK branch of National Committee. Photo credit: Socialist Party of England and Wales

Audience with Anu Muhammad and leaders of UK branch of National Committee. Photo credit: Socialist Party of England and Wales

Anu Muhammad says, Bangladesh is a fertile country, rich in water and mineral wealth. In the mid-1990s, the World Bank promoted the privatisation of gas, oil and other natural resources in Bangladesh with the promise that it would bring ‘cheap gas and save huge amounts of money for the public exchequer’. But ‘that is the opposite of the case’,  Muhammad explained. Oil and gas companies like ConcoPhillips and Chevron moved in and now the cost of production is anything from 10 to 30 times more than it was in the hands of Petrobangla, the government-owned national oil company of Bangladesh. Muhammad argued that while it costs 1 billion taka to drill an oil well, the cost in the hands of Unocal Bangladesh, bought by Chevron in 2005, was 15 billion. One energy project estimated at 20 billion taka cost 180 billion.
‘Sustainable power solutions are not possible with these greedy corporations’, the Professor stated. He argues, ‘while renewable energy’ has huge potential and a real future’, the government is not considering those sources under heavy pressure of the multinational companies. Meanwhile 5 billion in US dollars (387 billion Bangladesh taka) is owed by US and Canadian corporations in unpaid compensation for accidents and Chevron effectively pays ‘nothing in tax but claims to be the number one taxpayer’. Every penny Chevron pays in tax is refunded by the government through Petrobangla. Professor Muhammad asked, ‘so who is running the country?’

Anu Muhammad’s speech was followed by 12 speakers and campaigners, each of whom expressed their determination to continue the campaign against corporations’ aggression in Bangladesh. Rumana Hashem, the coordinator of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye witness to the killing of three people by Asia Energy (thereafter GCM) in Phulbari in 2006, argued that it is not only the corporations but also the governments in UK promote the ruination of Bangladesh by multinational companies. She said that in 2009 the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) in UK did not consider her eye witness and evidence of human rights violation in Phulbari by the Global Coal Management. ‘But they did consider the company’s dodgy response to our report’, she added.

Rumana Hashem, the Coordinator  of Phulbari Solidarity Group on 28 Sep 2014 . Photo credit:  Paul Dudman

Rumana Hashem, the Coordinator of Phulbari Solidarity Group on 28 Sep 2014 . Photo credit: Paul Dudman

In their published report the JCHR  initially noted that the report, co-authored by Rumana Hashem and Paul Dudman, was not published in order to save printing cost. Later on, while contacted about the reasons for such financial hardship of the UK Parliament, the clerk of the JCHR changed the tone and told that the information which ‘they have provided were too sensitive in nature’. ‘As though it is not insensible when British company killed our people in Phulbari’, Hashem said in pointing out the politics behind this story. She provided a report on how the UK governments are failing to respond to Bangladeshi and transnational environmentalist campaigners’ call for closing down unethical business of British corporations in Bangladesh. She said, ‘a series of FOI requests, carried out by London Mining Network in 2012 and World Development Movement in 2014, suggest further bias of UK government’. Hashem concluded her speech by calling upon the forum to stand up and to prepare for a ‘tough battle’. She said, ‘we stand for struggle and resistance, not submission’.
The forum responded to her call for struggle and resistance by a big clap. Speakers invited to the meeting included World Development Movement, the Socialist Party (England and Wales), the Communist Party of Britain, and the Socialist and Communist Parties of Bangladesh alongside the Phulbari Solidarity Group who are continuing to advocate and campaign to stop the GCM. Despite brief attempts to drown out the discussion by a group of unruly Bangladeshi government supporters who had taken an adjoining room, speakers and campaigners against multinational company aggression in Bangladesh clearly stated their firm position and declared that they are not going to tolerate ruination of Bangladesh.  Effie Jordan of World Development Movement asserted that WDM will continue to work with the people of Bangladesh and will advocate for a permanent halt of the Phulbari project.

Pete Mason of Socialist Party (Tower Hamlets Borough) expresses solidarity to fight multinational company. Photo credit: Paul Dudman

Pete Mason of Socialist Party (Tower Hamlets Borough) expresses solidarity to fight multinational company. Photo credit: Paul Dudman

Pete Mason of Socialist Party emphasised,  ‘the Socialist Party’s demand for public ownership of the UK energy industry – and this would of course include GCM. In addition, the Socialist Party demands that compensation should only be given to the share owners in cases of genuine need’. He called for an ‘ecologically-minded, democratically drawn up socialist plan of production to end the madness of capitalist exploitation of the planet and the dangerous global warming that has resulted. This would end the profit-motivated depredation of Bangladesh by companies like GCM’.

The invited speakers of the UK branch of the Committee to Protect Oil Gas and Natural Resources in Bangladesh expressed their determination to stop multinational companies’ corrupted activities through their ongoing campaigns. The public meeting was organised by the UK branch of the Committee to Protect Oil Gas and Natural Resources in Bangladesh. The meeting started by a welcome speech by Akhter Sobhan Khan Masroor, the Secretary of the Committee, and ended by a vote of thanks by Mokhlesur Rahman, the Chairperson of the Committee. The event was endorsed by the Phulbari Solidarity Group, London Mining Network, World Development Movement, International Accountability Project (USA), Socialist Party (England and Wales), the Communist Party of Britain,  Jubo Union, Friends of Bangladesh Students Union, and several Bangladeshi community organisations in London.

Farzana Majid of Bangladesh Sector Commander Forum  expresses solidarity to the National Committee's campaign against Corporate Plundering in Bangladesh. Photo credit: Paul Dudman

Farzana Majid of Bangladesh Sector Commander Forum expresses solidarity to the National Committee’s campaign against Corporate Plundering in Bangladesh. Photo credit: Paul Dudman

Communist party of UK leader expresses solidarity. Photo credit: Paul Dudman

Communist party of UK leader expresses solidarity. Photo credit: Paul Dudman

Public meeting on the Plundering of the Energy and Power Sector in Bangladesh by British Corporations

The Committee to Protect Oil-Gas- Mineral Resources in Bangladesh, The UK Branch  invites everyone to join a public meeting with a distinguished economist and environmentalist Professor Anu Muhammad, who comes to London from Bangladesh to meet the activists in London this Sunday.

What: Public meeting on Corporate Plundering of the Energy and Power Sector in Bangladesh

When: Sunday the 28th September, at 5 pm.

Where: Montefiore Centre, Hanbury Street, E1 5HZ , London.

Key note speaker: Professor Anu Muhammad, a distinguished  Economist and the Member Secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil Gas and Natural Resources in Bangladesh. DSC00357

The meeting has been organised by the  Committee to Protect Oil, Gas and Natural Resources in Bangladesh, The UK Branch. In their call out for defending public resources and environment in Bangladesh the Committee notes that:

Multinational corporation such as the UK’s Global Coal Management Resources Plc (GCM), is aggressively moving to undermine Bangladesh through plundering its energy sector and damaging the environment. Through implementing a massive open pit coal mine in the north-west of Bangladesh, the government-backed British company, the GCM, wants to bring in devastating impact on Bangladesh’s environment and human rights. The proposed Phulbari project alone would displace 200,000 people, destroy over 14,660 acres of fertile agricultural land, obliterate water sources of 220,000 people, and lower the ground water by 15-20 meter in the region. It will also damage social and ecological spheres, pollutants will contaminate water bodies, rivers and the entire lower riparian. Bangladesh will get 6% loyalty and 94% revenue will be taken by GCM!

While the communities in the north-west region in Bangladesh is powerfully resisting the proposed coal-mine project,  the governments in Bangladesh and UK remain silent – encouraging the devastation to go ahead and allowing also to set up a coal fired power plant which would affect the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest. The proposed  1320 MW Rampal coal fired power plant is an India-Bangladesh joint venture. Sundarbans is under threat as Rampal power plant will emit huge carbon, toxic gases, smoke and ash which will have devastating environmental impact and may destroy the forest as the project area lies only 10 KM away from the forest. In addition, the Government, encouraged by the corporations, are adding on another power plant proposed by Bangladeshi Business Group, Orion, to set up very close to the vicinity of the Sundarbans. Sunday’s public meeting has been organised to address these issues and to find ways to abolish those harmful and devastating interferences of multinational corporations in Bangladesh.

A devastating gas explosion occurred on 14 June 1997 while oil and gas company Occidental was drilling at Magurchara, northeast Moulovibazar district in Bangladesh. The explosion destroyed about 700 acres of reserved forest and 10 tea gardens, damaged environment, ecology and wildlife around. It is estimated that 250 billion cft gas was destroyed in this accident and its value stands nearly $2.5 billion, which must be recognised by the responsible company. They are yet to acknowledge their responsibilities.

Rather, the  world’s multinational corporations are moving aggressively to destroy Bangladesh. Chevron Bangladesh is asking for tariff hike for offshore oil and gas exploration. ConcoPhillips, an American multinational energy corporation, has also demanded offshore gas exploration contact for 80% of loyalty and export facility. All of these companies make Bangladesh as an object of lottery and a source of their fortune by exploitation and corruption.

These evil deals and production share contract (PSC) are working against Bangladesh’s interest. Instead of fixing irregularities and corruption, the government is expanding the authority of local and foreign companies to control energy and power sector, causing more drainage of public money and vulnerability of the country. We can’t allow plundering and destruction of Bangladesh in such a way. We call for global support to stop the deleterious power plant and open pit coal projects. We need your support and solidarity to strengthen local and global fight against corporate plundering.

Professor Anu Muhammad, a distinguished economist from Bangladesh and a key activist against corporate plundering of energy resources in Bangladesh, will be addressing these and related issues. A public meeting will be held on this Sunday, the 28th September, 2014 at 5pm at Montefiore Centre, Hanbury Street, E1 5HZ , London.

This is an opportunity to hear from Anu Mohammad. He has been fighting against open pit coal mine in Phulbari and Rampal coal based power plant for protecting world largest mangrove forest Sudarban and playing a pioneering role to defend oil gas, natural resources, environment and ecology in Bangladesh.

Phulbari Solidarity Group expresses their full solidarity with the aim of the public meeting organised by the UK Committee to Protect Oil, Gas and Natural Resources in Bangladesh. With solidarity to struggle and resistance we invite everybody to come and share our struggle for equality and social justice. Come and join us along with friends! Feel free to share this invite to all who may support our cause!  Do not let the government-backed corporations to undermine human rights, plunder our resources or damage environment!

 

For further information visits: http://www.protectbdresources.org.uk/

Contact: nationalcommittee.uk@googlemail.com

 

 

Phulbari Day 2014 observed in Phulbari

The translated version of the NCBD press statement

by Samina Luthfa

On 26th August 2014, the 8th anniversary of the Phulbari Mass uprising has been observed countrywide with the following slogan: ‘There is no place for the betrayers on the streets of Phulbari drenched with the blood of our martyrs’. Daylong programmes were observed in Phulbari that included mourning procession, wearing black badge, hoisting black flag, rally and cultural activities of resistance.  Phulbari 3

The day’s programme started at 7 am with placing respect to the Martyrs and wearing of black badges. In remembrance of the martyrs and their sacrifice all shops and businesses were closed that day. Black flags were hoisted in many places.

The Central National committee organized the Mourning procession, and at the end, a minutes’ silence for the fallen was organised. A at the Neemtoli morh fter this, we had a rally expressing our demands that include;

  1. Full implementation of the Phulbari accord
  2. Moving the office of Asia Energy from their town.
  3. Activities around opening up of Boro Pukuria was condemned.

Member secretary of the National Committee Prof Anu Muhammad delivered the welcome address, convener of national committee Engineer Sheikh Shahidullah spoke about the demands, and Saiful Islam Jewel presided the meeting.

Leaders of Jatyo Ganofront, Bangladesh Communist Party, Bangladesh Socialist Party, Bangladesh Workers party, Revolutionary workers’ party, BaSoD convention preparation committee, Democratic Revolutionary party, Gano Shonghoti Andolon, United Communist League, leaders of Phulbari Branch of the national committee spoke in the occasion. Many other local, regional political organization, individuals including Bablu Roy (person injured by the Rana plaza disaster) and university teacher were also present in the program.

In the rally, the speakers remembered the day in 2006 to emphasize how remarkably people of Phulbari defied law enforcers, attended the rally in thousands aPhulbari142nd after the murder of the three, people here mounted one of the greatest resistance in Bangladesh against the company. As a result, on the 30 August 2006, the then government was forced to sign an accord with the protestors of the company that said there will be no open pit mine and Asia Energy would have to leave. The current Prime minister promised Phulbari people that she would never let this mine start. However, surprisingly, with the same person now as the head of State, we have not seen a transparent step to ban Asia energy.

The rally demanded the full implementation of The Phulbari accord by the 30th November. Failure to do so will incur a huge rally of people on the 1st December. In the afternoon, resistance songs and plays were performed. In the evening, film shows titled, ‘We don’t want a mine’, ‘Fulbari – a Blood flag’ and Indian documentary named ‘Fulbari debona’ were screened.

 

Blasts over Rampal Power Plant remarks of PM

Oil, Gas Committee blasts PM for her Rampal Power Plant remarks

New Age Report
June 18, 2014 12:19 am

National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports has blasted the prime minister for what it said misleading the nation on the plans to set up coal fired Rampal Thermal Power Plant close to the Sunderbans.
In a statement to the press, Committee convener Sheikh Muhammad Shaheedullah and member secretary Anu Muhammad said that in her news conference on return from China she gave some wrong information and arguments as to why the government chose to set up the coal fired power plant so close to the Sunderbans.
The information and arguments she gave were bound to mislead the people, they said.
They said that the prime minister was utterly wrong in saying that those who were opposing the coal fire fired power plant never cared to visit the project site or collect its information.
The national committee leaders said that they visited the project site several times since 2010 and collected all information about the project.
They also said that the researchers of Khulna University and Agriculture University repeatedly pointed out that the coal fired power plant would spell disaster to the Sunderbans, the world’ biggest mangrove forest.
They said that the prime minister’s claims that as the Barapukuria Thermal Power Plant caused no harm to the environment Rampal Power Plant would also cause no harm to nature.
They called her claims as unrealistic and not based on facts.
They said that though much smaller the Barapukuria thermal Power Plant was already proving harmful to its surrounding environment.
Barapukuria Power Plant produces 150 MG of electricity compared to 320 MW to be produced by the proposed Rampal Power Plant, they said.
Obviously, there could be no comparison between the two power plants on the issue of their capacity, they said.
The cause for concern over the Rampal Coal Fired Power Plant is its proximity to the Sunderbans posing a threat to the very existence of the mangrove forest, they added.
They said that it would do the nation immense good if the prime minister realized her mistake and took the decision to relocate the proposed coal fired power plant
– See more at: http://newagebd.net/22022/oil-gas-committee-blasts-pm-for-her-rampal-power-plant-remarks/#sthash.L3QirUMw.dpuf

New Video on India/Bangladesh Exchange Initiative!

We would like to take this opportunity to forward some news in relation to

Image Copyright: International Accountability Project,

the  India/Bangladesh exchange initiative. Our very trustworthy friends at the International Accountability Project (IAP) were working on this initiative with some admirable videographers at Mediafire for the last several months. With thanks to IAP and some very devoted film makers, we have the pleasure to let you know that their film is now ready for you to available online!

You are most welcome to view the film and to share with your colleagues and friends.

Download link for Bangla version:
http://www.mediafire.com/watch/k8fzgpg73gl24r3/PHULBARI_DEBO_NA_Bangla_version.mp4

Download Link for Hindi version with English subtitles:
http://www.mediafire.com/watch/2uxo41al490619q/PHULBARI_DEBO_NA_Hindi_.mp4

MediaFire says that  anyone can access using these links. I’ve just tried and they seem to be working fine.  However, if you do have problems with these links, let us know.

In the meantime, may I ask you to share the film with your friends/colleagues and as many people as possible please. Feel free to put the link on your blog, FB page, and twitter.
Further details on the India/Bangladesh Exchange Initiative can be found on the IAP website here at:  accprojectlive.radicaldesigns.org/article.php?id=742

‘Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has directed the energy ministry to wait for ‘new technology’ before going for coal extraction’

‘Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has directed the energy ministry to wait for ‘new technology’ before going for coal extraction’

Wait for ‘new technology’: PM

Stressing the need to protect arable land, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has directed the energy ministry to wait for ‘new technology’ before going for coal extraction.

She also outlined the ministry’s future challenges and ways to tackle them.

State Minister Nasrul Hamid Bipu briefed journalists on Thursday after her first visit to the ministry in two-and-a-half-years.

“The Prime Minister told ministry officials that new technology to extract coal may become available soon. We will wait for it,” he said quoting the Prime Minister.

Hasina’s directive comes amid controversies on whether Bangladesh should go for open-pit mining along with importing coal to meet increasing power demands.

Hamid was, however, silent on coal extraction issues. He also did not explain how thermal power production could be raised while waiting for ‘new technology’.

He said the Prime Minister wanted protection of farmers’ land first and coal extraction to be left to the future.

Hamid said Hasina, who also holds the energy portfolio, had ordered the stepping up of coal extraction research.

State-run oil, gas and mineral resources corporation Petrobangla claims Bangladesh has five coal mines with an estimated combined reserve of 3.1 billion tonnes.

Currently, an estimated 1.65 million tonnes of coal is produced annually from one of the mines through underground mining.

A group of experts, environmentalists, various Leftist fronts oppose open-pit mining which pollutes the environment, lays waste to arable land and displaces the habitants.

Despite a matter of high priority, the government has failed to formulate a coal policy in the past decade.

About 75 percent of Bangladesh’s power comes from gas while coal is used to produce less than 3 percent.

The government claims electricity generation increased nearly 5,000MW over the past five years. A ‘Festival of Light’ was held in Dhaka last year to mark the production of 10,000MW, hitting a new milestone in the country. It also plans to raise power production to 30,000MW by 2030, half of which would come from coal.

However, according to information presented in Parliament last June, around 40 percent people still do not have access to electricity.

Bipu said the Prime Minister had directed the setting up of a coal-fired power plant near the Paira Port in southern Patuakhali.

The government recently faced a wave of protests when it decided to go ahead with a 1,320MW thermal power plant at Rampal, near the Sunderbans.

Full article – bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2014/02/06/wait-for-new-technology-pm

 

PM’s strategy on coal: Asia Energy’s future with Phulbari bleak

Reported by: UNBconnect
Reported on: February 8th, 2014 12:02:55 am

Dhaka, Feb 7 (UNB) – The future of Phulbari coal mine project of UK-based Asia Energy, since renamed as Global Coal Management (GCM), has become bleak following the Prime Minister’s recent distinct statement on coal mining in the country.

 

While holding meeting with Power and Energy Ministry’s top officials on Thursday (February 6), Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said: “Right now, we want to leave the issue of coal extraction to the future technology as food security and protecting the land of the farmers is the first priority.”

 

The Asia Energy entered Bangladesh in 2003 buying a contract from Australian company BHP to explore coal in Phulbari of Dinajour district. But when Asia Energy moved to execute its project as an open-pit mining, it faced tremendous opposition from local community and environmentalists.

 

The major protests took place on August 30 in 2006, where six protesters were shot dead, allegedly by paramilitary forces, and 300 were injured when a crowd of 30,000 people stormed the local offices of Asia Energy in Dinajpur.

 

The incident forced the government to announce postponement of the operation of Asia Energy’s Phulbari project. The Asia Energy was renamed as Global Coal Management (GCM) in 2007.

 

Recently, different activities of Asia Energy or GCM have been suggesting that the company is planning to come back in a new way to implement its project. Particularly, the GCM, a listed company with London Stock Exchange showing Phulbari coal mine as its project, became active in the country’s northern region where it recently launched some campaigns to garner local public support in its favour.

 

The GCM’s campaign raised serious concern among the anti-Phulbari activists who also threaten to reactivate their protest to resist the UK-company’s move.

 

Meantime, GCM reconstituted its board of directors and brought major changes in its Dhaka as well as London office by putting some new directors and staffs which also suggests the company is really coming up with new enthusiasm.

 

Sources said the company also recast its strategy to win the deal for exploration of the proposed Phulbari coal mine.

 

As part of the new strategy, the company has inducted a young Malaysian tycoon as a Non-Executive Director, removing a Briton from the Board of Directors.

 

With the announcement, Malaysian tycoon Dato’ Md Wira Dani Bin Abdul Daim has replaced British entrepreneur Neil Lindsey Herbert from the board of directors of GCM.

 

“Under the leadership of Malaysian business tycoon, the GCM was eyeing to rearrange its strategy in winning a deal for commercial exploration of the proposed Phulbari coalmine district,” said a source.

 

The GCM appointed Mettiz, an investment company with significant corporate and financial experience in natural resources, power generation, manufacturing and real estate, a lobbyist in Bangladesh last year to get approval of the government for commercial exploration of the Phulbari coalmine.

 

But, energy industry insiders thought the Prime Minister’s statement has made it clear that the project is unlikely to be executed in near future.

 

Quoting the Prime Minister, State Minister for Power and Energy Nasrul Hamid said she has given us a directive regarding coal extraction saying that “first of all we need” food security and land use.

 

“Only after ensuring food security and protecting farmers’ land, we’ll decide which technology we’ll use to extract coal,” he told reporters following the PM’s meeting.

 

Asia Energy Bangladesh’s CEO Gary Lye, however, said Phulbari Coal Project uses the land for mining temporarily. Land is immediately rehabilitated and returned to agriculture after extracting the coal which is a far greater benefit for the country.

 

He said Asia Energy is concerned to ensure food security and the company’s agriculture improvement plan will increase the food production from the area as well as allow coal extraction and jobs.

 

“We (will) welcome the opportunity to brief the Prime Minister on these plans and show how she can deliver for the people and country coal, major power and food security. People from the area want the coal mining and development benefits it’ll bring to them and their region which is one of the Bangladesh poorest regions.”   

 

Bangladesh has five coal fields with an estimated reserve of some 3.0 billion tonnes, industry insiders said. Of the five coal fields, only one in Barapukuria is now in operation.

– See more at: http://unbconnect.com/pm-coal-ld/#&panel1-2

PM’s strategy on coal: Asia Energy’s future with Phulbari bleak

Reported by: UNBconnect
Reported on: February 8th, 2014 12:02:55 am

Dhaka, Feb 7 (UNB) – The future of Phulbari coal mine project of UK-based Asia Energy, since renamed as Global Coal Management (GCM), has become bleak following the Prime Minister’s recent distinct statement on coal mining in the country.

 

While holding meeting with Power and Energy Ministry’s top officials on Thursday (February 6), Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said: “Right now, we want to leave the issue of coal extraction to the future technology as food security and protecting the land of the farmers is the first priority.”

 

The Asia Energy entered Bangladesh in 2003 buying a contract from Australian company BHP to explore coal in Phulbari of Dinajour district. But when Asia Energy moved to execute its project as an open-pit mining, it faced tremendous opposition from local community and environmentalists.

 

The major protests took place on August 30 in 2006, where six protesters were shot dead, allegedly by paramilitary forces, and 300 were injured when a crowd of 30,000 people stormed the local offices of Asia Energy in Dinajpur.

 

The incident forced the government to announce postponement of the operation of Asia Energy’s Phulbari project. The Asia Energy was renamed as Global Coal Management (GCM) in 2007.

 

Recently, different activities of Asia Energy or GCM have been suggesting that the company is planning to come back in a new way to implement its project. Particularly, the GCM, a listed company with London Stock Exchange showing Phulbari coal mine as its project, became active in the country’s northern region where it recently launched some campaigns to garner local public support in its favour.

 

The GCM’s campaign raised serious concern among the anti-Phulbari activists who also threaten to reactivate their protest to resist the UK-company’s move.

 

Meantime, GCM reconstituted its board of directors and brought major changes in its Dhaka as well as London office by putting some new directors and staffs which also suggests the company is really coming up with new enthusiasm.

 

Sources said the company also recast its strategy to win the deal for exploration of the proposed Phulbari coal mine.

 

As part of the new strategy, the company has inducted a young Malaysian tycoon as a Non-Executive Director, removing a Briton from the Board of Directors.

 

With the announcement, Malaysian tycoon Dato’ Md Wira Dani Bin Abdul Daim has replaced British entrepreneur Neil Lindsey Herbert from the board of directors of GCM.

 

“Under the leadership of Malaysian business tycoon, the GCM was eyeing to rearrange its strategy in winning a deal for commercial exploration of the proposed Phulbari coalmine district,” said a source.

 

The GCM appointed Mettiz, an investment company with significant corporate and financial experience in natural resources, power generation, manufacturing and real estate, a lobbyist in Bangladesh last year to get approval of the government for commercial exploration of the Phulbari coalmine.

 

But, energy industry insiders thought the Prime Minister’s statement has made it clear that the project is unlikely to be executed in near future.

 

Quoting the Prime Minister, State Minister for Power and Energy Nasrul Hamid said she has given us a directive regarding coal extraction saying that “first of all we need” food security and land use.

 

“Only after ensuring food security and protecting farmers’ land, we’ll decide which technology we’ll use to extract coal,” he told reporters following the PM’s meeting.

 

Asia Energy Bangladesh’s CEO Gary Lye, however, said Phulbari Coal Project uses the land for mining temporarily. Land is immediately rehabilitated and returned to agriculture after extracting the coal which is a far greater benefit for the country.

 

He said Asia Energy is concerned to ensure food security and the company’s agriculture improvement plan will increase the food production from the area as well as allow coal extraction and jobs.

 

“We (will) welcome the opportunity to brief the Prime Minister on these plans and show how she can deliver for the people and country coal, major power and food security. People from the area want the coal mining and development benefits it’ll bring to them and their region which is one of the Bangladesh poorest regions.”   

 

Bangladesh has five coal fields with an estimated reserve of some 3.0 billion tonnes, industry insiders said. Of the five coal fields, only one in Barapukuria is now in operation.

– See more at: http://unbconnect.com/pm-coal-ld/#&panel1-2

Protests at GCM Resources AGM over Phulbari coal mine

Protests at GCM Resources AGM over Phulbari coal mine

By Raaj Manik, 5 December 2013

A noisy and powerful protest was held outside the AGM of London-based mining company GCM Resources, on 4 December, over the company’s proposed Phulbari coal mine in Bangladesh, which if it goes ahead will displace an estimated 130,000 people and will pose threats  to the Sundarbans, one of the world’s largest remaining mangrove forests and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

demo5

The British mining company GCM Resources is currently under investigation by the UK government following a complaint by the World Development Movement and the International Accountability Project. The complaint claims the mine would breach OECD rules by violating the human rights of the people who would be forcibly displaced and impoverished by the project.

The project will destroy over 14,660 acres of fertile agricultural land that produce three food crops annually, threatening to increase hunger in a country in which nearly half of all people currently live below the nutrition poverty line. The project threatens to destroy the homes, lands, and water sources of as many as 220,000 people, and forcibly evict an estimated 130,000 people. The mine would violate the rights of indigenous people living in the area.

The Phulbari coal project has been on hold since 2006 due to intense local and national opposition. Three people were killed and many more injured when paramilitary officers opened fire on a protest against the mine in August 2006.The project has generated grave concern at national and international levels including the United Nations and the UK government’s National Contact Point.

The UK government’s investigation will evaluate whether GCM Resources has breached obligations to ensure meaningful and adequate consultation about the project, or to carry out appropriate due diligence to ensure that its project does not violate people’s human rights.

demo

The company has admitted that most of the people living in the area affected by the mine “will become landless”. Yet the company wants to move forward with its plans of forced – displacement and destruction in north – west of Bangladesh. Yesterday, the company has reassured the shareholder that it has plans to persuade the future government of Bangladesh to approve the destructive project soon after the election. Gary Lye, the company’s unwanted CEO, who had to leave Phulbari amidst protests by villagers earlier this year, told the shareholders that he is keeping contacts with government of Bangladesh through his confidential sources.

But the protesters told this correspondent that GCM will never go Demo2back to Bangladesh. This company had to leave Phulbari on people’s verdict in 2006.

Yesterday’s protest was held by members of the UK Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Port and Power in Bangladesh, the Phulbari Solidarity Group, the World Development Movement and the London Mining Network and other Bangladeshi activist groups.

See further details at:


London protest held at GCM Resources AGM over Open Pit Mining in  Phulbari


Protests at GCM Resources AGM over Bangladesh coal mine


Chairman of GCM Resources offered Jobseeker’s Allowance claim form by concerned shareholder