We Call on the World Heritage Committee to Intervene to Stop Bangladesh’s Government from Pushing the Sundarbans Towards Destruction

The Bengal Tiger in River Pashur at the Sundarbans on 26 July 2016. Courtesy: Anonymous photographer, NCBD.

In the light of ongoing threats on the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, located at the Indian-Bangladeshi border, we write to the country delegates to the 43rd Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee by calling for an urgent intervention into Bangladesh government’s decision to implement the destructive Rampal coal power-plant.

 

As concerned global citizens, earth defenders, climate organisations and researchers, and members of Bangladeshi environmental groups abroad, we express our unequivocal support to the draft decision generated by international biodiversity experts and to be discussed and voted in Baku on 4 July 2019. We welcome the draft decision that calls in particular to halt the construction of the coal plants at Rampal, Taltali and Kalapara and 154 other active industrial activities in southwest Bangladesh until the exact impacts for the forest have been critically assessed.

 

The Sundarbans mangrove forest is an invaluable ecosystem along Bangladesh’s coast and the government of Bangladesh should take responsibility to protect the mangrove site. Ahead of the 43rd Session in Baku where 21 member states on the Committee will discuss the status of the Sundarbans forest, we caution also that declaring it a “World Heritage Site in Danger” will not suffice. This will be a first step only. We recognise the imminent danger threatening the mangrove forest, where such a decision is needed. However, the Committee should take a more bold and positive step to bring in a solution to the problem faced by the affected communities and the World Heritage.

 

The outcome of such declaration should not mean that the World’s largest mangrove forest being an isolated or left over site, diminishing its original status. In our view the World Heritage Committee should take an important and positive step by first declaring the Sundarbans as a “Heritage in Danger” and asking the Bangladesh government to immediately comply with UNESCO guidelines for the protection and conservation of this universal common heritage. The Committee should ask the government to ensure that the mangrove being not harmed in the future. This could be done by consistent monitoring of the activities across the site, which the government should be accountable for.

 

The Committee could also ask the government to follow the Alternative Power and Energy Plan for Bangladesh, crafted by the energy experts belonging to the Save the Sundarbans movement that articulate that it is possible to generate up to 91,700 MW of electricity through renewable sources.

 

The government in Bangladesh do not recognise the cost of fossil fuel and harms done by ongoing industrial developments in the vicinity of Sundarbans. There are significant evidence of ongoing dredging and construction in the vicinity of the Sundarbans that overlooked appropriate measures to limit water and soil pollution. Despite thorough critiques by national and international climate experts and scientists, industrial projects near this intricate ecosystem continue. This situation is saddening.

 

Thus we call on the Country Delegates to the World Heritage Committee to immediately:

 

  1. Declare the site as a “Heritage in Danger” and take positive steps to save the Sundarbans;
  2. Ask Bangladesh government to withdraw from the move to build coal-power plants near the Sundarbans;
  3. To reiterate that it is the government’s responsibility to protect mangrove forests and to comply with the UNESCO World Heritage recommendations as elaborated in the draft decision;
  4. Tell Bangladesh government to overhaul all industrial installations of destructive enterprises in the area;
  5. To consult the Alternative Power and Energy Plan for Bangladesh as a way forward for meeting energy needs of the country.

 

Sincerely,

 

We the undersigned:*

 

  1. Akhter Sobhan Khan Masroor, Committee to Protect Natural Resources of Bangladesh, the UK branch.
  2. Alfredo Quarto, Mangrove Action Project, USA.
  3. Amrit Wilson, South Asia Solidarity Group, London.
  4. Amy Caitlin, Extinction Rebellion London, UK.
  5. Anna Gaynutdinova, ICOMOS Russia Board member.
  6. Andrea Martínez-Fernández, World Heritage Office of San Antonio (US/ICOMOS Int´l Exchange Intern), Texas.
  7. Anna Fisk, Extinction Rebellion Scotland.
  8. Delphine Djiraibe, Public Interest Law Centre, TCHAD, North-central Afrika.
  9. Danielle DeLuca, Cultural Survival, USA.
  10. Dominique Palmer, Extinction Rebellion Youth, London.
  11. Elena Belokurova, German-Russian Exchange St. Petersburg.
  12. Eman Shokry Hesham, The World Heritage Watch.
  13. Environics R. Sreedhar, Environics Trust, India.
  14. Ercan Ayboga, Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive and Platform No to the Destruction of Sur, Turkey.
  15. Esther Stanford-Xosei, Coordinator-General, Stop The Maangamizi:We Charge Genocide/Ecocide Campaign.
  16. Eugene Simonov, Coordinator, Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition.
  17. Farwiza Farhan, Chairperson, Yayasan HAkA, Indonesia.
  18. Fe Haslam, Global Justice Forum
  19. Geoff Law AM, Wilderness Society, Australia.
  20. Gunter Wippel, MENSCHENRECHTE (HUMAN RIGHTS) 3000 e.V., Germany.
  21. Humaida Abdulghafoor, Save Maldives Campaign, Maldives.
  22. Jessica Lawrence, Earthjustice, USA.
  23. Dr Kat Kramer, Christian Aid, UK.
  24. Kofi Mawuli Klu, Joint Coordinator, Extinction Rebellion Internationalist Solidarity Network (XRISN), London, UK.
  25. Knud Voecking, Urgewald, Germany.
  26. Luiz Fernando Vieira, Coordinator, The Breton Woods Project, Critical Voices on the World Bank and IMF, UK.
  27. Marion Hammerl, Global Nature Fund
  28. Mikhail Kreyndlin, Greenpeace Russia.
  29. Maurizio Farhan Ferrari, Forest Peoples Programme, UK.
  30. Mª Alejandra Piazzolla Ramírez, Extinction Rebellion Youth, Bristol,
  31. Melody Lepine, Mikisew Cree First Nation.
  32. Mostafa Farook, European Branch of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh.
  33. Nils Agger, Risingup! UK.
  34. Norly Mercado, Asia Regional Director, 350.Org.
  35. Paul V. Dudman, Refugee Council Archive, University of East London.
  36. Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation.
  37. Pieter Jansen, Both ENDS.
  38. Richard Hering, Extinction Rebellion London.
  39. Richard Roberts, Reclaim the Power ‘Frack Free Three’, London, UK.
  40. Richard Solly, London Mining Network, UK.
  41. Rohit Prajapati, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti Gujarat, India.
  42. Dr Rafiqul Hassan Khan (Jinnah),President, Rivers Saving Network UK
  43. Rumana Hashem, Coordinator, Phulbari Solidarity Group.
  44. Saeed Baloch, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Pakistan.
  45. Salman Khairalla,Director,Tigris River Protector Association (Humat Dijlah), Iraq.
  46. Syed Babul, Bengalische Kulture Forum, Germany.
  47. Sukhgerel Dugersuren, Oyu Tolgoi Watch, Mongolia.
  48. Stephan Doempke, Chairman, World Heritage Watch, Germany.
  49. Stephanie Fried, Ulu Foundation, USA
  50. Sergiu Musteata, ICOMOS Moldova
  51. Virginia Young, Australian Rainforest Conservation Society
  52. Vidya Dinker, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)
  53. Yulia Naberezhnaya, Russian Geographical Society, Member of the World Commission on Protected Areas in the North Eurasia Region. Russia.

 

*Names of signatories on this list are re-organised around the alphabetical order of ‘First names’. There is no first or second signatory. All signatories share the same sentiment, equally.  The signatories are the spokespersons of organisations that they represent in the letter above. The signatures close here.

 

A rally with handmade dummy of rare Bengal Tiger was brought about by the rural green-cultural activists at Samageet to Save the Sundarbans in Narsingdhi, Bangladesh (14 April 2016). The Bengal Tigers are decreasing by ongoing dredging in the area and they would gradually disappear if building of coal plants continue around Rampal. File photo. Photocredit: Anonymous PSG activist.

#SAVESUNDARBANS #NOtoCOALPLANTS #SAVEtheSUNDARBANS

Support Three XR Activists at Court – Show Solidarity with Bangladesh

This Wednesday 10th April, Amy, Angela and Shulamit face the City of London Magistrate’s court for defending the affected communities in Phulbari and for disrupting AGM of a bullying extractive company, GCM Resources, in London. Please come to support and show solidarity with the brave activists and with abused Bangladeshi communities.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019 from 09:30-11:30 UTC+01

City of London Magistrate’s court

1 Queen Victoria Street, EC4N 4XY

London, United Kingdom.

 

The three arrests happened at the AGM for Global Coal Management (GCM) Resources Plc. on 28th December 2019. GCM is an AIM-listed British company whose sole purpose is to build a 6000MW massive open pit coal mine in the only flood protected area in Bangladesh, the Phulbari, in northwest region.

Building the mine will involve displacement of up to 220,000 people including 50,000 indigenous people from 23 tribes, destroying their ancient culture which can be traced back 5,000 years. The mine will drain and pollute the water supply for the 230,000, destroy 14,600 hecters of areas of the most fertile agricultural land in Bangladesh whilst only 6 percent of the coal or profit will remain in the country.

The project will damage the UNESCO world heritage site, the Sundarban Mangroves where the endangered Bengal Tigers live.

Why do corporations hold the power to do this? This is ecocide.

Three people including a 13 year old-child in Phulbari have been killed protesting this mine.  Activists have been abused by the company’s CEO who filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 community leaders. The company’s Bangladesh subsidiary, Asia Energy, was also allegedly involved in the murder of Nasrin Huq who was fighting the controversial Phulbari coal project.

 

The courageous Extinction Rebellion activists decided their personal consequences are of less importance than putting their bodies in the way of this criminal activity.

 

JOIN Us with friends and family outside and inside the court, if you are around London.

If you are not in London, please show your solidarity by sending a message of support on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/371034560412653/

Stop #GCM Blockade The #Coal Burglars

On Friday 28 December in 2018, Bangladeshi protesters and transnational campaigners against the development of coal mines in the Phulbari region of Bangladesh blocked the entrance to the venue of a London based company Global Coal Management  (GCM) Resources’ annual general meeting in central London. Activists disrupted the AGM by occupying the front entrance for four hours from 9am to 1pm on Friday. All major shareholders including GCM’s Head of Corporate Affairs Brian Mooney were blocked out, they waited angrily outside, then gave up and went home.

Activists were particularly angry about GCM Resources’  recent claim that they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Power China Ltd. to develop a giant coal mine in Phulbari and their plans to build a 6000 megawatt power plant.

If the mine is built, it would lead to forceddisplacement of up to 230, 000 people over the 36-year life cycle of the project. It will increase poverty, water pollution and will plunder 14,600 hecters of Bangladesh’s most fertile and productive agricultural land in the region, causing a crisis of food production. It will have a devastating impact on the people and the environment.

Watch a short video of the demo outside of the GCM’s AGM:

PRESS RELEASE: London Protesters Disrupted GCM’s AGM

PRESS RELEASE: London Protesters Disrupted GCM’s AGM

  • Activists Blocked the Front Entrance of the AGM for Four Hours

  • Three Arrested as Protesters Glued Themselves to the Entrance of the Venue

  • GCM’s Chairman Michael Tang Failed to Attend the AGM

  • Protesters Successfully Disrupted AGM

London, 28 December 2018: Bangladeshi protesters and transnational campaigners against the development of coal mines in the Phulbari region of Bangladesh blocked the entrance to the venue of the London based company GCM Resources’ annual general meeting in central London. Activists disrupted the AGM by occupying the front entrance for four hours from 9am to 1pm on Friday, 28 December. All major shareholders including GCM’s Head of Corporate Affairs Brian Mooney were blocked out, they waited angrily outside, then gave up and went home.

Three “Friends of Phulbari Solidarity” blocked the foyer of 33 Cavendish Square at 9am on Friday, 28 December 2018. Copyright: Samarendra Das.

Three activists superglued themselves to the entrance turnstiles of the lavish building of 33 Cavendish Square where GCM had planned to hold their AGM. The activists self-identified as “Friends of Phulbari Solidarity” refused to move until specialist police used solvents to detach them, then make arrests. Outside the building 30 more obstructed the entrance holding banners, chanting slogans and singing Christmas carols against the bullying coal mining company.

If the mine is built, it would lead to forceddisplacement of up to 230, 000 people over the 36-year life cycle of the project. It will increase poverty, water pollution and will plunder 14,600 hecters of Bangladesh’s most fertile and productive agricultural land in the region, causing a crisis of food production. It will have a devastating impact on the people and the environment. In return Bangladesh government would gain nothing but economic exploitation, said activists at Phulbari Solidarity Group.

A placard displayed outside 33 Cavendish Square by the Bangladesh National Committee’s UK branch asked the Financial Conduct Authority of London Stock Exchange to de-list GCM.  On Friday, 28 December 2018. Copyright: Golam Rabbani/PSG.

Noisy and jolly protesters sang Christmas jingles “Phulbari says NO! GCM must GO! We won’t let you trade in England. Or pollute Bangladesh”! Friday, 28 December 2018. Copyright: Paul Dudman.

Construction of the plant is dependent on approval from the Bangladeshi government who previously shelved plans for the development following massive protests in 2006. The 80,000 people’s peaceful and powerful march was attacked by paramilitary forces resulting in the deaths of three protesters and injured 220 more. Abuse by the UK company was furthered by the recent arbitrary cases against community leaders by GCM’s CEO. Gary Lye, the CEO of the company, filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 frontline local leaders for opposing the proposed coal mine in 2016.

Friday’s colourful and vibrant protest addressed these issues and more. On November 27, 2018 GCM Resources claimed to have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Power China to develop a giant coal mine in Phulbari and to build a 6000 MW power plant. This news has made protesters angry.

Rumana Hashem of CPRB and PSG read out a petition by 134 community leaders from Phulbari. Friday, 28 December 2018, 33 Cavendish Square, London. Copyright: Paul Dudman

An eye witness to the Phulbari shooting and the spokesperson of the Phulbari Solidarity Group, Rumana Hashem has conveyed a petition signed by 134 community leaders from Phulbari challenging GCM’s so called MoU with China Power. Dissident shareholders were to hand in the petition to GCM’s chairman Michael Tang. But Tang was not in attendance. Activists say that Tang was worried about the protest.

The protest was co-organised by the Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh – UK branch of the Bangladesh National Committee, the Phulbari Solidarity GroupReclaim the Power, and Extinction Rebellion. They were joined by Foil Vedanta, London Mining Network, Cambridge Zero Carbon Society, Christian Climate Action, 350.org South Asia, and Udichi Shilpi Gosthi, UK.

Three “Friends of Phulbari” who successfully blocked out GCM’s shareholders on Friday were released from the Police custody at 3:30am on Saturday, 29 December 2018. Courtesy: Ian J Bray.

Three arrestees who passionately glued themselves to the entrance were released before 24 hours. They were charged with GBP 4000 for so called criminal damages. But the activists are proud to have joined and supported the Phulbari people. Extinction Rebellion said that they will fight the charges and provide legal supports to defend the activists during trial.

Protesters, jeering “Free Our Friends”, occupied the car park & fire exit of 33 Cavendish Squire. They blocked the exit and stopped the police van for police wrongly arrested three creative protesters. Friday, 28 December, 2018. Courtesy: Land In Curiosity.

Currently Bangladesh produces very little of its electricity from coal and whilst many other countries in the world are looking to transitioning away from coal, the Bangladesh government is planning to massively expand energy production through coal. “ We have published an alternative plan for power generation that demonstrates there is no need to take disastrous path of coal mining and coal power plants to meet power demand in Bangladesh – said Akhter Sobhan Khan Masroor of the Committee to Protect Resources in Bangladesh.

Supporting the protest, Hoda Baraka, Global Communications Director of 350.org stated:

The construction of any new coal power plant is inconceivable given the findings of the IPCC report released in October 2018. Every ton of coal burned makes an immediate contribution to the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere causing long term and irreversible climate change. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground now to ensure that we stay below 1,5 degrees in order to avoid catastrophic environmental breakdown.

###

What is the status of the project now?

On November 27, Global Coal Management Resources signed a memorandum of understanding with Power Construction Corporation of China, Ltd (Power China), to develop the coal mine in Phulbari and to build a 4000 MW power plant in Northwest Bangladesh. The company states, “The MOU embodies the principles of a cooperative relationship between the two parties to develop the Company’s proposed coal mine as well as power plants generating up to 4,000 MW at the mine site, and sets out the steps towards a future Joint Development Agreement, obtaining approval from the Government of Bangladesh and subsequent development of both the mine and power plants generating 4000MW.”

GCM wanted to hold their AGM in London on Friday, 28 December 2018, but Bangladesh diaspora along with allies did disrupt the AGM. A powerful, jolly and incredibly noisy protest was held outside the venue and against GCM’s aggressive plans to start mining in Phulbari.

These snapshots are taken from Friday’s protest by PSG BD photographer Golam Rabbani. These are free to use for non-commercial purpose. Please give a credit to the photographer though.

 

A video of the protest can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79IV2TjqRTo&feature=youtu.be

For more photos and video foootage, feel free to contact: Golam Rabbani @rabbani.enpolicy@gmail.com

An online report of GCM’s AGM is available on London Mining Network’s website:  http://londonminingnetwork.org/2018/12/the-sound-and-the-fury-yet-another-gcm-agm/

 

Further reports can be accessed from below:

Morning Star – Environmental activists confront coal-mining executives at shareholders’ meeting in London https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/environmental-activists-confront-coal-mining-executives-at-shareholders%27-meeting-in-london
The Daily Prothom Alo: 29 December 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

Stop GCM, Blockade the Coal Burglars!

Defend the Homes, Land, Livelihood and Environment

Protest at GCM’s AGM in London

 

Non-violent protest by affected communities and women’s resistance in August 2006

Global Coal Management Resources Plc. is a London-based AIM-listed extractive company that wants to build a massive open-pit coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari. 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 when paramilitary force opened fire in a demonstration of 80,000 people that took place in opposition to plans by GCM in 2006 in Phulbari.

 

GCM do not hold a valid contract with Bangladesh, but they are selling shares in London Stock Exchange in the name of Phulbari coal project. They are aggressively moving ahead to build the coal mine. If the mine is built, it would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land in northwest Bangladesh. It would pose threats to clean water resources for as many as 220,000 people, and would leave devastative impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sundarbans.

In return Bangladesh govt would gain nothing but economic exploitation. According to the proposed deal, GCM would extract coal for 30 years, while government of Bangladesh would get 6 percent royalty and the company would own and export 94 percent of the extracted coal. Moreover, the company would enjoy 9 years tax holidays and after 30 years they would own all of whatever coal would be remaining in the Phulbari coal-bed reserve. This is unacceptable!

GCM has recently reached a so called memorandum of understanding with Power Construction Corporation of China, Ltd. to implement the project. GCM’s CEO, Gary Lye, has been systematically abusing local opponents of the project. Lye has filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 frontline local leaders against mining. GCM will hold their AGM in London on 28 December during the month of the climate summit #COP24. We must stop them. Blockade the coal burglars, GCM!

JOIN Us Inside and Outside the AGM!

Please confirm your participation via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/376498479785077/

Protest Outside AGM

When? 9:30am-1pm, Friday 28 December

Where? 33 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PW.

The protest will be loud, colourful and noisy. Feel free to bring along your organisational banners and any noisy instrument, and lots of friends to make noise:))

Proxy Inside AGM

When? 10am, Friday 28 December

Where? 33 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PW.

Dissident shareholders will represent the communities inside the AGM. If you would like to join the delegation, please do get in touch with us. Please RSVP via email to: aktersk@gmail.com (Dr Akhter Sobhan Masroor) by Friday 14 December 2018.

Phulbari Solidarity Protest outside GCM’s AGM in December 2016. Photocredit: Golam Rabbani.

 

For further information contact: nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com , phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.comTel: 07714288221, 07861686036.

Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh, UK branch http://www.protectbdresources.org.uk

Phulbari Solidarity Group www.phulbarisolidaritygroup.org

Reclaim The Power https://reclaimthepower.org.uk/

Vibrant Rally held in London on Global Day of Solidarity to Save the Sundarbans from Coal

By Rumana Hashem

On Saturday, the 10th November, London saw a vibrant rally by London’s climate activists at Altab Ali Park on the Global Day of Solidarity to Save the Sundarbans. In response to the National Committee to Protect Oil Gas and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh (NCBD)’s call to observe a worldwide solidarity to save the world’s largest mangrove forest, the UK branch of NCBD has organised a powerful rally which was joined by grassroots and community climate organisations. Speakers attending the rally called on Bangladesh and Indian governments to scrap Rampal coal-power plant urgently and to halt climate change in Bangladesh and across South Asia.

Altabl Ali Park rally in London on Global Day of Solidarity to Save the Sundarbans from Coal, 10 Nov 18. Courteasy: NCBDUK.

 

Presided by a veteran Bangladeshi community leader and medical professional Dr Rafikul Hasan Jinnah and moderated by the general secretary of the UK branch of NCBD, Akhter Sobhan Masroor, the rally was outraged about the joint project of the Power Development Board (PDB) of Bangladesh and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) of India for 1320 Megawatt Rampal coal-fired plant because it is a deadly threat to the environment and livelihood of the Sundarbans. If built the Rampal power station in Bangladesh will spew 8 million tonnes of Co2 emissions into the atmosphere contributing to rising temperatures and irreversible climate change. This isn’t compatible with the scientific mandate to keep global heating under 1.5˚C.

Speakers expressed solidarity with the NCBD in their call to all political parties in Bangladesh to include forestry reservation, especially the Sundarbans, and environmental protection in their manifesto for the 11th national polls. Activists also demanded that the government stop all processes for industrialisation near the Sundarbans prior to declaring the schedule of the general election. The general secretary of the UK branch of NCBD, Akhter Sobhan Masroor, said that alongside the destructive coal-based Rampal power plant, a group of forest and land-grabbers have developed more than 300 commercial projects near the Sundarbans.

The rally was joined by East London’s leading local climate organisations such as Fossil Free Newham, the River Savings Network, the Water Keepers, the Extinction Rebellion, the Unite Community and Labour Party Women’s Forum in Tower Hamlets, the Bangladesh Socialist Party, the Communist Party of Bangladesh, the Liberty Arts, and of course Phlulbari Solidarity, UK. The London rally took place as part of  the global human chains and public meetings held in Bangladesh, Canada, France, Germany and across the world demanding immediate halt to the Rampal coal-plant in October and November.

 

The Sundarbans is the world’s largest mangrove forest and is located in Bangladesh – one of the world’s most vulnerable areas to climate change impacts. Despite grave concern raised by the experts and people, the government in Bangladesh is going ahead to implement an Indo-Bangla 1300 MW coal fired Rampal power plant close to the forest which speakers at the Altabl Ali Park rally branded as “clearly issued its death warrant”. In addition, it is inviting a range of national and international vested interest groups to grab forest and has set up hundreds of commercial projects in and around the Sundarbans.

This has not only put the livelihoods of at least 3.5 million people at risk, it has made the lives of around 40 million coastal people vulnerable to natural disasters. The Sundarbans have long since been a natural safe-guard against frequent cyclones, storms and other natural disasters in the country. Sundarbans provides a natural barrier against Bangladesh’s deadly climate change threat. In order to preserve its outstanding universal value and to protect the world’s largest mangrove forest, Saturday the 10th November has been observed worldwide as a global day of solidarity to save the Sundarbans.

 

For further background news, please read:

Global Protests on Saturday to Save the Sunderbans from coal, 350.org news, 09 November 2018.

A call for Global Day of Solidarity for the Sundarbans, Fossil Free Newham, 6 November 2018.

Stop industrialisation in Sundarbans before election schedule, Environmentalists urge govt. The Daily Star, 07 October 2018.

Make poll pledge to scrap hazardous power plants. The New Age, 07 October 2018.

 

Homage Paid to Victims on Phulbari Day: 12 Years of Halt and Outburst against Coal Mine Celebrated

By Rumana Hashem

Yesterday, 26th August, marked 12 years of successful halt to and the outburst against an AIM-listed British company, Global Coal Resources Management (GCM) who wants to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in northwest Bangladesh. In 2006 three people were shot dead and two hundred injured as paramilitary force opened fire in a demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against plans by GCM in Phulbari. The day has been called Phulbari Day since. And a powerful resistance by people in the aftermath of the shooting against open-cast mine in Phulbari has put a decade long halt to the project.

Homage paid to victims at Al-Amin, Salekin and Tariqul’s memorial in Phulbari on Sunday, 26 Aug 2018. Photocredit: Nuruzzaman

This week two events were held in remembrance of the victims of Phullbari outburst. On Sunday, 26 August, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh held a commemoration event in Phulbari, where community members and national environmentalists paid homage by flowers to the victims who were killed by paramilitary force, allegedly paid by the company, in Phulbari on 26 August in 2006.  The National Committee stated that there will be intense movement if the government fails to implement “Phulbari verdict 2006” by this December.

Earlier this week, the community activists under the banner of the Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh also held a commemoration event in London, where they have accused GCM for exploitation and harassment of the locals, for criminalising the society in Phulbari, and for ongoing corruption in Bangladesh. The committee has called upon the Bangladesh government for immediate implementation of the “Phulbari verdict 2006”.  Members of the UK Committee of NCBD also called for the de-listing of GCM from London Stock Exchange.

Community women and men paid tribute to Phulbari Victims in Phulbari on Sunday 26 August 2018. Photo credit: Nuruzzaman

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.  Government has cancelled the company’s license, following the outburst in 2006, but GCM continued its dodgy deals and lobbying for Phulbari coal mine.

The company has been allegedly involved in various forms of abuse and harassment of 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 also that Huq was killed in her car park for her opposition to the project in 2005.

Anu Muhamad, the Member Secretary of the National Committee in Bangladesh, said:

GCM is a fraudulent company. Government must ban both GCM and its plan for open cast coal mine. The export idea of 80 percent coal was rooted by GCM. Its Bangladesh subsidiary, Asia Energy, proposed to export extracted coal via Bay of Bengal and the point of coal terminal was that of the Sunderbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest.  GCM’s plans would have destroyed the Sunderbans. Besides, they have killed our people and wants to build a mine by displacing tens of thousands people from their homes. They are continuously harassing the locals and activists through filing false cases in the court, and they are criminalising our society by drug addiction. But they will not win.

Phulbari Day poster by the NCBD 23 Aug 2018. Credit: National Committee of Bangladesh

GCM does not have a valid contract with Bangladesh for coal mining but they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project. Instead of leaving Bangladesh, 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 were formed on 25 July in 2016 at the Dinajpur Magistrate Court, which has been traumatising and abusing all those fighting the fraught.

The company has changed its name from Asia Energy to Global Coal Management in 2010, and continued lobbying for Phulbari coal mine in Bangladesh. Despite grave concerns at national and international level, GCM is pushing the government to give it a go ahead.