Villagers affected by coalmine demand full compensation

Villagers carrying sticks stage demonstration at Barapukuria coal mine area in Dinajpur

DHAKA — Several thousand villagers affected  by coalmine  in northern  Bangladesh district  of  Dinajpur  continued  their  sit-in   demonstrations  at Barapukuria coal field  over  the week  demanding  full payment  of  their  compensation  as  committed  by  the government  for  their  rehabilitation.

The  inhabitants   from 15  affected  villages  carrying  sticks  and  chanting  slogans joined  the  demonstration  since June 18  and  announced  to  extend  the program  till  June 28.

“If our  demands  are not met by June 28, we  will go for  tougher  action program”, said Md. Ibrahim Khalil, the convener of  “Jibon O Shampad Rakkha Committee,” a platform of land subsidence affected people. The committee leaders said they would not return home without getting the full compensation money.

Barapukuria coal mine with a   production capacity of 1 Mt/yr of coal is operated by Barapukuria Coal Mining Co. Ltd (BCMCL), the coal mining subsidiary the  government owned oil, gas and mining company Petrobangla. Coal is now being extracted in long-wall mining process.

The government claims the country has coal reserves estimated at around 3.0 billion tons in five mines, including Barapukuria, and is looking to mine the other four.

The 2,500-acre underground Barapukuria  mine includes 650 acres of agricultural land on the surface. The International Accountability Project reports that mining operations at Barapukuria have destroyed roughly 300 acres of land, impacting about 2,500 people in seven villages, as land subsidence of over one meter in depth has destroyed crops and lands and damaged homes. People in 15 villages have also reportedly lost their access to water, as huge quantities of water pumped out for the Barapukuria mine caused a rapid drop in water levels.

As  the villagers affected by land subsidence sought  compensation and repair of their homes,  Barapukuria Coal Mine Company Ltd, has proposed building and resettling them in eight to ten “tin sheds”.

Faced with resistance by people in Barapukuria, Towfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, the energy adviser to the prime minister, announced that the government was considering plans to establish a “Coal City” near Barapukuria, which would provide housing and new sources of livelihood for victims of land subsidence.

According to Towfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, the resettlement of people whose homes have been destroyed is to be carried out in phases. The Coal City would initially be designed to provide homes and livelihoods for 10,000 families, but may ultimately expand to 100,000 families.

Since coal mining began in 2005, there have been a series of fatal and near-fatal accidents, including the death of a British mining expert caused by inhaling poisonous gases, a gas leakage accident in 2005 that required the closing and sealing off a portion of the mine, and a roof cave-in on May 11, 2010 that killed one worker and wounded 19 people.

Engineers report that government policy makers have failed to heed their warnings about inadequate health, safety and environmental provisions in the Barapukuria mine, with some stating that standard safety procedures are virtually non-existent at the mine.

Meanwhile, since last year, the villagers have been demanding 100 percent compensation package of Tk.190 crore.

According to the villagers Tk.112crore, a part of  the total 190 crore were so far distributed among the people since September 22 last year, while Tk.78 crore still remains unpaid.

On Monday the villagers  including  men, women and children started a 120-hour-long sit-in program in front of mine entrance gate.

However BCMCL authority claimed  that the mining  works continue as usual under  strict  security measures with  deployment  of   huge  contingents  of police, Border  Guards of Bangladesh ( BGB) and Rapid  Action Battalion (RAB) members in and outside the mine area.

As  the    administrative  officials  of  the  district  and  the  coal mining company  approached at the scene, thee villagers continued  chanting slogans against them  demanding  payment  of  full  compensation money and jobs in  the  mine  as  committed  by  the  government.

The villagers alleged that at least 2400 families of 1337 holdings on 627 acre land of 10 villages affected due to land subsidence of BCMCL since the mine authority detected first land subsidence in 2006.

Engineer Md. Quamruzzaman, the Managing Director of BCMCL said that they have nothing to do in this regards as they are not authorized to distribute the package money. The agitation have been disrupting their regular works at the mine area he added.

Earlier the government approved Tk.190crore for land subsidence affected people in 2010 and deposited the money to the  account  of  district  administrative  head,  the Deputy Commissioner of  Dinajpur.

A committee headed by Dinajpur Deputy Commissioner has been monitoring the disbursement of the fund among the people.

Md. Jamal Uddin Ahmed Deputy Commissioner of Dinajpur earlier said that the most villagers received their package money but they were yet to leave the area, he added.

Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » appearance » Widgets » and move a widget into Advertise Widget Zone