Risk of Violence Against Opposition to Phulbari Mine

Risk of Violence Against Opposition to Phulbari Mine

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John Ahni Schertow
January 23, 2008
 

With the Asian Development Bank preparing to give a $100 million loan and $200 million political risk insurance package to GCM Resources’ open pit coal mine in Phulbari, Bangladesh – the future of the entire local population becomes evermore uncertain.

On the land they’ve live on for generations, many continue asking themselves questions that no one should have to ask: “What will happen to us if we are forced to move from here? What will happen to our livelihoods? I don’t want us to live like this. Our mosques and holy places and the places we were born will be destroyed. What will happen to the graveyards of our ancestors?”

If the mine goes ahead as planned, upwards of 50,000 will be displaced from their land, with 500,000 more effected. 50 educational institutions, as well as 171 mosques, 13 temples and other religious establishments will be shut down; and the land itself will be layed in siege by the thankless and unnecessary open pit mine.

So far there has been a great deal of public opposition to this, but it has been violently suppressed by the government. In August 2006 for instance, 50,000 people took to the streets “and approached the offices of Asia Energy [which is owned by GCM] to demonstrate their “NO” to the foreign company’s attempt of open cut mining. Hundreds of paramilitary forces—BDR, police and other security agencies—heavily guarded the offices of Asia Energy.” Reportedly, the BDR opened fire on everyone, killing at least five people and injuring a host of others.

Such violent suppression may soon increase, warns the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) in an urgent appeal (pdf) dated December 22, 2007.

Under the Emergency Rule declared by Bangladesh’s military government in January 2007, fundamental civil rights have been suspended and public protest banned.[20] These Emergency Rules effectively remove the possibility of the populations affected by the Phulbari mine engaging in peaceful protest, and OMCT expresses its strong concern that, should such protest nevertheless take place, they will be met with further and possibly more extreme violence on the part of the police and security forces.

Despite the violent suppression of public protest, resistance to the project remains high. On 15 December 2007, representatives of the sub-districts of Phulbari and neighbouring Birampur, Nababganj and Parbatipur wrote to the president and executive Directors of the Asian Development Bank expressing their concern that the project will “increase the poverty of the local population as well as cause environmental disaster”. In this letter they claim that the social impact analysis carried out misrepresented the nature of public consultations around the project and that consultations emphasised the potential benefits of the project while failing to provide information on the negative impact. Furthermore, the community representatives express concern that only minimal information was provided in Bengali regarding the environmental impact of the project and that, to their knowledge, the environmental impact assessment has been neither translated nor summarised in the local language. They also underline that other media must be employed to communicate with a population of which approximately 60 per cent is illiterate. Additionally, they express serious concerns that land compensation and resettlement plans are insufficient to meet the losses likely to be incurred by local populations as a result of the mine, and that Asia Energy/GMC’s claim that 50,000 persons will be directly affected (and hence entitled to compensation) is a significant underestimation.

The Appeal goes on to request groups and individuals write to the Government of Bangladesh; GCM Resources Plc; UBS, RAB Capital and Barclays (investors); and the Asian Development Bank—asking them to fully respect the land rights, resources and livelihoods of all local communities affected; and to fully comply with national laws and international human rights standards.

You can write a letter of support yourself using the following information/contacts. If you would like to learn more, please visit phulbariresistance.blogspot.com

Requested actions

Please write to the Government of Bangladesh asking it to:

Instigate a thorough independent investigation into the human and environmental impact of the Phulbari coal mine project, ensuring the full and informed participation of all local communities. Make the findings of this investigation available in a public report (including appropriate language versions) and abide by the recommendations of this report. Request assistance from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to help ensure that the investigation is in conformity with international standards.

Impose a moratorium on any other open-pit mining in Bangladesh, as initially announced on 31 August 2006, until the full impact on human rights and the environment of this activity has been assessed.

Fully respect international human rights standards in any subsequent mining activity at Phulbari or elsewhere. This includes engaging in meaningful prior consultation with affected populations, ensuring that they are fully informed of the project proposals and their own rights in this regard, and providing fair and adequate compensation for loss of land, housing or livelihood where displacement is unavoidable. Ensure in all such cases an adequate and appropriate resettlement programme.

Ensure that the proposed coal policy review strictly adheres to international human rights standards and to international principles relating to forced evictions and indigenous peoples.

Lift the restrictions on public demonstrations imposed under emergency rule and take all necessary steps to prevent future episodes of violence by police and security forces against persons defending their human rights.

Cabinet of the Government of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh,
Cabinet Division,
Building No. 1, Room No. 301,
Bangladesh Secretariat,
Dhaka-1000,
Bangladesh.
Tel.: 88-02-7162099
Fax: 88-02-7160656

Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed,
Chief Adviser Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh,
Office of the Chief Advisor,
Tejgaon, Dhaka,
Bangladesh.
Tel: +880 2 8828160-79, 9888677
Fax: +880 2 8113244 or 3243 or 1015 or 1490

Barrister Moinul Hossain,
Adviser, Ministry of Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs,
Bangladesh Secretariat,
Dhaka-1000,
Bangladesh.
Tel.: +88-02-7160627
Fax: +88-02-7168557

Mr. Mohammad Ruhul Amin,
Chief Justice,
Supreme Court of Bangladesh,
Supreme Court Building,
Ramna, Dhaka-1000
Bangladesh,
Fax: +880 2 9565058

Barrister Fida M Kamal,
Attorney General of Bangladesh,
Office of the Attorney General Supreme Court Building,
Ramna, Dhaka-1000,
Bangladesh.
Tel: +880 2 9562868
Fax: +880 2 9561568

Mr. Nur Mohammad,
Inspector General of Police (IGP),
Bangladesh Police,
Police Headquarters’ Fulbaria,
Dhaka-1000
Bangladesh

Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the United Nations in Geneva,
65 rue de Lausanne,
1202 Geneva, Switzerland,
Fax: +41 22 738 46 16,
E-mail: mission.bangladesh@ties.itu.int

Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in Brussels,
29-31 rue J. Jordaens,
1000 Brussels, Belgium,
Fax: +32 2 646 59 98;
E-mail: bdootbrussels@freegates.be

Please also write to the Indian Embassy in your country.

Please write to GCM Resources Plc asking it to:

Suspend activities in Phulbari until a thorough, independent and fully-consultative investigation into the proposed project’s human and environmental impact has been conducted and abide by the recommendations resulting from this investigation.
Fully respect the land rights, resources and livelihood of all local communities affected by any subsequent mining activity, and provide fair and adequate compensation wherever appropriate.

Take all necessary measures to minimise the environmental impact of mining activities and avoid the pollution of watercourses.

Comply fully with national laws and international human rights standards in all aspects of its activities, in particular as regards the adverse effects of these activities on indigenous and local communities. Only carry out operations subsequent to a full human rights impact assessment, and having fulfilled, inter alia, the legal requirement to engage in meaningful prior consultation with persons affected.

GCM Resources Plc,
2nd Floor, Foxglove House,
166 – 168 Piccadilly,
London, W1J 9EF,
United Kingdom,
Tel.: + 44 (0)20 7290 1630
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7290 1631
E-mail: info@gcmplc.com

Please write to UBS, RAB Capital and Barclays asking them to:

Call for a thorough independent investigation into the human and environmental impact of the Phulbari coal mine project with the meaningful input of local communities.

Use their financial influence in GCM Resources Plc. to ensure that the company abides by the recommendations issuing from the independent investigation and to make certain that it complies fully with national laws and international human rights standards.

Carefully evaluate the impact of their current investments on the enjoyment of human rights around the world, and include a clear human rights impact assessment in future investment decisions. Promote greater transparency in their financial transactions.

Mr. Marcel Ospel,
Chairman, UBS AG,
Bahnhofstrasse 45,
8001 Zürich
Switzerland

RAB Capital,
1 Adam Street,
London, WC2N 6LE,
United Kingdom.
Te.l: 0870 702 0000
Fax: 0870 703 6101

Barclays,
1 Churchill Place,
London, E14 5HP
United Kingdom.

Please write to the Asian Development Bank asking it to:

Recognise the discontent of the majority of the local population at the manner in which the preparatory phases of the Phulbari project have been conducted and insist on the production of a comprehensive human rights and environmental impact study with the full and informed participation of all local communities as a fundamental condition for financial support. Continue to monitor the human rights situation in Phulbari and surrounding sub-districts should the project be approved.

OMCT also asks the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, the UN Special Representative on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, and the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing to monitor closely developments as regards the Phulbari coal mine project.

The Asian Development Bank
The President and Executive Directors,
Asian Development Bank,
P.O. Box 789,
0980 Manila,
Philippines.
Tel.: + 632 632 4444
Fax: + 632 636 2444
E-mail: information@adb.org

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