Z Zaman , Back from Dinajpur:
Phulbari Project area heated up again with the news of a visit by the CEO's of Asia Energy Gary N Lye. The visit has happened on Monday and Tuesday and attracted attention of general mass with various anti and pro mine activities. Gary Lye had meeting with local administration of Dinajpur and also had a public consultation meeting held at Birampur Upazila complex of the Project area and passed two eventful days with call from anti mine people to resist him, procession with sticks, efforts to burn blankets distributed among cold stricken people. Blanket distribution program sponsored by GCM, the parent company of Asia Energy completed without any interruption and about 1000 blankets distributed in two locations of Khanpur and Gopalganj Union of the Project area. The participants in the exchange of views meeting expressed their support for the coal project and urged the government to expedite local and regional development through extracting coal deposited in four Upazilas.
This reporter witnessed all of these dramatic events from the in-field visit in the Project area. The fact is, despite all sorts of programs against the mine, there are considerable silent supports for mine development that starts surfacing out now. In this reality, Asia Energy's open engagement with the community, recent poor participation of people in the anti mine programs and open visit of Company CEO is being considered by the project area people as a significant development in favour of the project.
Receiving the news that Gary Lye would visit and participate in the ongoing blanket distribution program by South Estearn Dinajpur Development front sponsored by the company and take part in a consultation meeting with the local people, the OGPC and the non-political Professionals’ Unity came on street and declared to protest it. Declaring to protest the visit at any cost, they announced on Monday and organized a procession with stick on Thursday. Hundreds of motor bikes riders made a showdown at various roads of the project area. Declaration came from the procession to protest the CEO of Asia Energy from visiting the mine area. Gary suppose to present in the consultation meeting and blanket distribution program at Khanpur at 1:00 pm and Golapganj at 3:00 pm respectively as declared by the South-East Development Front. While Gary Lye couldn’t present there on scheduled time, the local representatives started blanket distribution, and said that Gary would attend the consultation meeting at Birampur lately after a meeting with the District Administration.
It was informed from a local administration watchdog, Gary met with the district administration led by the district commissioner Ahmed Shamim Al Razi and the police administration led by the police super Md. Mainul Islam separately for a long. In the discussion Gary put emphasis on necessity of implementation of the Phulbari Coal Project in perspective of energy crisis of the country. It was informed, both the high officials agreed with importance of the project implementation and assured to provide full cooperation in implementation of the project in light with the Govt. decision and guidelines.
On the other hand, Gary Lye reached Birampur from Dinajpur at the evening and took part in exchange of view meeting for a long to the people coming from four Upazilas under the project at Birampur Upazila Complex Premises and answered to different questions of the stakeholders. Gary Lye said, there would huge development to occur in Phulbari, Birampur, Nawabganj and Parbotipur upazilas through this project. He said the project will go ahead giving fair land prices, proper compensation and with lots of employments. He expressed thanks to the local leaders and youths to carry forward the company’s blanket distribution activities among the poor. Khairul Alam Raju, Chairman of Birampur Upazila said at the meeting that, coal deposit at Birampur and its surrounding areas is the gift of God. We have the right to extract and utilize this resource for pour economic development. We all want to develop this resource. Anti mine people is less than 2% (two percent). If the government gives final approval, then the anti development movement is not an issue for developing the mine. Nuruzzaman Raza from Phulbari, BNP leader Tosaddek Hossain Tosa, Milon Sarker of Phulbari, , UP Chairman of Golapganj under Nawabganj upazila Mr. Raushan Ali, Organizing Secretary of Birampur Al Selim Rana and other local leaders from all political parties were also present in the meeting.
In reply to a question Gary said this Correspondent at Dinajpur , visiting rural areas of four upazials under the project and discussing with local people he feels that the financial condition as well as the level of livelihood have not changed much comparing to feasibility study time. He also said the fate of the local people would have been changed significantly if the coal is extracted and utilized.