MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2007-04-14


No steps yet to scrap Phulbari coal field deal: Finance adviser advises Tapan to take up Asia Energy issue with CA

Aminul Islam, NewAge

14th April 2007

The finance adviser, Mirza Azizul Islam, has advised the energy adviser, Tapan Chowdhury, to discuss the Asia Energy's investment issue 'informally' with the chief adviser or the council of advisers, sources in the finance and planning ministry said.

They said Mirza Azizul forwarded to Tapan a letter of the Asia Energy that pointed out what 'benefits' the Phulbari coal field would give to Bangladesh and how 'energy security' would be protected.

On the letter of the company, Mirza Aziz wrote a note on April 7 that said if the energy adviser wished he could go through the letter and discuss informally the issues [content of the letter] with the chief adviser or the council of advisers.

The Asia Energy sent the letter to the finance adviser after the company executives had called on the adviser in March.

The company has been claiming that Bangladesh will get direct benefits worth $7 billion for 30 years from the controversial Phulbari coal project although energy experts and environmentalists have given a warning that the proposed open-pit mining would bring about environmental disaster in the locality.

When contacted, Tapan told New Age on Tuesday the finance adviser had just forwarded the letter. 'He [finance adviser] did not make any suggestion or directive. It is a normal procedure that he forwarded the letter.'

When asked whether he would take up the issue with the chief adviser or the council of advisers, Tapan said, 'The Asia Energy issue will not be discussed separately. If the foreign investment issue comes up for discussion [with the CA] the Asia Energy issue might be discussed.'

The government, meanwhile, has not taken any steps to implement the agreement the Rajshahi mayor, Mizanur Rahman, signed on behalf of the government with the protesters at Phulbari on scrapping the deal with the Asia Energy on Phulbari coal field.

The agreement was signed following the killing of three protesters who demonstrated against the coal project by the law enforcers.

The Prime Minister's Office during the BNP-led four-party government asked the Energy and Mineral Resources Division on September 29, 2006 to take 'necessary steps' to scrap the agreement with the UK-based Asia Energy on Phulbari coalfield in Dinajpur.

The PMO move came one month after the Rajshahi mayor, Miznur Rahman, signed an agreement with the protesters at Phulbari for the cancellation of the contract with the Asia Energy and expulsion of the company from Bangladesh.

The PMO order, signed by a director, Shafiur Rahman, directed the division to 'take necessary steps to implement the agreement that

Mizanur Rahman signed on behalf of the government with demonstrators on August 30 [2006].'

The division then asked for the law ministry's opinion on the issue, but is yet to get any response from the ministry in six months.

When contacted, the energy secretary, AMM Nasir Uddin, told New Age on Wednesday, 'We are still waiting for the law ministry's opinion on the issue as it is totally a legal issue.'

He, however, could not confirm when the law ministry would give its opinion. 'It is a sensitive issue [cancellation of a deal with a foreign company]. So it is natural that the law ministry will take time to look into the pros and cons and give its opinion. It is, however, entirely up to the law ministry when it will give its opinion,' he said.

A expert committee formed by the government has already found the deal with Asia Energy illegal and that the Phulbari coal project would bring about environmental disaster if the open-pit mining is followed there.


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