South Asia UpdatePublished by MAC on 2007-03-01
South Asia update
1st March 2007
As Bangladesh enters a second month of "emergency" restrictions, imposed by an "interim" government, the former administration's agreement with Asia Energy continues to loom large. This is despite the fact that the UK company's contract is viewed by many as illegal, while Bangladesh's new energy policy has merely confirmed that the country's scarce coal resources can be exported , with companies paying a derisory royalty for the benefit of exploitation.
The UK government has been urging its Bangladesh counterpart to confirm the Asia Energy deal, despite the widespread revulsion against its operations which culminated in the unprovoked killing of six local demonstrators last summer. (The company has since followed the time-worn path of renaming itself "Global Coal Management", as if that would instantly transform its tarnished reputation).
Now, a Korean company is also lobbying for exploration rights to another coalfield although (like Asia Energy) it has no experience in the field.
As reported earlier, the Indian conglomerate, Tata, is also after access to Bangladeshi coal resources and planning to site steel and car plants in the country
A week ago, residents of villages around Lohandiguda, in Chhattisgarh's Bastar region, demonstrated against a Tata-proposed steel venture, to be met by police violence. It was almost a carbon copy of the notorious official repression of a demonstration mounted just over a year ago, by local people at Kalinganagar, in the neighbouring state of Orissa. The death toll then was thirteen. Also last week, independent researchers into the likely impacts of this plant were hounded by pro-Tata "goons" and barely escaped with their lives.
As middle and upperclass Indians strive to make their country a leader in information technology an environmental group warns that 150,000 tonnes of e-wastes is being dumped each year, much of which is irreparably harming the health of the poorer castes and classes consigned to dealing with them.
Closely following on the heels of a report exposing the impacts of gold mining in Burma's Kachin state, the US NGO, EearthRights International lays bear the attrition caused by uncontrolled mining, loggin and dam building in the Karen region of this beleagured country.