Bangladesh: Dawn-to-dusk blockade underway at Phulbari

Date of publication: 
27 November 2014

Locals declared an impromptu blockade programme as a top coal miner visited Phulbari in his bid to persuade residents in favour of an open pit mine on their farmlands.

A dawn-to-dusk blockade started at 6:00 am on Thursday was passing amid peaceful demonstrations at Phulbari of Dinajpur.

Gary Lye, a senior official of Global Coal Management, the parent company of Asia Energy that had long tried to develop an open pit mine at Phulbari, made a surprise visit to Phulbari Wednesday and irked local people who mostly do not want any mine there.

The daylong programme was declared on Wednesday afternoon by the local unit of the national committee to protect oil, gas, mineral resources, power and ports demanding immediate withdrawal of local Asia Energy office.

Four people were killed while protesting against any open pit mine in 2006.

Another non-political organisation, Sammilita Peshajibi Sangathan and Phulbari Bashi, also extended their solidarity with the blockade programme.

They also demanded full implementation of the previous six-point demands including stopping any move to extract from Phulbari coal mine in open pit method.

The pro-blockade activists took their position along Dinajpur-Govindaganj local highway in the morning and staged demonstration there by burning tyre.

No long-route bus entered Phulbari while train communications were normal, our Phulbari correspondent reported.

Additional police were deployed to avert any untoward situation.

The then BNP-led alliance government had signed a seven-point deal with the national committee amidst protests against open-pit mining.

According to the deal, the government must refrain from using open pit method for coal extraction and the ‘controversial’ international company Asia Energy must be ousted from Bangladesh.

Some vested quarters were still working in favour of Asia Energy, leaders of the national committee alleged.

There is another coal mine at Baropukuria, 7-km away from Phulbari, where long-wall mining method is applied to explore underground coal.


‘Won’t allow open-pit coalmine in Phulbari’

Blockade protesting Asia Energy local chief’s visit underway peacefully

Daily Star Online Report –

27 November 2014

Locals at Phulbari today blockaded the upazila in Dinajpur district protesting the visit of Asia Energy’s country chief on the issue of an open-pit coalmine in the area.

The blockade follows yesterday’s reported widespread vandalism and protests after Gary Lye, country director of Asia Energy, went to the area to meet company officials there.

The 12-hour blockade enforced by locals led by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports started at 6:00am, our Dinajpur correspondent reports.

Long route and local bus services, on Dinajpur-Dhaka however, remained suspended. However trains operated normally till filing the report at noon.

Additional police were deployed through all key points of Phulbari, especially around the local Asia Energy office. No untoward incident was reported until noon.

Saiful Islam Jewel, president of the Phulbari unit of the national committee, said people were spontaneously participating in the blockade.

“We will not allow open-pit coalmine in Phulbari and elsewhere in the country.”

Protesters block Dianjpur-Dhaka highway by burning tyres in Nimtola area under Phulbari municipality on
A previous BNP-led government tried to establish an open-pit coalmine in Phulbari in 2005-06, which was thwarted by violent local protests that led to death of three people.

Tension rose again when the government in October last year instructed local authority to cooperate with a London-based company for prospects of coalmine in Phulbari, Nawabganj, Birampur and Parbatipur upazilas of Dinajpur.

Asia Energy’s Bangladesh director Gary Lye is currently on a scheduled visit to Dinajpur. He met local administration and police chief of the district yesterday.

This sparked protests and led to reported vandalism throughout Phulbari as locals said they were adamant about not letting a coalmine in the region.


Asia Energy chief’s visit sparks protest in Phulbari

26 November 2014

Dinajpur Office – Locals vandalised the office and vehicles of Asia Energy Bangladesh, protesting the visit of Gary Lye, country chief of Asia Energy Bangladesh, to Phulbari upazila in Dinajpur on Wednesday.

Sources of Asia Energy Bangladesh said, Gary Lye with his wife came on a visit in Phulbari upazila on Tuesday evening.

He had three separate meetings with Asia Energy officials on that night.

Later, Gary had another meeting with local political leaders including former upazila chairman Aminul Islam and labour leader Nuruzzaman on Wednesday morning.

As the news spread of his arrival, the people under the banner of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port, and Sammillita Peshajibi Sangathan staged demonstration and blocked the Dinajpur-Dhaka highway from 11:00am to 1:00pm. Phulbari municipality mayor Golam Mortuza Sarker Manik, also convener of the Sangathan, led the demonstration.

The protesters gave an hour of ultimatum to police and local administration asking Gary to leave Phulbari.

After two hour of the ultimatum, demonstrators vandalised the local office and vehicles of Asia Energy Bangladesh.

Phulbari upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) Moniruzzaman and Phulbari police officer in-charge ABM Rezaul Islam said police barricade was also insufficient to control the protesting crowd.

Later, three vehicles carrying Gary Lye along with his wife and 10-12 other officials of Asia Energy Bangladesh were sent to Dinajpur in police protection.

In the afternoon, a meeting took place at Nimtala intersection of the town where the committee called a dawn to dusk blockade of highway and railway for Thursday protesting the arrival of Gary and the activities of Asia Energy Bangladesh in Phulbari upazila.

Earlier in August 26, 2006, thousands of people of Phulbari led by leaders of the ‘national committee’ staged a violent demonstration centering the coalmine issue. Law enforcers opened fire, leaving three people killed.


Fulbari tense over Asia Energy chief of operation’s arrival

Daily Observer –

26 November 2014

Dinajpur: Leaders and activists of Phulbari Sammilito Peshajibi Sangathan and National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Minerals, Electricity and Port blockaded the Dhaka-Dinajpur highway, disrupting communications with the capital, and staged demonstrations at Phulbari upazila in the district protesting implementation of Phulbari Coal Mine Project.

Causing mounting sufferings for the passengers, agitated people of the upazila blockaded the Dhaka-Dinajpur highway all through the day from 11:00am to 4:30pm, responding to a news that Asia Energy is taking preparations to implement its coal mine project at Phulbari in the district.

The news spread across the upazila Wednesday when multinational Company Asia Energy’s chief of operation Gary N Lye exchanged views with some officials of Asia Energy’s Phulbari branch.

Sources said hundreds of people of the upazila brought out a number of processions all through the day that paraded the roads of the upazila and took position on the highway. They declared a one hour ultimatum for Gary N Lye to leave the locality.

The agitated people attacked the Phulbari branch of Asia Energy as even after two hours he (Gary) did not leave the upazila. They tried to enter and ransack the office premises breaking police barricade set up in front of the office, according to people present at the spot.

At that time, when the situation was going out of control, municipal mayor Mortuza Sarker Manik, former upazila chairman Aminul Islam Babul, and local leader Abdullah Nuruzzaman, all of whom were leading the agitation, pacified the agitated people from ransacking the Asia Energy office. Kamal Chakrabarty, an activist of the movement, got injured at that while trying to prevent the people from vandalising the office.

At that time UNO Maniruzzaman and Officer-in-Charge of Phulbari police station ABM Rezaul Islam prevented the situation from further deterioration with the help of the leaders of Oil-Gas Committee and Peshajibi Sangathan, local sources said.

The blockade, however, was withdrawn at 4:30pm after getting an assurance from upazila nirbahi officer Maniruzzaman.

According to sources the UNO told the protesters that Gary N Lye had said that the company would not start the implementation Phulbari Coal Mine Project.

Earlier on Tuesday also, hundreds of people blockaded Dhaka-Dinajpur highway hearing the news that Gary N Lye had exchanged views with officials of Asia Energy’s Phulbari branch.

At 4:00pm Tuesday, Oil-Gas Committee’s Phulbari unit convener Syed Saiful Islam Jewel declared to continue the blockade and to stage demonstration from a rally held at Nimtala intersection of the upazila.