Phulbari Solidarity Action At Coal Mining Company: Trial Verdict

Amy, Angela and Shulamit glued to the entrance: The protest last year at the AGM of Global Coal Management at 33 Cavendish Road, London. Photo: Paul Dudman, PSG.

 COURT DISMISSED TRESPASSING CHARGES, ACTIVISTS RECEIVED CONDITIONAL DISCHARGE  

  • Climate activists convicted of aggravated trespassing and criminal damage-related offences for gluing themselves to the entrance of a building used by criminal GCM have received 12-month conditional discharge.
  • The judge decided not to charge activists for trespassing but charged them of criminal damage of £350 each after he accepted they were motivated by the cause of “human rights”.
  • Three women pleaded not guilty at the City of London Magistrate’s Court and said that they “will take it to High Court” and “will stop GCM”.

 

Three transnational women climate activists convicted of aggravated trespassing and criminal damage-related offences for gluing themselves to the entrance doors of a building that hosted the criminal Annual General Meeting (AGM) of an AIM-listed murderous coal mining company Global Coal Management (GCM), have received conditional discharge.

The activists who stood trial on Tuesday the 22nd October took part in an action in solidarity with Phulbari protesters who were protesting against an immense open cast coal mine to be built in northwest Bangladesh, where GCM wants to construct a 4000 MW power plant by immediately displacing as many as 130, 000 people from the region.

The judge at the City of London magistrate’s court decided not to charge activists for aggravated trespassing after he accepted they were motivated by the cause of “human rights”. The judge suggested initially that all charges should be dismissed but the women’s defence barristers felt ethically obliged to tell the judge that he had misunderstood the criminal damage charge and that he was wrong to dismiss it. The activists were then found guilty of criminal damage of £350 each.

Angela Ditchfield, 41, Shulamit Morris-Evans, 23 and Amy Pritchard, 34, were all given a 12-month conditional discharge, ordered to pay £350 each in costs and a £20 surcharge. Deputy district judge Paul Booty said: ‘The act of glueing oneself to an object was thought through and the possibility of damage could not have slipped your minds, therefore such an act was reckless.’

Amy, Angela, and Shulamit outside of the City of London Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday 22 October 2019. Photo: Christian Climate Action.

Angela Ditchfield, a mother-of-two teenage boys and Kings Hedges Green Party candidate, Amy Pritchard, an activist at Extinction Rebellion London, and Shulamit Morris-Evans, a school teacher and a member of Extinction Rebellion Youth pleaded not guilty. They told the City of London magistrates that the protest last December was proportionate due to GCM’s plan to build a mine in Bangladesh that could displace thousands of vulnerable people. They joined a direct action alongside the Bangladeshi anti-coal campaigners at Phulbari Solidarity Group and Reclaim the Power that targeted the extractive company, GCM, at their AGM on 28 December in 2018.

Although GCM do not have any valid stake, they are aggressively moving to build the coal project in Phulbari. They have recently announced a strategic partnership with two Chinese firms – China Nonferrous Metal Industry’s Foreign Engineering and Construction Company (NFC) and Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina) to develop the mine, which created a hike in its share price. On 4th September GCM Resources have signed yet another agreement with DG Infratech Pte Ltd, a Bangladesh based firm to get a deal with Bangladesh government.

Ms Ditchfield, Morris-Evans, and Pritchard glued themselves to the entrance of the AGM’s London venue before it started in the early morning, disrupting the event for nearly four hours. Specialist police used solvents to detach them before making arrests. Outside the building 30 more protestors obstructed the entrance by holding banners and speaking out against the coal mine. All major shareholders including GCM’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Brian Mooney, were blocked from entering the building. The attendees waited outside of the venue for several hours, before eventually leaving to go home.

The protesters outside of GCM’s AGM last year on 28 December 2018. Photo: Golam Rabbani

If the Phulbari coal mine is built, it would lead to forced-displacement of up to 220, 000 people over the 36 years life cycle of the project. The company would give only 6 percent of all extracted coal to Bangladesh and the remainder of high quality coal would be exported. Bangladesh government has declined the licence of GCM in 2007.

Ms Pritchard of Extinction Rebellion Youth, who blocked GCM’s AGM, says,

“The story of this coal project demonstrates clearly the almost unbelievable global exploitation which continues to be based in this City. I will continue to act in defiance of the domination of vulnerable countries, communities and Indigenous peoples at the front-line of climate change. I call on others to consider their power and privilege and do the same.”

Ms Ditchfield who pleaded not guilty and is part of an activist group Christian Climate Action, says,

“As a Christian, I believe Jesus calls us to come alongside people who are oppressed and in need, just like he did. I stand with the brave Bangladeshi activists who have been resisting this project for more than a decade. Successfully so far, yet the company continues to take investment from HSBC and other shareholders to try and pressure the government of Bangladesh to ignore local people and change their mind. Thirteen years ago GCM allegedly paid paramilitary guards to shoot at a protest of 80,000 people against the mine in 2006. Three teenagers were killed, the youngest 13 years old. 200 others were injured for peaceful protest against the theft of their homeland for foreign profit. The GCM director and representatives of the London Stock Exchange laughed when presented with this news. “As a mother of a 12yo and a 14yo, I have to stand with the families left still resisting this company which killed their children and seeks to bring so much more destruction and death through displacing communities and through climate change. One UK Bangladeshi activist recently asked me: “how can people do such things?” – destroying the lives of whole communities in the only flood-safe land in the region. I have no answer”.

The protesters outside of GCM’s AGM chant slogans last year on 28 December 2018. Photo: Golam Rabbani

 

Angela Ditchfield and Amy Pritchard said that they “will block GCM again” and that they “will take the charge of criminal damage to High Court “ because they “have not intended to cause any damage”.

Ms Morris-Evans, a school teacher and the third defendant who glued herself to the entrance in support of Phulbari says,

“To attempt to build a coal mine when we are at such a pitch of crisis – a crisis engendered by our excessive use of fossil fuels – is utter madness. If we do not cease to burn fossil fuels we risk entering into uncontrollable spirals of climate change which could ultimately endanger the survival of our own species along with countless others. We cannot stand by and watch as others plunge our world into disaster for the sake of short-term gain.”

Dr Rumana Hashem who directs Phulbari Solidarity Group and was present at the 2006 demonstration in Phulbari, says,

“I appreciate it that women who have intervened to obstruct GCM’s way of criminal activities are the dedicated earth defenders. My heartfelt thanks to Angela,  Amy and Schulamit for risking their bodies to hold GCM to account. I have witnessed GCM’s violence in Bangladesh, heard the cries of the victims’ families and seen tears of non-violent protesters who were injured in GCM’s inflicted violence in one of Bangladesh’s most harmonious, flood protected and green place. GCM want to destroy Phulbari and livelihood of tens of thousands of people. GCM’s CEO Gary Lye has been targeting local opponents. They are a fraudulent company. They are selling shares in London without a valid license for business in Phulbari. They must be held to account.”

The protest outside of GCM’s AGM held on Friday 28 December 2018. Photo: Golam Rabbani

Baroness Natalie Bennett who stands in support of protests against the company says,

“I am proud to stand in solidarity with campaigners in Bangladesh campaigning against the Phulbari Coal project as well as in remembrance of those massacred in 2006 while standing up for their rights. There should be no place in the London Stock Exchange for companies creating such immense harm to our environment and international community. We all need to take action to ensure we remain below 1.5 degrees of warming, and that includes the LSE. There is no place for open cast coal mining in the fossil fuel future this planet demands.”

A collation of 12 climate organisations, called the Phulbari Solidarity Alliance, have recently asked London Stock Exchange to consider de-listing GCM and investigate the criminal activities of the company. The coalition echoing the demands in their letter said that allowing GCM to retail shares on the share market is to allow cheating on ordinary people. London Stock Exchange is yet to respond to the call.

 

Further news:

Report on British Bangla News, 23 October 2019: http://www.britishbanglanews.com/court-dismissed-phulbari-activists-of-trespassing%ef%bb%bf/ 

Brief report by London Metro, 23 October 2019: https://www.metro.news/xr-activists-convicted-of-glue-protest-at-coal-firm/1769161/

PRESS RELEASE

LONDON SOLIDARITY ACTION TO SAVE THE SUNDARBANS BLOCKED BANLGADESH HIGH COMMISSION

 

  • Passionate climate justice activists in London block the entrance of the Bangladesh High Commission for three hours demanding immediate halt to Rampal Coal Power Plants
  • Bangladesh High Commission deployed police to harass peaceful climate change protesters
  • The High Commissioner refused to meet activists and denied Bangladeshi citizens’ entry to the building
  • A memorandum signed by 30 climate justice organsiations calls on the Bangladesh government to stop building fossil fuel industries near the Sundarbans

 

Amidst heavy policing and non-stop rain passionate climate and mangrove rights activists have blocked the main entrance of the Bangladesh High Commission in London today for three hours. A powerful and noisy solidarity action by London based transnational campaigners condemn the Bangladesh government’s decision to implement the 1,320 MW Rampal coal power plant as it would destroy the Sundarbans in Bangladesh. Protesters echo calls in their memorandum signed by members of 30 participating organisations demanding the Bangladesh government must put immediate halt to the Rampal project and take responsibility to save the Sundarbans.

A representative of five non-violent Bangladeshi protesters wanted to hand in the memorandum to the High Commissioner, Ms Saida Muna Tasneem, asking her to convey their five-point demand to the government, but she refused to make herself available to activists. Bangladeshi citizens were turned away, and denied access to the building and harassed by privately hired security guards and police which the activists called appalling. Protesters joined the UK Committee to Protect Natural Resources in Bangladesh and the Phulbari Solidarity Group with a coalition of Global Justice Rebellion and other climate organisations. Following from the refusal and rude manners of the High Commissioner and her First Officer, more climate activists joined the protest and formed a human chain blocking the entrance of the building in the afternoon.

A Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Ltd is building the giant Rampal coal power plant project, and a joint venture between National Thermal Power Company of India and the Bangladesh Power Development Board is going ahead, enabling additional 154 industrial constructions to be built in southwest Bangladesh.  These industrial constructions are threatening the Sundarbans, located at the Indian-Bangladeshi border. The 1,320 MW Rampal coal-power plant is located 14 miles from the Sundarbans, situated at the Indian-Bangladeshi border. The Sundarbans are the world’s single largest mangrove forests, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a natural protective barrier for Bangladeshi coast against frequent storm-surges. They also are home to one of the last populations of the Bengali Tiger.

The proposed power plant is in an area already documented to be at or below sea level. UNESCO has asked the government to stop all industrial constructions until the exact impacts for the forests have been critically assessed. On Thursday 4 July at the 43rd meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Baku UNESCO “notes with great concerns the likely environmental impacts of large scale industrial projects” and asked Bangladesh government to “take all necessary mitigation measures”. Despite UNESCO’s recommendation to halt constructions, the Bangladesh government is going ahead with industrial constructions and the power plant in the vicinity. Climate activists in Bangladesh who raise voice against the Rampal project have been faced with incredible repression.

Dr Rumana Hashem, an organiser of the London Solidarity Action and the coordinator of Phulbari Solidarity Group says:

We are protesting here because the Bangladesh government does not have the right to destroy the world’s largest mangrove forests in this way. UNESCO noted the danger of Rampal coal fired project for the survival of the Sundarbans but the government has violated UNESCO’s recommendations and did not stop building coal plants. People in Bangladesh have been protesting for years but government repress them badly. We demand that the government of Bangladesh will come to sense to scrap the Rampal project immediately. We must not let destructive projects destroy our greatest mangrove forests. 

Akhter Sobhan Khan of the UK Committee to Protect Natural Resources in Bangladesh says:

There is an Alternative Power and Energy Plan for Bangladesh , recommended by the energy experts belonging to the Save the Sundarbans movement, which shows that it is possible to generate up to 91,700 MW of electricity through renewable sources. The government totally overlooked the alternative energy plan. As we protest today we have been harassed by the High Commissioner’s security guards and police, despite advance permission sought to hand in the memo to the High Commissioner  who refused to meet us.This is unacceptable.

Kofi Mawuli Klu, the joint-coordinator of the Global Justice Rebellion and Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network states:

Sundarbans are the world’s largest mangrove forests. We all have responsibilities to save them. For the Internationalist Solidarity imperatives of our Climate and Ecological Emergency International Rebellion demand, we boldly take sides with grassroots Communities of Resistance at the Global South front ranks of defending World Heritage sites like the Sundarbans. We stand firm with the communities to prevent their loss from worsening the looming catastrophe. The most decisive victories of our International Rebellion will be won on such Global South battlegrounds as the Sundarbans, to effectively save all Humanity and our entire planet Earth.

Nicki Myers, the coordinator of the Disabled Rebels Network of Extinction Rebellion, says, explaining why she and her rebels participate in this protest:

The Civil DISobedience affinity group is taking part in this action because, like everyone here, we act to protect all life. We want to use our position of privilege in being able to peacefully protest to try and save these bountiful forests and the life they support. We have also supported the UK actions against the Phulbari coal mine. Recently we were humbled by the support of our friends in the Bangladesh solidarity movement who supported our actions to secure the right for disabled people to have equal rights to peaceful protest. 

Environmental Justice Bloc, Extinction Rebellion Cambridge, Extinction Rebellion Youth, Extinction Rebellion London, Global Justice Forum, London Mining Network, Reclaim the Power, Rising Up, South Asia Solidarity, and 21 other ecological and climate justice organisations from the UK and Europe vouch to stand with Bangladesh to prevent destructive coal projects in Bangladesh.

 

Which are the coal plants that threaten the Sundarbans?

There are three coal plants that threaten the Sundarbans. The first plant is being built by a joint venture of Bangladesh and India’s state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation at Rampal, within 14 kilometers north of the world Heritage site. There are two other plants to be built at Taltoli and Kalapara as joint Chinese-Bangladeshi ventures. The mentions of these later ones were taken out by the Chinese amendment to the final draft decision at the 43rd session on 4 July.

The pollution and dredging from these coal plants will, as a mission from the IUCN in 2016 reported, undyingly damage the world’s mangrove forests. There are also plans for two additional coal plants to be built on the Payra port, by Chinese investments, which would threaten the ecological buffer zone.

 

Contact for further information:

Akhter Sobhan Khan (akhtersk@gmail.com), UK Committee to Protect Natural Resources in Bangladesh

More Photos  and video footage from the protest are available on request.  

https://www.facebook.com/events/2617889908297326/

More information on the Sundarbans struggle can be found at:

Solidarity Action to Save the Sundarbans

This Thursday at 11am we are marching to the Bangladesh High Commission to tell the Bangladesh government to stop the destructive Rampal coal-power plants and all industrial constructions near the Sundarbans, the worlds largest mangrove forests. We will be coming together with the UK’s Committee to Protect Natural Resources of Bangladesh, Global Justice Rebellion, Reclaim the Power and many more climate activist groups and global citizens concerned to the destruction of the Sundarbans.


The Sundarbans mangrove forests are the world’s largest mangrove forests and an invaluable ecosystem along Bangladesh’s coast. The Sundarbans are located at the Indian-Bangladeshi border in south-west Bangladesh. The mangrove is home to many rare animals and species, especially to the rare Bengal Tigers. The word ‘Sundar’ stands for bounty and ‘Bans’ for forests. These bountiful forests face destruction.

A Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Ltd is planning a dangerous project. A joint venture between the National Thermal Power Company of India and the Bangladesh Power Development Board are building a 1,320 MW coal-power plant in Rampal within 14 kilometers of the Sundarbans which will kill the rare animals and destroy the mangrove forests. There are 154 other industrial constructions planned in the area. The detrimental aspects of the project were highlighted by national and international experts. In July 2019, the 43rd session of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has asked the government to halt all constructions.

Despite UNESCO’s recommendation to halt constructions, the Bangladesh government is going ahead with 154 industrial constructions to be built for the power plant in the vicinity. Climate activists in Bangladesh who raised voices against the destruction of the Sundarbans faced incredible repression by the state security forces.

We call on the Bangladesh High Commission for an urgent intervention into the government’s decision to implement the destructive Rampal coal-power plant and all industrial constructions.

JOIN US! SAVE The SUNDARBANS!

 

                                               11am on Thursday 17 October 2019

                                                Bangladesh High Commission

                                               28 Queens Gate, SW7 5JA, London.

(nearest tube stations: Gloucester Road and Kensington)

Confirm your participation via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/2617889908297326/

Come in animal-friendly costumes, bring along lots of friends, noisy instruments, chants and handmade placards!!  

If you have a question, contact us on phone: 07714 288221, or email: phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com,

PROTESTERS AND POLICE BLOCK LONDON STOCK EXCHANGE DEMANDING DE-LISTING OF BRITISH MINING COMPANY

PRESS RELEASE 23rd August 2019

 

Phulbari protest at LSE 23 Aug 2019. Photo credit: Dovydas Vilimas

 

Dramatic protests took place at the London Stock Exchange today as scores of police blocked off both entrances to the LSE with barriers and police lines in an attempt to stop protesters entering the building. The protesters, wearing all black, held a vigil outside the blocked entrance in commemoration of the massacre of three teenage boys during a non-violent protest against AIM listed Global Coal Management Resources plc (GCM) by communities around a proposed coal mine in Phulbari in 2006. Further protests are being held in Bangladesh on the official Phulbari Day on Monday 26th August. The UK protest was organised by the Phulbari Solidarity Group and the UK Committee to Protect Natural Resources in Bangladesh with a coalition of other organisations. Protesters echoed calls in their letter to Chief Financial Officer of the LSE, David Warren, demanding that GCM is investigated and de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for fraudulent and criminal activities.

Protesters ignoring police barricade pay tribute to Amin, Salekin and Tariqul during Black Vigil outside London Stock Exchange at 9am on 23 Aug 2019. Photo credit: Dovydas Vilimas

The protesters in London targeted David Warren personally, asking him to come and meet them and demanding that he take their complaints seriously and immediately de-list GCM. They shouted “London Stock Exchange, shame on you!” “London Stock Exchange is a crime scene”; and “David Warren – blood on your hands” during the protest which lasted over five hours with many onlookers throughout. A survivor and eye witness of the 2006 massacre spoke passionately about the ongoing suffering and harassment of people in Phulbari GCM Resources.

Protesters chanting slogan shaming David Warren at LSE. Friday 23 Aug 2019. Photocredit: Dovydas Vilimas

 

Deputy leader of the Green Party in England and Wales, Amelia Womack, who attended the demonstration, said:

The Phulbari coal project symbolises a threat to people, lives and human rights in Bangladesh. We stand with the protesters demanding that the London Stock Exchange de-list GCM Resources for their violations.

 

Protesters paid tribute with Red and White roes to Amin, Salekin and Tariqul during Black vigil at LSE. Friday, 23 Aug 2019. Photocredit: Fossil Free UK.

Meanwhile in Bangladesh, indigenous communities and thousands of anti-mine activists will commemorate the lost lives by forming Red and Black vigils under the banner of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh on 26th August. The communities and families of victims will pay tribute with flowers to the memorial of the three dead at the Phulbari Memorial. The vigils demand that government must ban open cast coal mine, that Phulbari Day must be declared as the National Fossil Free Energy Day and government should implement the Phulbari Day Verdict by taking legal action against GCM immediately.

 

On 26 August 2006 three boys Amin (13), Salekin (16) and Tariqul (19) were shot dead, and more than two hundred injured in a non-violent demonstration of 80,000 people against plans for an open cast coal mine by GCM’s subsidiary Asia Energy. The eight million ton mine would forcibly displace 130,000 people from Phulbari in northwest Bangladesh. Construction of the plant is dependent on approval from the Bangladeshi government who previously shelved plans for the development following huge protests. Subsequently GCM’s CEO Gary Lye has filed multiple cases against 26 community organisers in Phulbari and Dinajpur claiming he has felt ‘harassed’ when he visited the area in an attempt to continue coal mining plans in 2014.

A protester is writing the names of the three dead in Phulbari shooting, Amin, Salekin and Tariqul during Black Vigil outside London Stock Exchange. Friday 23 Aug 2019. Photo credit: Dovydas Vilimas

 

Nuruzaaman, a survivor of Phulbari shooting and a local community organiser of the 2006 Phulbari Day protest in Phulbari says:

GCM is a fraudulent and murderer company who killed three of our young people for simply watching over a non-violent demo. The company’s CEO, Gary Lye, laughed after the killing on television. They bribed our police and border security guards to kill us and poison our society. They created violence which left three killed and 220 injured even before the company was awarded approval for mining in our Phulbari. They do not have a license, there is no project in Phulbari. We halted the mine 13 years ago. But GCM are selling shares in London Stock Exchange in the name of Phulbari. They continue abusing us. GCM’s arbitrary court cases against myself and 25 other community organisers in Phulbari claimed 1billion taka (BDT 100 crore) for so called harassments that Gary Lye and his men faced after they killed people in Phulbari. 9 of the 11 cases against me have already been dismissed by the courts. We want justice in our fight against this criminal company which has destroyed so many lives already.

Protests are ramping up in the UK following 13 years of campaigning for GCM to be de-listed from the LSE. Responding to the massacre and widespread protests, the Bangladeshi Government declined to renew the GCM subsidiary Asia Energy’s license to extract coal from Phulbari in 2010. Despite aggressive lobbying and public claims that they have government approval for coal extraction, GCM continues to have no valid contract with the Bangladesh government. However GCM recently announced a strategic partnership with two Chinese firms – China Nonferrous Metal Industry’s Foreign Engineering and Construction Company (NFC) and Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina) to develop the mine, which created a hike in its share price. GCM has no other operation or assets, yet the company continues to sell shares on the LSE on the basis of the Phulbari coal project.

Phulbari protest at LSE. Friday, 23 Aug 2019. Photocredit: Fossil Free UK

A letter from twelve leading campaigning organisations from the UK, Europe and USA was sent to LSE Financial Director David Warren asking that the London Stock Exchange de-list GCM by Phulbari day. The letter details the company’s fraudulent selling of shares on the UK stock exchange without any viable project or permission to mine in Phulbari, as well as harassment of activists in Bangladesh. The letter points out that GCM is one of a string of London listed mining companies linked to the murder or ‘massacre’ of protesters, including Lonmin, Glencore, Kazakhmys, ENRC, Essar, Vedanta, Anglo Gold Ashanti, African Barrick Gold and Monterrico Metals. It notes the failure of the Financial Conduct Authority or the London Stock Exchange to investigate or penalise any London listed mining company on these grounds, and notes that this is bringing the LSE into disrepute.

Rumana Hashem from Phulbari Solidarity Group in London, who was present at the 2006 demonstration, says:

Dr Rumana Hashem at Phulbari protest at LSE. Friday 23 Aug 2019. Photocredit: Dovydas Vilimas

 London Stock Exchange is complicit in the criminal activities of GCM by allowing them to retail shares and cheating on ordinary people for a decade. I have witnessed Asia Energy’s violence in Bangladesh, heard the cries of the victims and seen tears of non-violent protesters who were injured in GCM’s inflicted violence in one of Bangladesh’s most harmonious, flood protected and green place. GCM want to destroy the region and livelihood of the people in Phulbari. GCM’s CEO Gary Lye has been targeting local opponents. They must be held to account.

Natalie Bennett, politician and former leader of the Green Party of England and Wales said:

I am proud to stand in solidarity with campaigners in Bangladesh campaigning against the Phulbari Coal project, as well as in remembrance of those massacred in 2006 while standing up for their rights. There should be no place in the London Stock Exchange for companies creating such immense harm to our environment and international community.

She added, We all need to take action to ensure we remain below 1.5 degrees of warming, and that includes the LSE. There is no place for open cast coal mining in the fossil fuel future this planet demands.

The London rally is co-hosted by a wide coalition of groups including Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network, Foil Vedanta, Extinction Rebellion Youth, Reclaim the Power and Christian Climate Action.

The vigil was attended by the deputy leader of the Green Party, the coordinator and activists of the London Mining Network, and activists from Fossil Free UK, 350.org UK, Decolonising Environment, Disability Climate Action, Extinction Rebellion London, Marikana Solidarity and others.

Phulbari protest at LSE. Friday, 23 Aug 2019. Photo credit: Paul Dudman

Akhter Khan from the Committee to Protect Natural Resources of Bangladesh – UK branch, says:

We demand that London Stock Exchange must de-list GCM as the company do not have valid license to conduct business in Phulbari. LSE must not allow GCM’s deceitful money grabbing from the share market.

Kofi Mawuli Klu from Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network UK says:

XRISN-UK stands with the Phulbari Solidarity Group, the National Committee and all Environmental Justice campaigners in and outside Bangladesh in solemn remembrance not only of those martyred but also of those who survived to continue fighting up till now for real Change for a better World! It is with the blood of the heroic likes of the Phulbari martyrs that our XR International Rebellion is fuelled; and this gives us the assurance that the Struggle will continue relentlessly through the turbulence of this dangerous time of Climate and Ecological Emergency; it will continue till we overcome to usher in the victories they deserve.

#BlackVigil #CoalMurder #PhulbariDay

 

For Further information on the Black vigil, Phulbari massacre and GCM’s lies check out:

A little film on Youtube: https://youtu.be/jTBnAWl_bVQ

Video clips from the Black vigil (by Jason Parkinson ): https://jasonnparkinson.com/2019/08/23/protestors-demand-london-stock-exchange-de-list-uk-mining-company/

  1. GCM provides false information and Bangladesh Government will take legal action against GCM – by Arifuzzaman Tuhin: The Daily Prothom Alo, 24 August 2019 
  2. Protesters demand London Stock Exchange delists mining company: Morning Star, 23 August 2019.
  3. Phulbari day observed in Bangladesh: The New Age, 27 August, 2019.
  4. Vigil held in front of London Stock Exchange –  350.org report
  5. Protests planned at London Stock Exchange over links to massacre in Bangladesh: Morning Star, 21 August 2019.
  6. Govt mulls stopping Asia Energy’s activities in country – by Manjurul Ahsan: New Age, 9 December, 2014:http://www.newagebd.net/74878/govt-mulls-stopping-asia-energys-activities-in-country/#sthash.mWNPG6Xu.W0jEZXnK.dpbs

     4. Video footage of killings in Phulbari: https://phulbarisolidaritygroup.blog/videos/

     5. Facts about Phulbari coal project at a glance: https://www.banktrack.org/download/the_phulbari_coal_project/iap_factsheet_footnotes_the_final_0.pdf

      6. A copy of the letter to LSE Chief Financial Officer David Warren can be found at this url: https://wp.me/p2ZU1R-ql

 

 

Consider De-listing of Global Coal Management from London Stock Exchange

12 Climate Justice Organisations Calling Upon Chief Financial Officer at London Stock Exchange

 

A letter signed by a coalition of 12 organisations to Chief Financial Officer of London Stock Exchange, David P Warren, demands the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) must undertake an impartial enquiry into GCM’s unethical business. The letter asks that FCA must establish that the company holds a valid license for mining in Phulbari or LSE must de-list GCM from the London Stock Exchange by Friday, 23rd August. The coalition warns that failure to respond to the letter would mean that LSE faces essential action. The letter has been delivered to David P Warren by the City Sprint Courier Service and was later handed over again by the City of London police during the Black vigil at LSE on Friday. The letter with full list of signatories is as follows.

Dear Mr David P Warren,

We write to you in regard to an urgent investigation and overdue de-listing of a fraudulent company on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). The company is called the Global Coal Management Resources plc. (GCM), formerly known as “Asia Energy”. GCM is listed as a mining company on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investors Market (AIM). They are selling shares in London’s share market in the name of a project called “Phulbari coal project”, which does not exist. The company do not hold any valid asset to operate in Phulbari and do not have permission for mining anywhere in the world.

We would like to draw your attention to fraudulent activities of GCM, and would like to hand over some key documentation about the company’s fraudulent business, thereby asking you to undertake an urgent enquiry into GCM’s business and consider de-listing GCM from LSE.

Under the coalition of Phulbari Solidarity we are campaigning alongside groups in Bangladesh to raise awareness about the human rights abuse, ecocide, and fraudulent business of GCM, who want to build a massive open-cast coal mine in Phulbari, the only flood protected location in northwest Bangladesh. Due to severe level of human rights violation by GCM’s Bangladesh subsidiary, Asia Energy, in Phulbari the government in Bangladesh declined to renew the company’s licence in 2010. Yet the company, currently listed on AIM, continues to grab money by selling deceitful shares on Phulbari coal project’s name in London’s share market.

Bangladesh government reiterated that the Phulbari project is unlikely to go ahead and that GCM will never be given permission to return to Phulbari or northwest Bangladesh for coal extraction. The government has overturned their right to mine in Bangladesh about a decade ago.

Given the LSE’s remit in overseeing the conduct of the AIM-listed companies, we are asking that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) undertakes an impartial enquiry into GCM’s unethical business and establish that the company holds any valid license for mining in Phulbari or abroad with a view to review the company’s listing within the London Stock Exchange.

We ask you to kindly respond to our call for investigation by Friday the 23rd of August.

GCM is one of a string of London listed mining companies linked to the murder and ‘massacre’ of protesters, including Lonmin, Glencore, Kazakhmys, ENRC, Essar, Vedanta, Anglo Gold Ashanti, African Barrick Gold and Monterrico Metals. We note the failure of the Financial Conduct Authority and the London Stock Exchange to investigate or penalise any London listed mining company on these grounds is bringing the LSE into disrepute.

This 26th August marks 13th anniversary of the Phulbari killing when three young people were shot dead and more than two hundreds injured in a non-violent demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against plans by GCM in Phulbari. The day has nationally been called the Phulbari Day since. Powerful resistance in the aftermath of the shooting in Phulbari has put a decade long halt to the project. Following the killing of people in Asia Energy’s incited violence Bangladesh government has declined to renew the company’s contract to operate in Phulbari.  Despite no valid contract for mining, GCM is selling shares and cheating on the UK’s share market.

We have previously written about this to you and to Mr Xavier Rolet KBE, the former Chief Executive of London Stock Exchange. We also proposed for a meeting to discuss the matter in 2016. Nevertheless there was no response.

We would appreciate it if you can respond to our demand before Friday 23rd August. If not, we ought to take further steps to hold London Stock Exchange to account.

In support of our concerns we are enclosing some key documentary evidence:

  1. OECD complaint about GCM-led human rights abuse and corruption in Bangladesh submitted to and accepted by UK National Contact Point.
  2. Report on the cancellation of contract with Bangladesh government.
  3. Reports on GCM’s deceitful sales of their shares in the name of Phulbari Project.
  4. Evidence of GCM’s continuous violence and harassment of opponents to the project.

 

If you need further information, please feel free to contact us (as per below contact details).

We look forward to hear from you in due course.

Yours Faithfully,

Dr Rumana Hashem, Co-ordinator, Phulbari Solidarity Group.

Dr Akhter Sobhan Khan, Member secretary, the Committee to Protect Natural Resources of Bangladesh, UK branch.

Alejandra Piazzolla, Spokesperson, Extinction Rebellion Youth.

Alfredo Quarto, Director, Mangrove Action Project, US.

Angela Ditchfield, Director, Christian Climate Action.

Johan Frijns, Director, Bank Track.

Kofi Mawuli Klu, Joint Co-ordinator, Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network.

Knud Voecking, Director, Urgewald e.V., Germany.

Nick Bryer, Europe Campaign Manager, 350.org.

Nils Agger, Co-founder, Extinction Rebellion, UK.

Richard Roberts, Spokesperson, Reclaim the Power

Samarendra Das, Chair, Foil Vedanta.

#PhulbariDay #CoalMurder

Press Release

PHULBARI DAY PROTESTS IN LONDON AND BANGLADESH MARK MASSACRE BY BRITISH MINING COMPANY

  • Sombre protests will be held at London Stock Exchange on 23rd August and at Phulbari Memorial in Bangladesh on 26th August to mark ‘Phulbari day’, commemorating the massacre of protesters by GCM in Phulbari in 2006.
  • A letter from a coalition of groups demands that GCM is de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for fraudulent activities.

London, 14th August 2019: Sombre protests will take place at the London Stock Exchange in London and in Bangladesh on the 23rd and 26th of August to mark the 13th anniversary of the murder of three teenage boys and abuse of hundreds of people by AIM listed Global Coal Management Resources plc (GCM) during a non-violent protest by communities around a proposed coal mine in Phulbari in 2006. The anniversary is officially declared Phulbari Day in Bangladesh. A creative rally, a human chain and a performative vigil will be held at the London Stock Exchange organised by Phulbari Solidarity Group and the UK Committee to Protect Natural Resources in Bangladesh with a coalition of seven other organisations. Protesters will echo calls in their letter to Chief Financial Officer of the LSE, David Warren, demanding that GCM is de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for fraudulent and criminal activities.

Meanwhile in Bangladesh, indigenous communities and thousands of anti-mine activists will commemorate the lost lives by forming Red and Black vigils under the banner of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh on 26th August. The communities and families of victims will pay tribute with flowers to the memorial of the three dead at the Phulbari Memorial. The vigils demand that government must ban open cast coal mine, that Phulbari Day must be declared as the National Fossil Free Energy Day and government should implement the Phulbari Day Verdict by taking legal action against GCM immediately.

On 26 August 2006 three boys Amin (13), Salekin (16) and Tariqul (19) were shot dead, and more than two hundred injured in a non-violent demonstration of 80,000 people against plans for an open cast coal mine by GCM’s subsidiary Asia Energy. The eight million ton mine would forcibly displace 130,000 people from Phulbari in northwest Bangladesh. Construction of the plant is dependent on approval from the Bangladeshi government who previously shelved plans for the development following huge protests. Subsequently GCM’s CEO Gary Lye has filed multiple cases against 26 community organisers in Phulbari and Dinajpur claiming he has felt ‘harassed’ when he visited the area in an attempt to continue coal mining plans in 2014.

Nuruzzaman, a survivor of Phulbari shooting and a local community organiser of the 2006 Phulbari Day protest in Phulbari says:

GCM is a fraudulent and murderer company who killed three of our young people for simply watching over a non-violent demo. The company’s CEO, Gary Lye, laughed after the killing on television. They bribed our police and border security guards to kill us and poison our society. They created violence which left three killed and 220 injured even before the company was awarded approval for mining in our Phulbari. They do not have a license, there is no project in Phulbari. We halted the mine 13 years ago. But GCM are selling shares in London Stock Exchange in the name of Phulbari. They continue abusing us. GCM’s arbitrary court cases against myself and 25 other community organisers in Phulbari claimed 1billion taka (BDT 100 crore) for so called harassments that Gary Lye and his men faced after they killed people in Phulbari. 9 of the 11 cases against me have already been dismissed by the courts. We want justice in our fight against this criminal company which has destroyed so many lives already. ”

Protests are ramping up in the UK following 13 years of campaigning for GCM to be de-listed from the LSE. Responding to the massacre and widespread protests, the Bangladeshi Government declined to renew the GCM subsidiary Asia Energy’s license to extract coal from Phulbari in 2010. Despite aggressive lobbying and public claims that they have government approval for coal extraction, GCM continues to have no valid contract with the Bangladesh government. However GCM recently announced a strategic partnership with two Chinese firms – China Nonferrous Metal Industry’s Foreign Engineering and Construction Company (NFC) and Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina) to develop the mine, which created a hike in its share price1. GCM has no other operation or assets, yet the company continues to sell shares on the LSE on the basis of the Phulbari coal project.

Rumana Hashem from Phulbari Solidarity Group in London, who was present at the 2006 demonstration, says:

London Stock Exchange is complicit in the criminal activities of GCM by allowing them to retail shares and cheating on ordinary people for a decade. I have witnessed Asia Energy’s violence in Bangladesh, heard the cries of the victims and seen tears of non-violent protesters who were injured in GCM’s inflicted violence in one of Bangladesh’s most harmonious, flood protected and green place. GCM want to destroy the region and livelihood of the people in Phulbari. GCM’s CEO Gary Lye has been targeting local opponents. They must be held to account. ”

The London rally is co-hosted by a wide coalition of groups including Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network, Foil Vedanta, Christian Climate Action, Extinction Rebellion Youth, and Reclaim The Power. The protest is expected to be theatrical and hard hitting with participants wearing black clothes and masks, forming human chain, paying tribute with red roses to the memorial of the three killed, and singing songs of mourning and resistance from the Phulbari struggle to commemorate the lost lives.

Akhter Khan from the Committee to Protect Natural Resources of Bangladesh – UK branch (4), says:

We demand that London Stock Exchange must de-list GCM as the company do not have valid license to conduct business in Phulbari. LSE must not allow GCM’s deceitful money grabbing from the share market. ”

Kofi Mawuli Klu from Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network UK says:

XRISN-UK stands with the Phulbari Solidarity Group, the National Committee and all Environmental Justice campaigners in and outside Bangladesh in solemn remembrance not only of those martyred but also of those who survived to continue fighting up till now for real Change for a better World! It is with the blood of the heroic likes of the Phulbari martyrs that our XR International Rebellion is fuelled; and this gives us the assurance that the Struggle will continue relentlessly through the turbulence of this dangerous time of Climate and Ecological Emergency; it will continue till we overcome to usher in the victories they deserve.”

A letter signed by 12 transnational climate justice organisations under the coalition of Phulbari Solidarity has been sent to LSE Financial Director, demanding that GCM is investigated and de-listed for its crimes and fraudulent selling of shares without any valid asset. The letter points out that GCM is one of a string of London listed mining companies linked to the murder or ‘massacre’ of protesters, including Lonmin, Glencore, Kazakhmys, ENRC, Essar, Vedanta, Anglo Gold Ashanti, African Barrick Gold and Monterrico Metals. It notes the failure of the Financial Conduct Authority or the London Stock Exchange to investigate or penalise any London listed mining company on these grounds, and notes that this is bringing the LSE into disrepute.

 

 

More information on the Phulbari massacre can be found at:

Video footage of killings in Phulbari: https://phulbarisolidaritygroup.blog/videos/

Facts about Phulbari coal project at a glance: https://www.banktrack.org/download/the_phulbari_coal_project/iap_factsheet_footnotes_the_final_0.pdf

 

Contact for further information: Miriam Rose ( miriam.rose@outlook.com ) to organise statements or interviews with any of the host organisations or case studies.

 

 

#PhulbariDayVigil #CoalMurder

 

 

 

BLACK VIGIL for Phulbari Victims in London

What? Rage and Rally outside London Stock Exchange

When? On Friday, 23 August, at 9AM to1PM

Where?  10 Paternoster Square, London EC4M 7LS, UK. (nearest tube station: St Paul’s)

 

Hand-painted banner for victims of Phulbari shooting, 26 August 2016. Photocredit: Peter Marshall.

On 26 August in 2006 three people were shot dead and more than two hundreds injured in a non-violent demonstration of 80,000 people against a London-listed mining company, Global Coal Resources Management (GCM), who want to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 1,30000 people in Phulbari of northwest Bangladesh. The three killed were young people. The day has been marked as Phulbari Day ever since.

 

Although powerful resistance in the aftermath of the shooting against the coal mine has put a decade long halt to the project, the company continues its dodgy deals. GCM is aggressively moving ahead to build an open-cast coal mine in Phulbari. They have recently signed two new MOUs with two Chinese companies, and are lobbying with Bangladesh government for approval of the project.

 

GCM do not have a valid contract with Bangladesh. Following the unauthorised shooting and killings in violence inflicted by GCM’s Bangladesh subsidiary, Asia Energy, the government declined to renew the company’s license in 2010. But GCM’s CEO filed multiple cases against 26 community organisers in Phulbari and Dinajpur. They are also selling shares in the name of Phulbari project in the London Stock Exchange.

 

We have alerted London Stock Exchange about GCM’s fraudulent business. Phulbari Solidarity Group, Foil Vedanta, London Mining Network and the UK Committee to Protect Natural Resources in Bangladesh had previously asked London Stock Exchange to de-list GCM. But there was no response to our calls.

 

  • As Phulbari Day marks 13th anniversary this August, we will rally and rage outside the London Stock Exchange on Friday the 23rd August. Coordinated by Phulbari Solidarity Group, this year we will march together with climate activists at Christian Climate Action, Committee to Protect Natural Resources of Bangladesh, Extinction Rebellion, Foil Vedanta, and Reclaim the Power. While anxious people in Phulbari are paying tribute to victims in Phulbari memorial on 26 August, we stand in solidarity with the communities by rallying at London Stock Exchange. We will be commemorating the lost lives by rallying against GCM in London.

 

  • We will pay a creative tribute to Al-Amin (13), Salekin (16) and Tariqul (19). We will form a Vigil by wearing BLACK clothes. We will sing songs of loss and struggle.

 

We ask London Stock Exchange to De-list GCM NOW.

JOIN THE VIGIL on at 9AM on Friday 23 August!

Come along with your friends and families for a non-violent rally and creative action at London Stock Exchange.

  • Wear Black as symbol of grief, dirty coal and anguish!
  • Bring along musical instruments, own placards and ideas for creative actions:)

Please confirm your attendance here on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/events/219008188986792/

#PhulbariDayRally

Memorial of Al-Amin, Salekin and Tariqul in Phulbari. Photocredit: Nuruzzaman

Solidarity with #PowerBeyondBorders Campaigners

The below message was delivered to the Reclaim the Power’s Power Beyond Borders camp on Tuesday, 30 July. It was written in solidarity to those who took a series of incredible actions against UK Home Office, Hallmark Depot and Drax. The statement written by PSG founder Rumana Hashem, was read out by Put Down the Sword’s founder Angela Ditchfield on behalf of all at Phulbari Solidarity Group.

This message comes from the hearts of Bangladeshi migrants and environmental activists at Phulbari Solidarity Group. We congratulate the super dedicated climate and migrants rights activists at the Power Beyond Borders camp. We wish we could be in the camp with you. Due to our visa, immigration status, and other material issues we couldn’t be physically there but we wanted to let you know that we are with you in spirit.

It is heartening to see climate activists at the Power Beyond Borders camp are taking just actions as required for five days. It is splendid that Reclaim the Power network have reached out to migrants and Black and Minority Ethnic groups for an inclusive climate justice action. Thank you for taking an intersectional approach to climate struggles and for seeking to build a planet free of fossil fuel, and of exploitation and hostility.

There is no doubt that climate change is interrelated with migration and refugee “crisis”. Those of us are fighting at the frontline of climate campaign in Bangladesh and Phulbari know very well that our goods, including coal and gas are allowed to cross borders – as robbed by certain corporations such as the UK-based Global Coal Resources Management and Tullow Oil Plc. The governments in the UK and elsewhere are fully aware of this free movement of goods from Bangladesh, and let their companies to inflict violence killing indigenous people in northwest Bangladesh.  But our people, especially students and migrants in the UK, are not welcome or treated with respect.

Due to hostile environment and new immigration legislation by Theresa May, more than 7,000 legal Bangladeshi students were forced to leave the UK between 2014 and 2017. ‘Accusations of faking English tests came amid department’s “hostile environment” policy. A Financial Times report showed that the Home Office may have falsely accused as many as 7,000 international students of faking their proficiency in English and ordered them to leave the country, with some of them saying they were detained and made homeless as a result’ (Financial Times, 01 May 2018). At a personal level, the author of this statement of solidarity has experienced hostility for years in Britain. Despite Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, this author’s work permit was curtailed for three years (2014-2017). I was forced to collect a second/fresh biometric and pay £280 for no good reason. During the renewal of biometric, there was no paid work and no money to survive. There was only a feeling of vulnerability and of being unwelcome.

This is not an uncommon story. Thousands of international im/migrants have undergone such harassment and face hostility in the UK. If you are a climate activist, your burden would be doubled.

The same government let toxic corporations to forcibly displace 1,30000 people including 50, 000 indigenous families from Phulbari of northwest Bangladesh.  A London-listed company called the Global Coal Management (GCM) Resources Plc. want to build a massive open cast coal mine by polluting our water and livelihood, grabbing our land, homes, and by exploiting government. Over the course of 30 years of coal extraction, GCM would like to export 94 percent of extracted coal and give only 6 percent to Bangladesh government.  They would enjoy a tax holiday and would not pay any tax for the extracted coals for 9 years.

When non-violent people took to the streets to protest, they faced violence by company-hired security forces. Three people were shot dead and 200 plus injured in unauthorised shooting, which shook up entire Bangladesh. But the company is aggressively moving ahead to build the mine without a license from Bangladesh government.

This one story tells a lot about UK government’s inaction to climate and migration issues. When evicted people from Phulbari would want to enter the UK and re-make home in London, would UK’s Home Office let those people? We know the answer is “NOT likely”. Migrants’ rights and climate justice are inseparable issues. Thank you for taking this interconnected actions by risking your bodies.

We are saddened to hear that police targeted some activists after the protest at UK Home Office on Monday. The hostility against migrants is once again visible.

We stand in solidarity with all activists at Power Beyond Borders. Congratulations for your deliberation and your efforts to bring in justice.

Sending courage, peace and power to the camp!

Long Live Power Beyond Borders!

Anxious Phulbari people to be evicted. File photo. Courtesy: NCBD

 

Ensure Security to Anu Muhammad: Denounce Government’s Inaction to Save the Sundarbans

Joint Statement by

Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network and Phulbari Solidarity Group

Friday the 26th July was International Mangrove Day when the world was believed to celebrate mangrove action for conservation of the mangrove and associated ecosystems. Whilst climate activists in the minority world such as USA celebrate mangrove action month, activists in the majority world face unspeakable repression during this mangrove action month.  We note on 12 July a dedicated mangrove rights activist and a leader of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh (NCBD), Professor Anu Muhammad, was threatened to be kidnapped and silenced by malevolent terrorist claiming to be from India. This is appalling.

The threat to the professor came on the day after he wrote an article exposing government’s responsibility to prevent coal plants in the vicinity of the Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Professor Anu Muhammad is a renowned economist, a fearless climate activist, and the member secretary of the central NCBD. He should inspire us all. In our shock we read that he was told to pay BDT 400,000 and threatened to be kidnapped, otherwise.  Although he reported the incident to police straightaway on the same day, Bangladeshi police are yet to take action. Such malicious threat to Anu Muhammad and police inaction are abysmal.

We call on the government of Bangladesh to urgently enquire into the case and to provide security to Professor Anu Muhammad.  Police should inspect, identify and prosecute the criminals, and ensure that such intimidation never happens again.

Notably this is not the first time that Professor Anu Muhammad was intimidated. In February 2008 he was threatened to be killed. In September 2009 the same professor, along with 50 other NCBD activists, was brutally beaten by the state-security forces to such extent that he merely survived. He was opposing government’s decision to award gas and oil exploration rights in the Bay of Bengal to US based gas company called ConocoPhillips and the UK-based oil company Tullow Oil plc. who took Bangladesh government hostage for three blocks and wanted to export up to 80 per cent of gas from the country.  In 2018, Anu Muhammad, received further death threat by malicious extremists. But no action for his security was taken by the government so far.

NCBD march against Rampal deal to handover statement to PM of Bangladesh in Dhaka 28 July 2016. Courtesy: Anonymous NCBD activist.

We note it is not only Anu Muhammad who faced such threats in Bangladesh. Over the past several years during save the Sundrabans movement many Bangladeshi climate justice activists underwent intimidation and heightened insecurity including police brutality for their actions to protect mangrove and ecological justice. In 2016 on this day, police foiled non-violent demonstration and unleashed violence on those who marched to conserve the mangrove ecosystem in Bangladesh.

We express our intense disturbance to such intimidation, repression and government’s inaction to protect voices of mangrove in Bangladesh.  Bangladeshi mangrove rights activists deserve better.

We also explicitly condemn ongoing destruction of the Sundarbans, one of the world’s largest mangrove forests, located at the Indian-Bangladeshi border in south-west Bangladesh.  An Indian National Thermal Power Company and Bangladesh Power Development Board are building a joint venture coal power plant to produce 1,320 megawatt coal fired power in Rampal, within 14 kilometers of the Sundarbans.  The detrimental aspects of the project were highlighted by national and international experts. But the governments have so far ignored all criticisms.  Bangladesh government’s decision to implement the destructive Rampal coal power-plant near the Sundarbans is disgraceful.

We express our unambiguous support to activists of the Bangladesh National Committee and associated grassroots organisations as they are opposed by the destruction of the beautiful forests in the Sundarbans. The Sundarbans mangrove is an invaluable ecosystem along Bangladesh’s coast. Government of Bangladesh should take responsibilities to protect the mangrove site.

On this International Mangorve Action month, we stand firm in solidarity with Bangladeshi climate activists to take action to save the mangrove. Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network and Phulbari Solidarity will be watching development in Bangladeshi climate struggle.

 

#SavetheSundarbans

Contact for further information:

Kofi Mawuli Klu, Joint Coordinator, Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network

Email: mawusafo@yahoo.com

Rumana Hashem, Coordinator, Phulbari Solidarity Group                                                               Email: rowshonrumana@gmail.com

UNESCO Ask To Halt All Industrial Constructions Near Sundarbans Before SEA

 

Activists condemn UNESCO for failing to list the Sundarbans to “World Heritage in Danger”

 

By Akhter Khan

 

Despite heavy lobbying by Bangladesh government and Chinese coal diplomats, UNESCO held the ground by asking to halt all industrial constructions near the Sundarbans. On Thursday 4 July at the 43rd meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Baku the committee agreed a decision that “notes with great concerns the likely environmental impacts of large scale industrial projects” and asked Bangladesh government to “take all necessary mitigation measures”.

The committee asked the government to conduct a regional Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) by the end of 2019. It “expresses concern that 154 industrial projects upstream of the property are currently active, and reiterates the Committee’s request in Paragraph 4 of Decision 41 COM B.25”. The government has been asked to “ensure that any large-scale industrial and/or infrastructure developments will not be allowed to proceed before the SEA has been completed.”

The government of Bangladesh, backed by Chinese coal lobbyists, has maintained the Rampal project was put through a thorough environmental assessment process. But the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has disputed this claim.

Bangladeshi and transnational campaigners to save the Sundarbans condemned the decision of UNESCO for it has moved away from the earlier draft decision of the committee. The earlier draft did express grave concerns to the construction of three coal plants in the area. But the final decision re-drafted by China, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cuba, Hungary and Norway fails to recognise the threats linked to the coal plants near Sundarbans.

We should name and shame those members of the Committee that removed mention of danger of coal plants in the final declaration. UNESCO’s final decision is cowardly. But we also note it doesn’t approve building of any coal plants or industrial constructions in the vicinity before a Strategic Environmental Assessment is completed, said Dr Rumana Hashem, the Phulbari Solidarity spokesperson and an organiser of transnational campaign to save the Sundarbans.

An earlier draft decision of the Committee citing the site as a ‘Heritage in danger’ was indisputably supported by climate campaigners and earth defenders from across the world. On Monday 1st July, a petition initiated by Bangladeshi diaspora campaigners in the UK and Europe, and signed by 53 global ecological and grassroots climate justice organisations demanded UNESCO must recognise the threats posed to the Sundarbans.  There were other calls and messages sent from across the globe to the World Heritage Committee to save the Sundarbans.

Despite all calls, the Committee allowed amendments to the original draft decision. It also failed to acknowledge the existence of economical renewable energy options which were recommended by biodiversity experts. The Alternative Power and Energy Plan for Bangladesh, recommended by the energy experts belonging to the Save the Sundarbans movement articulate that it is possible to generate up to 91,700 MW of electricity through renewable sources. The Committee overlooked the Alternative Energy Plan.

Professor Anu Muhammad, the Member Secretary of NCBD said that: Yeras ago, UNESCO from its own research and investigations confirmed the danger of Rampal coal fired project for the survival of Sundarban. The global institution has to do more to save the Sundarban. The government and the corporations have been lobbying to rationalize disastrous projects there.

He added: People will not accept such decision. Lobbying and propaganda cannot hide the truth. We demand that the governments of both Bangladesh and India will come to senses to scrap the Rampal project immediately. When we say YES to the Sundarbans, we must say NO to Rampal and other destructive projects in the vicinity. 

Cultural Survival, Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace Russia, Global Justice Forum, London Mining Network, Mangrove Action Project, Reclaim The Power, South Asia Solidarity, 350.org, Urgewald and 43 other environmental organisations from Asia, Afrika, Australia, Canada, Europe, East Europe, Middle East, UK and US stand firm in solidarity with Bangladeshi communities to prevent destructive coal projects in Bangladesh.

Urgewald’s Director, Knud Vöcking, stated:  Again the Sundarbans are threatened by fossil fuel projects. UNESCO has to step up but they failed!

Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network’s joint cooridinator, Kofi Mawuli Klu, as a signatory of Monday’s petition stated:

For the Internationalist Solidarity imperatives of our Climate and Ecological Emergency International Rebellion demand, we boldly take sides with grassroots Communities of Resistance at the Global South front ranks of defending World Heritage sites like the Sundarbans. We stand firm with the communities to prevent their loss from worsening the looming catastrophe. The most decisive victories of our International Rebellion will be won on such Global South battlegrounds as the Sundarbans, to effectively save all Humanity and our entire planet Earth.

 

Stop-rampal-coal-power-plant-poster-by Rudro Rothi.

Which are the coal plants that threaten the Sundarbans?

There are three coal plants that threaten the Sundarbans. The first plant is being built by a joint venture of Bangladesh and India’s state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation at Rampal, within 14 kilometers north of the world Heritage site. There are two other plants to be built at Taltoli and Kalapara as joint Chinese-Bangladeshi ventures. The mentions of these later ones were taken out by the Chinese amendment to the final draft decision at the 43rd session on 4 July.

The pollution and dredging from these coal plants will, as a mission from the IUCN in 2016 reported, enduringly damage the world’s mangrove forests. There are also plans for two additional coal plants to be built on the Payra port, by Chinese investments, which would threaten the ecological buffer zone.

 

#SavetheSundarbans #NotoRampalCoalPowerPlant

We Call on the World Heritage Committee to Intervene to Stop Bangladesh’s Government from Pushing the Sundarbans Towards Destruction

The Bengal Tiger in River Pashur at the Sundarbans on 26 July 2016. Courtesy: Anonymous photographer, NCBD.

In the light of ongoing threats on the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, located at the Indian-Bangladeshi border, we write to the country delegates to the 43rd Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee by calling for an urgent intervention into Bangladesh government’s decision to implement the destructive Rampal coal power-plant.

 

As concerned global citizens, earth defenders, climate organisations and researchers, and members of Bangladeshi environmental groups abroad, we express our unequivocal support to the draft decision generated by international biodiversity experts and to be discussed and voted in Baku on 4 July 2019. We welcome the draft decision that calls in particular to halt the construction of the coal plants at Rampal, Taltali and Kalapara and 154 other active industrial activities in southwest Bangladesh until the exact impacts for the forest have been critically assessed.

 

The Sundarbans mangrove forest is an invaluable ecosystem along Bangladesh’s coast and the government of Bangladesh should take responsibility to protect the mangrove site. Ahead of the 43rd Session in Baku where 21 member states on the Committee will discuss the status of the Sundarbans forest, we caution also that declaring it a “World Heritage Site in Danger” will not suffice. This will be a first step only. We recognise the imminent danger threatening the mangrove forest, where such a decision is needed. However, the Committee should take a more bold and positive step to bring in a solution to the problem faced by the affected communities and the World Heritage.

 

The outcome of such declaration should not mean that the World’s largest mangrove forest being an isolated or left over site, diminishing its original status. In our view the World Heritage Committee should take an important and positive step by first declaring the Sundarbans as a “Heritage in Danger” and asking the Bangladesh government to immediately comply with UNESCO guidelines for the protection and conservation of this universal common heritage. The Committee should ask the government to ensure that the mangrove being not harmed in the future. This could be done by consistent monitoring of the activities across the site, which the government should be accountable for.

 

The Committee could also ask the government to follow the Alternative Power and Energy Plan for Bangladesh, crafted by the energy experts belonging to the Save the Sundarbans movement that articulate that it is possible to generate up to 91,700 MW of electricity through renewable sources.

 

The government in Bangladesh do not recognise the cost of fossil fuel and harms done by ongoing industrial developments in the vicinity of Sundarbans. There are significant evidence of ongoing dredging and construction in the vicinity of the Sundarbans that overlooked appropriate measures to limit water and soil pollution. Despite thorough critiques by national and international climate experts and scientists, industrial projects near this intricate ecosystem continue. This situation is saddening.

 

Thus we call on the Country Delegates to the World Heritage Committee to immediately:

 

  1. Declare the site as a “Heritage in Danger” and take positive steps to save the Sundarbans;
  2. Ask Bangladesh government to withdraw from the move to build coal-power plants near the Sundarbans;
  3. To reiterate that it is the government’s responsibility to protect mangrove forests and to comply with the UNESCO World Heritage recommendations as elaborated in the draft decision;
  4. Tell Bangladesh government to overhaul all industrial installations of destructive enterprises in the area;
  5. To consult the Alternative Power and Energy Plan for Bangladesh as a way forward for meeting energy needs of the country.

 

Sincerely,

 

We the undersigned:*

 

  1. Akhter Sobhan Khan Masroor, Committee to Protect Natural Resources of Bangladesh, the UK branch.
  2. Alfredo Quarto, Mangrove Action Project, USA.
  3. Amrit Wilson, South Asia Solidarity Group, London.
  4. Amy Caitlin, Extinction Rebellion London, UK.
  5. Anna Gaynutdinova, ICOMOS Russia Board member.
  6. Andrea Martínez-Fernández, World Heritage Office of San Antonio (US/ICOMOS Int´l Exchange Intern), Texas.
  7. Anna Fisk, Extinction Rebellion Scotland.
  8. Delphine Djiraibe, Public Interest Law Centre, TCHAD, North-central Afrika.
  9. Danielle DeLuca, Cultural Survival, USA.
  10. Dominique Palmer, Extinction Rebellion Youth, London.
  11. Elena Belokurova, German-Russian Exchange St. Petersburg.
  12. Eman Shokry Hesham, The World Heritage Watch.
  13. Environics R. Sreedhar, Environics Trust, India.
  14. Ercan Ayboga, Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive and Platform No to the Destruction of Sur, Turkey.
  15. Esther Stanford-Xosei, Coordinator-General, Stop The Maangamizi:We Charge Genocide/Ecocide Campaign.
  16. Eugene Simonov, Coordinator, Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition.
  17. Farwiza Farhan, Chairperson, Yayasan HAkA, Indonesia.
  18. Fe Haslam, Global Justice Forum
  19. Geoff Law AM, Wilderness Society, Australia.
  20. Gunter Wippel, MENSCHENRECHTE (HUMAN RIGHTS) 3000 e.V., Germany.
  21. Humaida Abdulghafoor, Save Maldives Campaign, Maldives.
  22. Jessica Lawrence, Earthjustice, USA.
  23. Dr Kat Kramer, Christian Aid, UK.
  24. Kofi Mawuli Klu, Joint Coordinator, Extinction Rebellion Internationalist Solidarity Network (XRISN), London, UK.
  25. Knud Voecking, Urgewald, Germany.
  26. Luiz Fernando Vieira, Coordinator, The Breton Woods Project, Critical Voices on the World Bank and IMF, UK.
  27. Marion Hammerl, Global Nature Fund
  28. Mikhail Kreyndlin, Greenpeace Russia.
  29. Maurizio Farhan Ferrari, Forest Peoples Programme, UK.
  30. Mª Alejandra Piazzolla Ramírez, Extinction Rebellion Youth, Bristol,
  31. Melody Lepine, Mikisew Cree First Nation.
  32. Mostafa Farook, European Branch of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh.
  33. Nils Agger, Risingup! UK.
  34. Norly Mercado, Asia Regional Director, 350.Org.
  35. Paul V. Dudman, Refugee Council Archive, University of East London.
  36. Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation.
  37. Pieter Jansen, Both ENDS.
  38. Richard Hering, Extinction Rebellion London.
  39. Richard Roberts, Reclaim the Power ‘Frack Free Three’, London, UK.
  40. Richard Solly, London Mining Network, UK.
  41. Rohit Prajapati, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti Gujarat, India.
  42. Dr Rafiqul Hassan Khan (Jinnah),President, Rivers Saving Network UK
  43. Rumana Hashem, Coordinator, Phulbari Solidarity Group.
  44. Saeed Baloch, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Pakistan.
  45. Salman Khairalla,Director,Tigris River Protector Association (Humat Dijlah), Iraq.
  46. Syed Babul, Bengalische Kulture Forum, Germany.
  47. Sukhgerel Dugersuren, Oyu Tolgoi Watch, Mongolia.
  48. Stephan Doempke, Chairman, World Heritage Watch, Germany.
  49. Stephanie Fried, Ulu Foundation, USA
  50. Sergiu Musteata, ICOMOS Moldova
  51. Virginia Young, Australian Rainforest Conservation Society
  52. Vidya Dinker, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)
  53. Yulia Naberezhnaya, Russian Geographical Society, Member of the World Commission on Protected Areas in the North Eurasia Region. Russia.

 

*Names of signatories on this list are re-organised around the alphabetical order of ‘First names’. There is no first or second signatory. All signatories share the same sentiment, equally.  The signatories are the spokespersons of organisations that they represent in the letter above. The signatures close here.

 

A rally with handmade dummy of rare Bengal Tiger was brought about by the rural green-cultural activists at Samageet to Save the Sundarbans in Narsingdhi, Bangladesh (14 April 2016). The Bengal Tigers are decreasing by ongoing dredging in the area and they would gradually disappear if building of coal plants continue around Rampal. File photo. Photocredit: Anonymous PSG activist.

#SAVESUNDARBANS #NOtoCOALPLANTS #SAVEtheSUNDARBANS

Vibrant Protests Held at HSBC AGM

Protesters Demand that the Bank Stops Fuelling War and Climate Crisis

By Raaj Manik

 

Last Friday Birmingham witnessed colourful and powerful protests by an alliance of anti-militarism, climate groups and pro-Palestinian rights activists who have joined forces to demand that banking giant HSBC ends its complicity in climate change, military occupation and war.

 

In the morning of 12th April, protesters gathered outside the International Convention Centre at 8 Centenary Square in Birmingham where HSBC’s AGM was being held. Under the slogan “No War, No Warming” a loud group of activists occupied the front entrance of the lavish building to speak out against the bank’s involvement in the climate crisis and militarised conflict around the planet. Activists said that HSBC has poured £43bn into fossil fuels, whilst investing over £830m in arms companies in the last three years alone. They accused the bank being involved in syndicated loans to the arms sector exceeding £18.9bn.

 

Protests outside HSBC AGM was held in Birmingham on 12 April 2019

There have already been campaigning successes, with anti-militarism and pro-Palestinian rights groups pushing HSBC to divest from Israel’s biggest arms manufacturer, Elbit Systems, last December and climate groups winning tighter restrictions on the bank’s coal policy last April though, protesters say that HSBC’s policies, lending practices and exposure give cause for an escalation in action and demands.

 

Lise Masson, a climate campaigner at BankTrack said: “For too long now big banks like HSBC have been pouring billions into climate-wrecking fossil fuels every year. HSBC is one of the biggest fossil fuel financiers, supporting projects that not only damage our climate but also ravage frontline communities across the world. HSBC needs to massively step up its climate ambition, concretely that means ending its financial support for all fossil fuels.”

 

Huda Ammori, Campaigns Officer at Palestine Solidarity Campaign, stated that: “Despite divesting from Elbit Systems following campaigning pressure, HSBC continues to invest in companies supplying weapons and military technology to Israel such as Caterpillar, which makes the armoured bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian homes and communities. Our message today is clear – HSBC must end its complicity in war crimes and military occupation, and cut ties with all companies that profit from the violent repression of the Palestinian people.”

 

Protests outside HSBC AGM was held in Birmingham on Friday 12 April 2019.

As research shows that a heating climate has been a contributing factor behind wars in the Middle East, protesters assert that a cycle of war and warming increasingly binds anti-militarism and climate campaigners to the same cause. The groups highlight that in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, oil, gas and coal are being pulled from the ground under the watchful gaze of state-military and militias.

 

HSBC also continues to finance new coal-fired power plants in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia.  All three countries are on the front line of climate change and have significant renewable energy potential, a crucial tool to sustainable poverty eradication.

 

Bangladesh National Committee protest outside HSBC AGM in Birmingham on Friday 12 April 2019

Akhter Khan Masroor, Member Secretary of NCBD, UK said: “Whilst coal mines funded by HSBC destroyed the ecology and livelihoods in Colombia and Russia, HSBC’s new investment in coal business in the Delta region is a threat to livelihoods in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam. Bangladesh is the most vulnerable country to climate change. As HSBC’s coal financing policy for Bangladesh will push it into more danger, we demand they do not invest in coal in Bangladesh and in the delta region. We do not need dirty coal energy. HSBC must also stop arming the Israeli state that is killing the people of Palestine.”

 

Protests against HSBC’s financing of war and climate change have been coordinated by groups including 350.org, War on Want, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, BankTrack, and Bangladeshi diaspora groups NCBD UK and Phulbari Solidarity Group. Campaigners say they will continue to lobby and protest against HSBC until it divests fully from the fossil fuel industry and the arms trade.

 

School strikers protests outside HSBC AGM in Birmingham on Friday 12 April 2019

Previously, climate and anti-militarism groups have challenged HSBC on separate terms, but have now come together in a collective show of force to demand that the bank severs ties with companies that are at the root of war crimes and global warming.

 

Read further news:

Our house is on fire but its business as usual at the HSBC AGM say the activists who took action to get HSBC to #stopfundingdestruction : http://bit.ly/2IyWXN0 

BDS Victory: HSBC Divests From Elbit
https://waronwant.org/media/bds-victory-hsbc-divests-elbit

HSBC Accused of Hypocrisy for Coal Finance Ban That Excludes Countries Most Vulnerable to Climate Change
https://www.desmog.co.uk/2018/10/16/hsbc-accused-hypocrisy-coal-finance-ban-excludes-countries-most-vulnerable-climate-change

HSBC has recently announced it has appetite to finance coal in Bangladesh and in the delta region, despite research showing that pollution caused by coal expansion in South-East Asia will cause tens of thousands of deaths.

Add your name to the petition with protesters calling on the bank to change its policies with respect to finance for fossil fuel projects and weapon manufacturers: https://350.org/hsbc/#petition 

LANDMARK JURISDICTION CASE WON BY ZAMBIAN FARMERS AT SUPREME COURT

PRESS RELEASE by Foil Vedanta

Historic victory opens the door for global claimants to seek justice against British multinationals in the UK

 

The Supreme Court on Wednesday the 10th April announced its verdict in the landmark case of the Zambian communities consistently polluted by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a subsidiary of British miner Vedanta Resources Plc, allowing them to have their case against the parent company and its subsidiary tried in the UK. The ruling sets a strong legal precedent which will allow people with claims against subsidiaries of British multinationals to sue the parent company in the UK.

The judgment by Chief Justice Lady Hale, and four further judges, re-affirms the rulings of the Court of Technology and Construction in 2016 and the Court of Appeal in 2017. Lady Hale refused Vedanta’s pleas in appealing the former judgments stating that, contrary to the claims of Vedanta’s lawyers:

  • the claimants do have a bona fide claim against Vedanta

  • the company does owe a duty of care to the claimants, especially in view of the existence of company wide policies on environment and health and safety.

  • that the size and complexity of the case, and the lack of funding for claimants at ‘at the poorer end of the poverty scale in one of the poorest countries of the world’ means that do not have substantive access to justice in Zambia.

The 1,826 claimants, represented by UK law firm Leigh Day, are from farming and fishing communities downstream of KCM’s mines and plants. They claim to have suffered continual pollution since UK firm Vedanta Resources bought KCM in 2004, including a major incident in 2006 which turned the River Kafue bright blue with copper sulphate and acid, and poisoned water sources for 40,000 people(2). 2,001 claimants took KCM to court in Zambia in 2007. The courts found KCM guilty but denied the communities compensation after a nine year legal battle. As a result the victims took their case to UK lawyers.

James Nyasulu from Chingola, a long term campaigner in the case, and lead claimant in the Zambian cases, issued this statement:

The Supreme Court judgment will finally enable justice for the thousands of victims of pollution by KCM’s mining activities, who have suffered immensely since 2006 to date, in the Chingola district of Zambia. Their livelihoods, land and health have been irreparably damaged by pollution which has rendered the River Kafue completely polluted and unable to support aquatic life. Some have already died as a result.

We are very grateful to the British Supreme Court for allowing the case to be tried in the UK where we trust that justice will finally be done. As our thirteen years of legal battles have shown, we have been unable to get justice in Zambia.”

Now that the Supreme Court has confirmed their permission to have the case tried in the UK the case itself can begin.

Samarendra Das from Foil Vedanta said:

As the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals recognise, sustainable development and access to justice go hand in hand. The judges ruling today recognises and enforces that principle.

Criminal companies like Vedanta can no longer so easily whitewash their reputation and assume a ‘cloak of respectability’ by virtue of a London listing. This is an historic day for victims of British multinational’s abuses worldwide.”

In a further development Vedanta Resources de-listed from the London Stock Exchange on 1st October 2018, amid global protests following the killing of 13 people, shot by police during protests against the company’s copper smelter in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, India. Commentators (including Foil Vedanta in their comprehensive report on the company’s global operations entitled ‘Vedanta’s Billions: Regulatory failure, environment and human rights’)1 claimed the company were fleeing regulation in the UK. However, Vedanta remains liable in the UK for damages arising from the Zambian case.

It is now possible that claimants from some of the many of the Indian communities affected by pollution and human rights abuses by Vedanta may also seek to get justice in the UK.

In April 2016 a High Court ruling granted the claimants jurisdiction to have their case against KCM and Vedanta heard in the UK, citing KCM’s uncertain and opaque finances as one reason they may not be able to get justice in Zambia. The Court of Appeal upheld this verdict in July 2017.2(3)

2 Dominic Liswaniso Lungowe and others vs Vedanta Resources Plc and Konkola Copper Mines Plc. (13 Oct, 2017)

Support Three XR Activists at Court – Show Solidarity with Bangladesh

This Wednesday 10th April, Amy, Angela and Shulamit face the City of London Magistrate’s court for defending the affected communities in Phulbari and for disrupting AGM of a bullying extractive company, GCM Resources, in London. Please come to support and show solidarity with the brave activists and with abused Bangladeshi communities.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019 from 09:30-11:30 UTC+01

City of London Magistrate’s court

1 Queen Victoria Street, EC4N 4XY

London, United Kingdom.

 

The three arrests happened at the AGM for Global Coal Management (GCM) Resources Plc. on 28th December 2019. GCM is an AIM-listed British company whose sole purpose is to build a 6000MW massive open pit coal mine in the only flood protected area in Bangladesh, the Phulbari, in northwest region.

Building the mine will involve displacement of up to 220,000 people including 50,000 indigenous people from 23 tribes, destroying their ancient culture which can be traced back 5,000 years. The mine will drain and pollute the water supply for the 230,000, destroy 14,600 hecters of areas of the most fertile agricultural land in Bangladesh whilst only 6 percent of the coal or profit will remain in the country.

The project will damage the UNESCO world heritage site, the Sundarban Mangroves where the endangered Bengal Tigers live.

Why do corporations hold the power to do this? This is ecocide.

Three people including a 13 year old-child in Phulbari have been killed protesting this mine.  Activists have been abused by the company’s CEO who filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 community leaders. The company’s Bangladesh subsidiary, Asia Energy, was also allegedly involved in the murder of Nasrin Huq who was fighting the controversial Phulbari coal project.

 

The courageous Extinction Rebellion activists decided their personal consequences are of less importance than putting their bodies in the way of this criminal activity.

 

JOIN Us with friends and family outside and inside the court, if you are around London.

If you are not in London, please show your solidarity by sending a message of support on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/371034560412653/

Stop #GCM Blockade The #Coal Burglars

On Friday 28 December in 2018, Bangladeshi protesters and transnational campaigners against the development of coal mines in the Phulbari region of Bangladesh blocked the entrance to the venue of a London based company Global Coal Management  (GCM) Resources’ annual general meeting in central London. Activists disrupted the AGM by occupying the front entrance for four hours from 9am to 1pm on Friday. All major shareholders including GCM’s Head of Corporate Affairs Brian Mooney were blocked out, they waited angrily outside, then gave up and went home.

Activists were particularly angry about GCM Resources’  recent claim that they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Power China Ltd. to develop a giant coal mine in Phulbari and their plans to build a 6000 megawatt power plant.

If the mine is built, it would lead to forceddisplacement of up to 230, 000 people over the 36-year life cycle of the project. It will increase poverty, water pollution and will plunder 14,600 hecters of Bangladesh’s most fertile and productive agricultural land in the region, causing a crisis of food production. It will have a devastating impact on the people and the environment.

Watch a short video of the demo outside of the GCM’s AGM:

PRESS RELEASE: London Protesters Disrupted GCM’s AGM

PRESS RELEASE: London Protesters Disrupted GCM’s AGM

  • Activists Blocked the Front Entrance of the AGM for Four Hours

  • Three Arrested as Protesters Glued Themselves to the Entrance of the Venue

  • GCM’s Chairman Michael Tang Failed to Attend the AGM

  • Protesters Successfully Disrupted AGM

London, 28 December 2018: Bangladeshi protesters and transnational campaigners against the development of coal mines in the Phulbari region of Bangladesh blocked the entrance to the venue of the London based company GCM Resources’ annual general meeting in central London. Activists disrupted the AGM by occupying the front entrance for four hours from 9am to 1pm on Friday, 28 December. All major shareholders including GCM’s Head of Corporate Affairs Brian Mooney were blocked out, they waited angrily outside, then gave up and went home.

Three “Friends of Phulbari Solidarity” blocked the foyer of 33 Cavendish Square at 9am on Friday, 28 December 2018. Copyright: Samarendra Das.

Three activists superglued themselves to the entrance turnstiles of the lavish building of 33 Cavendish Square where GCM had planned to hold their AGM. The activists self-identified as “Friends of Phulbari Solidarity” refused to move until specialist police used solvents to detach them, then make arrests. Outside the building 30 more obstructed the entrance holding banners, chanting slogans and singing Christmas carols against the bullying coal mining company.

If the mine is built, it would lead to forceddisplacement of up to 230, 000 people over the 36-year life cycle of the project. It will increase poverty, water pollution and will plunder 14,600 hecters of Bangladesh’s most fertile and productive agricultural land in the region, causing a crisis of food production. It will have a devastating impact on the people and the environment. In return Bangladesh government would gain nothing but economic exploitation, said activists at Phulbari Solidarity Group.

A placard displayed outside 33 Cavendish Square by the Bangladesh National Committee’s UK branch asked the Financial Conduct Authority of London Stock Exchange to de-list GCM.  On Friday, 28 December 2018. Copyright: Golam Rabbani/PSG.

Noisy and jolly protesters sang Christmas jingles “Phulbari says NO! GCM must GO! We won’t let you trade in England. Or pollute Bangladesh”! Friday, 28 December 2018. Copyright: Paul Dudman.

Construction of the plant is dependent on approval from the Bangladeshi government who previously shelved plans for the development following massive protests in 2006. The 80,000 people’s peaceful and powerful march was attacked by paramilitary forces resulting in the deaths of three protesters and injured 220 more. Abuse by the UK company was furthered by the recent arbitrary cases against community leaders by GCM’s CEO. Gary Lye, the CEO of the company, filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 frontline local leaders for opposing the proposed coal mine in 2016.

Friday’s colourful and vibrant protest addressed these issues and more. On November 27, 2018 GCM Resources claimed to have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Power China to develop a giant coal mine in Phulbari and to build a 6000 MW power plant. This news has made protesters angry.

Rumana Hashem of CPRB and PSG read out a petition by 134 community leaders from Phulbari. Friday, 28 December 2018, 33 Cavendish Square, London. Copyright: Paul Dudman

An eye witness to the Phulbari shooting and the spokesperson of the Phulbari Solidarity Group, Rumana Hashem has conveyed a petition signed by 134 community leaders from Phulbari challenging GCM’s so called MoU with China Power. Dissident shareholders were to hand in the petition to GCM’s chairman Michael Tang. But Tang was not in attendance. Activists say that Tang was worried about the protest.

The protest was co-organised by the Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh – UK branch of the Bangladesh National Committee, the Phulbari Solidarity GroupReclaim the Power, and Extinction Rebellion. They were joined by Foil Vedanta, London Mining Network, Cambridge Zero Carbon Society, Christian Climate Action, 350.org South Asia, and Udichi Shilpi Gosthi, UK.

Three “Friends of Phulbari” who successfully blocked out GCM’s shareholders on Friday were released from the Police custody at 3:30am on Saturday, 29 December 2018. Courtesy: Ian J Bray.

Three arrestees who passionately glued themselves to the entrance were released before 24 hours. They were charged with GBP 4000 for so called criminal damages. But the activists are proud to have joined and supported the Phulbari people. Extinction Rebellion said that they will fight the charges and provide legal supports to defend the activists during trial.

Protesters, jeering “Free Our Friends”, occupied the car park & fire exit of 33 Cavendish Squire. They blocked the exit and stopped the police van for police wrongly arrested three creative protesters. Friday, 28 December, 2018. Courtesy: Land In Curiosity.

Currently Bangladesh produces very little of its electricity from coal and whilst many other countries in the world are looking to transitioning away from coal, the Bangladesh government is planning to massively expand energy production through coal. “ We have published an alternative plan for power generation that demonstrates there is no need to take disastrous path of coal mining and coal power plants to meet power demand in Bangladesh – said Akhter Sobhan Khan Masroor of the Committee to Protect Resources in Bangladesh.

Supporting the protest, Hoda Baraka, Global Communications Director of 350.org stated:

The construction of any new coal power plant is inconceivable given the findings of the IPCC report released in October 2018. Every ton of coal burned makes an immediate contribution to the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere causing long term and irreversible climate change. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground now to ensure that we stay below 1,5 degrees in order to avoid catastrophic environmental breakdown.

###

What is the status of the project now?

On November 27, Global Coal Management Resources signed a memorandum of understanding with Power Construction Corporation of China, Ltd (Power China), to develop the coal mine in Phulbari and to build a 4000 MW power plant in Northwest Bangladesh. The company states, “The MOU embodies the principles of a cooperative relationship between the two parties to develop the Company’s proposed coal mine as well as power plants generating up to 4,000 MW at the mine site, and sets out the steps towards a future Joint Development Agreement, obtaining approval from the Government of Bangladesh and subsequent development of both the mine and power plants generating 4000MW.”

GCM wanted to hold their AGM in London on Friday, 28 December 2018, but Bangladesh diaspora along with allies did disrupt the AGM. A powerful, jolly and incredibly noisy protest was held outside the venue and against GCM’s aggressive plans to start mining in Phulbari.

These snapshots are taken from Friday’s protest by PSG BD photographer Golam Rabbani. These are free to use for non-commercial purpose. Please give a credit to the photographer though.

 

A video of the protest can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79IV2TjqRTo&feature=youtu.be

For more photos and video foootage, feel free to contact: Golam Rabbani @rabbani.enpolicy@gmail.com

An online report of GCM’s AGM is available on London Mining Network’s website:  http://londonminingnetwork.org/2018/12/the-sound-and-the-fury-yet-another-gcm-agm/

 

Further reports can be accessed from below:

Morning Star – Environmental activists confront coal-mining executives at shareholders’ meeting in London https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/environmental-activists-confront-coal-mining-executives-at-shareholders%27-meeting-in-london
The Daily Prothom Alo: 29 December 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

Asia Energy/GCM Must Stop Unethical Business In London Stock Exchange

In support of Phulbari communities, a noise demo and blockade was held outside GCM’s AGM at 33 Cavendish Square in London on Friday 28 December 2018. Copyright: Golam Rabbani/PSG.

Phulbari Verdict Must Be Fully Implemented

The below statement was signed by 134 community leaders from 50 communities around Phulbari, objecting to GCM’s proposed open cast coal mine. It was meant to be presented by dissident shareholders to GCM’s board of Directors at the AGM. The original letter from the community was  written in Bangla. PSG has translated the statement in English language for greater readership.

“The killer and corrupt extractive company, Asia Energy, thereafter Global Coal Management Resources  (GCM) , hold their AGM to bluff shareholders and to sketch out vicious plans for further human rights violation and to destroy livelihood  in Phulbari and northwest Bangladesh. The company has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a Chinese company and is trying to reach new agreements with various other companies to develop a giant open cast coal mine in Bangladesh to destroy Phulbari, Birampur, Parbotipur, Nobabganj and Boropukuria chapters.

Despite ban of Phulbari project, the company is selling shares in London Stock Exchange. This is outrageous. GCM’s do not have any business in Phulbari. They do not have license to undertake business in Bangladesh. That a company is selling fake shares in the name of Bangladesh’s Phulbari project abroad is an embarrassment for the nation. We see this is a humiliation for all of us. Such act should be legally challenged in international court.

We are aware that GCM’s directors continue to lobby Bangladesh’s corrupt ministers, politicians and elite businessmen. The company continues to harass local people and indigenous farmers. GCM has filed utterly false and multiple cases against 26 community organisers and frontline activists in the region.  Now they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari in other countries. Bangladesh government should denounce this utterly unethical act of GCM. Government must not allow this company to re-enter the region.

The Phulbari Verdict 2006 was written with our blood. We will never let GCM or any other company to enter Phulbari ever. We say loud and clearly that the construction of the coal mine in the region will never be possible. Not in our region. Not in our lifetime.

We call upon the government that this company be banned for ever.  We express our total disapproval of and outrage to GCM’s ongoing unethical and corrupt activities. We demand full implementation of the 6-points demand of the Phulbari Verdict.

We the undersigned,

Amar Chand Gupta, Bablu Rai,  Muahmmad Murtaja Sarkar Manik,

Sondhya Rani Rai, and 130 more community representatives.”

 

The above statement is translated by Rumana Hashem. The scanned copy of the original Bangla version of the community statement and the list of signatures are attached.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A protest outside GCM’s AGM held on Friday 28 December 2018 in central London. Copyright: Golam Rabbani

Stop GCM, Blockade the Coal Burglars!

Defend the Homes, Land, Livelihood and Environment

Protest at GCM’s AGM in London

 

Non-violent protest by affected communities and women’s resistance in August 2006

Global Coal Management Resources Plc. is a London-based AIM-listed extractive company that wants to build a massive open-pit coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari. The company, previously known as Asia Energy, has been hotly resisted by locals for its fatal business policy. Three people were shot dead and two hundred injured when paramilitary force opened fire in a demonstration of 80,000 people that took place in opposition to plans by GCM in 2006 in Phulbari.

 

GCM do not hold a valid contract with Bangladesh, but they are selling shares in London Stock Exchange in the name of Phulbari coal project. They are aggressively moving ahead to build the coal mine. If the mine is built, it would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land in northwest Bangladesh. It would pose threats to clean water resources for as many as 220,000 people, and would leave devastative impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sundarbans.

In return Bangladesh govt would gain nothing but economic exploitation. According to the proposed deal, GCM would extract coal for 30 years, while government of Bangladesh would get 6 percent royalty and the company would own and export 94 percent of the extracted coal. Moreover, the company would enjoy 9 years tax holidays and after 30 years they would own all of whatever coal would be remaining in the Phulbari coal-bed reserve. This is unacceptable!

GCM has recently reached a so called memorandum of understanding with Power Construction Corporation of China, Ltd. to implement the project. GCM’s CEO, Gary Lye, has been systematically abusing local opponents of the project. Lye has filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 frontline local leaders against mining. GCM will hold their AGM in London on 28 December during the month of the climate summit #COP24. We must stop them. Blockade the coal burglars, GCM!

JOIN Us Inside and Outside the AGM!

Please confirm your participation via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/376498479785077/

Protest Outside AGM

When? 9:30am-1pm, Friday 28 December

Where? 33 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PW.

The protest will be loud, colourful and noisy. Feel free to bring along your organisational banners and any noisy instrument, and lots of friends to make noise:))

Proxy Inside AGM

When? 10am, Friday 28 December

Where? 33 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PW.

Dissident shareholders will represent the communities inside the AGM. If you would like to join the delegation, please do get in touch with us. Please RSVP via email to: aktersk@gmail.com (Dr Akhter Sobhan Masroor) by Friday 14 December 2018.

Phulbari Solidarity Protest outside GCM’s AGM in December 2016. Photocredit: Golam Rabbani.

 

For further information contact: nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com , phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.comTel: 07714288221, 07861686036.

Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh, UK branch http://www.protectbdresources.org.uk

Phulbari Solidarity Group www.phulbarisolidaritygroup.org

Reclaim The Power https://reclaimthepower.org.uk/

Climate Change Dissenters Blocked Five London Bridges

Phulbari Solidarity Stands in Solidarity with Extinction Rebellion

By Paul Dudman

 

Westminster Bridge blocked by Extinction Rebellion on 17 November 2018. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

Yesterday we have witnessed an extra-ordinary Rebellion Day in London where climate change dissenters closed down iconic bridges in the city. Despite arrests and police barricades, five bridges in central London were closed down by concerned, disobedient and non-violent civilians, who gathered in the city under the banner of Extinction Rebellion, a platform committed to “Fight For Life”.

 

Blocked Westminster Bridge on 17 November 2018. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

From the morning 10am through late afternoon 5pm on the Rebellion Day more than 6,000 people have occupied five bridges in central London “to raise the alarm on the climate and ecological crisis – and to put pressure on the Government to come clean on the fact that there is a climate emergency”. A press release by the Extinction Rebellion notes “This is the first time in living memory that a protest group has intentionally and deliberately blocked the five iconic bridges of central London”. The blocked bridges include Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster and Lambeth. Police have put signal blockers in place to prevent live streaming. There have been 22 confirmed arrests of protestors. People have willingly put themselves at risk of arrest and imprisonment to ensure that this cause is brought to the public’s attention.

 

Rebellion Day witness at Westminster Bridge on 17 November 2018. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

We were there in Westminster Bridge with full support from the Bangladesh National Committee and Phulbari Solidarity Group to the rebels. At the end of the blockade an Extinction Assembly was held featuring six voices from six nations from the global South affected by climate breakdown.

 

The voices include Raki Ap of Free West Papua Campaign, Rumana Hashem of Phulbari Solidarity Group- Bangladesh, Mawukofi Klu of Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe, and representatives from Ecuador, India, Kenya, Ghana and Mongolia.

 

The Phulbari Solidarity Group declared solidarity with the Extinction Rebellion on the Rebellion Day. Rumana Hashem, the founder of the Phulbari Solidarity, who attended the Assembly at the Westminster Bridge, said that: the ongoing civil disobedience to decarbonise our lifestyle and to protect our planet from criminal extractive companies and governments was long- overdue. Rumana gave her witness to the climate crime committed by a London-based mining company in Bangladesh.

 

Rebellion Day witness by Rumana Hashem in Westminster Bridge on 17 Nov 2018. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

She stated by addressing a passionate crowd that:

I’m bearing witness to the killings of three people and the destruction of green land, rivers and homes of thousands of peaceful people in Bangladesh, perpetrated by a British mining company for 12 years. An AIM-listed London-based multinational company, Global Coal Resources Management plans to build a massive open-cast coal mine in northwest Bangladesh, in Phulbari. Original research by independent researchers shows that if the mine is built at least 130, 000 people would be immediately displaced, polluting water sources of as many as 220,000 people. It will destroy over 14,000 hecters of land in the country’s most fertile agricultural region, where most people have land-based livelihoods. It would contribute to catastrophic climate change by supplying coal burning power stations. It would threaten the Sundarbans – one of the world’s largest remaining mangrove forests and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

 

In return Bangladesh govt would gain nothing but economic exploitation. According to the proposed deal, the British company would extract coal for 30 years, govt of Bangladesh would get 6 percent royalty and the company would own 94 percent of the extracted coal. Moreover, the company would enjoy a 9 years tax holiday and after 30 years the company would own all of whatever coal would be remaining in the Phulbari coal-bed reserve.

 

The company, previously known as Asia Energy, has been hotly resisted by locals for its fatal business policy. On 26 August in 2006, over 80,000 farmers marched in Phulbari where three people were shot dead and over 200 injured when paramilitary troops fired on a massive demonstration. I was present there. I have witnessed the bloodshed; I saw people’s stomach coming out right on the street. So we’ve blocked roads, bridges, and railway in the region. All entries to the region were closed down for a week. Following on the shooting, Bangladesh government has cancelled all contracts with Global Coal Management. We’ve put a halt to the project.

 

Westminster Bridge on 17 November 2018. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

This shows that civil disobedience works. It is required in historically specific context. When government fails, we need to take control in our hands. We need to act to save our lives and our planet. We would not occupy bridges and roads for ever though. We ought to take control of our streets at times to make the governments take steps to prevent crimes.

 

In Bangladesh, we said, “No fracking, invest to save the planet”. But that is not enough. The London-based company is still aggressively moving on to get a new deal with the government. They continue to breach law. They have been harassing indigenous people. 26 frontline activists have been faced with multiple arbitrary cases filed by the company in 2016. We asked the UK government and political leaders to use their influence to stop the Global Coal Management, and to act immediately to prevent climate crimes. But the UK government failed to act.

 

We’ve submitted three reports to the Joint Committee for Human Rights Enquiry into Human Rights and Business in 2009.  We’ve placed a joint OECD complaint to the UK National Contact Point in 2013, and I have given many witnesses. But no action was taken against the company. The Parliament failed to print the witness statement that I gave for their annual report in 2009. They said that they couldn’t print the witness due to financial hardship. The parliament wanted to save printing cost. Instead of publishing my report, the Joint Committee has published a response from the Global Coal Management in their annual report in 2009!

 

Rebels on Rebellion Day on 17 Nov 2018. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Rumana also said that Bangladesh is at the frontline of climate change. We have reached a juncture when preventing climate change has become urgent. We want a fair commitment from the UK to stop coal based power plants and corporate grabbing in the name of development in Bangladesh and the UK. We call on the government for ensuring renewable energy and social justice without delay.

 

She concluded by saying:

This Rebellion Day is, to me, a beginning of a much needed social movement that not only challenges the criminal inaction of the ecocidal governments but also a way to connect with each other over struggles in the global South and the global North to make our planet habitable for all. I stand in solidarity with the Extinction Rebellion on this Rebellion Day.

 

 

The crowd expressed solidarity with the struggles in Bangladesh and other countries including Ecuador, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mongolia where British mining companies undertake projects violating human rights and causing climate change.

 

Solidarity in blocked Westminster Bridge on 17 November 2018. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

The Rebellion Day has ended by a treeplanting ceremony in the Parliament Square, with more than 3K Extinction Rebellion protestors present. The rebels planted three trees in the centre – plum, apple and evergreen – while singing a sufi song called “Always in Love”.

The Extinction Rebellion was launched on 31st October and has fast grown.  Its branches have spread across 28 countries while London remains the centre of the rebels. Supports to Extinction Rebellion are rapidly growing. The Extinction Rebellion demands that:

 

  1.  The Government must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens.
  2. The Government must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels.
  3. A national Citizen’s Assembly to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.

Blockade on Rebellion Day in Westminster Bridge on 17 Nov 2018 Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

Read the Extinction Rebellion Declaration here: https://rebellion.earth/declaration/

Please visit the Rebellion Day Facebook page for further information and news about the blockades: https://www.facebook.com/events/1758991460816073/ 

For Photos/videos visit: https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/1m1v7Cs8JFkDM1gHp45OF-NwwhLzPZJO8

Also pictures by Peter Marshall are available for editorial use from Alamy. Westminster Bridge pictures at https://www.alamy.com/news/newsresults.aspx…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credits for most photos used in this report belongs to Rumana Hashem, except for those indicated by Peter Marshall. The photos are free to use but please acknowledge the photocredit, thanks.

Vibrant Rally held in London on Global Day of Solidarity to Save the Sundarbans from Coal

By Rumana Hashem

On Saturday, the 10th November, London saw a vibrant rally by London’s climate activists at Altab Ali Park on the Global Day of Solidarity to Save the Sundarbans. In response to the National Committee to Protect Oil Gas and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh (NCBD)’s call to observe a worldwide solidarity to save the world’s largest mangrove forest, the UK branch of NCBD has organised a powerful rally which was joined by grassroots and community climate organisations. Speakers attending the rally called on Bangladesh and Indian governments to scrap Rampal coal-power plant urgently and to halt climate change in Bangladesh and across South Asia.

Altabl Ali Park rally in London on Global Day of Solidarity to Save the Sundarbans from Coal, 10 Nov 18. Courteasy: NCBDUK.

 

Presided by a veteran Bangladeshi community leader and medical professional Dr Rafikul Hasan Jinnah and moderated by the general secretary of the UK branch of NCBD, Akhter Sobhan Masroor, the rally was outraged about the joint project of the Power Development Board (PDB) of Bangladesh and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) of India for 1320 Megawatt Rampal coal-fired plant because it is a deadly threat to the environment and livelihood of the Sundarbans. If built the Rampal power station in Bangladesh will spew 8 million tonnes of Co2 emissions into the atmosphere contributing to rising temperatures and irreversible climate change. This isn’t compatible with the scientific mandate to keep global heating under 1.5˚C.

Speakers expressed solidarity with the NCBD in their call to all political parties in Bangladesh to include forestry reservation, especially the Sundarbans, and environmental protection in their manifesto for the 11th national polls. Activists also demanded that the government stop all processes for industrialisation near the Sundarbans prior to declaring the schedule of the general election. The general secretary of the UK branch of NCBD, Akhter Sobhan Masroor, said that alongside the destructive coal-based Rampal power plant, a group of forest and land-grabbers have developed more than 300 commercial projects near the Sundarbans.

The rally was joined by East London’s leading local climate organisations such as Fossil Free Newham, the River Savings Network, the Water Keepers, the Extinction Rebellion, the Unite Community and Labour Party Women’s Forum in Tower Hamlets, the Bangladesh Socialist Party, the Communist Party of Bangladesh, the Liberty Arts, and of course Phlulbari Solidarity, UK. The London rally took place as part of  the global human chains and public meetings held in Bangladesh, Canada, France, Germany and across the world demanding immediate halt to the Rampal coal-plant in October and November.

 

The Sundarbans is the world’s largest mangrove forest and is located in Bangladesh – one of the world’s most vulnerable areas to climate change impacts. Despite grave concern raised by the experts and people, the government in Bangladesh is going ahead to implement an Indo-Bangla 1300 MW coal fired Rampal power plant close to the forest which speakers at the Altabl Ali Park rally branded as “clearly issued its death warrant”. In addition, it is inviting a range of national and international vested interest groups to grab forest and has set up hundreds of commercial projects in and around the Sundarbans.

This has not only put the livelihoods of at least 3.5 million people at risk, it has made the lives of around 40 million coastal people vulnerable to natural disasters. The Sundarbans have long since been a natural safe-guard against frequent cyclones, storms and other natural disasters in the country. Sundarbans provides a natural barrier against Bangladesh’s deadly climate change threat. In order to preserve its outstanding universal value and to protect the world’s largest mangrove forest, Saturday the 10th November has been observed worldwide as a global day of solidarity to save the Sundarbans.

 

For further background news, please read:

Global Protests on Saturday to Save the Sunderbans from coal, 350.org news, 09 November 2018.

A call for Global Day of Solidarity for the Sundarbans, Fossil Free Newham, 6 November 2018.

Stop industrialisation in Sundarbans before election schedule, Environmentalists urge govt. The Daily Star, 07 October 2018.

Make poll pledge to scrap hazardous power plants. The New Age, 07 October 2018.

 

Call out – JOIN Protest at Vedanta’s Last London AGM on 1st October!

Monday 1st October, 2-5 pm Lincoln Centre, Lincoln Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3ED

On 1st October Vedanta will hold their last AGM in London before de-listing from the London Stock Exchange, under pressure from MPs and activists following the Thoothukudi massacre in Tamil Nadu May.

 

At this final AGM, Foil Vedanta will be celebrating the notable victory of Vedanta’s de-listing (which seriously curtails their corporate ambitions), and the success of grassroots activism which has shut down Vedanta’s operations in Goa, Tuticorin and Niyamgiri, with a carnival theme.

 

Please join  kick Vedanta out of London protest once and for all!

 

Bring drums, whistles and colourful flags and clothes!

 

Monday 1st October, 2-5 pm Lincoln Centre, Lincoln Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3ED

 

Decry the complicity of the City of London in Vedanta’s corporate massacre of 13 environmental protesters at Thoothukudi in May, the latest in a long history of corporate murders and massacres of activists by London mining companies.

Vedanta’s exit from London is in fact a ‘divorce of convenience’ for the City, who have totally failed to regulate Vedanta, or any other criminal mining company to this day.

 

We will also be releasing our report ‘Vedanta’s Billions: Regulatory failure, environment and human rights’ – which gives a comprehensive account of the company’s crimes at all of its operations, and the City of London’s complicity, on Thursday 27th Septmber, before the AGM.

 

On 1st October the company will also sign contracts for 41 new oil and gas blocks in India, where their subsidiary Cairn India (part of Vedanta Ltd) have already been using unconventional extraction methods (fracking) in Rajasthan.

We must hold them to account before they run away!

 

Please join the facebook event if you are able to attend!

#KickVedanta #BanSterlite #BringAnilAgarwal2Justice 

 

For further information about Vedanta, read a latest report here: Vedanta’s Billions- Regulatory failure, environment and human rights

:http://www.foilvedanta.org/news/vedantas-billions-regulatory-failure-environment-and-human-rights-report-released/

Vedanta’s Billions: Regulatory Failure, Environment and Human Rights

Centre for World Environmental History &

Academia and Activism Forum launch Foil Vedanta’s latest Report

Thursday 27 September 2018  2:30pm-4:30pm,  Room Fulton 203, the University of Sussex, UK.

You are all cordially invited to the launch of Foil Vedanta’s latest report, ‘Vedanta’s Billions: Regulatory Failure, Environment and Human Rights’, co-authored with a variety of contributors and to be held on Thursday 27th September at  the University of Sussex.

Speakers will include: Foil Vedanta’s co-directors, Samarendra Das and Miriam Rose, and lawyer Krishnendu Mukherjee.

Anil Agarwal with polluted water at the Vedanta AGM 14 August 2017. Photo credit: Foil Vedanta

The report will be released online on Wednesday 26th September.

The discussion following the launch of the report will describe the rise of the mining corporation Vedanta registered in the City of London, the impact of mining on tribal and local communities in India and Zambia, the environmental costs, and grassroots informed activism which exposed Vedanta’s operations in Goa, Tuticorin and Niyamgiri, and resulted in the recent de-listing of the company from the London Stock Market exchange following sustained campaigning.

Please join the launch of an important report prior to the Annual General Meeting of the notorious multinational company, Vedatna Ltd.

RSVP and for further information, please contact:

Zuky Serper        actacdforum@sussex.ac.uk

Artist in residence, CWEH-Academia and Activism Forum

GLOBAL PROTEST FOR THE RELEASE OF SHAHIDUL ALAM

#FreeShahidulAlam

 

What? Global Protest for the Release of Shahidul Alam

When? 12 noon to 14:00, Friday, 7 September 2018

Where? Bangladesh High Commission, 28 Queen’s Gate, Kensington, London SW7 5JA.

(nearest tube station: Gloucester Road/ South Kensington/ High Street Kensington)

 

Shahidul Alam being abused and silenced by DB police in front of a Dhaka court on 6 August 2018. Photocredit: Anonymous activist.

 

Dr Shahidul Alam, an internationally renowned photographer, the Managing Director of Drik and a rights activist had been covering student protests for road safety sparked off by the tragic death of two students on 29 July in Dhaka. Last month, on the night of 5 August, Shahidul was forcibly abducted from his home by the Bangladeshi Detective Branch (DB) because of his reporting, and subsequently, without legal representation, was sent to prison on 12th August and charged under Bangladesh’s controversial Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, meaning he could face upto 14 years imprisonment for free expression. Shahidul said that he was tortured. His lawyers reported that Shahidul has shown signs of mental abuse but was denied medical and psychological support. Although the High Court had ordered that he should be examined for torture, this was not carried out.

 

Photographer Shahidul Alam is an active member of Phulbari Action group since the inception of the listserve. He is also a dedicated supporter of the Save the Sunderbans Movement in Bangladesh. Shahidul has been contributing to both movements through his photography and powerful documentation of the ongoing resistance to protect Bangladesh’s climate and environment. Phulbari Solidarity Group along with other frontline activists in Bangladesh and London joined the worldwide outrage, demanding the immediate release of Shahidul Alam.

 

Since his arbitrary arrest, smear campaigns and media trials are continuously being conducted against Shahidul Alam. We have now learnt from credible sources that further cases might be framed against Shahidul Alam –  founder of Drik and Pathshala, award-winning institutions, recognised internationally for having placed Bangladesh photography on the world map – and that these could be grounds for further interrogation and remand.

 

There have been ongoing global protests against his arrest yet government in Bangladesh is stern in its position to punish the photographer for speaking truth to power. Many of the detained protestors have been released on bail but Dr. Alam is not one of them. Shahidul Alam is unwell.  Moreover, the Court’s order for division has not been implemented.

 

We also note with deep concern that Dr. Alam’s bail hearings have repeatedly been refused.  A High Court bench on 4th September declared itself ’embarrassed’ but it is not clear whether this was due to any genuine conflict of interest or pressure exerted from above.

 

Since his arrest, smear campaigns and media trials are continuously being conducted against Shahidul Alam.  We have now learnt from credible sources that further cases might be framed against Shahidul Alam –  founder of Drik and Pathshala, award-winning institutions, recognised internationally for having placed Bangladesh photography on the world map – and that these could be grounds for further interrogation and remand.

 

The storm of global condemnation and protests on Shahidul’s unlawful imprisonment continues unabated and has included statements made by 12 Nobel laureates and many eminent citizens and activists across the globe. Several British MPs with Bangladeshi roots, notably, Rupa Huq, Rushanara Ali and Tulip Siddique have made statements in support of Shahidul Alam.

 

Many of us have been actively supporting Shahidul Alam and demanding his release by sending letters to MPs and to the Bangladeshi authorities. But the authorities failed to respond to our calls. We will be joining the London based activists and artists in a sit-in demonstration to free Shahidul Alam this Friday. As our commitment to continue with the protests is ever stronger, we will be gathering outside Bangladesh High Commission in London this Friday ahead of the 11 September hearing of a bail petition for Shahidul to be held in a Dhaka court.

 

We encourage everyone to add voices to those rallying in front of the Bangladesh High Commission from 12 noon to 2pm on Friday, 7 September.  There will be a sit-in demonstration, songs, short speeches and a petition to be submitted to the Bangladesh High Commission demanding Shahidul Alam’s immediate release.

 

We call on the Bangladesh Government headed by the prime minister Sheikh Hasina to heed world public opinion; demand his immediate, unconditional release; withdrawal of false cases, cessation of persecution; and safety of his family members.

 

 

JOIN Us with Your Friends this Friday outside Bangladesh High Commission in London.

Tell Bangladeshi Government to Release Photographer Shahidul Alam Now! 

Please confirm your participation via Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/events/315084915715037/

 —————————————————————————————————————–

Contact for further information: phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

For Further news and updates, please see below:

  1. Photographer charged as police crackdown in Bangladesh intensifies: 06 August, The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/06/famed-bangladeshi-photographer-held-over-road-protest-comments?CMP=share_btn_tw
  2. Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam detained after post about Dhaka protests https://cpj.org/2018/08/bangladeshi-photographer-shahidul-alam-detained-af.php
  3. Bangladesh protests: How a traffic accident stopped a city of 18 million: 06 August, BBC https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-45080129
  4. Violence continues as students protests , Washington Post, 6 August https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/violence-continues-in-bangladesh-capital-as-students-protest/2018/08/06/f23226d4-9952-11e8-a8d8-9b4c13286d6b_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d3b8a3b666cf
  5. Renowned Photographer held after media comments: 06 August, Al-Jazeera English https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/08/bangladesh-renowned-photographer-detained-media-comments-180806065359943.html
  6. Free Shahidul, 07 August, New Internationalist, https://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2018/08/07/free-shahidul
  7. High court has issued an order to suspend 7 days Remand of Shahidul Alam. And transfer him to Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University: 08 August, Dhaka Tribune https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/court/2018/08/07/high-court-halts-shahidul-alam-s-remand/
  8. Shahidul was arrested to silence everyone: 09 August, BDNews24.com https://bangla.bdnews24.com/bangladesh/article1527976.bdnews
  9. Commentary by Golam Mortoja: How rumour hides under Helmets, 08 August, 2018,  The Daily Star. Net (Bangla) https://www.thedailystar.net/bangla/%E0%A6%AE%E0%A6%A4%E0%A6%BE%E0%A6%AE%E0%A6%A4/%E0%A6%97%E0%A7%81%E0%A6%9C%E0%A6%AC-%E0%A6%B9%E0%A7%87%E0%A6%B2%E0%A6%AE%E0%A7%87%E0%A6%9F%E0%A7%87%E0%A6%B0-%E0%A6%86%E0%A7%9C%E0%A6%BE%E0%A6%B2%E0%A7%87-96517
  10. Why a road accident in Bangladesh has sparked widespread protests, ITV News , 08 August 2018: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnNFU1G9waw
  11. Renowned Photographer Shahidul Alam is still held by Bangladeshi Detective Branch custody, CWAB, 09 August, 2018: https://communitywomenblog.wordpress.com/2018/08/09/renowned-photographer-shahidul-alam-is-still-held-by-the-bangladeshi-detective-branch-police-custody/
  12. Protests in Bangladesh reveals deep insecurity of the government, TRT World, 09 August 2018: https://www.trtworld.com/opinion/protests-in-bangladesh-reveal-the-deep-insecurity-of-the-government-19481
  13. An acclaimed photographer in Bangladesh says, he was tortured: New York Times, 8 August https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/08/world/asia/bangladesh-photographer-shahidul-alam.html
  14. Bruised and battered: 10 August, The Daily Star, https://www.thedailystar.net/news/star-weekend/special-feature/bruised-and-battered-1618453
  15. 323 prominent activists, artistes, academics call for Shahidul’s immediate release, 11 August, New Age http://www.newagebd.net/article/48207/323-prominent-activists-artistes-academics-call-for-shahiduls-immediate-release
  16. Shahidul Alam sent to prison: 13 August 18, the Daily Star https://www.thedailystar.net/news/city/shahidul-dropped-remand-abruptly-1619743?amp&__twitter_impression=true
  17. Sheikh Hasina’s son’s response and the Indian media analysis: 13 August, The Wire: https://thewire.in/south-asia/shahidul-alam-sheikh-hasina-son-bangladesh-arrest
  18. Who Is Afraid of Shahidul Alam? By Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, 20 August, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/20/opinion/shahidul-alam-prison-bangladesh.html
  19. Amartya Sen voices support for Shahidul Alam: 26 August, 2018, The Independent Bangladesh http://www.theindependentbd.com/post/163560
  20. সড়ক দুর্ঘটনা: বাংলাদেশের কুষ্টিয়ার যে ভিডিও নাড়া দিলো সবাইকে, 30 August https://www.bbc.com/bengali/news-45351512?ocid=socialflow_facebook
  21. MP urges aunt to release Bangladesh photographer Shahidul Alam, 28 August, The Sunday Times, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/mp-urges-aunt-to-release-bangladesh-photographer-w9tgs0svw

Homage Paid to Victims on Phulbari Day: 12 Years of Halt and Outburst against Coal Mine Celebrated

By Rumana Hashem

Yesterday, 26th August, marked 12 years of successful halt to and the outburst against an AIM-listed British company, Global Coal Resources Management (GCM) who wants to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in northwest Bangladesh. In 2006 three people were shot dead and two hundred injured as paramilitary force opened fire in a demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against plans by GCM in Phulbari. The day has been called Phulbari Day since. And a powerful resistance by people in the aftermath of the shooting against open-cast mine in Phulbari has put a decade long halt to the project.

Homage paid to victims at Al-Amin, Salekin and Tariqul’s memorial in Phulbari on Sunday, 26 Aug 2018. Photocredit: Nuruzzaman

This week two events were held in remembrance of the victims of Phullbari outburst. On Sunday, 26 August, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh held a commemoration event in Phulbari, where community members and national environmentalists paid homage by flowers to the victims who were killed by paramilitary force, allegedly paid by the company, in Phulbari on 26 August in 2006.  The National Committee stated that there will be intense movement if the government fails to implement “Phulbari verdict 2006” by this December.

Earlier this week, the community activists under the banner of the Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh also held a commemoration event in London, where they have accused GCM for exploitation and harassment of the locals, for criminalising the society in Phulbari, and for ongoing corruption in Bangladesh. The committee has called upon the Bangladesh government for immediate implementation of the “Phulbari verdict 2006”.  Members of the UK Committee of NCBD also called for the de-listing of GCM from London Stock Exchange.

Community women and men paid tribute to Phulbari Victims in Phulbari on Sunday 26 August 2018. Photo credit: Nuruzzaman

If the mine is built, 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari would be forcibly displaced. It would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land, would pose threats to clean water resources and would leave devastative impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans.  Government has cancelled the company’s license, following the outburst in 2006, but GCM continued its dodgy deals and lobbying for Phulbari coal mine.

The company has been allegedly involved in various forms of abuse and harassment of opponents of the proposed Phulbari mine. Media report on the brutal death of Nasrin Huq , the former executive director of Action Aid in Dhaka, revealed also that Huq was killed in her car park for her opposition to the project in 2005.

Anu Muhamad, the Member Secretary of the National Committee in Bangladesh, said:

GCM is a fraudulent company. Government must ban both GCM and its plan for open cast coal mine. The export idea of 80 percent coal was rooted by GCM. Its Bangladesh subsidiary, Asia Energy, proposed to export extracted coal via Bay of Bengal and the point of coal terminal was that of the Sunderbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest.  GCM’s plans would have destroyed the Sunderbans. Besides, they have killed our people and wants to build a mine by displacing tens of thousands people from their homes. They are continuously harassing the locals and activists through filing false cases in the court, and they are criminalising our society by drug addiction. But they will not win.

Phulbari Day poster by the NCBD 23 Aug 2018. Credit: National Committee of Bangladesh

GCM does not have a valid contract with Bangladesh for coal mining but they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project. Instead of leaving Bangladesh, the company has filed multiple cases against 26 key indigenous organiser’s, local leaders, farmers, small scale business entrepreneurs and students who opposed the mine in Phulbari. The arbitrary charges were formed on 25 July in 2016 at the Dinajpur Magistrate Court, which has been traumatising and abusing all those fighting the fraught.

The company has changed its name from Asia Energy to Global Coal Management in 2010, and continued lobbying for Phulbari coal mine in Bangladesh. Despite grave concerns at national and international level, GCM is pushing the government to give it a go ahead.

PROTEST AGAINST GLOBAL COAL MANAGEMENT PLC. AT THEIR AGM

By Raaj Manik

 

Despite the cold weather, a loud and theatrical protest was again held outside the AGM of British mining company Global Coal Resources Management (GCM) at the Aeronautical Society in 4 Hamilton Place in London at 10am today. In solidarity with the communities in Phulbari, where three people were shot dead as paramilitary officers opened fire on a demonstration of 80,000 people in 2006, protesters reaffirmed that they will not sleep until GCM is ousted from Bangladesh. A parallel protest followed by a press conference was held in Phulbari against the plans by GCM, an AIM-listed company who want to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in Phulbari, northwest Bangladesh. Inside the AGM in London, dissident shareholders asked questions on behalf of the communities in Phulbari and Dinajpur by accusing the company of human rights abuses as the CEO of the company has filed multiple arbitrary charges against 26 frontline defenders, indigenous farmers, small entrepreneurs and local leaders who opposed the mine.

Please see a short video of today’s protest in London!

Watch accounts of activists from Bangladeshi community and eye witness to Phulbari shooting here: GCM Must Leave Bangladesh NOW!

Read minutes of GCM’s AGM 2017: Flogging a Dead Horse

Coal play outside the AGM. Photo credit: Keval Bharadia, South Asia Solidarity

Climate activists and community defenders under the banner of Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh and Phulbari Solidarity Group , calling for three-point demands, blocked  the pavement at the main entrance of the Aeronautical Society for two hours. They demanded that GCM’s Chief Operating Officer, Gary N Lye, must withdraw all cases against activists in Bangladesh with immediate effect, that GCM must stop selling shares in the name of Phulbari project in London’s Alternative Investors Market, and that GCM must Leave Bangladesh immediately. The demo ended with a comedy coal show where activists wearing masks of coal thieves, Gary N Lye (CEO of the company) and Michael Tang (the Executive Chairman of the company), attacked a Bangladeshi woman holding coal from Phulbari. Protesters forced the maskmen to leave the premises and sang Phulbari jingles against coal mine: “your home and my home, Phulbari Phulbari”.

 

Dissident shareholders inside the AGM poured scorn on GCM’s 2017 Annual Report which claims that the company “Continued to make progress with principle partner China Gezhouba Group International Engineering Co Limited [CGGC, ultimately owned by China Gen Engineering Ltd.]”and that they are “Working on proposal for mine mouth power plant to provide integrated power solution for government of Bangladesh.”  The company claims, overlooking the declining of share price over the last month from £43.00 on 14 November to £26.38 today, that “Last month [it] raised 2m pounds before costs enabling all shareholders to participate and to enable GCM to continue pursuing strategy of joint mine and power plant proposal.” The report concludes by acknowledging “There are significant challenges ahead”, not least achieving approval to go ahead. They still believe that they are “in the right direction and hopes to continue momentum into New Year.” Shareholders condemning the report say that it represents a poor attempt to cover up the fact that they lost credibility and market confidence. The company has been drowning in bank loans, but still borrowing money and facing continuous loss.  GCM was again found violating human rights and disregarding the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights  at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights Report 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The UN Forum on Business and Human Rights is the global platform for yearly stock-taking and lesson-sharing on efforts to move the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights from paper into practice. The Phulbari case was highlighted at the 6th UN conference held on 27-29 November 2017 in Geneva and GCM’s failure was noted in Annual Report of UNFBHR 2017. Shareholders also note the Bangladesh government has not given the company the go-ahead because of a lack of a “social licence to operate” in Phulbari and anywhere else in Bangladesh. There was also an OECD complaint about GCM failing to keep obligations. An internal review of the UK governments investigation affirmed that the OECD 2011 guidelines do apply to human rights abuses that would occur if the project went ahead. GCM’s Board of Directors failed to respond to shareholders scrutiny. Today’s meeting ended in a rush, lasting less than an hour, as the Board was exhausted by questions.

 

Today’s protest echoed the demands made by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Port-Power and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh . Activists from 12 grassroots organisations, including Foil Vedanta, Grow Heathrow, London Mining Network, K M Protectors (North-east England),  Communist Party of Bangladesh – UK branch, Bangladesh Socialist Party, UK branch, Reclaim the Power, Plane Stupid, South Asia Solidarity Group, and the Socialist Party of England and Wales, joined the protest outside or inside the AGM.

 

Global Coal Management, formerly known as Asia Energy, has been allegedly involved in abuse and harassment of opponents of the proposed Phulbari mine. Media reports on the brutal death of Nasrin Huq, the former executive director of Action Aid, revealed that Huq was killed brutally in her car park because of her strong opposition to the project.[i] Later in August 26 in 2006, three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against plans by the company. It has been 11 years since the powerful resistance in the aftermath of the shooting against an open-cast mine in Phulbari has put a decade long halt to the project. Government has cancelled the company’s license but the company has been pushing the government to give them a go ahead.

 

Rumana Hashem, the PSG spokesperson and an eye witness to the Phulbari outburst in 2006, said:

“the company is abusing our people and criminalising society in Bangladesh. We will hold them to account here. We will not give up until London Stock Exchange de-list GCM. We will ensure that this company could never go back to Bangladesh.’”

Akhter Sobhan Khan of Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh said that:

“The company does not have a valid contract with Bangladesh; nevertheless they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project. London Stock Exchange must de-list GCM as they are doing deceitful marketing of the project”.

 

If the mine is built, it would not only displace 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari but also would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land, would pose threats to clean water resources and would leave devastative impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans. In February 2012, seven UN rapporteurs expressed grave concerns to the project, and at national and international level. The UK National Contact Point has acknowledged the strong opposition to the project in an assessment in 2015.

[i]               The mystery death of Nasrin Huq – a report to which the company was not able to respond, was derived from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/sep/03/bangladesh, last cited on 01. 01. 2013

 

For further information on GCM and Phulbari resistance:

Visit PSG Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/phulbarisolidaritygroup/

Watch accounts of activists from Bangladeshi community and eye witness to Phulbari shooting: GCM Must Leave Bangladesh NOW!

Check out the Facebook event page for updates and more photos

Read full report of GCM’s AGM 2017: Flogging a Dead Horse

Read the memorandum of Tuesday’s demo outside the AGM: GCM Must Leave Bangladesh Now

Read News about GCM’s paperless business in Bangladesh here

Read also how GCM’s CEO Gary Lye was evicted from Phulbari: Prothom Alo News

News about Bangladesh government’s latest position about is here: Asia Energy/GCM

Read also report of LMN about previous AGM of GCM here

Socialist Party’s London Youth Organiser Helen Pattison explains why GCM must be stopped here:  https://youtu.be/CzoXC4MNdx0

Watch a Bengali version, featuring statement by the member secretary of Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh, UK branch, of the demo 2017: https://youtu.be/v35x0Tr0bC0

GCM Must Leave Bangladesh Now!

Memorandum of the Demonstration against AGM of Global Coal Resources Management Plc.

4 Hamilton Place, London, W1J 7BQ.

Tuesday, 12 December, 2017.

 

Photo credit: Keval Bharadia, South Asia Solidarity Group

Today we, the activists from Bangladesh, Tower Hamlets, and London’s environmental organisations, have gathered to call upon the AIM-listed London-based extractive company, GCM Resources Plc, to leave Bangladesh. The company, GCM Resources, is desperately moving to implement an immense open pit coal mine in northwest Bangladesh, forcibly displacing an estimated 130, 000 people and destroying the homes, lands, and water sources of as many as 220,000 people. If the project is implemented, it will destroy over 14,660 hecters of fertile agricultural land that produce three food crops annually, threatening to increase hunger in a country in which over a third of all children and nearly 17 percent of the entire population are undernourished.

 

GCM’s planned Phulbari coal mine has provoked repeated protests by local people. Three people were killed and over 200 injured when paramilitary officers opened fire on a protest against the project in August 2006. Protests in 2013 forced the company’s CEO, Gary Lye, to abandon a visit to the area.

 

The project has generated grave concern at national and international levels including the United Nations. On 28 February, 2012, seven UN human rights experts have called for an immediate halt to the project, citing threats to fundamental human rights, including the rights to water, food, adequate housing, freedom from extreme poverty and the rights of indigenous peoples. On  20 November, 2014, the UK government has concluded, following an investigation into GCM’s activities in Phulbari, that the company had breached the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises by failing to “foster confidence and mutual trust” with the people who would be affected by the mine. We welcome the Board’s affirmation that the 2011 Guidelines on human rights do apply to the planned conduct of an enterprise and its prospective impacts on human rights (para 6).  We welcome also the finding that the 2011 Guidelines would apply if GCM “continued to be “actively involved in the project” (para 19).  An internal review of the investigation affirmed that the OECD 2011 guidelines do apply to human rights abuses that would occur if the project went ahead.

But Global Coal Resources Management is aggressively moving ahead to implement Phulbari coal project. They are selling fraudulent shares in London’s Alternative Investors Market (AIM) –although the company does not have any valid contract with Bangladesh Government for business in Bangladesh and they do not have any other project elsewhere. It’s been 11 years since we have put a halt to the Phulbari coal project. The government in Bangladesh has declined to renew the contract for the project. GCM do not have any valid project in anywhere in the world. But they do hold an office in Bangladesh and the company’s corrupt CEO keep going back to Bangladesh to lobby MPs and politicians. We say they should leave Bangladesh now.

In 2011 and 2012, we have served two notices of eviction to GCM. Instead of leaving Bangladesh, GCM has been abusing communities and activists in Dinajpur and Phulbari. They are violating the guidelines of OECD.  The company’s Chief Executive Officer, Gary N Lye has filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 frontline community defenders in a Bangladeshi court. These community defenders are farmers and small entrepreneurs who do not have as much as money as Lye to fight the cases in a court. Through the harassment and abuse of frontline community activists, the company embarked on a project to silence opponents to the Phulbari coal project.

 

The UK Committee  (National Committee) to Protect Oil- Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh and Phulbari Solidarity Group, in conjunction with Foil Vedanta, London Mining Network, Reclaim the Power, Socialist Party of England and Wales, and all our co-worker organisations stand with the communities in Phulbari, Dinajpur and Bangladesh.  We will not be silent bywatcher. We demand, as National Committee of Bangladesh, that:

  1. GCM’s CEO, Gary N Lye, must withdraw all cases against activists in Bangladesh with immediate effect,
  2. GCM must stop selling shares in the name of Phulbari project in London’s Alternative Investors Market (AIM), and
  3. Finally, GCM must Leave Bangladesh immediately.

 

We declare, on behalf of the people in Phulbari, our resistance will not end until the above three-point demands are met. We will not give up until GCM has closed their office in Bangladesh, until they have stopped selling shares in the name of Phulbari coal project in London Stock Exchange.

The undersigned organisations:

Dr Mokhlesur Rahman, President, NCBD-UK branch

Sarbjit Johal, South Asia Solidarity Group

Michelle Easton, K M Protectors (North-east England)

Mostofa Farook , Bangladesh Socialist Party, UK branch

Miriam Rose, Foil Vedanta

Nesar Ahmed, Communist Party of Bangladesh – UK branch

Peter Mason, Socialist Party of England and Wales

Richard Roberts, Reclaim the Power

Richard Solly, London Mining Network

Rumana Hashem, Phulbari Solidarity Group

Sam Brown, Plane Stupid

 

Protest the GCM Resources’ AGM

10am on Tuesday, 12 December 2017

4 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7BQ 

(Nearest Tube station: Hyde Park Corner)

 

Bangladeshi activists together with London-based climate defenders will hold a lively and theatrical protest against the London-based AIM-listed mining company, in solidarity with representatives of communities in Phulbari, where three people were shot dead and 200 injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people in 2006 for opposing a massive coal project.

Courtesy Saptahik 2000 (reprint) 26 August 2016

 

Global Coal Management Resources (GCM), formerly known as Asia Energy, wants to build an immense open cast coal mine in Phulbari, Bangladesh. The project threatens to destroy the homes, lands and water sources of as many as 220,000 people, and forcibly evict an estimated 130,000 people. If the project is implemented, it would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land and would leave devastative impact on the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans.

 

Bangladesh said ‘NO’ to open cast mining. The government has declined to renew GCM’s license after the shooting. The company does not hold a valid contract with Bangladesh. But they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project in London Stock Exchange. GCM’s CEO has been systematically abusing local opponents of the project. 26 frontline community defenders in Phulbari and Dinajpur have been faced with multiple arbitrary cases as GCM’s CEO filed illogical cases. We are heading to GCM’s annual general meeting to challenge the investors and to ask them to leave Bangladesh. The annual general meeting of the company will be held at 10.00 a.m. on Tuesday 12 December 2017 at 4 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7BQ.

 

JOIN Us Inside and Outside the AGM!

Stand Against Abuse and Harassment of Community Defenders by GCM!

For further information, please contact:  07714288221, 07956260791, 07936047597

Email:Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh, UK branch nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com , Phulbari Solidarity Group phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

Visit Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/155245848559144/

 

Hundreds Signed the Berlin Declaration to Save the Sundarbans

By Rumana Hashem

The European Network of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh (NCBD)  has demanded the cancellation of Bangladesh Government’s  destructive project of 1320 MW Rampal Coal based power plant situated near the world largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans. Rampal is situated very close to sensitive ecological zone – biosphere of Sundarbans, which is the ultimate home of hundreds of species and the Royal Bengal Tiger. The adjacent area of the mangrove has already become a hub of industries because of this mega scale power plant. Therefore, the committee has also demanded to formulate supportive policy and to take necessary steps for alternative energy solution in order to save lives and nature from coal pollution and to produce cheap and affordable electricity in future. 

To oppose the destructive Rampal Coal-Power Plant, a two-day international conference was held at the Democracy and Humanity Centre in Berlin, Germany on 19-20 August, 2017.  Along with spontaneous participation of senior academics and ecologists from Germany, and front-line Bangladeshi green activists, many international environmentalists and representatives from climate organisation’s joined the conference in Berlin to say ‘NO’ to Rampal Power Plant. Among the participants were a large number of Bangladeshi researchers, students and professionals from Europe who expressed grave concerns.

At the end of the two-day conference, a statement of what the conference organisers called the ‘Berlin Declaration’ was announced, urging the government to promote renewable energy in Bangladesh, thereby saving the Sundarbans. In solidarity with the declaration that was announced from the conference in Berlin, over a hundred of environmentalists and nature and biodiversity based organisations such as 350.org. Europe, Coal Action Network, Green Peace, Friends of the Earth,  London Mining Network, World Wild Foundation, Women Engage for the Common Future, Bank Truck, Reclaim the Power and more have signed the Berlin Declaration.  We echo the signatories of the Berlin Declaration.  We signed the declaration as below:

 

We, the participants and supporters of the Sundarbans Solidarity Action Networking and An Alternative Energy Solutions for Bangladesh, an international conference to be held on 19-20 August, 2017, organised by The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh, the European Action Branch in Berlin have  signed the declaration as  follows:

 

The Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest of the world, is bestowed with magnificent scenic beauty and extraordinarily rich in biodiversity with a unique eco-system. It is a habitat of some of the endangered species e.g. Bengal Tiger, Ganges dolphin.  People living in adjacent areas are also dependent on this forest.  In addition to providing livelihood, it is also protecting millions of people living in the coastal belt from tidal surges and cyclones.

 

This forest is under severe threat from a Bangladesh-India joint venture project– Rampal Power Plant, a coal based power generating company. The plant is placed only 14 km from the forest. It is estimated that the plant will emit 7.9 million tons of CO2, and 0.94 million tons of ashes annually which will contaminate environment of the adjacent areas and will put the fragile ecosystem into critical condition. Despite the grave concerns raised by the experts, scientists, environmentalists, local population and international organisations, the Government of Bangladesh has been  moving ahead to implement the project for the last seven years. The project is scheduled to be completed within  the coming few years . To justify the project the government is blatantly giving false assurances to protect the forest from all  kinds of adverse impacts. The Government of India is also a major stakeholder of this joint-venture project and playing important roles as consultant, financier, and supplier of the equipment.

 

There is a growing demand of electricity in the country. To address the demand, the government has adopted a Power Sector Master Plan (PSMP) in 2016. The plan has proposed that the use of coal would increase from the current 0.3% to over 35%. The coal-fired power plants would produce electricity worth of 19,000 MW. It has also set the target to meet 10% of its electricity demand, by 2041, from its 7000 MW nuclear fleet, undermining the renewable energy potential. According to the PSMP 2016, the contribution of renewable energy would be only 3% of total electricity generation by 2041. This suggests that the government’s plan has failed to address environmental concerns and technical development in regards to renewable energy sources. Environment friendly renewable energy solutions are sustainable and cost effective and because of this, many countries in Europe and Asia including India and China are moving away from coal and nuclear based power generations.  Contrary to this, ignoring the growing positive shift , the government of Bangladesh has taken a position in support of dirty coal and nuclear based power generations.

 

Given this, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh (NCBD) has proposed an Alternative Power Sector Master Plan (APSMP) in July 2017. The APSMP 2017 has proposed to generate 55% of electricity from renewable energy sources including solar, wind, waste  and other green resources by 2041. The National Committee also  stipulates that there is an urgent need for the need for building national capability  that would attain 100% renewable energy usage to meet electricity demand of the country by 2050.  The NCBD has also categorically refuted the government’s arguments in regard to the nuclear and coal dependent energy policy.

 

We, the signatories of this declaration, view the NCBD proposed APSMP as a way forward to the current energy needs of Bangladesh.We  ask the government to listen to the NCBD’s suggestions for clean and renewable energy movement and protect the Sunderbans. We see it is the government’s duty to protect peoples’ interest rather than corporate greed and interest. As renewable energy is cheaper and eco-friendly, we demand a policy shift emphasizing renewable energy production rather than dirty coal energy generation. Renewable energy will protect ecology, life and livelihood of the people. The government must take appropriate steps to phase out coal and replace it with renewable energy sources in Bangladesh. The government ought to halt the Rampal Power Plant with immediate effect. As a coal based power plant, Rampal Plant will irreversibly damage the Sundarbans. It will disrupt the link between humans and the natural world by destroying ecology and species. This convention and the signatories of this declaration unequivocally demands immediate halt of the plant. We urge everyone to raise their voice to save  the Sundarbans, and to save our future.

 

Commemoration on Phulbari Day and Celebration of Over a Decade of Halt to an Open-Pit-Mine Held

By Raaj Manik

Friday, the 26th of August 2017 marks the 11th anniversary of Phulbari outburst when local activists, farmers, housewives and small entrepreneurs in Phulbari  have put a halt to a massive open-pit-coal mine by saying ‘NO’ to Global Coal Management (GCM) Resources Plc, an AIM-listed British mining company who want to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in Phulbari, a location in northwest Bangladesh.

 

Hand-painted banner for victims of Phulbari shooting. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

 

On 26th August in 2006 three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against plans by the Global Coal Resources Management , formerly known as Asia Energy. The day has been dubbed Phulbari Day since. If the mine is built, 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari would be forcibly displaced. It would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land, would pose threats to clean water resources, and would leave devastative impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and an UNESCO heritage site, the Sundarbans.

Phulbari outburst on 26 August 2006.

Pupils at Oxford’s Rose Hill Primary School painted banner against open cast mine to express solidarity with Phulbari people . 18 June 2015. Photo: Andy Edwards

Families of the victims and women protesters march towards Shahid Minar in Phulbari to pay tribute. 26 August 2015. Photo: Anonymous

Grand rally of locals in Phulbari town on 27 December 2014. Photo credit: Kallol Mustafa

The powerful resistance in the aftermath of the shooting against open-cast mine in Phulbari has put a decade long halt to the project. Government has cancelled the company’s license. Communities and climate activists at national and international levels formed a three-level resistance under the banner of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh (NCBD).  In support of the tremendous resilience in Phulabri, the National Committee (NCBD) held commemoration events in Bangladesh and London on Saturday 26 August in 2017. Like every year, the day was celebrated and the victims were remembered with respect by communities, simultaneously activists vowed to continue the struggle to end land grabbing and dirty coal power in Phulbari and elsewhere.

 

 

Despite grave concerns at national and international levels GCM is pushing the government to give it a go ahead. The company has changed its name from Asia Energy to Global Coal Management in 2010, and continued its dodgy deals and lobbying for Phulbari coal mine in Bangladesh.  Although GCM does not have a valid contract with Bangladesh, they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari coal project. Our strength is people power in and outside Phulbari. The halt to Phulbari coal project will continue.

Sun Has Shone On The Communities At The Vibrant Demo Against Vedanta Resources

By Rumana Hashem

Monday, the 14th August, was apparently a bright day for the communities oppressed by a notorious British mining company, called Vedanta Resources. Protests held by communities in Zambia, India and London while activist-shareholders, representing the communities, were interrogating the Vedanta board at their Annual General Meeting at the Lincoln Centre in Lincoln Inn Fields in London. Although residents of Lincoln Inn Fields have seen lousy weather with gusty wind and non-stop rain across London for weeks before Monday, the gorgeous sun has shown up to brighten the colourful and powerful protest of communities against Vedanta Resources last Monday.  Loud and theatrical protest was held outside the AGM of the British mining company, for three hours, accusing the company of major environmental and human rights abuses across its operations. I was one of the late comers though there were numerous protesters with noisy instruments and colourful banners and placards till late afternoon who greeted me in smiling face. They said, as were determined, that: “We wouldn’t leave the venue hitherto the miners are out of the block”.

 

Parallel protests and meetings were held by affected communities and their supporters at several locations in India and Zambia. Inside the AGM, dissident shareholders in London asked questions on behalf of Zambian villagers who are suing Vedanta in the UK for twelve years of polluted water, and tribal inhabitants of the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha, India, who accuse Vedanta of murdering and harassing them with state collusion. Organised by the Foil Vedanta, the protest in London was joined by many grassroots organisations and community activists from the global South.

 

The shareholders, representing communities, poured scorn on Vedanta’s 2017 Annual Report, which claims that the company ‘demonstrate world-class standards of governance, safety, sustainability and social responsibility’. They say it represents a poor attempt to don the “cloak of respectability” of a London listing noting that Vedanta was again excluded from the Norwegian Pension Fund’s investments this year following an investigation which found “numerous reports of Vedanta’s failure to comply with government requirements”1 at four subsidiaries in Odisha, Chhatisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Zambia. The report concludes that: “there continues to be an unacceptable risk that your company will cause or contribute to severe environmental damage and serious or systematic human rights violations.”

 

On Sunday, a day before the AGM, farming communities living downstream of copper mines run by Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Chingola, Zambia, held a meeting in Hippo Pool to renew their resolve in their twelve year struggle against the company for severe water pollution which has caused major health problems, and rendered land uncultivable. Police had refused them permission to hold a protest. Government officials visited their villages in Spring this year asking them to drop their London case against Vedanta and settle out of court with the company. The Headmen of Hippo Pool village submitted a statement to the Vedanta board and shareholders which was asked by Shoda Rackal from Women of Colour in Global Women’s Strike. The statement notes:

 

The people here are sick and tired of pollution which is killing us through illness and loss of our crops and fish. The pollution must end at all costs. Whether we receive compensation or not, we are asking you to stop polluting us now.”

 

Another dissident shareholder asked why Vedanta’s Annual Report makes no mention of its liabilities relating to the landmark legal case in which 1,826 of the farmers have been granted jurisdiction to sue Vedanta in London for gross pollution by KCM. At the July appeal hearing in the case, Vedanta’s lawyers claimed that the company’s sustainability and human rights reports are only produced for show as a requirement of London Stock Exchange rules. Instead they claimed Vedanta Resources has very little actual oversight or involvement with subsidiary operations such as Konkola Copper Mines.2

 

Meanwhile in Zambia debate rages over KCM’s secret finances as the company on Thursday announced it would retrench a further swathe of workers in favour of contract labour at its Nchanga underground mines. KCM have never filed Annual accounts in Zambia according to the recent London judgment.3 Samarendra Das from Foil Vedanta says:

The UK Government and London Stock Exchange are directly responsible for failing to investigate Vedanta’s corporate crimes in India and Zambia since its London listing in 2003. The Zambian State’s threats to polluted farmers demonstrate the ongoing colonial power of this British corporation which acts more powerful than the Zambian State.”

“Britain is profiting from the financial transactions of non-domiciled family-run business houses like Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta, while appearing to provide them a service. The opaqueness of the British financial system is gaining directly from giving Anil Agarwal “a cloak of respectability” and in exchange Britain itself is gaining from appropriating the resources of the third world”, adds Das.

 

Anil Agarwal with polluted water at the Vedanta AGM 14 August 2017. Photo credit: Foil Vedanta

In Chattisgarh the organisation Adivasi Resurgence held a protest at Ambedkar Chowk in Raipur, decrying Vedanta’s suppression of the Bakshi Commission report into the death of between 40 and 100 workers when a chimney collapsed at their Korba power plant.4 The inquiry found Vedanta as guilty of negligence and using sub-standard materials and construction methods which caused the death of the workers.5

 

At the University of Hyderabad the group Odisha Scholars for Social Justice held a protest and meeting today in solidarity with communities affected by Vedanta’s operations worldwide. In Delhi, students from Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA) held a solidarity demonstration at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) calling for an end to the displacement and repression of Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi communities across India by Vedanta.

 

While their Annual Report claims to respect the right to ‘Free Prior Informed Consent’, Vedanta has not given up its plans to mine the Niyamgiri hills, despite a unanimous referendum against it by tribal inhabitants in 2013. The Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) has filed a new plea with the National Green Tribunal to overturn the referendum, claiming it overstepped the provisions of the Forest Rights Act by allowing Palli Sabhas to decide on mining, rather than merely settling their claims.6 In September 2016 a group of Dongria Kond had burned down a CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) camp, opposing construction of a road connecting Niyamgiri to Kalyansingpur, which they claim is to aid Vedanta’s mine plans, and opposing ongoing harassment by the force.7

 

Last Friday five villages around another Odisha bauxite mountain – Kodingamali – held a palli sabha (village council) opposing the proposed mining of the mountain by OMC to feed Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery.8 They passed a resolution “not to give any patta land, forest land and community land to any mining company” under the banner of Ganatantrik Adhikar Suraksha Sangathan.

 

The Dongria Konds also held a protest on Tuesday in Lakhpadar village on Niyamgiri mountain under the banner of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS). They demanded the dismantling the Lanjigarh refinery since Vedanta did not get permission to mine, and an end to its illegal expansion. They also demand an end to the militarisation of Niyamgiri, claiming that the anti-Maoist programs are in fact targeting the tribal activists. Ongoing abductions, false arrests and State sponsored murders of tribal activists against Vedanta’s mine have been highly publicised in recent months.An NSS spokesperson Lingaraj Azad said:

 

Vedanta didn’t get permission to mine so why are they keeping the Lanjigarh refinery? which continues to pollute our communities, affecting our ecology and water resources and making people and animals sick.”

In August 2016 Vedanta Head, Anil Agarwal, told a press conference that he had asked Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to deal with the ‘disruptive elements’ holding up bauxite mining in the State, suggesting he follow the Tamil Nadu government’s approach with protesters at Kudankulam, where widespread police brutality was reported.9 In February 2016 Vedanta employed the services of former Iraq war General Sir Richard Shirreff, and Lord Peter Hain, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in ‘handling local protest groups’.10

 

Vedanta Resources are again the subject of multiple major scams and several international arbitrations this year. An international arbitration is underway for Vedanta’s withholding of $100 million in dividends from Cairn Energy, owner of 9.8% shares in Vedanta controlled oil company Cairn India.11 In December 2016 London courts ordered Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines to pay $103 million in withheld dividends to Zambian State entity ZCCM-IH.12

 

The Rajasthani High Court has uncovered a Rs 600 crore ($96 million) tax evasion scam in which Vedanta subsidiary Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL) benefitted from tax fraud at the hands of shamed IAS officer Ashok Singhvi in 2015.13 HZL is the subject of another major scam in which it closed its Visakhapatnam Zinc smelter on false grounds to enable the sale of the land for high value realty. HZL is also accused of major toxic pollution at the site.14

 

In Punjab, Vedanta subsidiary Talwandi Sabo Power Ltd is the subject of a major power purchase scam in which the Akali Dal government bought power at inflated prices from the private company over cheaper State owned companies.15 Former Rio Tinto CEO, Tom Albanese, will step down from Vedanta’s board at this year’s AGM along with executives Euan MacDonald and Aman Mehta. Vedanta’s CEO of Zambian operations Steven Din has recently been accused of offering bribes for the Simandou iron ore mine by the former Guinean mining minister, as part of a major corruption investigation. Din was head of Rio Tinto’s Guinean operation at the time the scandal unfolded, while Tom Albanese was CEO.16 Recent analyst reports highlight Vedanta’s high debt, lack of bauxite at Lanjigarh refinery, and operational issues in Zambia.

Reports have detailed how twelve years of pollution by KCM has turned the river Kafue into a ‘river of acid’19 20 and left the farmers with no access to clean water. As well as suing KCM and Vedanta in the UK for personal injury and loss of livelihood due to gross pollution, the villagers are demanding that KCM de-silt and remediate the contaminated areas so they can return to normal life.

An estimated 40,000 people in total are affected by contaminated water which also affects the municipal piped water system21. A number of scientific papers have documented the extent of contamination, with acid pH and heavy metal content regularly tens and even hundreds of times above legal limits.22 23 24

 

One villager Judith Kapumba appears in a youtube video testifying to how contamination has destroyed their livelihood and their lives, has claimed that many have ‘collapsed and died’ as a result of illnesses caused by drinking contaminated water, and that crops can no longer grow leading to starvation and extreme poverty. 25

 

 

For further details visit Foil Vedanta website:  www.foilvedanta.org

For photos and a short film of London demonstration, visit Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FoilVedanta/

Global Day Of Action Against British Miner Vedanta Resources To Be Held At Their AGM

BY FOIL VEDANTA

* Protests to be held by communities affected by British miner Vedanta Resources in India and Africa.

* Activist shareholders to again disrupt London AGM on 14th August.

* Vedanta battles international arbitration and UK compensation case over Zambian pollution.

Loud and theatrical protests will again be held outside the AGM of British mining company Vedanta Resources'(1) AGM at the Lincoln Centre, Lincoln Inn Fields, London at 2pm on Monday 14th August(2) accusing the company of major environmental and human rights abuses across its operations. Parallel protests will be held by affected communities and their supporters at several locations in India and Zambia. Inside the AGM, dissident shareholders will ask questions on behalf of Zambian villagers who are suing Vedanta in the UK for twelve years of polluted water, as well as tribal inhabitants of the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha, India who accuse Vedanta of murdering and harassing them with state collusion.

Protesters in London will pour scorn on Vedanta’s 2017 Annual Report, which claims that the company ‘demonstrate world-class standards of governance, safety, sustainability and social responsibility’. They say it represents a poor attempt to don the ‘cloak of respectability'(3) of a London listing, pointing out that:

  • Vedanta’s Annual Report makes no mention of its liabilities relating to the landmark legal case in which 1,826 Zambian farmers have been granted jurisdiction to sue Vedanta in London for gross pollution by its subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM).(4)
  • At the July appeal hearing in the case, Vedanta’s lawyers claimed that the company’s sustainability and human rights reports are only produced for show as a requirement of London Stock Exchange rules. Instead they claimed Vedanta Resources has very little actual oversight or involvement with subsidiary operations such as Konkola Copper Mines.1
  • Vedanta are again subject of an international arbitration for withholding $100 million in dividends from Cairn Energy, owner of 9.8% shares in Vedanta controlled oil company Cairn India.2 In December 2016 London courts ordered Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines to pay $103 million in withheld dividends to Zambian State entity ZCCM-IH.3
  • The Rajasthani High Court has uncovered a Rs 600 crore ($96 million) tax evasion scam in which Vedanta subsidiary Hindustan Zinc Ltd benefitted from tax fraud at the hands of shamed IAS officer Ashok Singhvi in 2015.4
  • While their Annual Report claims to respect the right to ‘Free Prior Informed Consent’, Vedanta has not given up its plans to mine the Niyamgiri hills, despite a unanimous referendum against it by tribal inhabitants in 2013. The Odisha Mining Corporation has filed a new plea with the National Green Tribunal to overturn the referendum, claiming it overstepped the provisions of the Forest Rights Act by allowing Palli Sabhas to decide on mining, rather than merely settling their claims.5

The Dongria Konds of Niyamgiri will hold a protest before the AGM demanding the dismantling the Lanjigarh refinery, and an end to its illegal expansion. They will also demand the release of Dongria activists from jail, decrying the ongoing abductions, false arrests and State sponsored murders of tribal activists against Vedanta’s mine. In May Kuni Sikaka, a 20 year old Dongria woman and active Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti member, whose father in law is NSS leader Dadhi Pusika, was removed from her home and kept in police jail for 3 days, where she was told to surrender as a Maoist or be jailed for 15 years. On 7th April 2016 Dasru Kadraka, a 25-year-old Adivasi youth leader and activist of NSS, was arrested and tortured with electric shocks by police asking him to surrender as a Maoist. An all female fact finding team comprising of senior Indian activists detailed these abuses in May 2017.6 In September 2016 a group of Dongria Kond had burned down a CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) camp, opposing construction of a road connecting Niyamgiri to Kalyansingpur, which they claim is to aid Vedanta’s mine plans, and opposing ongoing harassment by the force.7

In Zambia severely polluted villagers will submit questions to be asked by dissident shareholders at the London AGM.(5) Government officials visited their villages in Spring this year asking them to drop the London case against Vedanta and settle out of court with the company.

Samarendra Das from Foil Vedanta says:

The UK Government and London Stock Exchange are directly responsible for failing to investigate Vedanta’s corporate crimes in Zambia since 2006. The Zambian State’s threats to polluted farmers demonstrate the ongoing colonial power of this British corporation which acts more powerful than the Zambian State.”

Former Rio Tinto CEO Tom Albanese will step down from Vedanta’s board at this year’s AGM along with executives Euan MacDonald and Aman Mehta. Vedanta’s CEO of Zambian operations Steven Din has recently been accused of offering bribes for the Simandou iron ore mine by the former Guinean mining minister, as part of a major corruption investigation. Din was head of Rio Tinto’s Guinean operation at the time the scandal unfolded, while Tom Albanese was CEO.8

Recent analyst reports highlight Vedanta’s high debt, lack of bauxite at Lanjigarh refinery, and operational issues in Zambia.

Please join us at the demonstration at 2pm on Monday 14th August at the Lincoln Centre, Lincoln In Fields, London, WC2A 3ED.

Notes:

CASE STUDIES IN LONDON, ZAMBIA, and INDIA ARE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST.

Photographs and a report of the London and global demonstrations will follow on 14th August by 4pm GMT.

A short film of the London demonstration will be released to broadcast media by 5pm GMT on 14th August.

Contact: Miriam Rose: miriam.rose@outlook.com

Foil Vedanta www.foilvedanta.org

  1. Vedanta is a FTSE 250 diversified oil and mining company, who have been named the

‘world’s most hated company’ by the Independent newspaper for their long list of

environmental and human rights crimes for which they are being opposed all over the

world.9

  1. Foil Vedanta are a London based international solidarity group focusing on the activities of British mining company Vedanta. We link up global communities affected by Vedanta, and hold them to account in London. We are currently making the case for Vedanta to be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for their human rights and corporate governance abuses.
  1. Former Director General of the Confederation of British Industries, Richard Lambert, stated: ‘It never occurred to those of us who helped to launch the FTSE 100 index 27 years ago that one day it would be providing a cloak of respectability and lots of passive investors for companies that challenge the canons of corporate governance such as Vedanta…’.10.
  1. 1,826 of the most affected villagers won the right to have their case against KCM and Vedanta, demanding compensation for personal injury and loss of livelihood due to gross pollution, heard in UK courts in May 2016. Vedanta’s appeal to the judgment was heard in July 2017 and a verdict is expected in September/October.

Justice Coulson’s May judgement indicted KCM for financial secrecy, historic dishonesty and attempts to pervert the course of justice, revealing that KCM have never filed any annual accounts in accordance with the Zambian Companies Act, and referring to a 2014 London arbitration case against KCM in which three judges found KCM to be dishonest, obstructive and willing to cause unnecessary harm.11

  1. Reports have detailed how twelve years of pollution by KCM has turned the river Kafue into a ‘river of acid’12 13 and left the farmers with no access to clean water. As well as suing KCM and Vedanta in the UK for personal injury and loss of livelihood due to gross pollution, the villagers are demanding that KCM de-silt and remediate the contaminated areas so they can return to normal life.

An estimated 40,000 people in total are affected by contaminated water which also affects the municipal piped water system14. A number of scientific papers have documented the extent of contamination, with acid pH and heavy metal content regularly tens and even hundreds of times above legal limits.15 16 17

One villager Judith Kapumba appears in a youtube video testifying to how contamination has destroyed their livelihood and their lives, claiming that many have ‘collapsed and died’ as a result of illnesses caused by drinking contaminated water, and that crops can no longer grow leading to starvation and extreme poverty.

11 Dominic Liswaniso Lungowe & Others v. Vedanta Resources Plc and Konkola Copper Mines Plc, 27 May 2016

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/TCC/2016/975.html

12Rivers of acid’ in Zambian villages, 8th September 2015. BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-34173746

13 Bodhan Kribek et al, 2013, Methods of environmental monitoring in mining areas:

The Zambian Copperbelt Case Story, Presentation from a training course, delivered at University of the

Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, July 13-15, 2013.

14The New Colonialism: Britain’s scramble for African energy and mineral resources. War on Want, July 2016. http://www.waronwant.org/resources/new-colonialism-britains-scramble-africas-energy-and-mineral-resources

15 Ondra Sracek et al, 2011, ‘Mining-related contamination of surface water and sediments of the Kafue River drainage system in the Copperbelt district, Zambia: An example of a high neutralization capacity system’, Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 112 (2012) 174–188.

16 Bodhan Kribek et al, 2013, Methods of environmental monitoring in mining areas: The Zambian Copperbelt Case

Story, Presentation from a training course, delivered at University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, July 13 15, 2013.

Rampal Power Station: The development of a suicidal project continues

By Golam Rabbani

 

Sheikh Hasina’s desperate and dangerous move for Rampal Power plants will simply take the Sundarbans to its final grave. Despite substantial scientific evidence and analysis, the government goes on to implement the devastating project. There are many feasible alternatives to coal based power plants to meet the energy needs of the country, but all gets ignored bluntly.

 

Evergreen land of alluvial soil, Bangladesh has already suffered from the following environmental catastrophes:

  • Carrying capacity is under serious threat due to one of the highest population density in the world.
  • Climate change related vulnerability index put Bangladesh in top ten of the world.
  • Air, rivers, coasts and lands are already polluted to its maximum possible. These have displayed among the worsts in the world’s health indexes.
  • 15% current forestry where 25% is the required minimum.

 

Prime minister’s advisors and secretaries could look into available renewable technologies and generate funds from India as well as many other countries. They looked into imported coal based power plants, instead and India has finally won the international bids as always. The power relations between these two countries are “All YES to India” but “OK to Ignore Bangladesh” since the beginning.

Let’s look at the project details of Rampal Power Stations:

  • Sponsor:Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Pvt Ltd. (BIFPCL)
  • Parent company:Bangladesh Power Development Board and NTPC India
  • Location: Rampal, District: Bagerhaat (11km from the outer periphery of Sundarban)
  • Exact Coordinates:5924582, 89.556427
  • Gross Capacity:Phase I: 1320 MW (2 x 660 MW); Phase II: 1320 MW (2 x 660 MW)
  • Type:Ultra-Supercritical (Not Supercritical!)
  • Projected in service: December 2018
  • Coal Type: Not specified
  • Coal Source: Not specified
  • Source of financing:BPDB and NTPC (30%), Exim Bank India (70%)

 

Given the details, there is no doubt that the plant will cause environmental disaster to at least one third population of the country. This is why environmentalists have expressed their concern and warned us from the very first days. But Sheikh Hasina and her government insult scientific evidences and advertise through media in supporting the project. They can easily get away high court bench, academic research, Environmental Impact Assessment Report and even huge public protests. Here is a brief history of the project development:

 

2010:

On January 11, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Bangladesh Power Development Board (PDB) and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). Both are state organisations.

2011:

On March 1, Bangladesh High Court asked the government ‘why the construction of the plant should not be declared illegal’. [Investigation found no response available online]

On July 9, Protests against proposed Rampal Power Plant started by five local organizations along with National Committee to protect Oil, Gas, Mineral resources and power-port, an environmentalist group in Bangladesh. Police foiled the protests rally in Rampal. Political party BNP expressed solidarity after a week.

2012:

On January 29, an agreement was signed with PDB and NTPC set up a joint venture company under the name of Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company (BIFPC). They chanted the name of the plant to be as Maitree Super Thermal Plant which is expected to be implemented by 2016.

2013:  

On August 1, Department of Energy of Bangladesh approved construction later on with 15 preconditions where one of the conditions was to avoid 25km from the outer periphery of any ecologically sensitive area.

Once September, thousands of people marched 400 km to oppose the power plant concerning inevitable direct threats to Sundarban and its entire ecology.

Initially the inauguration was scheduled on 22nd October but on 5th October, PM Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the plant by pressing an electric switch at Veramara.

2014

Report from PDB on July 2014 expects commercial generation by December 2018

2016

In January, Export Import Bank of India (EXIM Bank) signed an agreement to finance the entire project.

In March over a thousand people marched from Dhaka to Rampal urging government to stop the plant.

On July 12, Bangladesh India Friendship Company Limited (BIFPCL) signed contract for construction with Bharat Heavy Electric Ltd (BHEL). Estimated cost $1.68 Billion.

On July 28 Police blocked Save the Sundarbans march towards the Prime minister’s office, arrested six and 16 were hospitalized due to baton and tear cell charges.

In August UNESCO has questioned the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report and called to halt the project and asked for a revised EIA report from PDB of Bangladesh.

2017

This year has started with a Global Day of Protest in which an unprecedented number of people from across the world have participated and gave verdict to save the Suburbans. Nevertheless, observers have seen 1834 acres of land has been surrounded by high boundary walls last month (in March). Inside the newly built wall, soil filling has already been completed. There are five high watch towers standing, awkwardly, high. Office cum residence for project officers and care takers are already in use. Workers and engineers are building six kilometers of bypass road from Mongla to the power station. There are two pontoons and jetties that have been set on the bank of Poshur River to unload the ships and tugboats.

 Clearly the destructive project is now going ahead with the permission of Bangladeshi and Indian Government.  The construction of the main site started end of March 2017, with their expectation that, this would be completed and go to operation by July 2019.

There are another two 660 MW Coal-fired power stations near Chittagong Port was initially being considered but there’s no details found and suspected to be on hold or cancelled.

Champion of the Earth awarded prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, along with her renowned advisors goes bluntly for fossil fueled electric plants but you could not question this destructive move. If you raise a question the result would be unendurable torture and abuse by Police and Rapid Action Battalion, those who meant to protect citizens from odds. This desperate move of Awami League government has resulted in over 90% price hike in just four years while experts are expecting even sharper raise of price in the year ahead.

Sheikh Hasina’s government claims that they have a vision to provide electricity to every house in 2021. Environmentalists, such as Professor Anu Muhammad and comrades of NCBD, also share this vision but they cannot see how it is possible without stopping fossil fuel industries and without ensuring renewable energy production. There are enormous possibilities of renewable energy sources which national environmental scientists have already demonstrated with strong evidence.

Bangladesh can easily set example that Green Development is not a utopian idea. The country has unique geographical advantages for longer coasts, surplus sun lights throughout the year to produce more than enough electricity from renewable sources. It is no longer a big challenge to achieve funds and technologies to meet the goal. But a government is desperate for a destructive project that will ruin the country’s ecology, thereby leaving devastating impact on the planet earth.

UK-Environmentalists Rallied with Bangladeshis to Save the Sundarbans on Global Day of Protest

  • Thousands of environmentalists protested across the globe
  • Successful protests held in Bangladesh, UK and 16 more countries expressing grave concerns about devastating impact of Rampal power plant

 

global-day-of-protest-rally-against-rampal-power-plant-to-save-the-sudnerbans-held-at-altab-ali-park-in-london-07-01-17

Saturday, the 7th January 2017,  has been celebrated as a Global Day of Protest to Save the Sunderbans and to stop the Rampal coal-power plant. Alongside nationwide protests in Bangladesh, UK’s green activists together with environmentalists of Bangladeshi community in the UK staged a colourful and loud demonstration at Altab Ali Park in London. Over 40 community activists and many transnational environmentalists rallied with beautiful placards and banners displaying powerful images of tigers, rivers, trees, humans and signs of large waving hands as symbols of ‘NO’.  They shouted “‘No’ to Rampal Power Plant”.

global-day-of-protest-rally-at-altab-ali-park-on-7-january-2017

 

 

In the two hour-rally, organised by the Committee to Protect Oil-Gas-Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh, speakers said that it is incredible that Bangladeshi government entered a deal with Indian corporations to build coal-fired plant in Rampal, which would leave devastating impact on 50 million people in Bangladesh and the world’s largest mangrove, called the Sundarbans. When UK, Germany, Denmark and Finland are rethinking about the negative aspects of coal-energy, Bangladeshi government has chosen dirty coal energy that would destroy the country’s ecology.  Protesters called on Bangladeshi government to scrap the contentious deal with India with immediate action.

 

Meanwhile, more than 4000 people took to the streets in Dhaka, Berlin, Halle, The Hague, Paris, Gwangju, Hordaland, Kolkata, Turku, New York, Melbourne and many other states of the world to protest against the Rampal plant that will be built by the Indian company, called the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), within 9 kilometers to an ecologically sensitive area, called the Sundarbans mangrove in Bangladesh.

global-day-of-protest-poster-for-london-rally-by-akhter-s-khan-7-january-2017

The Sundarbans is the largest single tract mangrove forest. It is extraordinarily rich in biodiversity, and is a World Heritage site.  But it is now in grave danger of losing its unique biodiversity and rare eco-system because of a planned coal fired power plant in Rampal. The threats to the Sundarbans are so critical that the UNESCO has also warned that the Sundarbans “may fall in grave danger if the planned coal-fired power-plant is established”.

 

The 1320 MW Rampal coal-fired power plant is a joint project of Power Development Board of Bangladesh and NTPC and BHEL of India. It is a great threat to the survival of Sundarbans because it would not only pollute environment by the coal-power plant but also is inviting a range of national and international vested interest groups to seize forest and to set up hundreds of commercial projects in and around the mangrove which would destroy the forest.

“The project has not only put the livelihood of at least 3.5 million people at risk, it has made the lives of around 50 million coastal people vulnerable to natural disasters as the Sundarbans have also been a huge natural safe guard against frequent cyclone, storm and other natural disasters in the country”, said Professor Anu Muhammad –  the member secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh (NCBD).

global-day-of-protest-rally-in-london-7-january-2017

The NCBD has declared a five-year peoples movement for the cancellation of Rampal power plant earlier. Saturday’s global action was part of this long-term movement that has been shared with hundreds of green activists across the world. The call for global day of protest was first heard at a grand rally on November 26, 2016 at the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka which was attended by over 15 thousands of people from across Bangladesh. In response to the call for a global day of protest, demonstrations, rallies and public meetings were held in Bangladesh, India, Australia,  Canada, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, Indonesia, Nepal,  Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, UK and USA. Thousands of protesters across the world vowed that they will stand with the movement to save the Sundarbans from mass destruction, and will work together to build a stronger global movement which would uphold public interest before profit.

As a next step to this global day of action, the NCBD has called for a half-day strike to be held on 26 January, 2017. The UK branch of the NCBD and Phulbari Solidarity Group will also hold public meeting in the UK in solidarity with the strikers in Bangladesh.

global-day-of-protest-in-london-on-7-january-2017

Read More:

Protests held globally against Rampal plant: Dhaka Tribune on 08 January 2017 [http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/environment/2017/01/08/protests-held-globally-rampal-plant/]

Successful Global Day of Protest To Protect Sundarbans: Asia Pacific Women, Law and Development on 07 January 2017 [http://apwld.org/press-release-successful-global-day-of-protest-to-protect-sundarbans/]

UN tells Bangladesh to halt mangrove-threatening coal-plant: The Guardian on 19 October 2016 [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/19/un-tells-bangladesh-to-halt-mangrove-threatening-coal-plant]

Further updates and more photos are available on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/events/218877755230424/

 

 

 

LONDON PICKET Of BRITISH MINERS Of DEVASTATIVE PHULBARI COAL PROJECT

               PRESS RELEASE 15 Dec 2016

             15542109_10154287669151553_650543184764904121_n

Thursday, London: Bangladeshi protesters from Phulbari were joined by transnational climate activists in a picket of directors of Global Coal Management (GCM) Resources Plc, an AIM-listed British mining company who want to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in Phulbari, Bangladesh. During the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) on Thursday 15 December in London a large group of protesters holding colourful banners and placards with powerful messages occupied the entrance of Aeronautical Society , an elite venue near Hyde Park Corner, where the AGM of GCM Resources was held.

 

 

 

Anti-coal protesters outside and inside the AGM called to shut down GCM Resources because the company does not have a valid license for business with Bangladesh but they are selling shares in London and committing abuse and human rights violation of farmers and local businessmen in Phulbari. Protesters outside the AGM chanted “CGM, out out”, “Gary Lye, blood on your hands”, referring to 26 August in 2006, when three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people for opposing plans by the company’s Bangladesh subsidiary, Asia Energy.

 

bangladeshi-postdoc-researcher-rashed-and-business-enterprenure-jahnara-rahman-joined-action-demo-with-ncbduk-president-dr-mukul

Dissident voices before entering the AGM express solidarity with the protesters outside  4 Hamilton Place, London. Photo by Golam Rabbani

A delegation of dissidents went inside the AGM and powerfully interrogated the company directors who failed to show evidence of any valid licence for business. The poorly attended AGM, which had only 10 shareholders including the company PR and excluding the six dissident voices, was quickly closed by the Chairman, Michael Tang, who was unable to answer any question from the floor.

 

This year marked the tenth anniversary of Phulbari outburst. The Phulbari project threatens to destroy the homes, lands, and water sources of as many as 220,000 people, and forcibly evict an estimated 130,000 people. If implemented, it would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land and would leave devastative impact on the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans. Earlier this year Phulbari Solidarity Group and Bangladesh National Committee called on London Stock Exchange to de-list GCM from London Stock Exchange.

 

 

Rumana Hashem of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye-witness to the killings in 2006 said:

The company’s CEO, Gary Lye, has been systematically abusing local opponents of the project. Earlier this year, Lye has filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 frontline local opponents, farmers, and small business entrepreneurs against mining in Phulbari and Dinajpur. This is incredible, and human rights abuse facing the innocent people and their families who never had anything to do with violence before this company inflicted violence in Phulbari.  

 

Akhter Sobhan Khan of Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh stated:

The Bangladesh government withdrew the mining licence in the wake of GCM’s atrocity but the company continues its dodgy attempts to raise funds for the operation of a perilous project. CGM is selling shares in the name of the Phulbari project in London.

 

Thursday’s picket event was co-organised by Phulbari Solidarity Group and the Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh. Action outside and inside the AGM was joined by transnational activists from Foil Vedanta, London Mining Network, Coal Action Network, UKBioregional, Plane Stupid, Reclaim the Power, Socialist Party of England and Wales, Transition by Design, and many Bangladeshi community protesters from Tower Hamlets and East London in the UK. Protesters say that they will not sleep until the company has closed its office in Dhaka and left Bangladesh.

Read a full report on the GCM Resources AGM by Richard Solly at London Mining Network http://londonminingnetwork.org/2016/12/gcm-resources-at-phulbari-perseverance-or-perversity/
Further news here http://m.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/24116/15-12-2016/picket-against-coal-project-in-bangladesh

 

Action to Shut Down GCM Resources plc.

When? 10:30am to 1pm on Thursday 15 December

Where? 4 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7BQ (Nearest tube station: Hyde Park Corner)

 

Hand-painted banner for victims of Phulbari shooting. Photo credit: Peter Marshall

This year marked the tenth anniversary of Phulbari outburst, where three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people in 2006 for opposing plans by a London-based AIM-listed mining company, Global Coal Management Resources (GCM).  Formerly known as Asia Energy, the company wants to build a massive open cast coal mine in Phulbari, Bangladesh. The project threatens to destroy the homes, lands, and water sources of as many as 220,000 people, and forcibly evict an estimated 130,000 people. If implemented, it would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land and would leave devastative impact on the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans.

 

The government has declined to renew GCM’s license. The company does not hold a valid contract with Bangladesh, while they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project in London. GCM’s CEO, Gary Lye, has been systematically abusing local opponents of the project. Earlier this year, Lye has filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 frontline local leaders against mining in Phulbari and Dinajpur, making the lives of local farmers and small business entrepreneurs unbearable.

 

We have been telling the company to stop abuse and corruption in Bangladesh for years. We have been going to their annual general meetings every year since 2008 but they cannot hear us. In 2012 Santa Claus has poured a sack of coal on the desk of board of directors as a punishment, and subsequently the ex-chairman of the company has resigned and the company had to change venue from Tower Hamlets to 4 Hamilton Place in Holborn. We have also written to UK’s ex-prime minister, David Cameron , who said that he would have looked into the case but never did. We have submitted three separate complaints to Houses of Parliament in the UK and our friends at International Accountability Project and Global Justice Now have lodged an OECD complaint to UK’s National Contact Point. In 2013 and 2014, Phulbari protesters  have disrupted GCM’s AGM and dumped coal in the door way which the corrupt investors should have found hard to forget. Last year we have given a final notice of closure to the company which a delegation of protesters inside the AGM has read out and handed in to the current chairman, Michael Tang. Yet GCM  continues to push Bangladesh government to approve a dodgy deal that is absurd.

The company has announced to hold its annual general meeting on 15 December in 2016. Therefore, we are heading to Aeronautical Society to disrupt and shut down GCM’s annual general meeting. We will charge the corrupt businessmen inside and outside the AGM. They must learn a better lesson than previous years.

JOIN US Inside and Outside the AGM on Thursday 15 December at 4 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7BQ (Nearest tube station: Hyde Park Corner).

Please confirm your participation via Facebook here. Bring your noisy instruments and whistles to disrupt the AGM of corrupt miners. See you there!

Contact for further information:  07714288221, 07956260791, 07861686036, Email: nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com , phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

 

Scrap the Rampal Power Plant project, Save the Sundarbans

As the government of Bangladesh suggests that the destructive deal with India cannot be scrapped due to delicate conditions of the contract, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh has written the following open letter to Indian Prime Minister. We believe that the Prime Minister of India can and should act promptly to halt Rampal Coal Power Plant.

 

anup-kundus-photo-28-jan-2015-copy Stop-rampal-coal-power-plant-poster-by-Rudro Rothi-on-1-august-2016

 

October 18, 2016

Scrap the Rampal power plant project, Save the Sundarbans

Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India

 

The Honourable Prime Minister,

We respectfully address you with grave concern and anxiety. The people of Bangladesh today is sternly worried over the future of the Sundarbans, which not only happens to be the only protection barrage of the southern belt of Bangladesh, but also the largest Mangrove Forest of the world, as well as the most valuable ecological habitat of the country and the World Heritage Site. The joint venture of both India and Bangladesh to build a 1320 MW capacity coal-fired power plant has caused much worry among the people of Bangladesh.

We have already written to the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh regarding this. As India is the major partner of this project, we believe, as the head of the Indian government, it is fundamentally important for us to address also to you in this regard, mainly for two reasons. The Rampal Power Plant, officially known as the Maitree Super Thermal Power Project, is a joint venture project of BPDB of Bangladesh and NTPC Limited of India. As per the joint venture agreement signed between Bangladesh and India, NTPC is responsible for planning, building and operating the plant. Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) is now officially responsible for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of the Rampal Power Plant. Exim Bank, a state bank of India, has been officially selected for financing this project, whereas Coal India Limited, most probably, is going to be appointed for supplying of necessary coal.

Secondly, if the Sundarbans, adjacent to the Bangladesh part is damaged, it would have a massive spillover effect on the Indian portion as well, affecting the lives and livelihood of the people of India living near Sundarban.

Based on studied opinion of a significantly large number of local and international experts, it is obvious that this particular coal-fired power plant would bring extensive destruction to the forest. It is also worth noting that, following the decision of building a power plant in Rampal, a range of influential business groups and commercial projects have pierced into the same area. It is predicted that the cumulative effect of such commercial aggression would ultimately cause fatal destruction to the Sundarbans.

It is important to note that around 3 to 4 million people including forest and fishing folks are dependent on the Sundarbans and the adjacent water bodies for their natural livelihood. Around 40 million people live in the southern coastal belt of Bangladesh. The power plant is ringing an alarm to the entire coastal community. Moreover, the damage would not be merely restricted to the Bangladesh portion of the Sundarbans. Around 5 million people living near to the Indian portion of the Sudnarbans would be put into grave danger too. Eventually, future generations from both nations would have to bear the deadly impact of the plant.

Obviously, we do not deny ‘development’. Power grids are also vital to modern lives. However, what is not acceptable is the implementation of some environmentally deadly projects which would merely profit the vested interest groups at the cost of the people and environment.

You must be aware of the fact that  this project has drawn huge criticism from both India and Bangladesh, and around the world. The UNESCO, the Ramsar Authority, the South Asian Human Rights Forum led by IK Gujral of India, along with other 150 various organizations have also opposed to the plant and demanded to scrap the deal. The Norwegian Council of Ethics has already withdrawn their fund from this controversial project.

Even the Minister of Finance of Bangladesh has admitted that inevitable environmental damage will be there, nevertheless the project must go on (15 February, 2016)1. We do not want to believe that it is the Government of India who is insisting on the project. Rather, we believe that the Government of India can play a vital role in saving the world’s largest Mangrove Forest by scrapping this controversial project.

Honourable Prime Minister,

The plant site is located on North of the Sundarbans, only 14 kilometers away from its boundary and within merely 4 kilometers of the Ecologically Critical Area (ECA).This site is only 2 meters above the sea level. It obviously holds a key financial and operating risk given the fact that it falls within a tidal delta region which experienced a tidal surge with the height of 5 meters. EIA study itself further notes that the Rampal plant would be in the “wind risk zone” of Bangladesh. It is worthy noting that this particular zone witnessed 16 cyclones in the past 25 years. We are deeply worried that the site’s location and elevation will be at extreme risk should sea levels rise or should an extreme weather event occur. In such events, the ash ponds – located near the Possur River – could easily be washed away putting the river at a serious ecological risk. The river is, in fact, one of the vital water bodies that provides fresh water flow to the world’s largest mangrove forest.

The Indian EIA guideline 2010 itself disallows setting up of similar projects within 25 kilometers of ecologically sensitive areas of India, including forests, rivers, and sanctuaries.2 You must have been aware of the fact that due to such environmental consciousness of the Indian Government, a number of coal-fired plant and coal mining project has been called off by the Green Tribunal and the Ministry of Environment of India3. We would like to call for your attention that while moving forward with this project, the Indian company has violated all environmental rules and regulations of the Indian government itself.

For the production of electricity, the plant will annually consume 4.72 million tons of coal.4  The coal and other toxic and chemical materials required for the construction and operation of the power plant will be transported to the project site through the waterways of the Sundarbans. The transportation of coal (nearly 13 thousand tons per day) through the waterways of the Sundarbans holds dire prospect of coal spillage, ballast water, bilge water, oil spillage, lubricant, and garbage. For the next 30 years, the transportation of cargo and lighter vessels, and the loading and unloading of coal will indeed bring extensive damage to the ecology of the forest and the wildlife habitats.

To run the Power Plant, water of the Possur River will be withdrawn (at the rate of 9,150 m3/hour) and discharged (at the rate of 5,150 m3/hour) into it again after use with a varying temperature5. This will reduce the oxygen of the water and damage the fish stocks of the Possur River. The rising temperature, company admits at least 2C6, will also affect the entire ecosystem and biodiversity of the forest, including the Zooplankton, the Phytoplankton, and the marine ecology. If it continues for the next 25 to 30 years, the marine ecology and the biodiversity of the Possur River would be destroyed, as well as the hydrological characteristics of the river including its salinity front, salinity level, sedimentation pattern, and tidal behavior. Discharged water will also contain huge amount of Mercury if coal-washing is done as confirmed by the Authority.

 

The zoologists have shown concern that the toxic substances emitted from the coal-fired power plant including arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, chromium, selenium, and radium are capable of contaminating the air and water to such an extent that it could harm the reproductive health system of the wild life animals and the species of the Sundarbans. The bird scientists are concerned that the coal-fired pollution may hamper the existence of at least 3 rare species of bird, which shelter in the Sundarbans.

The experts and engineers have long suggested that Ultra Super Critical Technology itself is only capable of reducing pollution only at a rate of 8 to 10 percent. Even if other pollutant reducing technology should be used, no record suggests that risk of pollution could be entirely eliminated.  For instance, the installation of FGD may reduce the risk of SO2 pollution, while increasing the chances of water pollution through the release of heavy chemical materials including Arsenic, Mercury, Selenium and Boron7. If low NOX Burner should be used, pollution could be reduced up to 40 to 60 percent, nevertheless, the rest of the toxin chemicals would remain hazardous enough to spoil the environment8. Though the authority has assured the use of FGD and ESP, the combined application of all such technology is capable of dropping the contamination level merely up to 48 percent9. On the other hand, the risk of release of an extensive amount of Mercury still persists, as there is no mention of applying any technology in tender document that regulates or controls the release of Mercury into the forestry and water10.

In the last few years, a number of accidents in the water routes, including deadly oil spill had left its long term footprints on the sensitive forest lives. The current transportation system on the Sundarbans area itself is creating severe sound and water pollution around the forest ecology. Lately, some sensitive locations around the forest have been announced as ‘endangered’ for the Irrawaddy Dolphins by the Government of Bangladesh. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh previously suggested bringing a complete halt to the transportation routes in the Shela River. However, the attempt failed. In these circumstances, we simply cannot take further risk by allowing a 1320 MW capacity of coal-fired plant on the backyard of the Sundarbans. Our experience with institutional capability is also frustrating11.

A coastal belt, in general, survives on the resistant capacity of the mangrove swamps. For instance, extensive commercial establishments in the coastal bodies of the New Orleans state of the USA have ultimately damaged the natural flow of Mississippi river. Due to the vulnerability of these coastal belt areas, Hurricane Katrina could make unprecedented damage to the coastal areas of New Orleans. In Bangladesh, during Hurricane Sidr and Aila, the Sundarbans has largely protected the people and resources of the southern coast. If the Sundarbans is damaged, the people and the species of the entire coastal belt will be practically unprotected.

We would like to stress on the point that no deadly experiement should be taken when the Sundarbans is concerned. Rather we demand to cancel the project, along with every other pollution enhancing projects and commercial activities around the Sundarbans. We also demand to bring a halt to the transportation of hazardous commodities around the Sudarbans. As Rampal power plant is not only a risk by itself, but also has consistently attracted a range of commercial ventures into the area; by scrapping the deal, the Indian government could play a crucial role in protecting the Sundarbans from all kind of forest damaging ventures.

The Sundarbans to us is not a subject of negotiation. Meanwhile, alternative locations and technology is available for power generation. Lately, the Srilankan government had cancelled a similar power plant deal with India (May 18, 2016)12. If Srilanka and India could scrap it, why not Bangladesh to prevent much bigger disaster?

Honourable Prime Minister,

We gratefully remember the contribution of India during the time of our liberation war in 1971. The people of Bangladesh have not forgotten the safe shelter that was provided by the people of India in a time of despair and misery. Nevertheless, it is also observed that the people of Bangladesh also hold much resentment towards the state of India due to its consistent measures of oppressive and humiliating policies. The Farakka dam, the upcoming dams along with the Indian river linking projects, border killing, the building of border fence, unfair trade agreements and loan terms, and the one sided transit deal are few Indian policies which have generated discontent in the minds of people of Bangladesh. And now it is the destructive power plant project.

We would like to stress on the point that people still expect solution of all earlier disputes, but if Sundarban is affected, the damage would be irrecoverable and there would be no turning back. The resentment and anger would stay for ever, the ‘friendship’ company will turn into permanent ‘source’ of hostility. We certainly do not want to create a condition as such. Rather we expect, for the sake of the friendship, the project should be called off. We believe, peaceful co-existence of the two nations could only be achieved through mutually respectable agreements and arrangements that would reflect the aspiration of both people in a fair and just manner.

Based on such aspirations, we hope that, you, as the Head of Indian government, along with our Prime Minister, would consider the genuine concerns of the people of Bangladesh and immediately scrap the Rampal Power Plant project.

 

Sincerely,

On behalf of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resource, Power and Port in Bangladesh

 

Engineer  Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah, Convener,           Prof. Anu Muhammad, Member Secretary

 

#SavetheSundarbans #StopRampalCoalPowerPlant #NOtoRampalCoalPlant

 

References:

1) ¶wZ n‡jI mi‡e bv ivgcvj we`¨yr ‡K›`«: A_©gš¿x

Ittefak, 15 February, 2016

http://www.ittefaq.com.bd/national/2016/02/15/55597.html

Rampal power plant to be commissioned despite risk to ecology

http://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2016/02/15/rampal-power-plant-to-be-commissioned-despite-risk-to-ecology

2) “Locations of thermal power stations are avoided within 25 km of the outer periphery of the following:

– metropolitan cities;

– National park and wildlife sanctuaries;

– Ecologically sensitive areas like tropical forest, biosphere reserve, important lake and coastal areas rich in coral formation;”

http://envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/TGM_Thermal%20Power%20Plants_010910_NK.pdf

3) The need to preserve the Khajuraho temple, famous for its erotic sculptures, as well as nearby tiger and crocodile sanctuaries has prompted a government panel to hold off on clearing a Rs.18,000 crore thermal power plant in Madhya Pradesh.
http://www.livemint.com/Politics/k9O019qiWVwh1r6iyESE0K/Panel-defers-green-clearance-for-NTPCs-Rs18000-crore-plant.html

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) .. .. quashed the environmental clearance for the 3,600-MW thermal power plant proposed by IL&FS Tamil Nadu Power Company Limited in Cuddalore, on the grounds that no proper cumulative impact assessment was done.
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/ngt-quashes-eco-nod-for-cuddalore-power-plant/article6587910.ece

Noting that a thermal power plant near human habitat and on agricultural land was not viable, a Central green panel has refused to give approval to the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to set up a 1320 MW coal-based project in Madhya Pradesh.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ntpcs-coalbased-project-in-mp-turned-down/article819873.ece

4) Rampal EIA, page 378

http://bifpcl.com/new/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/EIA-Report-Volume-I.pdf

5) Rampal EIA, page 117.

6)“Temperature of discharge water shall never be more than two degree Centigrade (2OC) above river water temperature”- Question To Answer From Rampal Authority

http://energybangla.com/question-to-answer-from-rampal-authority/

7) Cleansing the Air at the Expense of Waterways

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/13/us/13water.html?_r=0

8) AN OVERVIEW OF TECHNOLOGIES FOR REDUCTION OF OXIDES OF NITROGEN FROM COMBUSTION FURNACES, page-4

http://www.mpr.com/uploads/news/nox-reduction-coal-fired.pdf

9) https://netl.doe.gov/File%20Library/Research/Coal/ewr/mercury_-FGD-white-paper-Final.pdf

10) State-of-the-art technology for mercury control is sorbent injection in the boiler or in the flue gases followed by capture of the resultant particulates in a bag house. These technologies are simply missing in the tender document.

http://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/10-questions-authorities-answers-counter-response-1281937

11) “90,000 m3 polluted water flowing into rivers around Dhaka every day”. Banik Barta, 2 April, 2016

https://goo.gl/GEzbpc

12 ) Sri Lanka scraps NTPC’s plan to build coal plant

http://www.thehindu.com/business/sri-lanka-scraps-ntpcs-plan-to-build-coal-plant/article9104518.ece

Indian people’s movements and civil society call upon Modi to withdraw India’s support from Rampal Coal-Power Project

 

Following the ongoing human rights violation of the National Committee activists and front-line organisers against Rampal coal-fired plant in Bangladesh, many concerned Indian green and human rights organisations have written an open letter to the Prime Minister of India to withdraw support from the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company, thereafter the destructive Rampal Power Project.  The letter signed by 43 organisations and many activists is as follows.  

 

October 18, 2016

 

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister on Rampal Power Project

 

Respected Prime Minister,

 

We, the people’s movements and other civil society organisations in India, draw your urgent attention to the serious issues emerging from the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (Rampal Power Project), being built near the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sundarbans in Bangladesh.

 

This project is opposed by people in Bangladesh and India for its monumental social and environmental negative impacts, particularly the irreversible damage to Sundarbans and the fragile ecosystem around it.

 

40% of the Sundarbans is in India and any damage to that will have devastating impacts on thousands of fishworkers and forest dwellers depending on it, apart from the damage to the natural protection from natural calamities like tsunami and cyclones.

 

The project is partly owned by NTPC, financed by Indian ExIm Bank, equipment’s supplied by BHEL and PricewaterhouseCoopers Private Limited, India contracted for long term coal sourcing. Hence India’s share in this project is significant.

 

People in Bangladesh, under the umbrella of National Oil, Gas, Mineral Resource, Power and Port Protection Committee, have been opposing the project with support of movements from different parts, including India. Leader of the National Committee Prof Anu Muhammad has been receiving death threats for the role he is playing for opposing the project.

 

While we condemn univocally death threats to Prof Anu Muhammad, we would urge you to request the Bangladesh government to ensure the safety of political activists there.

 

Further, we urge you to look at the colossal damage this project is causing to people and environment in India and Bangladesh and withdraw India’s support to the project.

 

 

Signed by:

Ashok Chowdhury & Roma Malik, All India Union of Forest Working People

Madhuresh Kumar, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)

Narmada Bachao Andolan

Soumya Dutta, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha

National Hawker Federation

Abhijit, Lokayat, Pune

Afsar Jafri, Focus on the Global South

All India Forum of Forest Movements

Ashok Shrimali – Secretary General of mm&P

Ayesha DSouza, Centre for Financial Accountability

Bharat Patel, Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan

Environics Trust

Environment Support Group – Trust, Bangalore

Equations

Gautam Bandyopadhyay, Nadi Ghati Morcha

Gururaja Budhya, Urban Research Centre, Bangalore, India.

Himanshu Damle, Public Finance Public Accountability Collective (PFPAC)

Himanshu Thakkar. South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People. Delhi

Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)

Indigenous Perspectives

Jiten Yumnam, Secretary, Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur

Kiran Shaheen, Aql ki Dhaba,

Krishnakant, Mithi Virdi

Maglin Peter, Teeradesa Mahila Vedi

Mahan Sangarsh Samiti

Manipur Cycle Club

Manshi Asher,  Himdhara Collective, Himachal Pradesh

Muthukrishnan, writer / Activist Madurai

North East Peoples Alliance

Priya Pillai, Greenpeace India

PT George, Intercultural Resources.

Ravi Rebbapragada, Executive Director, Samata India

Samir Mehta, International Rivers South Asia

Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune/Badwani

Shweta Tripatji, Society for Rural Urban & Tribal Initiative (SRUTI)

Sundarrajan, Sundarrajan, Poovulagin Nanbargal, KKNPP

Tarini Manchanda, filmmaker

The Research Collective

Umesh Babu, Delhi Forum

Vaishali Patil, Forum Against Disastorous Project in Konkan.

Vijay Pratap, South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy (SADED)

Vimalbhai, Matu Jansangthan

Xavier Dias, Khan Kaneej Aur Adhirkar

Klimacamp Solidarity Statement on Phulbari Hearing Day

As trial of multiple arbitrary cases filed by GCM’s corrupt CEO, Gary Lye and Asia Energy gangs, in Dinajpur Magistrate Court facing 26 front line Phulbari activists today, a beautiful and powerful message of solidarity came from Rhineland Klima Camp. The message came via email to Phulbari Solidairty Group in support of both the brave activists in Phulbari and the save Sunderbans movement. The message states that the fight against coal miners and corrupt multinational corporations has to continue.

Activists at the Klimacamp in the Rhineland in Germany wanted to send the following message and photograph on the tenth anniversary of the Phulbari killings. It was delayed to reach us due to unforeseen.  The message from Klima Camp resistance is as follows:

A thousand of people at lunch of Rhineland Klima Camp in resistance from Germany, around Europe and beyond stood in Solidarity with Phulbari protesters on the tenth anniversary of Phulbari outburst on 26 August 2016. Photo credit: Klima Camp Solidarity

A thousand of people at lunch of Rhineland Klima Camp in resistance from Germany, around Europe and beyond stood in Solidarity with Phulbari protesters on the tenth anniversary of Phulbari outburst on 26 August 2016. Photo credit: Klima Camp Solidarity

Dear people fighting against the Rampal coal-power plant and the coal industry in Bangladesh,

As activists at the Klimacamp in Germany we want to express our solidarity with people fighting against the destructive Rampal coal-power plant and the coal industry in Bangladesh. We know that we are battling against the same issues – the coal industry, state power, climate change, human displacements and ecosystem destruction. However we acknowledge that the situation for people protesting in Bangladesh is much more severe than for those of us who live in Germany and Western Europe.

When we protest in our countries we may be arrested and treated harshly by the police, but we know that we will not be intentionally killed. We are aware of our nations’ involvement in the destruction of your country – that the company that wishes to mine at Phulbari is listed on the London Stock Exchange and that our countries cause climate change but Bangladesh is at the forefront of climate change impacts.

At the Klimacamp we are taking actions against the coal industry and other polluters in Germany. We see this as a small piece of the bigger picture in the battles against coal and for a liveable climate. We want to send our support and solidarity to you, especially as you mark the tenth anniversary of the Phulbari demonstration and the murder of villagers.

There were a thousand people at lunch on our resistance camp today, from Germany, around Europe and beyond. They were told your story, and invited to join the photo to send you solidarity. So many people wanted to take part that we couldn’t fit them all in the shot. Your work is an inspiration to us.

In solidarity,
campaigners at the Rhineland Klimacamp 2016.

Protesters Call To DE-LIST Global Coal Management PLC.From London Stock Exchange

Commemoration and celebration go together at London Stock Exchange 26 August 2016 Photocredit Peter Marshall

Commemoration and celebration go together at London Stock Exchange 26 August 2016 Photo credit Peter Marshall

PHULBARI DAY VIGIL TURNS INTO HEATED DEMO

By Paul Dudman

 

Friday the 26th August, marked a decade of halt to plans by an AIM-listed British company, Global Coal Resources Management (GCM), who want to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in Phulbari, northwest Bangladesh. A four day long Commemoration for victims of Phulbari outburst, where three protesters were shot dead by police in 2006, was held in Dkaka, Dinajpur, Phulbari, London and Germany. On the final day of remembrance, on 30th August, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh has declared a fresh programme in Phulbari to kick GCM out of Bangladesh as the CEO of the company has recently filed multiple arbitrary charges against indigenous farmers, small businessmen and local leaders who opposed the mine.

 

In response to the call by National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh, community activists under the banner of Phulbari Solidarity Group and Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh held a colourful and powerful commemoration rally and protest at London Stock Exchange , calling for the de-listing of the company from London Stock Exchange. Despite heavy securitization and repeated attempts of interruption by British police, angry protesters blocked the pavement of the main entrance of London Stock Exchange for two hours and demanded immediate de-registration of GCM for its unethical business, deceitful marketing of Phullbari project, and for human rights abuse in Dinajpur and Phulbari. Of what was meant to be a Red Vigil for Victims of Phulbari has turned into a commemoration come noise demo as the CEO of London Stock Exchange, Xavier Rolet KBE, failed to respond to the protesters’ call for de-listing of GCM. The Phulbari Solidarity Group has contacted the CEO of London Stock Exchange and submitted evidence of unethical business of the company before the demo.

 

Police objects to PSG Founder Rumana Hashem to remove the banner from the pavement copyright Peter Marshall

Police objects to the blockade of LSE pavement but  PSG Founder Rumana Hashem says:” the banner for the victims will not be removed.” Photo credit: Peter Marshall

A remembrance vigil was held, followed by an angry demo with Santal and Tamil drumming, and ended with tribute by flowers and candles being paid to the three people who were killed by paramilitary force, allegedly paid by the company, in Phulbari on 26 August in 2006. Wearing masks of Gary Lye (CEO of GCM) and Michael Tang (the Chairman of the company), the protesters sang Phulbari jingles against coal mine. The protest observed a three-minute silence for the three victims, Al—Amin, Salekin and Tariqul, who died in the Phulbari shooting. Dressed in red, blue and black, protesters laid down a banner for victims, stating “YOUR DEATH WILL NOT BE IN VAIN”, on the pavement of the London Stock Exchange. Protesters from Bangladesh were joined by international and British environmental campaigners, and advocates for human rights, anti-mining movement and workers rights.

Shameless Gary Lye and Blatant lyer Michael Tang dance with coal over deadbodies Photocredit Peter Marshall

GCM CEO Gary Lye and company Chairman Michael Tang stood as numb and blatant guilty copyright Peter Marhsall

GCM CEO Gary Lye and company Chairman Michael Tang stood as numb and blatant guilty. Photocredit: Peter Marhsall

 

 

Dressed in red, blue and black protesters outside the London Stock Exchange paid a two-hour homage to the victims. A banner, stating “YOUR DEATH WILL NOT BE IN VAIN” was laid on the pavement of the London Stock Exchange Group’s Headquarter for International Trading.

 

Hand-painted banner for victims of Phulbari shooting. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Hand-painted banner for victims of Phulbari shooting. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Protesters from Bangladesh were joined by international and British environmental campaigners, and advocates for human rights, anti-mining and workers rights. Among others, Foil Vedanta, European Action for Climate, London Mining Network, Global Justice Campaign, the Socialist Party of England and Wales, Tamil Solidarity and Voice of Freedom have made it explicit that they will stand with Phulbari people in their struggle. The sound of compassion, sadness, empowerment and resistance echoed in the protest, and the firm speeches by passionate activists and outrageous crimes by British multinational companies overseas was heard by the entire Paternoster Square on Friday – although none from London Stock Exchange seemed concerned about these crimes.

 

Simultaneously, tributes were paid to the victims of Phulbari at National Martyrs Monument in Dhaka, and red vigil and cultural events took place in Phulbari under the banner of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh (NCBD in short). In the four-day commemoration events (26-30 August) and celebration of the halt, they demanded the ban of the company in Bangladesh for its ongoing abuse of activists in Phulbari and increasing corruption in Bangladesh.

 

 

Christine Hague of Global Justice told how partially OECD complaint agaisnt GCM was treated by UK NCP Photocredit Peter Marshall

Christine Hague of Global Justice told how partially OECD complaint against GCM was treated by UK NCP. Photo credit: Peter Marshall

The company has been allegedly involved in various forms of abuse and harassment of local activists and opponents of the proposed Phulbari mine. Media report on the brutal death of Nasrin Huq , the former executive director of Action Aid in Dhaka, revealed that in 2005 Huq was killed brutally in her car park for her opposition to the project. A report to which the company was unable to respond was published in the Observer.[i]  Later in 2006 three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against plans by the company. Local organisers have reported that the company has bribed the paramilitary personnel and forced them to open fire against the decision of the Police Magistrate on duty who stated that there was no permission for shooting on people. There were over 200 people injured and many abused on the same day. The day has been called Phulbari Day since, and powerful resistance in the aftermath of the shooting against open-cast mine in Phulbari has put a decade long halt to the project. Government has cancelled the company’s license. But the company has been pushing the government to give them a go ahead.

 

Shameless Gary Lye and Michael Tang dance with coal over deadbodies Photocredit Peter MarshallThe company’s CEO, Gary N Lye, has been allegedly harassing opponents of the project and the company has been extremely abusive to indigenous farmers, local organisers of Phulbari outburst, and small business entrepreneurs who demanded the company’s ban in Phulbari. After the shooting and deaths of three people on 26 August in 2006, Gary Lye stated that he is businessman and he understands nothing but coal. In a live interview with Farzana Rupa on ATN Bangla TV, Lye said: “I am a businessman , my business is to extract coal. It is not my business to know who dies and who cries” (ATN Bangla News, 26 August 2006).  Locals have declared that this CEO is unwanted in Phulbari and when he attempted to re-enter Phulbari town he was resisted by locals in November 2014.

 

Last month, a day before the International Mangrove Action Day when Bangladeshis was focused on the controversial deal on Rampal power plant, the company has filed multiple cases against 26 key indigenous organiser’s, local leaders, farmers, small scale business entrepreneurs and students who opposed the mine in Phulbari. The arbitrary charges formed on 25 July, 2016, at Dinajpur Magistrate Court appeared as extremely abusive and the next hearing on 7 September will be a crucial day for all those fighting the fraught.

 

The NCBD has declared a fresh programme on Phulbari Day to fight GCM and ban the Phulbari project. This includes rally demanding a ban of the company in Phulbari on 25 October, blockade of the Dinajpur District Commissioner’s Office on 21 November and half-day strike in Phulbari on 21 December. If demands are unfulfilled by December, intense and unending strike would start. Phulbari Solidarity Group believes that that this will not be needed as activists in London will hold the company to account and will ensure a ban of GCM from London Stock Exchange before the end of this year.

Paying tribute to the victms of Phulbari with flowers and by lighting candles on 26 Aug 2006 at London Stock Exchange

Paying tribute to the victms of Phulbari with flowers and by lighting candles on 26 Aug 2006 at London Stock Exchange. Photo credit: Kerima Mohiuddin

 

Although GCM does not have a valid contract with Bangladesh, they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project. The company has changed its name from Asia Energy to Global Coal Management in 2010, and continued lobbying for Phulbari coal mine in Bangladesh. If the mine is built, 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari would be forcibly displaced. It would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land, would pose threats to clean water resources and would leave devastative impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans.  Despite grave concerns at national and international level, and declaration made by seven UN rapporteurs, GCM is pushing the government to give it a go ahead.

 

 

Arguments with Police who prohibited Rumana Hashem to display the banner for the victims on the pavement Copyright Peter Marshall Gary Lye and Michael Tang shamelessly danced with coal over deadbodies Photocredit Peter Marshall

Arguments with Police - a community leader tells Police not to interfere with demonstrators. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Arguments with Police – a community leader tells Police not to interfere with demonstrators. Photo credit: Peter Marshall

 

Phulbari Solidairty Group Founder and an eye witness to the shooting in 2006 lights a cnadle for the victims of Phulbari on 26 August 2006 at London Stock Exchange. Photocredit : Peter Marshall

Phulbari Solidairty Group’s Founder and an eye witness to the shooting in 2006, Dr Rumana Hashem, lights a candle for the victims of Phulbari at the entrance of London Stock Exchange. Photo credit : Peter Marshall

Contact for further information:  07714288221, 07956260791.

Further news, photos and videos:

Ten years of Resistance to Phulbari Open Cast Mine: Peter Marshall’s Mylondondiary.co.uk

A video of the noise-demo to de-list GCM from London Stock Exchange (by Pete Mason of Socialist Party of England and Wales): https://youtu.be/-_cKiRWt9NI

London Stock Exchange targeted by Bangladeshi activists: Foil Vedanta report

Phulbari Day protest outside London Stock Exchange: Begum24.com by Ansar Ahemd Ullah

[i]  The mystery death of Nasrin Huq –a report to which the company was not able to respond to, was derived from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/sep/03/bangladesh, last cited on 01. 01. 2013

An Eye Witness of the shooting and outburst in Phulbari: Keeping Coal Resources under the Ground with Blood, A Different Revolution

New Programme to Kick GCM out of Bangladesh declared on Phulbari Day: BNP is Not our Friend 

Mark the Decade of Resistance, Mark Phulbari Day!

Celebrating 10 years of Halt to Open Cast Mining, Commemorating the lives of brave Villagers

What? RED Vigil at London Stock Exchange

 When? 11am to 1pm on Friday, 26 August 2016

Where? London Stock Exchange HQ for International Trading , 10 Paternoster Square, London EC4M 7LS  (nearest tube station: St Paul’s)

Find Map

Phulbari 2014

 

Friday, the 26th of August marks a decade of the Phulbari outburst. In 2006 three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against plans by an AIM-listed British company, Global Coal Resources Management , who wants to build a massive open cast coal mine in Phulbari, a location in northwest Bangladesh. The day has been called Phulbari Day since, and powerful resistance in the aftermath of the shooting against open-cast mine in Phulbari has put a decade long halt to the project. Government has cancelled the company’s license. Although GCM does not have a valid contract with Bangladesh, they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project. The company has changed its name from Asia Energy to Global Coal Management in 2010, and continued its dodgy deals and lobbying for Phulbari coal mine in Bangladesh.

If the mine is built, 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari would be forcibly displaced. It would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land, would pose threats to clean water resources and would leave devastative impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans.  Despite grave concerns at national and international level, and declaration made by seven UN rapporteurs, GCM is pushing the government to give it a go ahead.

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Port-Power and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh has called upon national and global environmentalists to observe 10th anniversary of Phulbari outburst and to protest against GCM’s dodgy business and to mark the decade of Phulbari Resistance.  In conjunction with the Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Port-Power and Mineral Resources, we will celebrate the decade-long struggle in London.

Phulbari Day POster by NCBD 2016

We will hold a Red Vigil for Victims of Phulbari outside the London Stock Exchange at 11am next Friday. We will ask London Stock Exchange to De-list GCM Plc and to show cause Gary Lye’s gang for selling fake shares. We will commemorate for the lost lives by rallying against GCM. We will celebrate our decade-long resistance by turning the commemoration event into a powerful rally against dark coal business.

JOIN US at London Stock Exchange (nearest tube station: St Paul’s).

Bring your organisation’s banner, noisy/music instruments and flowers for the victims if you can. Wear Red, Black or Blue as symbols of Resistance, Anguish and Celebration of struggle!

Please confirm participation via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/641147849383562/

Contact for further information:  07714288221, 07956260791, 07861686036

Email: nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com , phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh, UK branch     Phulbari Solidarity Group

Download Mark the Decade of Halt, Observe Phulbari Day Flyer August 2016

LMN call out for Phulbari Solidarity demo in London on 19 dec 2012

Local women, men and children cried out to save their homes, lands and lives in Phulbari in the aftermath of the GCM-provoked shooting in Phulbari. Photo: 28 August 2006

Mothers, sisters, wives and all the effected women vowed to protect  Phulbari through outburst after the shooting on 26 August 2006. Copyright: PSG

 

Be There! We Are Coming to Your Door This Saturday!

Sundarbans, the World’s Largest Mangrove Forest is Under Attack. Save the Sundarbans and Stop Coal Fired Rampal Power Plant.

Recently, the Government of Bangladesh has signed an agreement with India’s state run Bharat Heavy Electrical Ltd to set up a coal fired 1320 MW power plant on the edge of the world’s biggest heritage-listed mangrove forest, the Sundarbans. Rampal power plant will emit huge amount of carbon, sulphur, toxic gases, smoke and ashes which will destroy the forest.

Pollution from Ash and Smoke: – Annually, around 0.94 million tons of ash will be generated from the plant, of which 80% will be dry fly ash and the rest of the 20% will be bottom ash. This ash will contain many heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmigreen cultural activists at samageet brought in a a procession with a royal bengal tiget on Bangla New year 2016um, chromium, selenium and, radium, which are dangerous if released into environment. Toxic ash and smoke from burnt coal will pollute the air, land and water bodies and will endanger plant and wildlife.

 

Water Contamination: Water will be contaminated due to toxic ash, oil and coal spillage from the coal carrying vessels and other waste discharge.

 

Noise Pollution: There will be a lot of noise pollution from coal power plant itself, from transportation of coal carrying vessels and loading and unloading of coal.  Noise pollution will endanger wildlife.


Destruction of the Forest:

All the above mentioned disadvantages will results in destruction of Sundarbans, wildlife, flora and fauna, ecology and the environment.

Friends, please join us to stop this poisonous coal fired Rampal power plant and save Sundarbans!

Say NO to DESTRUCTIVE #RAMPALCOALPOWERPLANT

National Committee to Protect Oil Gas and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh, The UK branch

Contact 07714288221/ 07956260791/ 07506709691. Email: nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com

 

When will Vedanta be ashamed for their misdeeds?

A personal reflection on notorious Vedanta’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) 2016

Rumana Hashem

Last Friday we saw fantastic global actions against a British mining company, called the Vedanta Resources, who attempted to hold their Annual General Meeting in London but ended up being interrogated by dissident shareholders. The British mining company, Vedanta Resources, is known as notorious for abuse and destruction in the name of development overseas. According to Foil Vedanta report (2016), Vedanta is controlled and 69.6% owned by Brit Anil Agarwal and his family through a series of tax havens and holding companies. It was launched on the London Stock Exchange in 2003 with the assistance of the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), who continue with their support for the company. I witnessed their misery in the AGM on Friday the 5th August.

A board member - Anil Agarwals family member needed to be escorted by British police as protesters were angry against Agarwal family for destroying communities . Photocredit: Peter Marshall across the south Photo by Peter Marshall

Foil Vedanta demo shows how British Police was caught by the Vedanta monster on Friday at Ironmongers Hall  by Peter Marshall

A Police was caught by the Vedanta monster on Friday at Ironmongers Hall. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

 

Like every year, protests have been held in India, London and Zambia during the AGM of Vedanta Resources’ at Ironmongers Hall, Barbican, London. A loud protest outside the meeting was organised by Foil Vedanta and was joined by many southern grassroots organisations and community activists from India, Indonesia, Namibia, South Afrika and Zambia. Protesters demanded that Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines publish its hitherto secret annual accounts in Zambia. Community activists accused the company of pollution, human rights abuses and financial mismanagement in India and Afrika.

At Vedanta’s AGM activists from Foil Vedanta , Phulbari Solidarity Group, London Mining Network and Mines and Communities interrupted the meeting by asking incisive questions to the board. I joined the meeting with dissident shareholders who raised questions on Vedanta’s pollution in Zambia, and human rights abuses and worker’s deaths in India. We asked questions on behalf of the Zambian Copperbelt villagers living downstream of Vedanta’s Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), who have been demanding an end to twelve years of pollution by KCM, which has turned the Kafue into a ‘river of acid‘ and left them with no access to clean water.

 

We asked why KCM has never submitted annual accounts in Zambia in accordance with national laws, and whether Vedanta’s deliberately obstructive approach to compensation cases as revealed in a recent London judgement was company policy. With regard to the serious safety conditions at Bodai Daldali dissident shareholders asked, “whether the mine is one of the certified 48 mines.” Independent and senior researchers who visited the area in India said that seven years ago he had asked about bauxite operations in Chhattisgarh, including the fact that children were working in the mine, which still await answer. Why had researchers and journalists been stopped at the entrance to the site? How can Vedanta make claims in their CSR reports and not even be bothered to share the report with  villagers? Most of our questions received no clear answer from the board. Vedanta board, led by Anil Agarlwal, appeared perniciously barefaced in the AGM, and failed to answer important questions concerning the abuse and destruction that the company has been doing to the communities across the south. Instead of engaging with our questions, Anil Agarwal ended up flattering us as ‘ladies first’, ‘I like girls’, ‘I am fond of Bangladesh’ so on and so forth.

Foil Vedanta demo at AGM  5 August 2016. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Foil Vedanta demo at AGM 5 August 2016. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

The meeting began by a rather long introduction by Deepak Kumar, who went into immense detail for around ten minutes over the instructions for use of the handset provided for voting. It followed by the company Chairman, Anil Agarwal’s long speech followed by Vedanta CEO, Tom Albanese’s ever bizarre presentations. In their “sustainable development” report both Mr. Agarwal and Tom Albanese stated that “the priority is”, on the one hand, to focus on “zero harm” and “to ensure zero discharge and waste”, on the other hand. Note this is a mining company that is known as notorious for abuse in India and Zambia. Agarwal insists, even if the company has been causing colossal problems which has landed them in the court, ‘there will be incremental technical improvements that will make things alright eventually’. As Andy Whitmore notes correctly, ‘his slumber is assured by the promise of “zero harm” which is the most peculiar fashion distressing large extractive corporations, or those financing them. But question is: how can a company displacing people to rip up the earth on a vast scale do “zero harm”?

After Tom Albanese presentation, Chairman Agarwal then invited questions from the floor – and there were lots of them. A dissident shareholder from Afrikan communities raised the first question. As he waved his hand to Anil Agarwal and stood up to ask a question, which he drafted on his notebook and intended to read out for the board, Anil Agarlwal interfered, impatiently, and said: ‘you can speak for yourself, we want to hear your voice’. The dissident shareholder, Cecil Gutzmore,  replied, with mild smile: ‘my voice is here. My voice is on the microphone. Do you hear?’

He continued: The 27th May judgement by Justice Coulson in the case Domonic Liswaniso Lungowe verses Vedanta Resources and Konkola Copper Mines gave 1800 Zambian villagers the right to sue Vedanta and KCM in London for loss to their livelihood and health due to KCM’s pollution since 2004. In the judgement Justice Coulson indicted KCM for financial secrecy, historic dishonesty and attempts to pervert the course of justice, and on p.5, paragraph 18, quoted a 2014 London judgement against KCM for failing to pay a contractor – U&M mining. In that case Judges Eder, Cooke and Teare JJ called KCM (and I quote):

 

‘…an entity which has employees willing to give untrue evidence, to cause unnecessary harm, to be obstructive of the arbitration process and to take untenable points with a view to delaying enforcement…a party willing to do all it can to prevent the other party from enforcing its legal rights.’

Cecil continued and said that in paragraph 19 Justice Coulson further stated:

‘there was a revealing statement in those proceedings by the executive director of the mine who said that, although KCM acknowledged that they had failed to pay sums that were due to the claimants in that case, they “would hold on to the money to the end of the dispute, which it would fight bitterly, no matter how long it took, including in Zambia where proceedings would take many years.’

 

He noted further: this attitude is not limited to KCM alone and claimants who have been granted compensation in Talwindi Sabo, Tuticorin and Jharsuguda are also still awaiting payment. Can the board confirm whether obstructing legal procedures and delaying payments is a company policy?

 

An affected community member holds placard and say why he wants to stop Vedanta. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

An affected community member holds placard and say why he wants to stop Vedanta. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Anil Agarwal and Tom Albanese hardly answered the question. Tom Albanese replied that he had a lot of respect for legal processes (just as well!) so he took Cecil’s comments seriously. He said that the 2014 case referred to was a commercial case which was settled amicably last year. In the process of the resolution of any commercial litigation tensions develop which have to be worked through, and it is the job of management and the board to solve problems and Vedanta satisfied the other party. In Zambia, the case was currently being heard in the UK and Zambia. The company had to recognise that the court will go through its own process but the case will be appealed and heard next year. Vedanta’s position is that the Zambian courts are fully capable of hearing a case like this.

Albanese said that Cecil had referred to a judgement against KCM, which was related to a 2006 spill, a case which Vedanta recognises went against it. He said that ‘not many people have come forward on this’ (it was not clear to me quite what he meant by that) and it ‘shows that the Zambian courts work’. He said that Vedanta should be respecting the courts in the countries where it operates. Vedanta reports transparently and if people want to know KCM’s financial details, they are in the newspaper. KCM has not been making money recently and has been requiring investment from Vedanta to ensure it is still in a position to hire Zambian employees and contractors. The government has conducted forensic audits and nothing has come out. Albanese said he was confident that the company is fully disclosing its Zambian accounts. From time to time there are commercial disputes. Sometimes they can resolve these things and sometimes they cannot, but they respect court proceedings in Zambia.

Cecil drew the CEO’s attention once more to the 1800 Zambian villagers who had recently been given the right to sue the company in London. There was a conversation between Cecil and Albanese about the extent to which Albanese had, or had not, answered Cecil’s questions. Cecil was not convinced that he was being told the truth. That is a suspicion fairly widely held among activists attending Vedanta AGMs.

Anil Agarawal concluded the matter by stating, ‘We will follow all the procedures. The matter is sub judice. We are absolutely transparent and whatever judgement comes in we will follow it.’ That would certainly be welcome. As our friend Simon noted later in the AGM, there are questions over the extent to which Vedanta has respected previous court judgements.

 

So the shareholder commented, twice, that he was not convinced that they were telling him the truth. He said that the answers to his questions were partial and that Agarwal did not engage with his questions to the extent that he should have. I did wave my hands at that time but was not given the microphone, probably because they did not consider me as important as male shareholders. The board was, however, populated by male heads. Except one woman (Katya) who never spoke and appeared as a token representative of female members, all 10 heads out of 11 board members were male. Indeed, we had to put up with a gendered corporate board for nearly three hours. Microphone therefore went to someone else. The speaker, representing campaigning organisation ShareAction, asked how the company reports on risks from waste management. But he was frustrated by the answer of the CEO, Tom Albanese, with no surprise.

 

This is when I spoke up and said that I am working closely with community activists and groups from India, Zambia and South Africa who have gathered outside Ironmongers Hall and told me a different version of what Vedanta’s annual report was claiming. I then asked, by thanking the board for trying to present a report and for producing an annual report even if it was a partial one, that:

 

Mr Chairman, both you and your CEO have said that you are committed to ‘zero harm’ and ‘zero damage’ to people, but these people and communities are saying that they are at great loss by the harms and damages that you and your company have done to them. Your company has been destroying many communities. When I was entering the building for this AGM, I have seen community representatives from Orissa, Zambia, South Africa, Indonesia, Namibia and all India were crying outside the AGM that their people have been abused and faced with great loss by the undertakings of your company.  I am sure you have seen people’s outcry outside the AGM, too, when you entered the building. What is your response to these people that are protesting outside the AGM?

Foil Vedanta demo on 5 August 2016.  A Protester from affected community holds a placard. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Foil Vedanta demo on 5 August 2016. A Protester from affected community holds a placard. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

I asked, again to Tom Albanese that I am glad that you have taken the effort to produce a report for the shareholders but I have to say that I am appalled at your presentation because of the level of fraught and misinformation this report involved. I am shocked by the way you have totally overlooked the issues that the May 27th judgement in the case of Dominic Liswaniso Lungowe versus Vedanta Resources  and KCM in London which Cecil has just mentioned. This May 27th judgement by Justice Coulson has been a major challenge against Vedanta’s ongoing abuse and misconducts across Zambia, and a big news for the company which the shareholders should be made aware of . I have been reading about this judgement for the last two months as this became important news in London. How was it possible for you to overlook the matter in your whole 30 minutes long presentation?

Is this how you can prevent from doing harm and abuse to communities? I would appreciate to have your straightforward and a clear answer to this question. Now I have a second question to both of you (Anil Agarwal and Tom Albanese) in relation to the judgement and the question that my dissident shareholder, Cecil has asked before. May I continue?

 

The board kept silent and Anil Agarwal, Tom Albanese, Katya and Deepak Kumar looked at me in their eyes, with clear discomfort. Anil Agarwal seemed most uncomfortable (or perhaps angry inside) but did not stop me from continuing. So I continued and said that:

 

Justice Coulson’s recent UK judgement on the right of Zambian villagers to sue KCM and Vedanta in London for loss of livelihood and health, revealed that KCM has never filed annual accounts in accordance with the Zambian Companies Act. Meanwhile an UNCTAD report published in July 2016 found ‘systematic export under-invoicing’ of copper from Zambia starting in 2005, the year after Vedanta took over KCM (which is Zambia’s biggest copper exporter). Why have you been keeping your finances secret? What exactly are you hiding from the Zambian government?

Foil Vedabta demo against Vedanta AGM at Barbican Aug 5th 2016. Photocredit: Peter MarshallFoil Vedabta demo London Barbican Aug 5th 2016

Tom Albanese replied that when he made a public statement he was making a statement on behalf of the board and is personally liable for it under the law in both the UK and Zambia. He continued, ‘What I say, I say with assurance: we produce and provide transparent financial reports for our operations in Zambia and submit them to the Ministry of Mines and publish a summary in the newspaper, and if you want to see them you can apply to the government and they will send them.’ He said that the other shareholder in KCM’s operations is government-owned ZCCM, so on the board of KCM there are people who represent ZCCM and the government of Zambia. Everything is disclosed. He said he is under a requirement to comply with the law and tell truth about what the company is doing.

I asked again whether he really thought the company was doing zero harm.

This time Anil Agarwal replied, by saying that: ‘What we say we believe, and we do it. You can believe what you want to believe. KCM involves the government and public as well as us. KCM has its own legal team and what we do, we do with proper governance and transparency. There is strong law and nobody is allowed to do anything that is not right.’

Tom Albanese added that he believed in his heart that KCM is a better company and a better employer than it was when it was controlled by the government, which had under-invested since Zambian independence as it did not have the money. Vedanta’s chairman himself had funded improvements. There had been no water pollution control at the time Vedanta took over. The company had put in the most modern sulphur capture equipment at the smelter. ‘We have not arrived at zero harm,’ he said, ‘but we are going in that direction.’

Both Tom Alabanese and Anil Agarwal claimed that they had no wish to hide anything and that there was no hidden finance that they have avoided to report. Tom Albanese said that he knows of nothing more than what he has already presented in his report. Anil Agarwal supported him and said that they did their best to keep everything transparent and open to shareholders. He then added:

‘Yes, I have seen people were playing music and making noise outside the AGM. I don’t know why they are doing so. If you don’t believe me, I can only advise you, you need to visit the areas yourself and then tell me what you have found there. You cannot know what is happening there without paying a visit to the communities. If you do not believe my words, I cannot do anything about this. I can only say what I know about. It is upto you whom you will believe.  There is nothing that I can do if you say that I am wrong. It is your liberty to believe whom you like to believe. If you want to believe the other version of the story, you can do. I can only say that we are committed to do no harm. We are working on the issues and some damages that have happened. I am confident that we can reach to our ‘zero harm’ promise in five to ten years time.’

 

I picked up the point and answered without microphone: ‘Mr Chariman I appreciate your wish to do no harm but you are aware that you have already done harms to people. You are saying that you want to reach zero harm after doing so much damage and abuse to people. You are saying that you want to stay for another five years but people don’t want you for another year, they don’t even want you for a day there. You have seen the outcry of people outside the AGM. They are saying that they want to kick Vedanta out today. They don’t want you there because of the harms that you have already done to them.’

 

Anil Agarwal replied, as fantasised, that ‘we are committed to do zero harm and damage to people but we are not saying that no harm has been done. Despite our continuous effort to avoid damage, we have received reports of some damages which could not be helped. You know that any development projects and technological development involve some risks which could not be totally avoided. But I am committed that our company will work on this and we will overcome these damages in future.’

Tom Albanese added, ‘I see fifty years of efforts to come, and we are keeping the largest employer in Zambia afloat.’

I gave in and wanted to take a break so microphone went to someone else.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA via Miriam Rose

Anger over Vedanta at their AGM in London. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Several other shareholders raised the issue of ongoing abuse of communities by the company. Some have expressed their concerns to the company reputation as situation is not improving for years. One has expressed his frustration over the answers to his questions from the board for several years which, in his views, discouraged him to ask a question. One (company agent) has accused some of us are causing trouble in the AGM.

This shareholder addressed the board as “Sirs” and said that he had been listening to the ‘dialogues’ at the AGM and that these were not really questions and answers. For him, ‘shareholders could have dialogues with the board elsewhere, in “private”‘. People were at the AGM to ask questions on the annual report, and if people were not happy, they should present their views elsewhere, not at the AGM.’ He continued, saying that he had got a fright when the share price went down below £2. He then asked a question about bonuses. During his speech two women shareholders behind me had left the meeting room, and a peer sitting in front of me has smiled while the other peer two rows behind me had nodded off.

There were irritations, frustrations and heated discussions that I do not aim to note word by word here to void killing reader’s time. One community member from Niyamgiri said the the board is doing utter lies to the shareholders. Two of our friends raised questioned in relation to the Buxi. One had asked a long question which in short was as below:

The Buxi Commission report on the Korba Chimney disaster, which found BALCO guilty of negligence causing at least 40 workers deaths, has now been leaked to the public. Why are you still trying to suppress this report? Anil Agarwal and his CEO had totally misinterpreted the question or deliberately denied to pretend that they did answer his question to their level best. At this point two shareholders who had visited mine sites in India and Zambia had illustrated the differences between the reality and the fantasy of the annual report. They have come back to report on what they had seen. They asked, when will you close down Lanjigarh refinery which has now been operating at a loss for too long due to lack of raw material? At one point a questioner noted he ‘had shown the company’s shiny new “sustainable development” [sic] report to villagers who were shocked by its contents, noting that one person quoted in it – fulsomely praising the company – did not exist in the village to which he was attributed.

The board’s primary response was that they would investigate. But this caused more frustration in heated discussions rather than hope, because this was what had been promised before. One shareholder, raising the issue of the appalling lack of health and safety at the Bodai-Daldali mine in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh noted the issues had been reported before, with promises of investigation, but little seemed to change. Vedanta’s CEO, Tom Albanese, said he was shocked by what he had seen (although the Chair Anil Agarwal seemed to suggest the footage may not be genuine). As was pointed out by the shareholder, it seems head office booked inspection visits in advance; maybe if they really wanted to see what was going on perhaps they should pop along unannounced?

 

After two hours of heated discussions by dissident shareholders and the failure of the  board to address the issues in relation to Niyamgiri and Zambia, I got the microphone again and followed from an unresolved question. The microphone was given to me after I waited, patiently, for nearly 30 mins. It was finally Anil Agarwal who asked the person with the roving microphone to give the microphone to me. At this stage he was not only fantasising but also attempted to flatter and flirt with us.  Anil Agarwal said to the microphone holder: ‘give it to the girl, this young girl here’!

I said: Thank you for giving me the microphone again!

Anil Agarwal smiled at me and said: ‘you are welcome. I like girls. Girls are good.’

I said: I am not a girl anymore!

Anil Agarwal said: oh, I know. You are not a girl. You are a lady.

I said: Actually, I am a woman. I am quite old!

Anil Agarwal, Tom Albanese and Deepak Kumar laughed. Anil Agarwal said: oh, you are old?

I did not tell him what’s my correct age but I pointed out that if he wished to flirt, he would have to flirt with an old woman.

He changed the topic and said: you are an academic. I like academics’.

I said: I am a researcher and a community activist.

Anil Agarwal said: yes, yes, researcher. Research is good profession.

He was clearly judging my work or me, nevertheless, we let it go. As I wanted to move on to my point, Agarwal interrupted me again and said: You are from Bangladesh, right?

I said: yes, that’s correct.

He said: I love Bangladesh. I am very fond of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a nice country. It is rich in natural resources. It has gas, oil, coal and other mineral resources.

I said: indeed, yes. But you are not welcome to Bangladesh. I am not inviting you to visit Bangladesh. We don’t want your company to go there to extract our natural resources in Bangladesh. We are rich in natural resources but we don’t want to disturb the soil and the nature by smuggling coals and gas. We don’t want any multinational corporation to exploit us and destroy our natural resources. We have been fighting multinational corporations for years and we have put a decade long halt to a massive open cast coal mine in Bangladesh that you might have heard about. I coordinate a community activist group, called the Phulbari Solidarity Group, which is working to prevent further aggression of multinational companies in Bangladesh. We will be celebrating ten years of resistance in Phulbari and in London on 26th August this year. You can come to our London protest to be held on 26 August, if you like. You can also come to visit my home in the UK, and I can cook for you if you wish to have a Bengali dinner. But you are not welcome to Bangladesh.

 

Anil Agarwal and his board members looked terribly Foil Vedanta demo by pic by Peter Marshalluncomfortable. Agarwal lost words as being embarrassed. He only nodded head by indicating that he got the message.

Then I continued, and said: my question is related to my dissident shareholder Samarendra Das who has given us some extremely important information which I found immensely useful. Unlike you, I was not bored. I am rather grateful to him for providing us those useful information that enriched my knowledge on the subject. You said to Mr Das that you don’t have anything to do with Niyamgiri. My question is: will you do a fresh press statement by clarifying that Vedanta will never go back to Niyamgiri in future? Can you put on an official statement on your website by stating what you have just said to Samarendra Das?  Can you confirm that it is not in your interest and there will be no future interference from Vedanta in Niyamagiri?

 

I continued and said that my second question is also in relation to Niyamgiri: You have claimed that you will respect the decision of the people who rejected the mine, yet new Mines Minister Piyush Goyal has been making statements about pushing the project through. What are your intentions regarding the Niyamgiri mine? Are you still lobbying the Odisha government to overrule the democratic decision and force the mine through?

 

I continued and said that these two were my main questions though I would love to respond to a shareholder who appeared to have been advocating for an ill process to be practised in the annual general meeting of the company.  The shareholder behind me had asked the board to prohibit people to raise open questions. He asked people to stop spending time by raising issues around how the company made its money, and only to talk about the returns to investors and financial issues. Yet he then proceeded to do at great length. In his opinion, we should only raise questions based on the annual report produced and distributed by the company executives. He suggested that we should not comment on anything else, and that any discussion beyond the annual report should be discussed outside the AGM and in private. He thought that we were having a dialogue with the board which he suggested to do in private. He also claimed that dissident shareholders were bored by many questions that some of us have been raising in the AGM today.

We entered the AGM  to represent communities inside the AGM during loud protest outside. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

We entered the AGM to represent communities inside the AGM during loud protest outside. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

 

I objected to his suggestions and said that ‘we should develop appropriate ethos that enables an environment to discuss complicated issues and complex truth openly. Multinational corporations must practice transparency and the Vedanta board should be accountable to all shareholders rather than only producing an annual report distributed to us. The company should follow “good” corporate “ethics” which would allow space for any discussion related to the company to take place in the same room where the AGM is taking place so that all shareholders and people involved in the company can be aware of what is happening in reality.’

 

‘The shareholder who found our questions and comments are “dialogues” between you (the board) and us (as community representatives) is wrong. We are not here for a dialogue with you. We are here to report the abuse that your company has done to people in various countries. We are here to place oral complaints on behalf of the communities. We are here to question you about why you are overlooking these important issues. There is nothing to get bored about. The shareholder who complained that other shareholders have left the room because they were bored by our allegations against the company did not notice that two people behind me left the meeting during his speech. I have an eye witness here [indicating the security guard/peer who sat in front of me] who noticed this and exchanged a smile with me as the shareholder appeared mistaken.

‘People can leave a meeting room for many reasons. Sometimes they might be busy and may have other commitments and appointments that make them leave the room. Other times they might be bored. It is possible that people were bored by the senior shareholder’s speech. It is also possible that some people did not like what we are discussing here. But we have to continue raising all of these issues right here.’

 

The shareholder who complained about our interrogation and addressed the board members as ‘Sirs’ appeared as an academic at LSE, got furious to me at this point and attempted to interfere during my objection to his deliberate allegation against us. He stood up in the midst of my speech and shouted, despite request of the board to wait, pointing at me disapprovingly. He was asked by board members to allow me to finish my remarks. He raised his two pointing fingers to me and swore by words that I couldn’t hear as I was on the microphone. I continued with my speech and told him that I hardly bothered his unexpected ill-manner and threats. I said that I was there to represent large number of effected communities who cannot be silenced by his masculinity and ill manner. I said that I would continue to speak with all of the shareholders in the room, and not only to the board.

I told: ‘Put your fingers down now. I have the right to speak about everything that is related to the company.  We ought to do the interrogation right in the AGM, not outside the room. I do not want to have a private meeting about these general issues which all other shareholders have the right to know. I am here to not only speak to the board members but also to share information with shareholders present in the room. I will speak to all shareholders on behalf of the communities in Odisha and Zambia, and I will speak with permission of the board.’

The entire meeting room was silent during my speech, and some nodded heads in support of what I said to the misbehaving shareholder from LSE. The board looked truly anxious as they feared further disruption. After my last comments, Tom Albanese and Anil Agarwal told that they want to continue the practice of discussing things openly in the AGM. Albanese said: ‘we encourage people to speak openly and ask questions about anything that the shareholders are concerned about.’ Anil Agarwal repeated the words that People have the freedom to discuss all matters that they like to discuss in the AGM. ‘We believe in democracy and freedom of speech. Everybody has the liberty to talk about any aspect of the company. We believe in liberty’, he said.

 

The meeting had quickly wrapped up by Anil Agarwal’s call for votes.  Outside the AGM protesters chanted and drummed for four hours accosting executives of the company as they entered and left the AGM. When Agarwal and other board members had come out of the venue, the protesters surrounded them. But Anil Agarwarl smiled shamelessly, and his gangs left blatant.  We don’t know if they will ever feel ashamed for their continuous misdeeds and abuse to communities.

The above is my personal account on what happened at the Vedanta AGM on 5 August in 2016. For further details, feel free to have a look at the detailed accounts of other dissident shareholders here .

This is how the Vednata board members enter amidst protest and under the shadow of a monster on Friday Phto Peter Marshall This is how the Vedanta investors enter the AGM amidst loud protest and under UK Police protection at Barbican London on 5 August 2016

 

 

 

 

Copyright of all of the images used in this report remains to Peter Marshall. No commercial use o the photos without permission is expected. Thank you!

Further details of protests and actions inside and outside the Vedanta AGM can be accessed from the following url links:

India, Zambia, London protest Vedanta’s AGM

A tale of two worlds – Vedanta AGM 2016

Further coverage in The Mining Journal,  the New International, and Reuters.

 

 

Fascist attack on peaceful march in Bangladesh, Solidarity from London and across the earth to save the Sunderbans

  • 200 mangrove marchers brutally charged by police in Dhaka
  • 16 unarmed protesters seriously injured
  • Six frontline defenders and NCBD leaders imprisoned
  • Cops foiled public statement to cancel dark deal over world’s largest mangrove

By Rumana Hashem and Raj Manik

As you might have awaited update from Thursday’s public march against the destructive Rampal coal-power plant, we are in the process of doing a detailed and analytical report on the attack on peaceful marchers and the fascism of Bangladeshi police. For now, note that the Dhaka protest was attacked by state law enforcement force, and the Prime Minister shamefully denied to meet with the concerned citizens of Bangladesh who wanted to handover a statement to their Prime Minister.

Police opens fire on NCBD marchers in Dhaka 28 July 2016 The masculine male police beaten her so badly the female left activist went unconcious on 28 July 2016 NCBD march against Rampal deal to handover statement to PM of Bangladesh in Dhaka 28 July 2016 Dhaka March to Save the Sunderbans on 28 July 2016. copy right @NCBD Dhaka

When the marchers walked towards the Prime Minister’s office to submit a statement to save the Sunderbans, police unleashed violence on peaceful marchers, threw tear shells over a march of 200 protesters who sought to handover a public statement against the dark Rampal deal that would destroy the world’s largest mangrove, the Sunderbans. Many of our activists, including the Member Secretary of NCBD, Professor Anu Muhammad, were severely injured as beaten up by fascist police force who acted on behalf of a fascist government.  Students and women-environmentalists were beaten to such that several of them were taken to hospital in critical condition.

The leaders of National Committee and frontline organisers of the march were abused and six front-line protesters, including Anu Muhammad, were detained on arbitrary charges. Police did not only abuse and charge activists but also foiled the well-written public statement, which demanded the immediate cancellation of the destructive Rampal coal-fired plant, to symbolise that commons and citizens do not have the right to express opinion on natural and national resources in Bangladesh.

In a nutshell, we have seen a fascist face of the government of Bangladesh in the month of Mangrove Action. We have witnessed how a so called pro-independence government deployed fascist police to dismiss people’s urge to preserve national sovereignty. The state-law enforcement force had foiled demands to conserve the world’s largest mangrove forest just a day after the International Mangrove Action Day. This is shocking and sickening.

So proud of our women activists taking on frontline to defend environment and mangrove in Bangladesh 28 July 2016 environmental activist tortured by facist police in Dhaka on 28 July 2016

Dhaka March to PM office on 28 July 2016

Dhaka March to PM office on 28 July 2016. Copyright @NCBD

Although media coverage of this heinous attack on peaceful marchers was poor, we have heard the sound of angers, condemnation and protests across the earth on Thursday.  In London, the Bangladeshi community rallied under the banner of protect resources of Bangladesh, the UK branch, and unreservedly condemned the attacked on environmentalists and progressive activists in Dhaka.

protest against rampal in london on 28 July 2016 PROTEST at Altabl Ali Park on 28 July 2016 protest at altabl ali park in london on 28 july 2016

London protest against destructive Rampal power plant on 28 July 2016

London protest against destructive Rampal power plant on 28 July 2016. Photo credit: Shefa Ahmed and Rumana Hashem

Despite miserable weather and a week day afternoon, there was a great turn up of saddened Bengalese at Altab Ali Park at Aldgate East. Speakers include Bangladesh Socialist Party leader, Mostofa Kamal, European-Bangladesh Climate Change, Ansar Ahmed Ullah, Communist party leader, Dr Mohammad Ali Khan Jinnah, Photo journalist Peter Marshall, Worker’s party leader Ishaque Kajole, Dr Mokhlesur Rahman of NCBD UK , Dr Rumana Hashem of PSG and other community organisers. We were, of course, present at the rally from Phulbari Solidairty Group. But the question is: does the Bangladesh government care for what we think and say about our national environment and national resources?

We will be updating you on further development on this via twitter, blog and mailing lists.

What you can do to help us:

  • We would appreciate it if you can re-tweet our news and if you can tweet @PSG-BD
  • Please do your own outreach by using hashtag #Rampal and #SavetheSunderbans
  • We would appreciate it if you can avoid asking for money/donation from people for this mangrove action. Any sort of donation based campaign can undermine our cause and would let down the movement to save the Sunderbans.
  • If you need help, please do contact us for connecting on how to organise in your own locality and how to express solidarity with the protesters back home. You can email us: phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com and rabbani.enpolicy@gmail.com

#SavetheSunderbans #StopRampalCoalFiredPlant

Further news:

Police foiled march: The daily Star report http://www.thedailystar.net/city/demo-sundarbans-foiled-10-held-1260748

 

Protest against Destructive Rampal Power Plant this Thursday

By Rumana Hashem

Despite nationwide protests and international campaigns against the controversial coal power plant in Rampal, Bangladeshi government has approved India‘s NTPC proposed Rampal power plant which, if implemented, will destroy the world’s largest mangrove, the Sundarbans. Bangladeshi and Indian governments have signed a destructive deal in July, the month of International Mangrove Action, when the world is supposed to celebrate International Mangrove Day.

On 13 July, Bangladesh and India have signed an agreement which enables India’s state run Bharat Heavy Electrical Ltd. to implement the Rampal thermal power plant. The proposed plant would be built in 14 kilometres to the Sundarbans, a treasured ecosystem along Bangladesh’s coast.

It is outrageous that the governments of the two neighbouring states, Bangladesh and India, have disregarded the global calls and conspired to abandon people’s urge to prevent the construction of disparaging coal-power plant in Rampal from happening. They let Bangladesh’s only mangrove forest, Sundarbans, to be destroyed for self-interests. This deal has been signed at a time when Bangladesh has been undergoing political turmoil and religious genocide. The nation was focused on Gulshan attack when the two governments have approved the destructive deal.

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Port-Power and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh (NCBD) will march to the Prime Minister’s Office this Thursday, 28th July, to protest against the deal.

 

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In solidarity with the protesters in Bangladesh, the UK branch of NCBD will rally against the destructive deal at 6.30pm on the same day at Altab Ali Park in East London.

Please join us along with your friends and raise your voice against this destructive project. Our outcry can protect the world’s largest mangrove forest, the local environment in Bangladesh, its ecology and species. #SavetheSundarbans

 

Read further news here:

A new power plant could devastate the world’s largest mangrove forest

Bangladesh, India sign Rampal power plant construction agreement

Additional information and news:

1.“Bangladesh Sticks With Coal Power Plant Project Despite Major Backlash,” Mongabay, February 16, 2016,
http://news.mongabay.com/2016/02/bangladesh-sticks-with-coal-power-plant-project-despite-major-backlash/

2. Anu Muhammad & Sheikh Muhammad Shaheedullah, “Manipulating Rampal,” Dhaka Tribune, March 31, 2016,
http://www.dhakatribune.com/op-ed/2016/mar/31/manipulating-rampal

  1. Dr. Abdullah Harun Chowdhury, “Environmental Impact of Coal Based Power Plant of Rampal on the Sundarbans and Surrounding Areas,” Khulna University, http://bagerhatsociety.com/apanel/admin/download/tdwn2573136.pdf
  2. “Ganges River Dolphin,” World Wildlife Foundation,http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/ganges-river-dolphin
  3. “Orion Signs Deals for Generators for its 660MW Power Plant,” The Daily Star, May 11, 2014, http://www.thedailystar.net/orion-signs-deals-for-generators-for-its-660mw-power-plant-23556
  4. Sönke Kreft, David Eckstein, Lukas Dorsch, and Livia Fischer, “Global Climate Risk Index 2016,” GermanWatch, November 2015, http://germanwatch.org/fr/download/13503.pdf

It is time for Global Day of Action against Vedanta

Phulbari Solidarity Group extends unconditional solidarity with Foil Vedanta in their fight against notorious Vedanta. Foil Vedanta, a campaign group against extractive corporation, has produced invaluable reports on mining effected areas in India and Afrika, and global trade of metals by notorious multinational company, Vedanta. We will join Foil Vedanta on their annual Global Day of Action at Vedanta’s AGM again this year. Like previous years, we will join activists to bring the defiant energy of communities fighting and winning against Vedanta around the world to London on Friday, 5 August.

The main event will be held on Friday 5 August 2016, 14:00 – 16:00 at Ironmongers Hall, Barbican, EC2Y 8AA (nearest tube Barbican).

Foil Vedanta AGM 2016 poster. Source: Foil Vedanta campaign letter 6 July 2016

Foil Vedanta AGM 2016 poster. Source: Foil Vedanta campaign letter 6 July 2016

 

This year, pollution affected communities of Zambia won their nine years battle in their Supreme Court, and now won the right to have their case heard in Britain. In India, the Dongria Kond of Niyamgiri in Odisha are now demanding to dismantle Vedanta’s aluminium refinery in Lanjigarh, after winning their case in the Supreme Court of India.

Parallel demonstrations are already planned in Zambia and India on the 4th August and questions raised by the communities will be asked inside the AGM meeting.

 

We encourage our supporters and readers to join Foil Vedanta on Friday the 5th of August to tell Vedanta to stop its notorious activities overseas.
For more information please follow the link:
http://www.foilvedanta.org/actions/global-day-of-action-against-vedanta-5th-august/

Mining is in Rapid Fall

People, climate change and future of the industry

By Raaj Manik

An international workshop on mining in South Asia was organised by Activists and Academia Network, called, the Centre for World Environmental History (CWEH) at University of Sussex in which Phulbari Solidarity Group made a robust contribution. On Wednesday 11 May 2016, a remarkable delegation of activists from the global South has shared their anti-mining community activism, and engaged with experienced colleagues in the global North working to expose the brutality of northern extractive companies in the South.

Speakers included Gladson Dungdung, who was offloaded from the Air India flight on his way to the workshop, was due to report on threats to Saranda Forest in Jharkhand, human rights abuses and the destruction of the environment by iron ore mining companies. Also front-line environmentalists and researchers from Bangladesh and India, including Malvika Gupta from University of Delhi, Rumana Hashem of Phulbari Solidarity Group, Roger Moody of Nostromo Research, and Miriam Rose of Foil Vedanta delivered insightful work and narratives of excellent grassroots struggles against mining and corporations.

Vedanta demo London 2015

Vedanta demo London 2015

Phulbari outburst on 26 August 2006.

Phulbari outburst on 26 August 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PSG founder and eye-witness to Phulbari carnage in 2006, Rumana Hashem, has delivered a talk,titled “Translating Phulbari Resistance and anti-coal struggles in Bangladesh: A bottom up approach to social movement to protect environment and indigenous rights from corporate excess”. Hashem advocates for and showed how a bottom up, informal and non-bureaucratic approach to anti-mining and environmental movement have become tremendously powerful and successful in north-Bangladesh.   

The drastic increase of privatisation and multinational corporations has not only caused environmental damage and energy injustice but also induced forced-displacement, destitution of indigenous people and farmers in southern countries, such as, Bangladesh. But resistance to extractive corporations and dodgy deals involving government sponsored companies across the South is in the rise. While Bangladesh has been taken hostage for oil, gas and coal by US, China, Indian, Russian and UK corporations, grassroots activism and people’s resistance across the country are remarkable, notes Hashem.

On 26 August in 2006, three people were shot dead at an anti-open cast coal mining outburst of 80, 000 people in northwest Bangladesh but locals were able to form powerful resistance to fight back the miners for decades. Hashem’s talk analyse anti-coal power struggles and social movements for environment and agriculture-based livelihood in Phulbari, and argued that a bottom up approach to environmental and anti-imperialist struggle has been successful in the northwest of Bangladesh.

Hashem illustrated a three-level socio-political movement, called the Phulbari Resistance, against an UK-listed company GCM Resources, formerly known as Asia Energy, that prevented the implementation of a massive open-cast coal mine in the town of Phulbari which would be destroyed by greedy corporate plans. If the mine is built, it would lead to forced-displacement of up to 230, 000 people over the course (30 years) of the project. It would increase poverty and crisis of food production in a country which struggled to provide food supply to nearly one third of its population in 2006-2010. The project would further cause water pollution and would plunder 94 percent of agricultural land in the region.  It would leave devastating impact on environment.

Hashem’s talk revealed how local farmers and indigenous people formed powerful resistance in Phulbari under the umbrella of an open platform of left-environmentalists, called the National Committee of Bangladesh, and fought a dirty extractive company, GCM Resources, in Bangladesh.  Her report exhibited that the impact of Phulbari resistance on grassroots mobilisation across Bangladesh is so that it led several other social and political movements including Save the Sundarbans, Bashkhali anti-coal plant outburst, and movement against onshore and offshore gas blocks.

Hashem insists that “it is possible to prevent forced-displacement and livelihood from increasing corporate excess only if we followed a bottom up approach to balance power at local, national and international levels, and only if a true solidarity and consensus between the northern and southern grassroots activism has been formed.”

The illuminating talk by Hashem was followed by a researcher and advocate for indigenous rights, Malvika Gupta from University of Delhi, who illustrated how indigenous kids are manipulated and re-colonised by the colonial language and English education in India. The narratives of oppression of indigenous communities by British corporation in India and Zambia were explored and discussed by Miriam Rose of Foil Vedanta, and Roger Moody of Mines and Communities and Nostromo Research, UK.

All speakers have robustly argued that mining is in rapid fall. Despite pernicious oppression and abuse by multinational corporations in the global south, extractive companies and mining across the world have been facing their downfall.

The day-long conference at the Centre for World Environmental History (CWEH) has ended with a hope that mining will continue to fall. The director of the centre, Dr Vinita Damodaran  given a vote of thanks to the superb speakers and activists who brought in new hopes to the conference room that extractive companies are likely to be vanished in near future so long as we continue to fight consistently.

The event was facilitated by Zuky Serper, an Activist and Artist in Residence, and chaired by Dr Vinita Damodaran at CWEH at University of Sussex.

Protesters blockade and shut down UK’s largest open-cast mine in Merthyr Tydfil

Report on Powerful Campaign Against Open-Pit Coal Mine at Ffos-y-fran in South Wales

By Paul Dudman (@PaulDudman)

A red line was drawn by the bodies and banners of passionate protesters through the existing mine to halt open-cast coal mining. Copyright: Reclaim the Power

Tuesday, the 3rd May, has witnessed the successful blockade of the UK’s largest open cast coal mine in Ffos-y-fran, by several hundred protestors as part of a climate change movement organised by the Reclaim the Power oragnisation to help showcase the damage caused by opencast coal extraction to the environment.  This was the outcome of a week-long camping of passionate climate change action organised by the climate action network of Reclaim the Power to highlight issues surrounding the damage caused by mining companies using invasive techniques to harvest the last remaining coal reserves and the impact these procedures can have on the natural environment.  The coal company in question, Miller Argent, are looking to significantly increase their coal mining production in this area of South Wales, which would have a devastative effect on the local environment and wildlife.

The aim of Tuesday’s action was to undertake a mass civil trespass at the existing Ffos-y-fran opencast mining complex, which began at 5:30am on Tuesday morning and has continued through the day.

This is how protesters have drawn a red-line on coal mine at Ffyos-y-fran #EndCoal. Copyright: Reclaim the Power.

A press release by the Reclaim the Power stated that this is “the largest ever action in a UK opencast mine” with activists traveling from all across Britain and internationally to peacefully occupy the mine and show solidarity and support.  Having been fortunate enough to visit the site over the bank holiday weekend, the impact of the existing opencast mine is there for everyone to see and any expansion of this opencast method of coal extraction will have serious implications for the local area.  Two huge mountains of waste slag have already been produced as a bye-product of the extraction process. Locals are concerned that the vague promises of this material being returned to the ground once mining is complete will be ignored in the face of the financial benefits of turning the large open-pit mine into a commercial rubbish tip once mining is complete.

Tuesdays protest has been successful in halting coal mining work at Ffos-y-fran. An activist Hannah Smith, on site stated that :

“Today we’ve shut down the UK’s largest coal mine because we must keep fossil fuels in the ground to stop catastrophic climate change [….] We are taking action in solidarity with the local community who have been battling Ffos-y-fran for nearly a decade, and now face the threat of a new mine next door.”

This action represents national and international support for a long-standing local campaign by the United

The Welsh Dragon standing firm in support of the blockade at Ffos-Y-fran and to protect environment. Copyright: Reclaim the Power.

Valleys Action Group, who have been opposing the further expansion of opencast mining at Ffos-y-fran and are now resisting a proposed mine at Nant Llesg. As highlighted in the official press release, “Caerphilly County Council rejected the application in August 2015 but the company Miller Argent is seeking to overturn this democratic decision.”

Indeed, the decision to look to expand the Ffos-y-fran opencast site seems irrational when you consider that the demand for coal itself is facing a downturn globally, especially with the growth in alternatives to coal within the clean energy sector. Equally, “the Aberthaw power station that uses 95% of the coal mined at Ffos-y-fran announced last week that it is scaling back operations” and many locals are vigorously opposed to expansion of opencast mining in the area hives the devastation that has been caused as a direct result of the mine in the surrounding area.

Tuesday’s protest also demonstrated the [assion and climax of Reclaim the Power’s ‘End Coal Now’  climate camp, situated on a hill side adjacent to the opencast mine. Activists from the UK and abroad have braved the wind and the rain to come together and to highlight the importance of fighting to preserve our natural environment and to reduce the impacts of climate change.  Events have taken place for five days to help bring together local residents with UK and international climate change activists, unions, Councillors and Assembly candidates to discuss how to guard against the environmental destruction caused as a result of open-pit mining. Solidarity was expressed by many international organisations to Tuesday’s action to end coal in Wales and the UK. Phulbari Solidarity Group has expressed unconditional solidarity with the protesters who blockaded the open-cast mine at Ffos-Y-Fran in Merthyr Tydfil.

Dr. Rumana Hashem holds a red banner to end coal, presented by an activist from Germany at Ende Gelaende, as a form of expressing solidarity on Solidarity Sunday at the End Coal Now camp in Merthyr Tydfil. Copyright: Paul Dudman.

Rumana Hashem, founder of the Phulbari Solidarity Group and executive member of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Respurces, Power and Port in Bangladesh, joined the camp and spoke to a full tent of activists on Sunday evening. Rumana shared her decade-long experience in stopping an open-pit coalmine in northwest Bangladesh, highlighting the successful campaign against Global Goal Management (GCM), a London-based mining company, who wants to build an immense open-pit mine in the Phulbari region of Bangladesh. She discussed GCM’s attempts to obtain approval for Phulbari open-pit mine, which if constructed, would result in the forced displacement of 120,000 people and would cause extensive environmental degradation to prime agricultural land in Bangladesh. By illustrating her eye witness to the shooting on a demonstration of 80,000 people that left three people shot dead in spot and over 200 injured in 2006, Rumana emphasised that strong opposition and long-term constructive actions could stop any mining company and government from destroying our planet.

Rumana also discussed the campaigns against the building of new power stations in the port city of Chittagong, and in Khulna. In describing the threats posed by the to be constructed Rampal power plant close to the Sunderbans in Bangladesh, the world’s largest mangrove forest and a World Heritage site, she said that: “in Bangladesh, coal power plant does not only take away land but also kills people and rare animals.”

In conjunction with speakers discussing the impact of coal extraction on local communities in Germany, the USA and Russia, and the current concerns over the burning of fossil fuels and the impact of carbon emissions on climate change, the Sunday Solidarity panel was organised by the Coal Action Network and Reclaim the Power. The panel went to highlight the importance of environmental activism in order to bring these issues to public attention.  There were many more interesting and action-based workshops which took place or four days prior to the action at the End Coal Now camp in Fochriw.  Tuesday’s action has been an outstanding success of the organisers who were able to achieve wide media coverage and positive response in mainstream national media including BBC, the Guardian, the Daily Mail and many more who highlighted the action as a successful blockade at the UK’s largest open-cast coal mine.

Thanks to the many hundreds of activists who were able to contribute to the climate camp in Ffos-y-fran over the post few days.  The public action at the coal face itself is an example of the amount of hard work and effort that many committed environmental activists are prepared to undertake in support of such an important cause. In addition to this, there has been a large amount of hard work undertaken behind the scenes in order to ensure that the “End Coal Now” camp has been a success. From organising free catering over several days, to inviting speakers from across the world and to the practicalities of arranging this type of open event on a large scale, demonstrate the passion, ability and commitment of the climate activists that they would continue to resist and halt the proposed open-cast mine in Nant Llesg.  This has certainly been an inspirational event to many and we hope this will act as a spur to all of us to continue the fight to protect our environment.

Download the Reclaim the Power Press Statement – HUNDREDS SHUT DOWN UK’S LARGEST OPENCAST COAL MINE.

Follow @reclaimthepower on Twitter or on live blog: www.reclaimthepower/endcoalnow/live

 

Read More:

The Guardian – Climate protesters occupy UK’s largest opencast coalmine – in pictures.

The Guardian – The time has come to turn up the heat on those who are wrecking planet Earth

BBC News – Hundreds protest at Ffos-y-Fran opencast mine in Merthyr

BBC News – Ffos-y-Fran opencast mine in Merthyr Tydfil ‘unbearable’

ITV News – Hundreds gather to halt operations at Ffos-y-fran opencast mine

 

 

 

 

 

Bashkhali Tragedy: Loopholes behind the story of Coal Shooting

FILED VISIT and REPORT BY A BANGLADESHI FEMINIST-ANTHROPOLOGIST AND FILM MAKER  REPRODUCED FROM NewsBangladesh.com

By Nasrin Siraj

A team of 13 leaders and activists of Chittagong chapter of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port visited, on April 6, Gondamara union under Bashkhali upazila in Chittagong district where four unarmed villagers were killed allegedly in police firing on April 4. I was a member of the team. A schoolteacher from Gondamara union was our guide during the visit.

Gondamara is a shoal area between Jolkodor canal and a seaside embankment. Salt, shrimp and rice are produced here. Crossing the bridge over the Jolkodor canal, we found a group of villagers of different ages sitting at small tea stalls. No sooner had we descended from our vehicles, they surrounded us and started talking altogether, narrating the harrowing details of the immediate past tragic killings.

From there, we started on foot for the nearby village. We met a huge crowd of villagers at a place where a live programme of Jamuna TV was being telecast. A teenage boy of 16/17 years joined us on the way, a scratched scar glowing on his cheek. This is his story:

“(Indicating at the motorcycle of one of our team members) they came by motorcycles like this, wearing helmets like this…those who shot us that day…the hired goons of S Alam…they were accompanied by police.”

Question: How did you know that they were S Alam’s hired goons?

The teenage boy: “They wore police uniform and covered their faces with masks…but we are the local people…don’t we know S Alam’s goons? They come here all the time.”

“(One standing beside him added) haven’t you seen the S Alam office on the way coming here? There are at least 2,000 police uniforms at that office. Wearing those uniforms, the goons came here on that day riding motorcycles. They came from that office.”

The teenage boy: “The local police station has only 20/25 policemen, but on that day about 200 policemen came here.” Another from the villagers, standing beside the boy, added: The OC, UNO, MP Sahib all are sold to them (to S Alam)…

The people surrounding us altogether were trying to describe the horrific incident that took place only two days ago. They were also inquiring about our identities and purpose of visit. Listening to their gory details, suddenly I remembered the first wounded person I met the previous day at Chittagong Medical College and Hospital, during a visit in search of Bashkhali victims. I asked, “Was not a shopkeeper shot here?”

All of them answered at a time, “Yes, yes…this is his shop…this Medina…shooting on his leg from point blank range, they took him to that bridge from here, dragging him all the way…he suffered severely and painfully, you see, the road is pitched…even the soldiers of Pakistani occupation army were not so brutal…we were not tortured so much even during the liberation war…”

We were still a little away from the spot where the shootings took place. Meanwhile, National Committee leaders and activists had completed their procession and rally, expressing solidarity with their movement. Someone then proposed that we should visit the wounded villagers. It may be mentioned here that the National Committee organised the visit without any prior preparations. The visit was organised all of a sudden. The leaders and activists of the committee are not well familiar with this locality and people. That’s why they did not have any particular plan. The villagers then took us to Moriom and Kulsum. Here is the story in short they told us:

“Police on that day not only killed four people firing indiscriminately, but also entered home to home and shot women. Kulsum was breastfeeding her child, and Moriom was peeping through the window to see what had been happening outside when the police entered their homes and shot them. The main problem regarding the bullet-wounded ones was to take them to hospitals as, after filing cases against 3,000 unnamed accused, police have been arresting all the wounded persons whoever had gone to any Chittagong hospitals from Godamara. So, apprehending detention, wounded people are not going to the CMCH, or concealing their names and addresses if anybody is going.”

Moriom showed us her terribly shaking bullet-ridden hand. With tearful eyes, she told us, “Kulsum conceived four months ago. She has five children also. Who will take care of them now? Who’ll take care of those motherless children?”

The women present there then oragnised Kulsum’s children and father so that we can take a family photo.

Kulsum’s children with their father

I asked Kulsum’s husband, “How is your patient now?”

Kulsum’s husband: “Being afraid of arrest, I didn’t accompany her to the hospital. Police is waiting there to arrest us if we come out on the street (meaning the road leading outside the village)…her brothers are there, they are taking care of everything.”

Mentionable, most of these villagers surrounding us are day labourers, involved either in farming or fishing, or in salt production. Some of them took us inside their homes to show the place where, under what situation, they were shot, to show us bullet scars on mud walls.

From there the team brought out a procession, accompanied by the guide as well as the villagers, and marched towards the school field where the shooting spree took place. Instead of taking part in the procession, I was loitering slowly. Kulsum’s husband and other 5/6 villagers accompanied me and there started a conversation.

I asked, “What happened here? Why police shot the villagers indiscriminately?”

Again I was bombarded by a bunch of answers delivered simultaneously. I am trying to tell the story in short what I understood from their answers:

“At the wee hours of April 3 (another interrupted to clarify that after 12pm, new date starts), police arrested some villagers who were sleeping on the seaside embankment. Protesting the arrests, we were holding a meeting presided by Liakat Chairman, president of Vumi Rokkha Committee, meaning land protection committee. Police reached the spot after the meeting started and without any warning started shooting us indiscriminately.”

Q: But why police arrested those villagers?

A: Someone or other vandalised a car of the power project. Not a single journalist writes the truth. Three to four journalists have come so far, but taking S Alam’s bribe they all published fake stories. They wrote about that car-vandalising, but forgot to mention that we don’t want any coal-based power plant in our locality.

Q: But what is your problem with setting up power plant?

A: Hey, coal-based plant has many problems…aren’t they trying to set up another coal-fired power plant at the Sunderbans? If it becomes reality, the trees and tigers will surely die…nothing will remain on the ground…the same will happen here. Our trees, our plantations nothing will remain in place. We will have to abandon our forefathers’ land. A rivalry has erupted and is going on centering the issue since many days. The rivalry reached its peak for the last 2/3 months.

“(Another one ads from aside) you are not being able to tell Apa anything. Listen, Apa, the whole clash erupted over sharing of the money. Just a few days ago, a clash took place between two groups of people of our locality over sharing of money at the home of the local MP Sahib. In between their rivalries these innocent four died. I am an Awami League activist for the last 40 years. None of the Awami Leaguers knew this new MP before he was nominated. This MP only knows money.”

The topic of the conversation then changed, and all of them started showing me bullet scars on walls and tins beside the village road. It is obvious that bullets were fired literally indiscriminately. Were the police afraid that they would be attacked by the villagers, I thought. Or else, why such indiscriminate firings? But before I could ask the question, we reached the school field where the National Committee had already started a spontaneous meeting. Villagers continued showing me bullet scars…

“look here”, “This way, come here…”

Again I tried to listen to their stories coming from all sides. I tried to understand—why the police started shooting on a visibly unarmed meeting. How many police personnel were there? How many rounds of bullet were shot at public on that day?

At one time I understood that the villagers were not at all aware that a Section 144 had been imposed. That’s why they were dumbfounded by the police action. Public interpretation of the incident is like this: “We were not armed at all (javelin or spear is household weaponry in this locality). We heard that a meeting had been called and we went to join the meeting. Had we joined the meeting readily, not a single police would be spared alive on that day.”

I noticed one thing; the villagers repeatedly alleged that on the fateful day of April 4, a number of hired goons wearing uniforms accompanied the police. They engaged in an argument right in front of me over the number of goons and police. Some said there were 200 police, some said 50 while a third group said 70 were real police and the rest were hired S Alam goons. “At first they fired at the sky. They fired at least 20 rounds of bullet per second and over all 1000 rounds of bullet were fired,” said these witnesses.

Mortuza nana was eating this bread at my tea stall. He could not finish it. They shot him on the chest from point blank range

“They wore masks (because they were firing tear shells)…they shot Murtaza and Ankur from point blank range just because they identified them…they (Murtaza, Ankur) tore up their masks…We are locals…we know them all…They started from the S Alam office riding motorcycles (I have heard the same allegation earlier from another one just a while ago)…they started from there. They live there.”

“Phew…those were all polices…UNO, OC all were present…

I said, “Maybe, they all were policemen…”

”They (police and local administration) are acting on behalf of Mafia Don S Alam…taking S Alam’s money police fired on the public…”

This is not the first time I am experiencing Bangladeshi people’s anger, rage, fury and lack of confidence on police. I had heard the same terrible allegations against police, administration and government while doing my research work with the activists of Phulbari anti-coalmine movement.

Meanwhile, National Committee had completed their rally. Liakot Chairman was present there, but, I think National Committee activists were not interested to talk to him, rather they were interested to meet the relatives of the deceased ones. So, we went to meet them.

Our motorcade started for the relatives of the deceased, stopping here and there to inquire about the direction. We had to stop at one place where a group of villagers wanted to talk to us. A number of women were present there beside the males. As I advanced towards the women, they altogether started talking expressing anger and fury and objection over and to the coal-fired power plant.

My two maternal uncles and one of my cousin’s husband have been killed. Let them kill us if they want, not even then will we agree to set up coal power plant. They are oppressing us like the Pakistani occupation army. Our fathers-mothers-brothers can’t stay at home to sleep apprehending detention, they sleep at fields. And in the name of arresting the accused they are entering our homes wearing police uniforms to snatch away our ornaments, valuables and mobile phone sets. We cannot sleep at night in fear.

This is the moment when I came to know that three of same family had been killed on that day. I understood that late Anowarul Islam and late Mortuza Ali were two siblings and late Zakir Hosain was the son-in-law of Mortuza Ali. With tears rolling down on their cheeks, the women were telling their plight and I was thinking, “So many deaths in a single family…how are the living members of the family bearing the grief…administration, government and businessmen are considering these people as a hindrance to development…we are recognising them as protestors, but are we at all identifying them as humans? If my father, mother, sister, brother, husband or son dies normally instead of being killed by police, won’t I grieve equally like them…at the end of the day we are all humans…all are same, and our capacity to face and tackle grief are also equal…”

Reaching late Anwarul Islam, Mortuza Ali and Zakir Hossain’s home, National Committee leaders-activists started talking to the male members of the family. Women of the family took me inside the home. In between the waves of sobbing and whimpering, the eldest daughter-in-law of the family asked me about all the members of my family, entertained me with juice, orange and biscuits. A teenage girl from the family refilled my water bottle as she noticed that it was empty. We were informed that in an attempt to save his father, Anwar’s son Arafat was also hit by spray bullets. His uncle would take him to doctor after our departure.

What is going on inside this youngster’s mind, my attempts to understand how he is surviving the trauma reminded me of my sister’s daughter…so much caring, so many insisting all through the day addressing ‘baba baba’…

Gondamara has 500 acres of land. S Alam Group already has bought 1700 kani of land (as I am weak in land measurement, I am not going into details). But the villagers repeatedly clarified me that the problem is not with land purchasing procedure, because S Alam Group has already finished purchasing land. Those who had sold their lands have already received their dues. Those who are protesting at present are not land owners or anything, almost all of them are day labourers. And their demand is very simple —  entire population of Gondamara will not be able to continue living in the union due to the effect a coal-based power plant will make on its adjacent arable land, water and plantations. But where will they go? How will they live by? They don’t have anything else for survival save their own two hands.

My demand is very simple also—1) The allegation local people of Gondamara is raising that police killed innocent people must be investigated fairly and the criminals must be punished. 2) Were they really hired goons under police uniform? Is the administration really acting as a private force of S Alam Group? As a citizen I want this allegation to be investigated also, and if proved, I want the public servants acting as accomplices of criminals to be punished. 3) This harassment of the villagers, filing cases against unnamed 3000 and detaining the villagers indiscriminately, must be stopped.

I am ending this reportage citing a dialogue of the son of a killed one. The National Committee activists were trying to console and pacify him stressing on the necessity of law-abiding movement.

In reply to the consolations of the Committee activists, the boy said, “If my father had been taken to hospital, he might have survived. But the Police did not allow us to do so. We have shown enough respect to the law enforcers; no more.”

 

Translated by Tariq Al Banna from the Bangla version of the reportage.

newsbangladesh.com/tab

Read original report here: http://www.newsbangladesh.com/english/Banshkhali–Loopholes-behind-the-story/13361#.VwlPVOhvxs0.facebook

Nationwide protests against Bashkhali Tragedy: Criminals for Coal-shooting Must be Prosecuted

Press statement by National Committee in Bangladesh has released the following statement on Bashkhali killing on 8th April 2016

 “We demand exemplary punishment for the persons responsible for killing innocent people. We also demand to scrap projects with irregularities, corruption, and threat to human livelihoods and environment including coal fired power plants in Bashkhali and Rampal.”

“Being a close ally of present ruling party, S. Alam group, a Bangladeshi business house, has managed to acquire a permission from the government to set up a 1224 MW capacity coal plant in a populated location in coastal area, Bashkhali, Chittagong. The area is well known for its salt farming along with various fish and agro-cultivation.

“S. Alam group signed an agreement with two Chinese companies, SEPCOIII Electric Power and HTG to set up a coal based power plant back in 2013.  On 16th February, 2016, the government of Bangladesh approved the deal and set a price to purchase electricity from S. Alam Group at a rate of BDT 6.61 per unit. S. Alam group managed to showcase a total of 600 acres of  land for this plant. As much as 75 percent of the investment is reported to be borne by Chinese lenders.

“It is important to note that, no environmental impact assessment(EIA) report has been prepared on this plant. In addition, incidents of fraudulence and lack of transparency was visible from the very beginning of the project. Along with 7 thousand households, the propsed landmass for the plant also includes around 70 mosques, grave yards, a technical education institution, around 20 cyclone shelter houses, 1 high school, 8 primary government schools, 2 Alia Madrassa, 5 kaomi Madrassa, 5 markets, and 1 government hospital. Despite of the existence of such intense locality, a total of only 150 households have been reported in the area by the local administration in order to be able to handover the land to S. Alam group.Massive level of illegal practices have also been observed on the dealings of land. A good number of people have been reported to be victimized by the fraudulence of the agents of S.Alam group.

“People of Gandamara Union have been protesting against the proposed plant along with range of illegal activities associated with land purchase/acquisition for long. Assaults and threats became common in the process. The local people had tried to negotiate over the choice of location of the plant, appealing to spare the heavily populated areas. On March 23rd, a peaceful protest was organized in the area with the presence of the officials from the administration, in which around 30 thousand people participated. They demanded to spare the heavily populated segments of the area from the already chosen location for the plant. On 2nd April, the local villagers attempted to obstruct the entry of the officials of the S.Alam group into the area, 7 locals were arrested based on the incidenton April 3rd. On April 4th, a protest was organized under the banner of “Boshot vita rokkha Committee” (committee to protect housholds) demanding the release of the arrested ones. Meanwhile, the paid locals of the company called for a counter program in the same location to spoil the event. Following the situation, a restriction was imposed by the local police administration. However, while the angry protestors continued to gather on the spot, around 30 to 40 goons hired by the company began to fire on the unarmed villagers. A large number of people were shot on the spot. At least 4 have been reported to be confirmed dead.

“We would like to ask, if the state chooses to call it ‘development’, then where is the Environmental Impact Assessment report? Why is this atrocity? How come there is no space for people’s opinion? Why is the government so afraid of protest? What sort of democracy is this in which the police administration and armed goons are consistently used to assault the people in protest?  We have seen it in phulbari. Now witnessing the same in Rampal coal project near Sundarban, Ruppur nuclear power plant and in Moheshkhali in Cox’s bazar.

“As long as assault, land grabbing, evicting people, and threat continue in the name of development, discontent would prevail. If the interest and consent of people are not prioritized, people will reject every so called development project.

“We demand exemplary punishment for the persons responsible for killing innocent unarmed people. We also demand to scrap projects with irregularities, corruption, and threat to human livelihoods and environment including coal fired power plants in bashkhali and Rampal. We call for a protest rally in Dhaka and Chittagong on 5 april and call for nationwide protest on April 8th, 2016 to express solidarity with the people in Bashkhali and to press the government to fulfill above demands.”

Five killed at anti-China power plant protest in Bangladesh: Rally against Coal-Murders at Dhaka and Chittagong Press Club on Tuesday

By Raaj Manik

At least five innocent protesters were killed after police opened fire on a protest of 1500 villagers who were protesting against two China-backed power plants at Bashkhali in Chittagong, a location in southeastern Bangladesh on Monday, the 4th April.

 

“This is a terrible tragedy and major news. It is the largest loss of life at an anti-coal protest in Bangladesh since the tragic deaths in the August 26, 2006 killings at Phulbari, Bangladesh, where three people were killed and 200 injured by paramilitaries. It is the worst overall loss of life in anti-coal protests worldwide since the killings of six people in Jharkhand, India, at two protests in April 2011” , noted Ted Nace, the editor of Coal Swarm.

 

Professor Anu Muhammd, the Member Secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh, noted: “the villagers in Bashkhali have been loud against the destructive plans of S. Alam Group for months because the company wants to build two coal-fired power plants in the area by evicting thousands of villagers and land owners. The coal-businessmen of S. Alam Group, financed by two Chinese firms — SEPCOIII Electric Power and HTG, were fully aware of the strong opposition to the coal-power plant.”

 

The shooting on villagers started dramatically. Around 1500 villagers had gathered in Gandamara, a remote coastal town, to protest against the construction of two coal-fired power plants that they say will evict thousands from the area. Local authorities had banned the demonstration from taking place and the police opened fire on the crowd when the protesters needed support of police as they were demonstrating against a greedy company.

 

District police chief Hafiz Akter told AFP that ‘Four people died, including a pair of brothers’ while informal sources and witnesses said, at least five were dead. More than 100 were injured. The causality initiated by the state security forces caused injury of 11 policemen. One officer was shot in the head also.

 

The state administrators are fabricating information. M. Mesbahuddin, a government administrator in Chittagong district, told: “The clashes erupted when police came under attack by local villagers protesting against the move to install the power plant by S. Alam group with finance from China”. This statement has been challenged by the survivors and eye witnesses.

According to AFP, Abu Ahmed, a member of the village committee that staged the protest told: “Police opened fire as we brought out a procession against the power plants. They even chased the villagers to their homes”.

Abu Ahmed was shot in his leg. He said that the villagers had been holding peaceful protests for days after S. Alam, the local conglomerate behind the project, started purchasing land for the plants in the village, which lies on the edge of the Bay of Bengal. But government did not pay attention to the village-protests and the district administration remained silent for months. This led the villagers to stage a mass-protest which turned into the worst tragedy in the history of coal-killings in Bangladesh.

A Doctor at Chittagong Medical College Hospital, Saiful Islam, said that seven people, including four who were shot by live rounds, were brought to his clinic. The condition of each of them were critical.

Rumana Hashem, the founder of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye witness to Phulbari tragedy in 2006, noted in an email update:

“Only less than half of the information came out of the affected villages.  Mainstream media is unwilling to cover the news of coal-murders in detail.  This has always been the case in Bangladesh. I remember that night on 26 August in 2006, police acted as industrial security force and raided our house in Phulbari, broke into housewife’s bedroom and warned us (without written warrant) that they would arrest us all. Nobody had known how badly police were used by Asia Energy, a London-listed extractive company now known as the Global Coal Management Resources Plc. Only few media had covered the raiding in Phulbari.  Likewise, there have been arbitrary raids and harassment of villagers by police in Gandamara about which common people are being kept in the dark. Very little news has come out of the villages. Many villages are under attack of coal-traders.”

 

Chittagong-based S. Alam Group, as the Bangladesh developer,  plans to build two coal-fired power plants in the area, which will have the capacity to produce 1,224 megawatts of electricity. Two Chinese firms — SEPCOIII Electric Power and HTG — are financing $1.75 billion of the the plants’ estimated $2.4 billion cost. This attack in the port city has been a simultaneous attack by coal criminals when the nation has been protesting the coal-fired power plant in Rampal, a close vicinity of the country’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans.

 

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh has extended its support and full solidarity with the protesters in Bashkhali, Gandamara in Chittagong. There are two solidarity demonstrations to be held, simultaneously,  at Dhaka Press Club and Chittagong Press Club this afternoon.

 

Further news and updates:

Bangladesh coal plant protest continues after demonstrators killed:  The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/apr/06/bangladesh-coal-plant-protests-continue-after-demonstrators-killed

Bashkhali: loopholes behind the shooting: http://www.newsbangladesh.com/english/Banshkhali–Loopholes-behind-the-story/13361#.VwlPVOhvxs0.facebook

Of Deception and Development: article by Any Muhammad  http://www.dhakatribune.com/op-ed/2016/apr/11/deception-and-development

Scrap deals of destruction: The Daily Star op-ed http://www.thedailystar.net/op-ed/politics/scrap-projects-destruction-1207177

Bashkhali Coal Power Plant: Propaganda and Reality: by Kallol Mostofa

http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/news/asia/377197/four-killed-at-anti-china-power-plant-protest-in-bangladesh

http://www.breitbart.com/news/four-killed-at-anti-china-power-plant-protest-in-bangladesh/