Protest may resume in Banshkhali | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 24, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:50 AM, April 24, 2016

Planned Power Plant

Protest may resume in Banshkhali

Residents' demand remains unmet

Tension prevails in Gondamara union of Banshkhali upazila, where a clash over opposition to a proposed coal-fired power plant killed four people early this month, as a 15-day postponement of the movement ends today, with the protesters' demand remaining unmet.

The Committee to Protect Habitat and Graveyard is likely to announce fresh programmes this afternoon.

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Following the April 4 bloodshed, the committee threatened to besiege the office of Upazila Nirbahi Officer on April 9 but its coordinator Md Liakat Ali postponed the programme for 15 days as local Awami League leader Abdul Kabir Liton sought the time on the government's behalf.

“We gave the condition that the government would take experts from home and abroad to the project site during this period to see whether the project is eco-friendly or not, and they would make their report public, but it was not done,” Liakat told The Daily Star yesterday.

AL leader Liton admitted that they did not arrange such a visit of experts since, he said, they thought that local people would not understand what the foreign experts would say.

“Rather I asked Liakat to give me a list of 15 to 20 or more local people to visit such power plants in China,” Liton said yesterday, adding that he would say the same to the locals.

Talking on this point, protest leader Liakat said, "Showing people like us the power plants is nothing but showing an elephant to blind men."

"I proposed them for taking Advocate Sultana Kamal and Prof Anu Muhammad...on the visit as they are knowledgeable and also are respected in the country,” said Liakat. "If the two persons are convinced visiting the plants abroad and assure us, only then will we consider."

Liakat alleged that the district administration recently met Gondamara Union Bachao Andolon, which "actually acted for S Alam Group", the firm that is supposed to build the plant.

Mahmudul Islam Chowdhury, former lawmaker from Banshkhali and also adviser to Gondamara Union Bachao Andolon, in several speeches last week said they neither wanted any damage to the area nor relocation of such a big project from there.

He claimed that three of the nine demands of the protesters, including release of the arrestees and compensation to the families of the dead and injured, were also met.

Liakat, however, said they were fighting on only one point -- cancellation of the project.

Regarding the district administration's compensation of Tk 15 lakh to each of the families of the four deceased, Liakat said people did not sacrifice their lives for the money.

Lawmaker Mahmudul Islam denied any connection with S Alam Group.

About the movement, he said the postponement frustrated locals and forced them to create a platform like Gondamara Bachao Andolon, of which Bodi Ahmad, who lost his two brothers and a son-in-law in the clash, was made president, with a full-fledged committee comprising 200 locals.

The government is poised to set up a 1,224MW coal-based power plant in 650 acres of land in Gondamara, which locals fear would displace people, have immense environmental impacts, and hurt their livelihoods.

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