Bangladeshi coal mine concerns U.N. panel

Feb. 28, 2012 at 7:16 AM
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GENEVA, Switzerland, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Bangladesh is called on to ensure adequate safeguards are in place should a permit for an open-pit coal mine go through, U.N. experts said.

A panel of U.N. special envoys expressed concern that plans for an open-pit coal mine in Phulbari in northwestern Bangladesh could displace more than 200,000 people.

"The Phulbari development would displace vulnerable farming communities, and threaten the livelihoods of thousands more by doing irreversible damage to water sources and ecosystems in the region," they said in a statement.

Sanitation experts working with the United Nations said drinking water for the surrounding area could be contaminated by the coal mine. Other envoys said they were concerned about the rights of those who were peacefully protesting that and other energy sector developments in the region.

"Human rights and development policies are mutually reinforcing," Magdalena Sepulveda, special envoy on extreme poverty, said in her statement.

The United Nations said it expects the permit process to move forward after Bangladeshi lawmakers back a national coal policy this year.

The U.N. experts said the mine would destroy as much as 12,000 hectares of agricultural land. The mine would extract more than 570 million tons of coal during the next 36 years.

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