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BANGLADESH: Gas explosion: Compensation from Niko, Unocal demanded

The New Nation
June 13th, 2006

The National Committee to Protect Oil-Gas-Mineral Resources and Port yesterday demanded of the government to realise compensations from Niko and Unocal, recently merged with Chevron, for the disasters at Magurchhara and Tengratila gas fields.

Committee convenor Enginner Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah and member secretary Prof Anu Muhammad, in a joint statement, suggested confiscating assets of Niko and Unocol if compensations cannot be realised from the two companies.

The statement was issued yesterday on the 9 th anniversary of the Magruchara gas field explosion, causing billions of cubic feet gas burnt and serious damage to the environment, ecology and wildlife.

The accident took place on June 14, 1997 when Occidental was drilling the well at Magurchhara. Later, the company sold its interest in Bangladesh to Unocal, which has recently merged with Chevron.

An unofficial experts committee appointed by the National Committee to Protect Oil-Gas-Mineral Resources and Port (NCPOGMRP) after an investigation revealed that the blowout caused an estimated Tk 9000 crore loss to the nation.

Meanwhile, different organisations, including the NCPOGMRP, have chalked out elaborate programme to observe the Magurchhara Day today.

Programmes of the day included processions and demonstrations in the capital and at Moulvibazar, Kamolganj and Srimongal demanding proper compensation of the Magurchhara blowout.

NCPOGMRP Convenor Shiekh Mohammad Shahidullah and Member Secretary Prof Anu Mohammad, in their statement, said a serious blowout occurred at a block leased by American company Occidental in Magurchhara on June 14, 1997.

They said gas reserve of about 245 billion cubic feet was burnt in the explosion while the environment, ecology and wildlife of the area were also severely affected, as per the report of a probe committee.

They said the damage caused by the explosion in monetary term is estimated at about Tk 9000 crore.

Capitalising on the negligence of the then government, Occidental sold its interest in Bangladesh to another American company Unocal, without reaching any agreement on giving compensation for the incident, they alleged.

They said no effective step has been taken to realise the compensation al though the government was changed.

Moreover, agreements were struck in this sector with an incompetent company like Niko that resulted in a serious blow out at Tengratila gas field.

They demanded cancellation of anti-national interest agreements and financially infeasible accords in gas and coal sector.

The NCPOGMRP leaders also demanded that all the activities regarding non-renewable resources must be run by the national institutions.



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