Citizens Protest Lack of Water, Electricity in Bangladesh

Police clashed with residents protesting a lack of water and electricity in the Bangladeshi capital, leaving at least 50 people injured, police and witnesses said.

Police on Friday fired tear gas and used batons to disperse the stone-throwing crowd, who claimed they were not getting adequate water and electricity over the past few weeks in Dhaka's Demra area, local journalist Shamim Ashraf told The Associated Press by phone from the scene.

Supplies of water are insufficient in Dhaka, a city of 10 million people, and most areas in the capital remain without power for hours everyday.

The protesters had erected a barricade on a major highway connecting Dhaka and the southern port city of Chittagong, and violence erupted when police tried to break up the crowd, according to a statement by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police.

Ten police officials were among the injured, the statement said.

A lawmaker from the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia was also injured during the melee, said Ashraf.

At least 15 injured people were hospitalized, the United News of Bangladesh agency reported.

The protesters blocked the highway till late Friday, allowing no vehicles through. Television footage showed protesters smashing vehicles, including a van of a private television channel.

A team of army's engineering corps led by Brig. Gen. Nizam Ahmed tried to calm down the situation with a promise of providing water to the residents under a special arrangement, but the residents rejected their offer, the NTV channel reported.

Bangladesh produces about 3,000 megawatts of electricity against total demand of around 4500 megawatts, according to the government's Power Development Board.

At least 18 people have been killed by police since January in southwestern district of Chapainawabganj during protests over power shortages. The area is 230 kilometers (145 miles) west of Dhaka.