Whether you find it awkward or call it queer, the sight of Omar Ali driving his battery-run auto-rickshaw in Kachua upazila of Chandpur district will force you to give it a second glance.
What will draw your attention is his dapper dress sense: he is always suited and booted while driving his auto-rickshaw. He even wears accessories like hat, wristwatch and snazzy sunglasses to complete his look.
There is no wonder that locals call him a ‘smart’ auto-rickshaw driver. And ‘smart’ people prefer his rickshaw, they said.
Apart from being conspicuously fashionable, Omar tries to speak Bangla with perfect pronunciation. Passengers and even others are impressed by his wit and behaviour. That is why he gets extra cash as tip from most of his passengers.
Omar Ali, son of Md Abid Ali of Kadirkheel village under Paschim Shohodebpur union in the upazila, told UNB that he studied upto Class-VII. Poverty forced him to discontinue his studies.
Omar’s impoverished family life revolves around his aged parents, wife and a child.
Abdul Samad, chairman of Paschim Shohodebpur union parishad, said Omar deserves nothing but praise for his smart appearance and courteous manners.
For almost one year, Omar has been driving his autorickshaw in Kachua and surrounding areas. He has managed to attract people’s attention quite easily by going about his business with a sense.
“Many people fancy riding my rickshaw, take selfies with me and offer me snacks. I enjoy all this. Besides, many pay me extra being impressed by my behaviour,” Omar stated.
“This is how I earn Tk 500-600 every day. No passenger undermines me or misbehaves with me because I’m smartly dressed,” he added.
According to Omar, he owns eight pairs of trousers, eight shirts, three pairs of shoes, three ties and two jackets for use during winter. “I’ve bought all this with money earned by driving rickshaw,” he exclaimed.
Omar sounded quite level headed when he was asked why he dresses up to drive the auto-rickshaw. He explained that it is not prohibited for rickshaw drivers to wear suit and tie.
Omar prefers being smartly dressed for work so he can attract people’s attention just like shops spend on decoration to do the same.
According to this auto-rickshaw driver, there are two benefits from what he is doing -- he gets more passengers and at the same time they pay him extra for the fare.
“That’s why my mind and body stay well. Inshallah, as long as I live, I’ll try to wear fine clothes while driving the auto-rickshaw,” Omar said.
Reacting to the style adopted by Omar, other rickshaw drivers like Wahid, Majib and Shukkur said they are proud of Omar.
They described him as a good, smart and modern rickshaw driver of the digital age.
Thousands of people in Sharsha upazila have been suffering for years as a dysfunctional sluice-gate keeps a vast swathe of land inundated for nine months a year.
Locals alleged that the administration and Water Development Board are playing a silent role in this regard.
The sluice-gate was built in the junction of the Betna River and the Samta Canal at Bagachara union in the upazila during the Ershad regime.
As it remained out of order for a long time, around a five-kilometer area in Kul Baria from Shangkarpur union to Samta village was filled with water-hyacinth, disrupting the water flow.
Residents of the area say when the water level drops, local influential groups farm fish by setting up small dams which lead to flooding during monsoon. Since there is no proper water flow, half of the crop land remains under water in dry season.
Farmers can only cultivate Irri. Among 500 bighas of land of the adjoining beel (a large surface water body), around 300 bighas remain uncultivable.
Locals blamed the Water Development Board for the situation.
The Begobhati River or the Betroboti River, known as Betna to the people of Sharsha, and as Bhaina to the people of Jhikargaccha, is dying after losing its water flow.
During a recent visit, the UNB correspondent found that there is water flow in 13-km area from Shikarpur to Gorpara in Sharsha. But the scenario in around a four-kilometer area from Gorpara to Banmandar is completely opposite.
Besides, local influential groups are farming fish setting up eight dams in a two-kilometre area from Banmandar to Radhanagar.
As there is no proper drainage system, silt has been deposited in the river which has reduced navigability. As there is no flow of water in the river, water stagnation becomes a common problem in the areas during monsoon.
Though there was a direction from the upazila administration to remove net and embankment from the river, the influential groups are always opposing it.
Farmers of Pipragacchi said they have planted paddy in beels during Irri season. After the harvesting of paddy at Baishakh, the entire area gets inundated, forcing the farmers to stay away from producing any crop.
Farmers Abdul, Rahamat Ali, Salahuddin, Abul Kashem, Jasim Uddin and Ujjal Das of Samta village said they have a very difficult time during the nine-month unproductive season.
They said they wrote to the chairman of their but there has been no progress.
Md Elias Kabir Bakul, the chairman of Bagachara union parishad, said the sluice-gate hampers the water flow into the Betna River and the Samta Canal and causes water stagnation in rainy season.
He said he placed the issue at monthly meetings of Sharsha upazila several times and sought government initiative to overcome the problem.
Pulok Kumar Mandal, upazila nirbahi officer of Sharsha upazila, said they have sent a list of canals which need re-excavation. They also conduct mobile court drives to fine and jail people who illegally occupy canal for fish farming.
“If there's any allegation, we'll take action instantly,” he said.
Shahriar Sarker, sub-divisional engineer of Jashore Water Development Board, said re-excavation of seven rivers, one water body and a canal is underway under a project. “Necessary information was sent to the ministry in October last year to re-excavate the Betna River and adjoining canals,” he said.
However, there has been no response yet. Re-excavation will begin after getting approval, he said.
Asked about the sluice-gate, the engineer said they have no one designated to take care of the sluice-gate.
“A committee formed by locals takes care of the gate. For repair works, recommendations were sent to thevministry in July 2017, but it didn’t get the approval,” he said.
Flower farmers in Jashore’s Jhikargacha say they expect to sell flowers worth Tk 70-80 crore ahead of Pahela Falgun, Valentine's Day and International Mother Language Day this month.
According to Bangladesh Flower Society, 8000-10,000 florists are involved in flower cultivation in around 3,500 hectares of land there.
Around 12 species of flowers are cultivated here. Among the total cultivation, gladiolus cultivation is 45 percent, tuberose 25 percent and rose 20 percent. Other flower are- gerbera, tuberose, gypsy, calendula and sunflower.
Rafiqul Islam, a gardener, said he has cultivated tuberose, double tuberose, hybrid tuberose, rose, gerbera, marigold and gladiolus. He is expecting to sell flowers worth Tk 2 lakh.
Rafiqul said it costs Tk 1 lakh to cultivate rose on one bigha land. The price of 4,000 rose saplings is around Tk 50,000 and other cost is around Tk 50,000. From each sapling, he will get flowers for up to seven years.
Another gardener, Amzad Hossain, said he is expecting to sell flowers worth Tk 1.5 lakh if the weather remains favourable.
Bablu Miah, a gerbera flower cultivator, said he was selling around 5,000 flowers every week. “I hope to sell flowers worth Tk 4 lakh this month,” he said.
Bangladesh Flower Society President Abdur Rahim said around four million people across the country are involved in this sector. Among them, around 30,000 are farmers. In this district, 10,000-12,000 farmers are involved with flower cultivation.
This year the farmers are expecting the sales will cross Tk 70-80crore as the weather is favourable, he said.
Sadhon Kumar Biswas, upazila nirbahi officer, said the government has taken a number of initiatives for the flower farmers, including arranging training and easy bank loan.
Flower cultivation in Godkhali began in 1983 on a meager 30 decimal of land, said Abdur Rahim.
Nearly four decades late, the cultivation has spread to over 3,500 hectares, he said, adding that the wholesale flower market at Godkhali is the source of 70 percent of the entire flower supply of the country.
“Flowers cultivated here are being exported to Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore and North Korea,” he said.
Dhaka, known as one of the unhealthy cities in the world because of several types of environmental pollution, has to suffer in almost every election- thanks to the advertisements usage in the election campaigns of the candidates. A good load of posters and banners cover the whole cityscape and after the ending of these elections, both the city corporations suffer to clean up these huge messes.
Modern problem requires modern solution- and sometimes, the solutions can shake everyone from the very core for the uniqueness of the implemented ideas and vision. Bidyanondo (Learn for Fun), an educational voluntary organization in Bangladesh, implemented that unique solution after the 2020 Mayoral election of DNCC and DSCC.
The organization is utilizing the election-wastages, through making exercise books from both the used and unused posters; and school-bags, raincoats from the pvc banners. In addition to that, they are using the plastics and ropes extracted from these laminated posters and banners, for packaging purposes.
“Right after the February 1 Mayoral elections, we (Bidyanondo volunteers) started collecting both used and unused posters and banners for the project from the Pallabi R/A, Mirpur, where our office is located. Soon after the news of our initiative went viral on Facebook, we started getting calls from councilors and three of the Mayoral candidates from both the parties,” Habibur Rahman Samrat, a spokesperson from Bidyanondo informed UNB.
“Our initial plan was to make exercise books for next one year, using these posters for our 1,000 children from our 3 orphanages and also from the street. Then after starting the process, we got massive response from everyone and now we are thinking about making some 1 Lakh exercise books from these posters. On Wednesday, we received 3 trucks full of unused posters, each truck carries 2.5 to 3 ton of weights,” Samrat continued.
Mentioning the support the initiative received from the Mayoral candidates and councilors, Samrat told that everyone is enthusiastically collaborating in this noble project. “Especially, we got massive support from the newly elected Mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), Atiqul Islam. He appreciated the initiative and promised to get more involved in our other projects like this,” Samrat told UNB.
How are these exercise books, bags, raincoats, small packets of papers, bill slips etc being crafted? Samrat informed that every day, 25-30 volunteers are working continuously to make these things. Small teams of consisting 2 members are collecting posters and banners from each area. “We have a non-profit garments factory named ‘Bashonti’ beside our office, where the bags and raincoats are being crafted.”
The initiative has already gone viral on Facebook, and everyone is appreciating their noble initiative. “If there is a Nobel prize in recycling waste to good you guys must deserve it”- compliments like these are being flooded over on each of their Facebook posts.
Running entirely with the help and effort of volunteers, the foundation is known to many for its revolutionary, acclaimed idea- the ‘Ek Taka Ahar’ (1 Taka Meal) project. As the name suggests, it provides healthy meals to children under the age of 12 and older people above the age of 60, in exchange of 1 taka per meal.
Reasons behind this noble initiative and this strange exchange? According to their website, facebook page and volunteers, the main purpose and vision behind the idea was to unharm the self-respect of the unprivileged children and older people, who might have to deal with low self-esteem if they received everything free. In order to make them feel important, and most importantly, ‘buyers’ of their own meals- the idea of taking 1 taka for each meal was initiated.
In addition to that idea- Bidyanondo also initiated several other projects similar to that, including One Taka Medical Aid, One Glass of Milk, Free Academic Teaching for Underprivileged Kids, Orphanage Center, Support for Refugees, Winter Clothes Distribution, Iftaar and Sehri meals for unprivileged children and many more.
In the ongoing Ekushey Boi Mela, Bidyanondo has a book stall (Stall 77 at the Bangla Academy part of the fair) which is made using household wastages in some parts of their stall decoration. It used plastics such as bottles-caps-cups, polythene packets and even wasted cell phones. In exchange of unused-unexpired medicines and damaged cell phones and laptops, readers can buy books from the Bidyanondo stall and those medicines-phones-laptops will be used for unprivileged people in unprivileged areas across the country.
Noble initiatives like these recycling projects can definitely reduce environmental pollution and poverty on a greater scale- this is the common belief of the enthusiastic volunteers. The initiatives can be supported through donations. Details can be found at their Facebook page, and their website https://bidyanondo.org/.
A process is underway to set up a 10MW floating solar power plant at Mongla as a Mujib Borsho gift for the people of the area.
According to official sources, the Power Division has initiated the move to implement the project as soon as possible.
“A technical committee is now evaluating a proposal of an Indo-Bangla consortium in this regard,” Mohammad Alauddin, additional secretary to the Power Division, told UNB.
He said if the committee finds the proposal technically and financially viable, then the government will proceed to sign a contract with them to implement the project.
The Mongla Municipality will be an equity partner of the consortium by giving its water-body for the project.
Currently, Mongla Municipality has a water-body on a 60-acre land in Bagerhat district to run its water treatment plant from which it supplies water to its residents.
Officials said the consortium of Indian and Bangladeshi companies moved its proposal to the Power Division recently, expressing its interest to set up the project.
As per the proposal, the municipality will provide the water-body while the two companies will invest money to set up the project as an independent power producer (IPP).
The Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), on behalf of the government, will purchase electricity from the project for about 20 years.
Officials said a technical committee of the government is now scrutinising the technical and financial aspects of the proposal.
They said the government is considering the project positively as the consortium claimed that they have the capability to implement it very quickly -- even within 6 months.
Once the proposal is accepted and the project implemented, it will be a good gift of the Mujib Year which the government officially announced to celebrate the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Officials said if the project is implemented, it will be the country’s first private floating solar power plant.
Earlier, the government planned to implement a 50MW solar power plant in the Kaptai Lake. After a feasibility study, the government will invite proposals from bidders to implement the project.
The government has planned to generate 10 percent or 2000 MW electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020, which is 405MW at present.
The country’s current capacity for power generation is about 22,000MW and it has a target of generating 24,000MW of electricity by 2021, 40,000MW by 2030, and 60,000MW by 2041.
The recent successes of Japan, China, India, Germany, France, China and other countries have prompted the government to set up floating solar power plants across the country.
Japan was the first country to install a floating solar power plant in 2006 in Chiba while China is now the leader in setting up the largest floating solar power plant of 40MW capacity in Huainan city of its Anhui province.