Sylhet, Mar 22 (UNB) – With the high rate of population growth allied to increasing economic activity in Bangladesh’s growing urban centres, the number of vehicles on the roads is also growing exponentially.
The rise in the number of vehicles is far outpacing two related facilities: the amount of road on which these vehicles are meant to ply, and spaces in and around the towns and cities where they can be parked. While the state is seen to take some initiatives at least when it comes to the former, the concept of dedicated parking spaces has just never caught on in Bangladesh, and the importance of provisioning them seems lost on policymakers.
But three students of a private university here may just have come up with the so-called ‘killer app’ for dedicated parking spaces to take off in Bangladesh. They have devised an automated modern car parking system which will minimise the space required for parking cars, or to put it another way, maximize the use of the space available for parking.
NabenduDeyAnik Mia and Rakibul Islam of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) department of Leading University have devised an automated parking system under the supervision of their two teachers -- Associate Professor Rumel MS Rahman Pir, head of the department, and Lecturer MdNiazMurshedulHaque -- which they claimed is the first in Bangladesh.
The parking system will be fully controlled by programmable logic control (PLC) without anyone’s help, the students have said recently, adding that many vehicles can be parked together in a small space under the system.
How the system will work
A driver will place his/her fingerprint in a specific place if they want to park the vehicle under the system. The door of the parking zone will open if there is enough space for parking.
The driver will keep the vehicle on the plate of the parking zone and come back. Then the plate will automatically take the vehicle to the vacant space and release it there.
Similarly, when the driver will come back for his vehicle, he will have to identify himself through his fingerprints and the system will match him to his car if it’s in the system, and the plate will bring it to him.
The parking system designed by the three private university students is suited to a three-storey one. Four cars can be parked on each floor.
However, the number handled by the system can be increased many times over depending on what is desired or required, the inventive trio said.
Talking about the reasons behind devising the automated car parking system, the students said as the number of people in towns and cities is increasing, so the vehicles. However, there is no enough space for parking those vehicles.
As a result, vehicles are kept haphazardly on roads which creates traffic jam, eating up both time and fuel and costing the country economically.
Keeping this in mind, they have invented the automated parking system after extensive research of six months, said Nabendu, Anik and Rakibul.
Earlier, three other students of the university -- ShafiqulAlam, JasimUddin and MdZihad Al-Sabah -- designed a special electric wheelchair with their absolute brilliance to ease the worries of the physically-challenged people, by further reducing their dependence on able-bodied helpers.
People with disabilities can operate the wheelchair autonomously, with just the use of a single finger.
Dhaka, Mar 22 (UNB) - The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has formed a committee to collect year-wise data on the incomes of social media platforms and search engines from the digital advertisements of local firms to bring those under VAT net.
Besides, the NBR is collecting organisation-based monthly data on how much money was transacted abroad for the advertisement purpose and how much Value Added Tax (VAT) and income tax were collected in the last five years.
The decision was taken in a recent meeting of NBR’s special committee.
The meeting decided to send a letter to the central bank to get the monthly and organisation-based data of the last five years for payment on digital advertisement and transaction of money for the purpose, and collection of VAT and income tax from this pocket.
It also decided to co-opt a representative of the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) in the special committee.
From the meeting, the NBR decided to send letters to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to get data about the published digital advertisement of mobile phone operators, Google, Whatsapp, Yahoo, Amazon, Youtube, facebook and IMO and their incomes from Bangladeshi advertisements.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Bank recently asked all the banks to be strict on the payment procedure and deduct 15 percent VAT on overseas payments for online purchases and adverts on digital platforms as a measure to collect VAT on payments for advertisements published or services taken from digital and social media platforms.
The latest move from the Banking Regulations and Policy Department of the central bank came following a request from the NBR on deducting VAT on payments for internet services, advertisement on digital platforms and other related services received from abroad.
Most multinational companies, including mobile phone operators, fast-moving consumer goods companies, ride-sharing and e-commerce platforms and other digital service companies spend hugely on advertisements.
The spending is increasing rapidly and some digital agencies have already sprung up to take care of this business segment.
On April 12, 2018, the High Court ordered the government to realise appropriate tax, VAT and other charges from the revenues earned by different digital platforms like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Yahoo and YouTube.
In response to a writ petition, the court also asked the government to form a special committee to assess the amount of their financial transactions in recent years and submit an assessment report by June 25.
The European Union also plans to slap a new tax on digital firms. The European commission placed a proposal on March 21 last year to collect 3 percent tax from large tech companies if they make money from user data or digital advertising in a country, regardless of their brick-and-mortar presence.
In November 2017, the Newspaper Owners' Association of Bangladesh (NOAB) sent a letter to the finance ministry, the central bank and the NBR voicing its grievance over the rise in digital advertisements.
Facebook and Google are earning a huge amount of money from digital advertisements but they are not paying any tax, the association said.
The two tech giants have no office in Bangladesh, which allows them to remain out of the purview of Bangladesh's laws. But it is a requirement that every company that wants to do business in any country complies with the local laws.
To bring the incomes of the tech companies under the tax net, the NBR slapped a 15 percent withholding tax this fiscal year on 'advertisement income or digital marketing'. In addition, a 15 percent VAT is to be paid by the advertisers on the bills served by digital companies.
Dhaka, Mar 21 (UNB) – The government has taken an initiative to set up three wind power plants in the country in the next two years.
According to official sources, each of the plants will have 50 MW capacity, for a total contribution of 150 MW wind power to the national electricity generation capacity.
Official sources at the Power Division said the locations of the three wind power plants, selected on the basis of “wind mapping”, will be Chandpur, Inani Beach of Cox’s Bazar and Dacope upazila of Khulna.
A senior official at the Power Division said the government conducted the wind mapping exercise with the financial support of the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
“The wind mapping was done at 9 locations where wind speed was found to be favourable for installation of wind power plants,” said Mohammad Alauddin, joint secretary in-charge of renewable energy at the Power Division, told UNB.
He said that different data collected through the wind mapping suggests that wind power plants will be feasible for these locations.
“But initially the three locations were selected as the collected data of wind speed and velocity appear very supportive for power generation,” he said.
Officials said a wind power plant needs a stable wind with minimum speed of 5 meters per second. Windspeed at the 3 locations was found to exceed that.
They said a number of wind towers with turbines will be installed in each of the plants. Each of the turbines’ power generation capacity will be between 5-7 MW.
Sources said the state-owned Power Development Board (PDB) will implement the wind power plant project through independent power producer (IPP).
They said the PDB officials already prepared the document to float tender to invite experienced international private sponsors to implement the projects.
A proposal in this regard awaiting approval of the PDB Board which is expected to be placed in the board meeting of the organisation within a week or two, said an official.
About the possible power tariff of the wind power plant, he said, as per the study, the tariff of each kilowatt of hour of electricity might be US 10-12 Cents which is equivalent to Tk 8-9.
Officials said the government’s move for wind power plant is part of its energy related strategy adopted in the Power System Master Plan where it was stated 10 percent of the country’s total power generation will come from renewable sources.
Wind power generation is one of the renewable options yet to be tapped into by the government in Bangladesh. Sources do recall however a previous attempt when the government had earlier moved to implement a 100 MW wind power in the offshore areas about 8 years ago.
“But that project has not been implemented yet due to failure of the bidder,” said an official adding that later the government awarded a contract to an Indian consortium to set up a 30 MW wind power plant in Sonagazi upazila of Feni district.
The government has already issued Letter of Intent (LoI) to a consortium of Bhagwati Products Ltd (India), Regen Powertech Provate Ltd (India) Siddhant Wind Energy Pvt Ltd, noted the Power Division official.
Dhaka, Mar 20 (UNB) – Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, one of the world’s most densely populated cities, is struggling to bring back discipline on its streets.
Violation of traffic rules, reckless driving and evil race on roads by drivers have become the order of the day in the capital, causing vexing traffic congestions and frequent road crashes.
On Tuesday morning, a student of Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP) was run over by a bus in front of Bashundhara Gate in Pragatisarani area, prompting private university students to block the road in front of Jamuna Future Park, which left the traffic in the area in complete disarray.
Numerous efforts and initiatives taken by the government have failed to bring back discipline on Dhaka’s streets.
Long tailbacks make commuting in the city a nightmare. The traffic situation is in chaos and it has become a sort of ‘identity’ of Dhaka. One cannot talk about the capital without mentioning the paralysing traffic congestion.
The Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) observed special programmes to bring back discipline on the streets last year after the students’ road safety movement.
But there has been no improvement.
‘Rickety buses run over traffic laws’
The traffic rules awareness campaigns fell on deaf ears. No one, from the drivers to pedestrians, follow the rules. Breaking the law appears to have become the norm on the streets.
It is a herculean task for the small number of traffic policemen to enforce the law.
In September last year, DMP fixed 121 stoppages for buses and issued a number of directives including keeping doors closed while running, displaying staff's photo and mobile number, keeping updated documents and told owners to appoint drivers and assistants on fixed monthly salary.
But the transport sector shows no sign of change.
Buses pick and drop passengers wherever they want, the staff are appointed on daily wage basis, numerous unfit vehicles and human haulers are running on the streets, many driven by under-aged drivers, while many vehicles regularly use the wrong lane.
Buses still compete among themselves for passengers, a tendency transport experts blame on the practice of hiring staff on daily wage basis.
Stuck on paper
A 10-member coordination committee, headed by Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Sayeed Khokon, was formed to restructure the traffic system and reduce road chaos.
“To restore order, 8,000-9,000 buses of only six companies will be allowed to run on 22 routes,” said Dr SM Saleh Uddin, a committee member and project consultant.
“Another 4,500 new buses will be added to the current fleet,” he said.
All bus staff will be employed through a due recruitment process, Saleh said, adding that transport owners will be given loans with 5-6 percent interest to buy new buses.
Many buses that operate in Dhaka are old and rickety. Their exact number could not be known.
A 15-member committee, headed by former minister Shajahan Khan, was set up to bring city traffic under proper management and curb accidents.
Road Transport Minister Obaidul Quader on February 17 said the committee was asked to file a report recommending effective measures within the next 14 days.
“We’ll take all necessary steps to bring discipline in city traffic,” he said.
The report is yet to be filed.
‘Change of mindset’
A Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) study found that over 200 bus companies operate on 194 routes in Dhaka. Seven companies own over 100 buses, leading to cut-throat competition among them and an increase in rule violation and accidents.
“No other country has so many companies involved in the public transport sector,” Buet Professor Dr Shamsul Haque, a transport expert, said. “A small number of companies should be allowed to operate to restore discipline in the capital’s traffic sector.”
He said stiff competition among the private transport companies for revenue led to the collapse of the entire traffic system.
During one such competition in July last year, a bus ploughed through a group of students on the Airport Road, killing two of them. The deaths triggered a countrywide movement for road safety that lasted for about a week.
During the demonstration, the protesters effectively took control of the city traffic and tried to raise awareness about following the law on the streets.
Although the general people and drivers had shown signs of change, they reverted to their old self within a few days after the movement stopped.
“The chaotic situation will not change unless we raise awareness among the people and transport operators,” Prof Haque said. “The law enforcers should strictly implement the law without hesitation.”
Dhaka, Mar 19 (UNB) - Bangladesh is planning to start the distribution of digital passports, also known as ePassports, as early as June this year to ease immigration activities.
The ePassport has an embedded electronic microprocessor chip which contains biometric information used to authenticate the identity of the bearer.
Sources at the Department of Immigration and Passports (DIP) said ePassports will have 38 types of security features. Data currently available in the Machine Readable Passport (MRP) database will be transferred to ePassports.
Preparations to start ePassport distribution are almost complete, according to the sources.
Bangladesh and Germany signed an agreement on July 19 last year following Dhaka’s decision to issue electronic passports alongside the machine readable ones.
Implementation of the project – Introduction of e-Passport and Automated Border Control Management in Bangladesh – started from July 2018 and is expected to continue until June 2028 with the government’s own funding.
“We plan to issue ePassports by June,” Project director Brig Gen Saidur Rahman Khan told UNB.
ePassport distribution was scheduled to start in December last year but it was pushed back to March 2018. However, the authorities concerned failed to begin the work in the stipulated time.
Brig Gen Khan said arranging fund for the project delayed the work. “The project was approved by Ecnec on June 21 last year and the national budget for 2018-19 was also proposed in the same month. So, it took time to arrange the fund for the project,” he said.
Various complications also arose during the work, he noted, saying such delay was acceptable.
Sources at Home Ministry said the decision to keep ePassport valid for 10 years is final but its fees are yet to be fixed. “The Home Ministry is working on it,” Khan said.
DIP sources said the government initially planned to issue two millions ePassports printed in Germany. But later Bangladesh decided to print the ePassports at home. “We’re setting up a world-class printing factory in Uttara. The work is at the final stage. We hope to start issuing ePassports to be printed here,” Khan said.
The project director said 24 million MRPs have been issued so far. “Initially, we’ll start issuing ePassports from Dhaka. The distribution of MRP will continue from other regional offices until they start issuing ePassports,” he said, adding that the existing MRPs will be accepted during their valid periods.
DIP sources said the process to install e-gates has already begun at every airport and land port across the country to facilitate the use of ePassports.