Thirty brick kilns that were set up in Bagbaria village in sadar upazila occupying the Modhumati River and defying the government ban have become a serious threat to the everyday life of the villagers as well as the environment.
Invariably cloaked in dust, the village is now widely known as ‘Brick Kiln Village’.
Visiting the village, the UNB correspondent found a vehicle called ‘Dump Car’ which is used for transporting soil, sand and brick. All these things have made the roads at this village unusable while the constant billowing smoke from the brick kilns made the life here horrible.
On one hand the amount of arable land is decreasing and people are falling victims to environmental pollution on the other, said residents of the village.
They said these illegal brick kilns have now become a threat to the Modhumati River as well as they have started encroaching it.
According to the district administration, Bagbaria village has the highest number of brick kilns in the district -- 30 out of 90.
Out of the total 90 brick kilns in the district, only 10 have licences to operate while the remaining ones are operating without any permission.
These illegal brick kilns are often fined by mobile courts conducted by the district administration. However, that has not been able to stop the bricks from burning. Besides, these brick kilns use short chimneys instead of 120-foot ones made of concrete as per law.
Some local residents who are associated with these brick fields told the UNB correspondent that 50 lakh bricks are burned on average throughout the season in each of the brick kilns in the district.
For every 1 lakh bricks, 80 to 100 tonnes of fuel are needed and accordingly around 4 to 5 lakh metric tonnes of firewood is required for the 90 brick kilns, they said.
Jahidul Amin, deputy director of Magura Department of Agricultural Extension, said a decision has been made in this regard through a resolution at the district administrator’s office.
“No factory or brick kiln can be set up on land used to grow three crops. Every union parishad chairman and members have been notified about it,” he said.
“However, I’m not aware of any decision on setting up brick fields occupying rivers and using the soil of rivers for making bricks,” Amin added.
Magura sadar upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) Abu Sufian said steps will be taken if brick fields are set up on land used to grow three crops based on complaints by the affected individuals but could not say what action will be taken against river encroaching.
Prompt action will be taken against illegal bricks kilns, he said.
The shrimp farmers here who counted repeated losses due to virus attacks in farms and natural disasters are now showing greater interest in crab cultivation as it has proved to be more profitable than shrimp and its demand in the international market is on the rise.
Visiting different upazilas, the UNB correspondent found crab farming expanded in Dacope, Botiaghata, Dumuria, Paikgachha, Koyra, Rampal, Mongla, Bagerhat Sadar, Sharankhola, Shyamnagar, Ashashuni, Kaliganj and Debhata upazilas due to high profit and less chance of virus attack.
According to Khulna Fisheries Office, over 6,989 mts of crab were produced on 28,546 hectares of land in Koyra, Paikgachha, Dumuria, Dacope and Botiaghata upazilas.
According to the Khulna office of Export Promotion Bureau, crab worth 26.81 lakh US dollars was exported in the last five months alone.
The country earned 2.691 lakh USD from crab export in June, while 3.97 lakh USD in July, 5.63 lakh USD in August, 9.25 lakh USD in September and 5.94 lakh USD in October this year, the sources said.
Bangladesh exports crab to China, Taiwan, Belgium, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Australia. Crabs produced mainly in the Sundarbans areas are exported to these countries.
Talking to the UNB correspondent, local crab farmers said male and female crabs become exportable within three months, and they do not die during cold or heat wave like shrimp.
Crab farming is gaining popularity in the region because of the lower possibility of disease outbreak and high price in foreign markets, they added.
Farmers sell crab at Tk 1,000 to Tk 1,200 per kg against Tk 700 to Tk 800 per kg shrimp.
Crab exporter Sheikh Wahiduzzaman told UNB that over 10mts of crab are sent to Dhaka from Dighraj wholesale crab market nearby Mongla River Port every day for export.
Md Arif Billah, proprietor of Messer’s Mahfuza Traders, said over 50 people are involved in crab business at Dighraj wholesale market.
“Earlier, the breeding season of crab was from January to February, but due to the changes in climate, now March and April have become the peak breeding season,” he added.
For the changes in production period, Billah said, businesses are facing losses as the authorities impose ban on crab catching in January and February.
The farmers are failing to get good output from crab farming due to the absence of modern technology, he said.
Dr Khaled Kanak, fisheries officer of Bagerhat, said 2,629 mts of crab were produced on 600 hectares land in Bagerhat Sadar, Rampal and Mongla upazilas in the last fiscal year.
Md Mashiru Rahman, fisheries officer Satkhira, said the farmers of Kaliganj, Debhata, Shyamnagar, Ashashuni upazilas produced some 3,200 mts of crab in 307 hectares of land in the district during the same period.
Two crab processing zones have been established in Satkhira’s Shyamnagar upazila, and one of them is ‘Shakib Agro Farm’ owned by cricketer Shakib Al Hasan and another is Farid Nine Empire Group.
BNP is likely to come up with simultaneous action programmes across the country from December 5 in its efforts to mount pressure on the government to release its chairperson Khaleda Zia and register its protest against the 11th parliamentary election on its first anniversary.
BNP insiders said the party leaders and activists may bring out processions and stage demonstrations all over the country, especially at every thana unit in Dhaka, simultaneously without any prior announcement on December 5 and onward, showing their strength on the streets.
Talking to UNB, some party senior leaders said the nature of their movement will depend on Appellate Division’s order on the hearing of Khaleda Zia’s bail petition in Charitable Trust graft case on December 5.
If the bail petition is rejected, they said, they have a plan to stage a big showdown and launch a one-point oust-government movement.
A BNP standing committee member, wishing anonymity, said their party senior leaders during their recent visits to different districts gave the grassroots leaders the necessary directions about a ‘vigorous’ movement from early December.
“We’re under serious pressure from the grassroots leaders to launch an immediate movement to free our chairperson. Our grassroots leaders are upset as we’re not announcing consecutive action programmes to have Khaleda Zia freed and protest against government’s misrule. They also want our party to announce strong programmes on the first anniversary of the December-30 election,” he said.
The BNP leader said they hope Khaleda will get bail on December 5. “If she’s denied bail, we’ll stage various programmes throughout the month. We also have a plan to take position on the streets on December 29 and 30 to register our strong protest against the farcical and ‘nighttime’ voting in 11th parliamentary election.”
He also said they have instructed their leaders and activists, including the grassroots ones, not to indulge in violence like vandalising vehicles and damage public property.
However, another BNP standing committee member, said a group of party senior leaders are against waging any strong movement right now as they think it will only invite tough action against them by the government which eventually may demoralise the party rank and file.
But, he said, most party leaders, especially the younger ones, are happy with the recent demonstration of party men in front of the High Court, led by Abdullah Al Noman, and they think such programmes should continue to encourage people to take to the streets against the government.
Contacted, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said they hope that the medical board of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University will submit an authentic report on their party chairperson Khaleda Zia’s health condition before the Appellate Division grants her bail.
“If she’s denied bail, our standing committee members will sit in a meeting to work out our party’s next course of action considering the overall situation,” he said.
Fakhrul said their standing committee will also decide what action programmes the party should take on the first anniversary of the 11th parliamentary election.
BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said they will have no other alternative to launching a one-point oust-government movement if Khaleda Zia is not freed on bail.
“If we see Khaleda Zia is not granted bail on December 5, we’ll understand it won’t be possible to free our leader (on bail) due to the government’s interference, and we’ll then be forced to wage a strong movement,” he added.
He said their party leaders and activists are ready to take to the streets to ensure the fall of the government. “But our movement will be peaceful.”
BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed said, “People are angry with the government, and they want our party to announce action programmes against it. We’ll surely declare our programmes in due time. We’ll take effective programmes so that a mass upsurge is created.”
BNP vice chairman Barkatullah Bulu said their party’s grassroots leaders and activists are creating pressure on policymakers to go for a vigorous movement right now to get Khaleda freed from jail. “So, the central leaders are planning to go for it. We’re ready to make any kind of sacrifice to make our movement a success.”
Dhaka, Dec 2 (UNB)- Dhaka University has always been the epitome of knowledge in the country but how much of that knowledge is accessible to all the students remains under question. On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities that falls on Tuesday, looking back at the deeds of the newly elected Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (Ducsu) for the physically challenged students reveals that progress has been made.
There is a view that persons with disabilities are better described as differently-abled, and one such youngster at DU is Joshiah Sangma Chibol, popularly known as Chibol Sangma. He was elected a member of Ducsu bagging the highest votes among member aspirants back in March, and talked to UNB about his experience in the position so far.
Born with a rare genetic disease known as Osteigenesis Imperfecta (OI), Chibol has spent virtually his entire life on wheelchairs, tackling various hurdles in the track of education.
Now a Master’s student of Sanskrit Language department, Chibol said one of the ‘prime goals‘ of the elected panel of Ducsu was to enable greater access everywhere around campus for students with disabilities.
“As part of that goal, ramps have been erected at different entrances around the university by engineers with approval from the university administration because of our collective initiative,” said Chibol.
He highlighted that previously, infrastructural changes for facilitating differently-abled students were made without coordination.
“For instance, a ramp in the main entrance of Haji Muhammad Muhsin Hall was made after relentless requests of a disabled student attached to that dorm…similarly, the ramp in the Arts Building was made after my request to the then-dean of Arts faculty Dr Akhtaruzzaman which fortunately did not take long,” Chibol told UNB.
Ramps and slopes have been made at the gates of the Registrar Building, the Institute of Modern Languages (IML), Social Science Building, Ducsu Cafeteria, Fazlul Huq Hall and Santosh Chandra Bhattacharya Bhaban of Jagannath Hall to make it easier for the students on wheelchairs.
“The ramp in front of Registrar Building was long due because every student needs to go there for academic purpose at least twice a year,” said Chibol Sangma.
He gave all the credit to the joint force of Ducsu and university administration for the progress they have been making.
“Ducsu has become a platform for physically challenged students to be vocal about their necessities…Although it is a long process of legislation, the teachers and officers of the university are sincere to help the differently-abled students,” Chibol further said.
He also said they have already requested university authorities to make structural changes to the old dormitories and administrative buildings, in order to make them more accessible over time.
The Ducsu member on behalf of the organisation suggested there should be a separate allotment for infrastructure development centred on students with disabilities in the university budget.
There are still many areas where change is needed. Shortage of braille books in DU libraries for vision-impaired students is one of them.
“At present Ducsu is trying to involve other government and non-government organisations in supporting the physically challenged and vision-impaired students to make the academic process easier for them,” Chibol said.
Dean of the Social Sciences Faculty Professor Sadeka Halim told UNB that university administration is always sensitive to the needs of differently-abled students.
“An effective law is present for preserving the rights of physically challenged members of the society. Although some of our teachers still possess traditional mentality regarding differently-abled students, situation is improving drastically,” Prof Sadeka said.
She went on saying, “University teachers must know that being differently-abled does not take their (students with disability) right of education away. We are all ears to listen to their problems and help them anyway we can in learning.”
This year marks the 27th anniversary of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities which is being observed with the theme ‘The Future is Accessible’. In line with that, one of the country’s pioneering centres of knowledge is making way for its differently-abled students.
The government is optimistic about implementing its plan to relocate Rohingyas to Bhasan Char on completion of further technical assessment to be done by an expert team, said a senior government official.
“We can do that. It’s (Rohingya relocation) possible,” the official told UNB wishing to remain unnamed adding that the government has not shelved its relocation plan at all.
UNHCR Representative in Bangladesh Steven Corliss said the UN's first technical assessment mission was scheduled to be done from November 17 to November 19.
He said the UN and the government of Bangladesh have agreed to “postpone” the visit to make sure that the right experts and all the necessary logistical arrangements are in place.
“We’re awaiting confirmation of an alternative date and are also submitting terms of reference to the government for these onsite visits, which are part of a broader assessment process,” the UNHCR Representative in Bangladesh told UNB.
Responding to another question, he said the exact composition of the teams will be defined by the UN objectives and the government’s nod for the visits.
Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque said the technical team is expected to visit the Bhasan Char this month. “They want to ensure some certain issues, and the process will begin after that.”
In reply to a question, the Foreign Secretary said the UN has long been working with the government on the issue, and this is not correct to say the UN is opposing the Bhasan Char relocation plan.
Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and most of them entered Cox’s Bazar since August 25, 2017 amid a military crackdown on the predominantly Muslim minority state Rakhine.
Bhasan Char relocation plan is a “temporary arrangement” as the existing Rohingya camps are overcrowded with the risk of landslides and subsequent deaths.
“We won’t force anybody to go there. Any relocation will be in voluntary nature. We want to relocate them there for their betterment and avoid risk or reduce risk,” said Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen making it clear that the government has not postponed Rohingya relocation plan to Bhasan Char.
The government of Bangladesh has already developed Bhasan Char island to accommodate some 1,00,000 Rohingyas.
UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Kelly T Clements, during her recent visit here, discussed the Bhasan Char issue as the plan is advanced.
While coming back from Cox’s Bazar, Clements and her colleagues flew over the island and had a “very distant glimpse” of some of the preparations.
Accountability and Justice
Bangladesh is currently following a two-pronged approach over the Rohingya issue – humanitarian aspect and accountability and justice front.
Foreign Secretary Haque said Bangladesh gave shelter to over 1.1 million Rohingyas on humanitarian ground while another aspect is accountability and justice.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made it clear at the UNGA that the root cause of the Rohingya crisis needs to be addressed as Rohingyas returned to Bangladesh on various occasions in the past decades despite their repatriation, he said.
The Foreign Secretary said Rohingyas returned to Bangladesh again from their place of origin in Rakhine State possibly for “accountability and justice” issues, including citizenship that remain unaddressed.
Responding to a question, Haque said Rohingya repatriation; and accountability and justice issues are deeply interlinked. “Accountability is crucial for sustainable Rohingya repatriation.”
Asked whether the previous repatriations were a “premature” one, the Foreign Secretary parried the question.
Haque said Bangladesh’s policy on Rohingya issue is a mixed of bilateral and multilateral one, and Myanmar knows that Bangladesh is working on both fronts.
Not a single Rohingya was repatriated over the last two years due to Myanmar’s “failure” to build confidence among Rohingyas and lack of conducive environment in Rakhine State, officials here said.
Bangladesh has so far handed over names of over 1,00,000 Rohingyas to the Myanmar authorities for verification and subsequently expediting their repatriation efforts but Myanmar is yet to take back its nationals from Bangladesh, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.
The UN Refugee Agency on Thursday said it is extremely difficult to set a timeline when the conducive environment for the return of Rohingyas will be created.
The UNHCR called on the international community to continue its support to Bangladesh and the humanitarian response while, in parallel, working with the Myanmar government to support Myanmar to create the conditions conducive to sustainable return.