A government move to generate solar power using the rooftops of Dhaka University buildings has made little headway even after two years.
In early 2019, Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) had approached the Dhaka University authorities, seeking to use the rooftops of the varsity's 72 buildings for solar power generation after failing to pursue different government departments for the same.
DPDC had also selected Bengal Solar, a private firm, to execute the project at its own cost under the independent power producer (IPP) model, with a promise to purchase electricity from the company for 20 years. But nearly two years on, the university solar power project is still stuck in the starting block -- tariff.
Only recently, and that too after a long persuasion, did a tripartite meeting took place between the project’s private sponsor, rooftop provider and the power purchaser, but tariff remained a bone of contention between the stakeholders, sources in DPDC and DU said.
Bengal Solar, the sources said, was offering 11 US cents a unit, while DPDC was asking to fix the same at 7.5 US cents.
File Photo (Collected)
At one stage, the sources said, when the net-metering policy was introduced by the government to facilitate the consumers' sale of unconsumed solar power to distribution companies, DPDC officials had skipped the negotiations and offered DU to sell the electricity under the new policy, which finally caused the delay in settling the issue.
And seeing the excessive delay, the DU authorities recently wrote a letter to the Power Secretary to intervene and settle the power tariff issue and expedite the project execution, UNB has learnt.
Prof Saiful Haque, director of Institute of Energy at Dhaka University, who has been coordinating the scheme on behalf of the varsity, said the rooftops of the 72 buildings have a potential of generating about 5 MW of solar power.
When contacted, DPDC chief engineer Mohiuddin Ahmed said they're hopeful of settling the issue soon. “We’ve already sat in the tripartite meeting and asked the project sponsor to provide the detailed analysis of the tariff offered for the project. Being a commercial organisation, we always prefer to settle any tariff issue on commercial basis."
Earlier DPDC had unsuccessfully tried to pursue different government agencies, including the Food Directorate, the Shilpakala Academy, the Women and Children Directorate, and the Education Directorate, for using their rooftops for the project, but none agreed.
Officials said the DPDC has initiated the move for solar power projects as part of the government plan to generate 10 percent electricity from solar power by 2020 to promote renewable energy across the country.
The country’s solar power generation still remains below 450 MW, while the total power generation capacity is about 23,000 MW, the officials said.
Bangladesh is now apparently back to the alarming situation it largely saw a few months back when Covid-19 hit the country.
After showing an erratic decline for nearly 70 days, the coronavirus cases keep growing again over the last few days in the country with over 2,000 infection cases getting registered each day.
The main worry is that the number of deaths jumped to 39 on Tuesday from 21 on Monday, indicating that the virus is getting deadlier as the temperature started falling.
The number of corona patients is also increasing at different hospitals over the last few days, prompting the public health experts to urge the government to equip all the hospitals, including the upazila health complexes, with necessary equipment, including adequate oxygen facilities, to ensure proper healthcare services to the infected people.
They also warned that the nation will have to ‘pay dearly’ in the days to come when the temperature will come down to below 15 degrees on average if the government fails to take necessary preventive measures, including forcing people to maintain health safety rules and wear masks mandatorily when they come out of home.
Corona Situation & Statistics
Bangladesh on Wednesday reported 2,111 Covid-19 cases in 24 hours, pushing up the total tally to 438,795.
Bangladesh’s health authorities also announced the death of 21 more deaths from the virus during the period that took the total casualties to 6,275.
According to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), the death rate from the virus now stands at 1.43 percent.
So far, 354,788 patients -- 80.86 percent -- including 1,893 new ones recovered in the last 24 hours.
Earlier on Monday, the country recorded 21 deaths and 2,139 infections from coronavirus with a positivity rate of 13.57% and this was the highest number of infections registered in a single day in the last 70 days.
Earlier on September 7, the country recorded 2,202 corona positive cases and the number of virus cases started falling erratically since then.
Bangladesh registered its first three coronavirus cases on March 8 last while the first death on March 18.
According to statistics received from the DGHS, over 4,000 people were infected with coronavirus while around 50 died on average every day during the peak of the corona outbreak in May and June months. The positivity rate --an indicator of the prevalence of the disease –was 24-25% at that time.
But from the last week of September, the infection rate began subsiding a little bit. At one stage, the infection rate came down to 10 percent in October, but now it has started growing again.
On October 31, 1,320 new infections from coronavirus were recorded in the country with 11.45% positivity rate.
The rate of patient admission is also increasing at public and private hospitals designated for the treatment of corona-infected people in the city. On November 1, 688 people were admitted to Covid hospitals in the capital against 3,519 beds.
The number of patients in those hospitals has increased to 1939 in a span of 15 days. The admission rate of patients on November 1 was 46.98% in the capital which rose to 55.11% on Monday last.
Fatality Rate Likely to Spike Again
Talking to UNB, former World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Advisor Muzaherul Huq said the fatality from the virus will surely increase during the winter months as people are susceptible to many cold-related diseases like bronchitis, pneumonia, and asthma. “If anyone having such a disease is infected with corona, it’ll be difficult to save his life. So, the mortality rate can go up.”
He said the government should motivate people to maintain the health safety rules, like wearing masks, frequently washing hands with soaps, using sanitiser, maintaining social distancing, avoiding public gatherings and staying in quarantine after coming close to any infected people.
Strain on Hospitals
President of Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad Dr Iqbal Arsenal said the government needs to make all the Covid-dedicated hospitals ready for dealing with the increasing number of corona patients in the days to come as the situation is getting worse again with the arrival of winter.
“Every upazila hospital has an isolation centre, but lacks necessary equipment, medicines, and oxygen supply, safety gears, and high-flow nasal cannula. Besides, ICU beds and oxygen plants should be installed at the district hospitals,” Iqbal viewed.
He said the nation had to pay a heavy price in the past for lack of logistic support. “I urge the government not to repeat the mistake this time. The government should keep an adequate number of safety gears ready for health workers to tackle any alarming situation.”
Cauliflowers and cabbages are the most common winter vegetables, and a large number of farmers in the Birashi, Umradangi, Uttargaon, Mahalbari, Koligaon and Bhandar areas of the upazila have this year switched to their cultivation from other traditional crops much before winter. And the gamble has paid off.
Hundreds of vegetable traders from Rangpur, Bogura, Dhaka and Sylhet are flocking to the upazila everyday to purchase the fresh produce from the farmers, and that too, "at a fair price".
A significant source of nutrients, cauliflower contains unique plant compounds that are said to reduce the risk of several diseases, including heart ailments and cancer. On the other hand, cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C, dietary fibre and Vitamin K, which is important for bone health and aids formation of blood clots after an injury.
Farmers say they are very happy to have made the right decision at the right time. "This year, we have witnessed a bumper production of winter vegetables, including cauliflower and cabbage," says Liton Ali, a resident of Padampur village.
Cauliflower varieties grown by the farmers include Marbel, Mukti, Magnet-12 and Victory. And KK Crush, Tropicland, Quicker and Superset are the cabbage varieties they have cultivated. In the local markets, a kg of cauliflower is being sold at Tk 55-65 while a kg of cabbage costs Tk 50-60.
“Each mound of cauliflower is being sold at Tk 2,000-2,200, while it's Tk 1,800-2,000 for cabbage. I am seeing more profit by taking to the cultivation of these veggies," Ali says.
Sanjay Debnath, the upazila agriculture officer, says, “This year, some 400 hectares of land have been brought under cauliflower cultivation and 200 hectares under cabbage cultivation as the soil of the area is favourable for the same."
Aftab Hossain, the deputy director of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) in Thakurgaon, says they have set a target to bring 8,824 hectares of land under vegetable cultivation this year.
These days, farmers in the haor areas (wetlands) of Sunamganj district are a worried lot. This is because they have not yet been able to prepare boro paddy seedbeds as breaches caused by heavy downpours in water channels has led to farm fields being inundated.
Farmers say there is no way to drain out the water from the haor areas, which is posing as the biggest hurdle for them to prepare the seedbeds for cultivating boro paddy this winter for summer harvest. Seedbed finishing is the final step in soil preparation for sowing crops.
They say the government has already started allocating seeds to the farmers, but the local authorities are yet to take any concrete steps to put an end to the waterlogging problem in the areas once and for all.
“Last year, we planted our saplings, but this year we cannot prepare our seedbeds due to the waterlogging. There is no way to drain out water now. If the authorities concerned don't take any steps immediately, then the boro cultivation is destined to get delayed," says Abidur Rahman, a resident of Mallikpur village.
Abul Kashem from the same villages echoes similar sentiments. "Every year, the government spends money to build or repair sluice gates to save the residents of the haor areas, but it forgets to take some concrete steps to hold or drain out the excess rain water that causes waterlogging."
According to District Agriculture Extension (DAE) sources, in the 2020-2021 fiscal, the department has set a target of making 11,000 hectares under boro seedbed. Also, under the annual crops cultivation programme, DAE aims to cultivate hybrid variety boro seedbed on 1,700 hectares, Ufsi on 8,688 hectares and local variety on 203 hectares in the 11 upazilas.
If the seedbed target works successfully, some 2.20 lakh hectares of land can be brought under boro cultivation. This will allow farmers to produce hybrid paddy on 42,510 hectares, Ufsi on 1, 73,754 hectares and local variety on 3,040 hectares of land. Moreover, the government has allocated a total of 4,565 metric ton of paddy seeds to the farmers.
Mizanur Rahman, deputy assistant agriculture officer of Muktikhola Block, says this is the peak season for producing long-term varieties of paddy and the farmers are facing problems to make their seedbeds due to waterlogged farm lands. "If the water is not drained out, then the farmers would be in crisis," he adds.
Mostafa Iqbal Azad, the training officer of district DAE, says, "Due to the late drainage of water from the haor areas, the farmers are facing some problems. But if the situation improves after a few days, the crisis will be over.”
Sabibur Rahman, the executive engineer of Sunamganj Water Development Board, blames the heavy rainfall-induced flash floods for the problem. "The authorities concerned marked the water level of the haor areas to 5.49m on October 27, 2019, but this year it has risen to 5.80m," he says.
"Already, 31 vertical regulators, 25 fall boars and 19 sluice gates have been opened for draining out the water from the haor areas, while there are 200 canals inside these areas. If needed, we will cut dams," he adds.
The residents of Demra area under Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) are disturbed by the stench of waste materials dumped in their area and the infestation of mosquitoes and flies.
The locals allege there is no waste management system in the site that’s why different garbage from households and factories are thrown away here and there. So, the environment is being polluted and the infestation of mosquitoes and flies has risen vastly there.
Under the circumstances, the locals urged the government to take proper initiatives for waste treatment to keep clean up the sites of the capital. They also called upon the government’s concerned agencies to stop unplanned the construction of building factories to make a livable city.
Toriqul Hasan, an inhabitant of Mir Parha of Demra said they are facing various problems due to throwing away waste here and there, especially the road side.
“The Demra area is being polluted in various ways and made an uninhabitable site throwing the waste from households and factories here and there due to not having a proper dumping station. A waste management plant should be set up in a short time in the area otherwise it will be an unliveable area,” he also said.
Toriqul said they can’t sleep following the stench of the waste, mosquitoes and Flies. Besides, factories are being set up in an unplanned way. So locals have to suffer too. The government has to think in this regard to make a livable place.
Fatema Akter, a resident of Demra said mosquitoes and files are seen more in the dry season here following waste and water logging. “The city corporation authorities don’t work properly to keep our site clean. Even they don’t spray mosquito repellant regularly,” she added.
Salauddin Ahmed, councilor of 69th ward under the DSCC, told UNB they have no containers to dispose of waste being a new ward.
“Household wastes are thrown away here and there like the courtyard of houses, ponds, canals or roadside. The wastes from factories of several wards are thrown away in the Mir Para roadside as its low site,” he added.
Salauddin said the officials of DSCC know the matter that the waste is thrown away there. The city corporation will remove the wastes soon.
However, Demra, Shyampur, Dania, Matuail, Sarulia, Manda, Dakshingaon and Nasirabad unions were recently added to DSCC as new wards dividing 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74 and 75.
Contacted, Atiqur Rahaman, councillor of 70th ward under the DSCC told UNB they don’t know who threw away the wastes including harmful polythene in the road side of the area.
“Though we permitted locals to throw household waste in low land not having any space after ordering the former MP from Dhaka-5 constituency Habibur Rahman Mollah as high way construction of Demra- Jatrabari was continued. But we don’t know who threw away the harmful plastic waste there,” he added.
Atiqur said the city corporation has recently taken an initiative to set up two Secondary Transfer Station (STS) at Della and Durgapur areas to bring speed in the waste management process.
“The infestation of mosquitoes and flies not only increased in the Demra area but also went up in the whole capital too. However, we spread mosquito repellent to control the infestation in every day in my ward,” he also added.
Secretary General of Environment and Social Development Organization- ESDO, Bangladesh Dr Shahriar Hossain said throwing away waste here and there impacts on environment and public health. Besides, a dangerous gas is emitted due to burn wastes.
“So, awareness should be created among people so that they don’t throw away waste here and there. Application of law is very significant to this end,” he added.
Shahriar also underscored the need for a proper waste management plant to keep clean the environment.