Khulna, Nov 4 (UNB) –The Forest Department has taken a move to impose a ban on tourism in the Sundabans from June to August considering the three months as a breeding period of wild animals.
A proposal in this regard has already been sent to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for its approval.
Md Bashirul AL Mamun, divisional forest officer of West Sundarbans division, said Sundarbans Eco Tourism Extension and Development project has been sent to the ministry. “Once approved by Ecnec after scrutiny, the Forest Department will take steps to implement it,” he added.
However, environmentalists, experts and different tour associations are opposing the plan of the Forest Department saying that the move was taken without any consultation with experts and conducting any research.
Sources at the Forest Department said there 3,180 square kilometers of areas in the Sundarbans have already been declared sanctuary as the areas are the habitats of Bengal tigers.
The number of tiger is decreasing in the areas of Shibsa and Pashur rivers and their movement in Arua, Shibsa, Dobeki, Kochikata and Sheula rivers have also declined. Besides, the movement of hundreds of vessels every day has become a threat to free movement of tigers.
Contacted, Prof Dr Md Wasiul Islam of Forestry and Wood Technology Discipline of Khulna University, said the breeding of wild animals is a sensitive matter. “So, it won’t be wise to take any decision without correct information and data,” he said.
Prof Wasiul Islam said based on what they are taking steps to ban tourism for three months if there is no research assessing the impacts of tourists on breeding of wild animals.
“Besides, the breeding time of all the animals is not the same. The ban will be effective for three months. What type of steps they will take in the rest of the year for smooth breeding of animals?” he questioned.
Prof Nazmus Sadat of the same department of Khulna University said the Forest Department is taking steps to ban tourism due to sound pollution caused by the presence of tourists. But they could not take any step against the plying of commercial vessels in the rivers of the Sundarbans which is causing huge sound pollution, he added.
He said the department should think about an alternative instead of banning tourism.
Prof Dr Salma Begum, of the Environment Science Department of the university, said snails, oysters and crabs are very important for the existence of thee Sundarbans as they play a vital role in ecosystem. “Winter is the breeding time for crabs, but the Sunbarbans authorities give permission to collect crabs during this season,” she said.
Environment activist Shah Mamunur Rahman said monsoon is the breeding time of a very few animals among 375 species of the Sundarbans. “Smugglers find monsoon as a suitable time for wildlife smuggling.”
President of Tourist Guide Association MM Islam Bulu and Director of Tour Operators’ Association of Bangladesh Taslim Islam Shovon said it will be imprudent to ban tourism instead of stopping plying of vessels through the forest round the year.
General Secretary of Tour Operators Association of Sundarbans Md Rafiqul Islam said the decision of tourism ban for three months will hamper the potential of tourism growth in the mangrove forest.
According to information provided by its president Kochi Jamaddar, the highest number of tourists visited the world’s largest mangrove forest in 2017-18 since the permission of tourism in the Sundarbans in 1987.
Dhaka, Nov 4 (UNB) – Unhappy with the outcome of the dialogue between their Jatiya Oikayfront and the 14-party ruling alliance, BNP policymakers now have made up their minds to launch a ‘non-stop’ street agitation together with its two coalitions after the announcement of the election schedule.
Talking to UNB, senior party leaders said they are now almost certain that most of their demands are unlikely to be realised by engaging in further talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina unless they can exert pressure on the government through a strong and united street showdown.
They, however, said a small team of the Jatiya Oikyafront, led by Dr Kamal Hossain, may sit in talks with the Prime Minister again as their last-ditch effort to find a peaceful solution to the political problem, and realise their major demands for a fair and participatory election.
BNP and Oikyafront leaders said they need to participate in the talks further so that the civil society members and diplomats cannot blame them for the failure of the dialogue.
They said Dr Kamal Hossain is preparing a new framework on an election-time government dissolving parliament, which he will present before the Prime Minister in the talks or will send it to her.
A BNP standing committee member, whishing anonymity, said they will announce some programmes from their Suhrawardy Udyan rally if the election schedule is announced by the time.
He said they will first try to mount pressure on the government by huge showdown with some peaceful programmes like human chain and sit-in, and change their course of action gradually depending on emerging situation and the government’s response.
The BNP leader said they will announce the action programmes under the banner of Oikyafront, and the 20-party will simultaneously observe those extending their support.
The party has recently held a meeting with its 20-party alliance partners and gave them necessary direction as to how they will act if the election schedule is announced without any understanding with the Oikyafront.
A Jamaat-e-Islami leader, seeking anonymity, said they have completed their necessary preparations to wage a strong, but a brief movement.
He said they will be there on the streets supporting BNP’s and the 20praty’s programmes to be declared after the announcement of the election schedule.
Two BNP standing committee members said their party’s acting chairman Tarique Rahman phoned some Oikyafront and 20-party leaders, and pro-BNP intellectuals, and most of them suggested him to launch a non-stop peaceful movement.
Tarique is also contacting the leaders of BNP’s two Dhaka city units giving them necessary directions to launch a strong movement in the capital and make it a success.
Contacted, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said though many things were discussed during the talks, there is no satisfactory outcome. “That’s why we’ve got frustrated over the talks.”
Asked whether they will sit with the Prime Minister again, he said they will decide it after discussions with party and Oikyafront leaders and assessing the government’s attitude.
He said the Oikyafront’s movement will continue and they will come up with more programmes in the days to come.
Asked if the election schedule is announced before their further talks with the Prime Minister, Fakhrul said they will intensify their movement and force the government to concede to their demands.
BNP standing committee member Gayeshwar Chandra Roy said the results of the talks are almost zero. “Now we’ve no alternative to intensifying our movement to realise our demands.”
He said they will give some important messages from Oikyafront’s Tuesday’s rally at Suhrawardy Udyan. “We’ll gradually strengthen our movement to realise our demands “
“From our past experience, we can say no problem of the country was resolved through talks. Even, the government didn’t meet the students’ demand for quota reform through talks. They did it only when the students took to the streets. So, we’ve to achieve the success through making sacrifices on the streets,” the BNP leader added.
Gayeshwar, who did not join the talks citing his illness, said there is no misunderstanding among the Oikyafront leaders and all are sincerely working from their respective position to ensure a credible election in the country.
He said the 20-party alliance partners also may take part in the Oikyafront’s action programmes as they support its seven-point demand.
Jukta Front leader and Nagorik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna said the dialogue has not been successful as the Prime Minister indirectly turned down their demands. “She pushed us towards the movement.”
He also said the Prime Minister has made the talks insignificant as she invited her alliance partners also for discussions.
Oikya Prokriya leader Sultan Mohammad Mansur Ahmed said their movement will continue till their demands are met. “We’ve no other option now other than settling the political problem on the streets.”
Dhaka, Nov 3 (UNB) – The first batch of Rohingya repatriation will be a test case to know how Myanmar treats them after their return to the place of origin as the repatriation preparation begins between Bangladesh and Myanmar targeting November 15.
“The first batch of Rohingya repatriation will be a test case,” a diplomatic source told UNB adding that it can be known how they are treated in Myanmar after their return as Myanmar assured all of their safety and security with confidence-building measures.
“The international community will also be able to assess the situation. If the repatriation doesn’t start, you can’t say anything,” he added.
An official involved in the repatriation process said Bangladesh and the international community need to know the “ground reality” and the repatriation needs to be started.
Another diplomatic source said some are trying to give an impression that Bangladesh has taken it as a “business venture” and Bangladesh does not want the repatriation of Rohingyas. “This is absolutely wrong.”
Earlier, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin the first batch of repatriation in mid-November and a list of 2,260 Rohingyas, including 450 Hindus of 485 families, has been handed over to the Myanmar side.
Diplomatic sources said a total of 450 Hindus are willing to go back and 66 of them have valid documents who do not need any further verification.
Bangladesh also has handed over a new list of 22,432 Rohingyas to Myanmar side during the last joint working group meeting between the two countries.
The government on Saturday trashed the reports of a section of media that Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin the repatriation of Rohingyas from mid-November without any consultation with UNHCR saying it is absolutely wrong.
“It’s not true (that UNHCR was not consulted or informed). We informed them on the same day we shared the list with Myanmar, almost back to back. A written request was also sent. I don’t see any gap,” said Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque.
Director General (UN wing) at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nahida Sobhan had a meeting with UNHCR Bangladesh on Saturday to discuss the issue and wanted to know the reason behind the gap between Dhaka and New York on the issue.
Spokesman for the UN Secretary General Stephane Dujarric at a media briefing in New York said, “To be clear, we've seen the reports of the agreement between… the decisions reached by the joint Working Group between Bangladesh and Myanmar. UNHCR, which is in lead on the issues of refugees, was not consulted on this matter.”
Bangladesh first handed over the list to Myanmar Ambassador in Dhaka U Lwin Oo on October 28 and the UNHCR was also informed on the same day to take preparation.
Asked why UN claimed that UNHCR was not consulted, a diplomatic source said, “This is a blatant lie. From the very beginning, a few people within the UN are trying to make the repatriation process questionable. That might be one of the reasons behind it or there’s a gap between New York and Dhaka (offices of UN agencies).”
Asked about specific date of beginning the first batch repatriation, Foreign Secretary Haque said both sides are looking for November 15 as actual repatriation needs to start as per the arrangement signed between the two countries, within two weeks of submitting a list.
A diplomatic source in Yangon said China is putting pressure on Myanmar to take back their nationals from Bangladesh as soon as possible. “And Myanmar is behaving very positively so far. Let’s see what happens.”
Earlier, India welcomed the decision taken by Bangladesh and Myanmar to start the repatriation of Rohingyas, who belong to the Rakhine state, in mid-November.
“We welcome the agreement which was reached between the Foreign Secretaries of Bangladesh and Myanmar,” said spokesperson of Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Raveesh Kumar.
Permanent Secretary of Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Myint Thu said they have verified about 5,000 Rohingyas.
“Once the movement of people starts, I think, it’s a good beginning. We hope this process can gather momentum as confidence grows in the environment in Rakhine state for the safe, speedy and sustainable return of the displaced people,” said the MEA spokesperson in a media briefing in New Delhi on Thursday.
And this is something which they said in the past as well that they are in favour of safe, speedy and sustainable return of the displaced people from Bangladesh to Myanmar, he explained.
“I think it’s important also to note that India has been working both in Bangladesh to provide humanitarian aid to meet the needs of the displaced and Myanmar to create the conditions so the people who are being repatriated back to Myanmar, they get proper socioeconomic conditions for a favourable return to the place where they belong to,” said Raveesh Kumar.
The joint working group members from both sides, including Foreign Secretary Haque, visited Rohingya camps on Wednesday and talked to Rohingya representatives.
Rohingyas, however, said they will not go back to their place of origin in Rakhine if their basic rights, including citizenship and housing facilities, are not provided.
Bangladesh and Myanmar formed the Joint Working Group (JWG) in December 2017 to start the repatriation of around 900,000 Rohingyas who fled a brutal military crackdown in August 2017.
Dhaka, Nov 3 (UNB) – The road from the capital’s famous Mouchak market to the Moghbazar intersection is flanked on both sides by countless establishments -- schools, hospitals, shopping malls, restaurants, offices, and what not.
Yet in a damning example of neglect, pedestrians are forced to negotiate almost the entire stretch of this extremely busy and crowded route without a footpath on either side. Rather they must walk around a number of dustbins and garbage heaps by stepping onto the tarmac – putting themselves in the way of moving vehicles.
Pedestrians’ suffering knows no end due to such an important road lacking a proper sidewalk.
Dejected residents of Mouchak, Moghbazar, Siddheshwari and adjoining areas expressed their dismay relaying the discomfort they face passing through this stretch of road without a car, a luxury many families cannot afford. Parents are reluctant to let their children go out alone, lest they become careless walking on the tarmac.
Bappi Kuri, a student of Dr Sirazul Islam Medical College, was seen walking home one evening clutching a handkerchief tightly to his nose as the rancid stench from a garbage dump that has spilled over to take up nearly half the road threatens to overwhelm the senses.
“There should have been a footpath in this place, but there is no footpath here. We can’t walk comfortably because of roadside dustbin, garbage and illegal parking,” Bappi said in an irritated voice.
Noting that roads without a footpath are a major cause of accidents, Bappi said, “As we walk onto the road, various accidents occur. But pedestrians have no choice as they must give the garbage a wide berth to avoid the stench as well as different types of diseases that thrive on garbage.”
“The road’s condition is atrocious. There’s no scope of pulling rickshaw easily,” claimed Sohrab Hossain, a rickshaw-puller in the area, adding that rickshaws often overturned on the road during monsoon, injuring passengers. “We’ve to pull our rickshaws road condition. If one side of a road is good then another side is broken.”
Rakibul Islam, a student of Siddheswari College, told UNB how closing time at their college heralds the most dangerous time, as hundreds of students stream on to the road to make their way home. “That is a very tough time to walk on this road.”
The situation is nothing new, yet the authorities turn a blind eye to it. It all gives rise to the question: Is Dhaka a city that cares for its pedestrians?
When UNB placed this question, in its full context before the Dhaka South City Corporation’s chief executive officer, it was met with genuine regret as CEO Mustafizur Rahman even conveyed an apology on behalf of DSCC to those suffering on a daily basis.
Turning to the garbage piling up in undesignated spots where the footpath should’ve been, and spilling onto the roads, Mustafizur said they are working to clear the city and DSCC has a plan in place to clean up all the areas of the capital under its jurisdiction.
“Our clean-up project is already in the implementation stage. The work is currently going on in Saydabad and Jatrabari,” said the DSCC’s most senior officer working under Mayor Syed Khokon.
“We’re working for people. We understand their sufferings but the projects we undertake are also for them, for easing their living. DSCC is very sorry for the temporary inconvenience,” he said.
In the long run it may turn out to be temporary. But to those who have negotiated the route almost daily for years with no sign of improvement, the inconvenience must already feel permanent.
Dhaka, Nov 3 (UNB) – After its ‘failure’ to implement the country’s first-ever waste-based power plant project at Keraniganj on the outskirts of the capital city of Dhaka on its own initiative , the government has now decided to go for executing it on the IPP basis.
Official sources said the government revoked the move to implement the project on public initiative about 4-5 months back as it did not find any suitable bidder, and instead decided to execute it under the Independent Power Producer (IPP) mode.
“Overstating cost quoted by the bidders was the main reason behind the cancellation of the project on public initiative,” said a top official of the Power Ministry.
Official sources said the Power Ministry had moved to implement the project on a pilot basis following a huge interest by State Minister for Power and Energy Nasrul Hamid who is an elected member of parliament from the locality.
On many occasions, he mentioned that he wanted to implement the project as part of his plan to build his constituency as a modern locality.
When tender was floated by state-owned Power Development Board (PDB) last year to pick an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the project, four companies submitted their respective bids for the 1 MW grid-connected waste-based power plant.
But in the evaluation, a Chinese company - Yamato Technologies Pte Ltd - was technically responsive. But when its financial offer was opened, it was found that the cost is much beyond the estimation.
A PDB official, who was involved in the tender process, said the Chinese firm offered about Tk 200 crore for such a (1 MW) project while the government’s estimation was below Tk 100 crore.
He said when the firm’s offer was sent to the Power Ministry, it cancelled the tender process finding such a huge cost and asked the PDB to move for implementing the project under the private sector.
The official, preferring anonymity, also mentioned that after such a decision, the same Chinese firm submitted an unsolicited offer asking for tariff of each unit of electricity at US 45 cents which is equivalent to Tk 37.
He said an evaluation committee of the PDB is now working on the offer of the firm.
Contacted, Nazmul Haque, head of the Renewable Energy Cell of the PDB, which invited the tender earlier, admitted the Power Ministry’s latest directive for implementing the project as an IPP.
As per the concept, the private firm will set up the project at its own cost and the government will purchase electricity from it like other private power plants.
Officials said in such waste-based power plant, mostly organic waste will be collected from residential and commercial areas, and also agro-industrial and medical garbage will be gathered from different areas to supply those to the plant for power generation.
Through anaerobic digestion process, the biogas will be produced and used for electricity generation. Some heat will also be generated in the process to generate electric power.
Officials said in the process, about 1 MW of electricity will be generated from the supply of 50 metric tonne of garbage where composition is 430 kW Electricity + 480 kW Heat.
They said the move for electricity generation from waste is not new in Bangladesh as the very first initiative was launched about 20 years ago.
But all went in vain because of the high cost of electricity which was proposed by the bidders in such projects.
They said in some cases, each unit of electricity was quoted to be over Tk 50 and no power generation or distribution companies were found to be interested to buy such costly power.
They said such waste-to-energy project always should be considered as part of waste management where electricity should be considered as byproduct instead of main product.