There has been much progress in the government’s plan to produce some 2,800 metric tonnes of granular urea a day in Ghorasal Polash Urea Fertilizer Factory, turning it into the country’s largest urea fertilizer factory and an environment-friendly one, says a senior official.
“This is going to be the biggest fertilizer factory in the country and I would say it’ll be a fully environment-friendly one,” Industries Secretary Md. Abdul Halim told UNB adding that necessary procedures on environmental front are completed.
The new project is being implemented at the place of the existing two fertilizer factories -- Urea Fertilizer Factory Ltd. (UFFL) and Polash Urea Fertilizer Factory Ltd. (PUFFL) which are very old.
As per the government plan, the new factory will be named as Ghorasal Polash Urea Fertilizer Factory, the biggest fertilizer project in Bangladesh, and the production capacity per day will be about three times higher than that of the existing two fertilizer factories.
Officials said the new fertilizer factory, once implemented, will be a “modern, sophisticated, energy efficient and green” fertilizer factory in the country.
It will help the country reduce the import of urea fertilizer and save hard-earned foreign currency, they said.
Explaining further the environmental issues, the officials said it is the first fertilizer factory in Bangladesh where the environmental pollutant Carbon-Di-Oxide (CO2) will be captured from the primary reformer flue gas and the production of urea fertilizer will be increased (about 10pc ) by using the captured CO2.
An official at the Industries Ministry said the total cost of the project has been estimated at Tk 10,460.91 crore or USD$ 1,245.35 million.
Of the total cost, the government of Bangladesh will bear Tk 1,844.19 crore or USD$ 219.55 million while the rest of the amount Tk 8,616.72 crore or USD$ 1,025.80 million will come as commercial loan.
The loan agreement signing for Ghorasal Polash Urea Fertilizer Project (GPUFP) is scheduled to be signed in the city on Sunday evening.
The loan deal will be signed among Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC) under the Ministry of Industries, Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFG Ltd (MUFG) and the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Ltd. (HSBC), another senior official told UNB.
The relevant parties will be signing the loan agreement for the ‘Bidder Financing’ portion of Tk 8,616.72 crore or USD$ 1,025.80 million.
Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun, State Minister for Industries Kamal Ahmed Mojumder and Japanese Ambassador in Dhaka Naoki Ito will attend the signing ceremony to be held in the evening.
Responding to a question, the Industries Secretary said many activities of the project are already going on and they spent Tk 16 crore in the last financial year while the loan agreement is one of the many components.
The new project is expected to create employment opportunity for around one thousand persons directly, according to the Industries Ministry.
The officials said it will also help bring huge benefits indirectly for the economy alongside saving of yearly approximate Tk 1,075.39 crore in foreign currency.
The Industries Ministry officials said the new fertilizer factory will ensure the availability of urea fertilizer to the farmer at a lower cost and meet up the growing urea fertilizer demand in the country and thereby ensuring food security of the country.
As the process licensors of the ongoing project are from Denmark, Italy, Germany and Japan, the government hoped this project will be implemented through maintaining the highest standard and using world-class environment-friendly green technologies.
Bangladeshi farmers normally grow a single variety of crops throughout the year. But farmers in Khulna are now making huge profit by cultivating four crops in different seasons of the year, thanks to agricultural innovations.
Here, the croplands, which used to lie fallow for around six months every year, are now being used to grow Ropa Aman, Mustard, Boro and Ropa Aush. As a result, the district saw a huge increase in food production in recent years.
Arable land is continuously diminishing for various reasons, including climate change and unplanned urbanisation. Despite losing croplands, food production has been consistently getting higher for the last 10 years.
The new cultivation method ushered in a new era in Khulna as well as agriculture sector. The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) expects that the method would be highly effective in the future to meet the increased food demand.
Waliar Sheikh, a farmer in Dumuria Upazila, said his land used to lie unused for a long time each year as it was used to grow only two types of crops.
“But now the land remains busy throughout the year thanks to the new method. Seeds of mustard are sowed just before harvesting paddy and thus we are growing mustard without much efforts,” he added.
Waliar’s success is encouraging other farmers. Mustafa Jowardar is one of them.
“Waliar reaped four crops from the plot next to mine in a single year. I’ve been inspired by him. Many others, including me, have started following the method,” he said.
Karuna Mondol, deputy agriculture officer of North Kalikapur Block, said farmers here used to cultivate a single crop throughout the year barely a decade ago. Later, they started growing two crops a year. They are now harvesting four different crops.
“Although farmers at first were reluctant about following the method, they’re now very interested in it,” he said.
Dumuria Upazila Agriculture Officer Mosaddek Hossain said the method suggests cultivating BRRI Dhan-75, 87 in the first season. Later, farmers grow BARI Sarisa-14, BRRI Dhan-67 and BRRI Dhan-48 respectively. An entire year is needed to complete farming of the four crops.
“Currently, the method is being applied in 10 hectares of lands in Dumuria. This has been possible due to the availability of agricultural materials, regular training of farmers and sincerity of the people concerned,” he added.
This is a success that could be an inspiration for all, Mosaddek said.
The capital city has witnessed seven flyovers built in and around it over the past 15 years, aiming to mitigate its nagging traffic jams but the virtually unchanged situation posed a question whether these high-cost mega infrastructures are really an effective solution to one of the most crippling menaces of the mega city.
Talking to UNB, a number of experts said the solution to gridlock lies not in erecting flyovers but increasing the number of public transports accessible to all sections of people and rapid decentralisation.
Seven flyovers --- Mohakhali, Khilgaon, Tejgaon, Banani, Kuril, Jatrabari and Mogbazar-- cumulatively offer an elevated road spanning of 29 kilometers and costing over Tk 4,000 crore.
Mayor Mohammad Hanif Flyover, opened in 2013, was constructed at a cost of nearly Tk 2,400 crore, and the 3.1 km-long Kuril Multipurpose Flyover (KMF) project was opened the same year costing nearly Tk 306 crore.
The last on this list is Mogbazar-Malibag flyover constructed at a cost of 1,219 crore after budget boost twice was opened in 2017.
Talking to UNB, Dr Shamsul Haque, a professor of Civil Engineering Department of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) and an expert on road and transportation infrastructures, is doubtful about the usefulness of the flyovers scattered throughout the city.
“The first thing you’ve to know that there’s no proof that the flyovers erected within the city have been able to add any benefit,” he said.
Narrating the negative sides of excess intra-city flyovers, Dr Haque said, “Building a flyover within the heart of the city only increases the traffic pressure as both of its ends meet with the main roads get congested quickly.”
“Take the case of Mogbazar-Mailbag flyover for example. The way it has been built, it merges twice the traffic in one road resulting in a rather deteriorated traffic condition in that area,” he added.
“We’ve built roads over roads. These won’t help solve the problem. Instead, we’ve encouraged the double volume of vehicles using the same route,” Dr Haque pointed out.
He noted that the government needs to increase the number of mass transports like buses.
As there is an acute crisis of public transport to meet the demand of the public, investments should be made here instead of constructing flyovers, he added.
The transport expert went on saying, “For many reasons, the background cost of building flyovers in Dhaka city is extremely high. In many cases, the construction gets delayed, forcing the government to raise the budget. We had the opportunity to find a pragmatic solution but we failed to learn from mistakes…this crisis will trouble a consistent government like ours in the long run.”
A research of Robert Gallagher, a transport planner, and South Asia specialist shows two major factors contributing to Dhaka’s current traffic congestion -- lack of planning and preparation over previous decades, and an over-reliance on cars due to a deficient public bus system.
According to his study, the average traffic speed in Dhaka is currently 6.4 kilometers/per hour which may fall to 4.7 kilometers per hour by 2035 should the growth of privately-owned vehicles continue. An increased number of flyovers did not help the situation.
Dr Adil Mohammed Khan, a faculty member at Jahangirnagar University’s Urban and Regional Planning department, told UNB about the importance of sophisticated planning in transport infrastructure.
“Planning is a holistic affair; there’re many components involving almost every stakeholder…building flyovers in the inner parts of a city brings no solution. The outskirts are somewhat facilitated but not the residents of the main city,” he said.
Dr Khan who is also the General Secretary of Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) mentioned that the opportunity cost of these flyovers is immense. “All the infrastructural development projects have specific opportunity costs…currently, seven flyovers are atop Dhaka which cost the government more than Tk 4,000 crore. This amount could’ve been used elsewhere to actually reduce traffic jam.”
Dr Khan noted that if the said amount was used to buy more buses and introduce alternative transportation modes, its impact on the citizens had been more than the cumulative impact of the seven flyovers. “Another positive result of increased public transport would’ve been the reduction of private cars,” he added.
He said: “Following this trend in Dhaka city, other important cities like Chattogram has seen rampant construction of flyovers that are barely used…subsequently, it will increase congestion there as well.”
Dr Khan said there is no alternative to increasing the number of public transports to reduce the hazard of gridlock further complicated by flyovers.
“We’ve to boost the number of public transports, especially buses. They can be diversified according to the need of people in different areas…I think community-based mobility plans like ‘Dhaka Chaka’ can be followed to meet the transport demand of different classes,” he said.
He emphaised the quick introduction of the much-anticipated ‘route franchise’ system where buses of all companies will run under one company in each zone, and the revenue will be shared among them. “This will reduce the competition among bus companies for grabbing more passengers resulting in safer roads.”
The two experts said that proper planning for infrastructures, improved traffic management and reducing the number of private cars can also help minimise the problem, emphasizing the need rapid decentralisation.
Although weather forecasting is crucial for the agriculture-dependent economy of the district, two balloon-makers are doing the job of observing weather as the five posts of weather observers have long been lying vacant in the understaffed district Met Office.
Huge balloons are flown below the cloud level to predict weather conditions and balloon-makers fly those by filling them up with gas. These balloons are usually used in the divisional Met offices in the country for weather forecast.
Although the Faridpur Met Office is not a divisional one, it has two balloon-makers who have allegedly been drawing salary for the last five years without flying the balloons, alleged locals.
However, the Met Office claims that even though they are not flying balloons, they are not sitting idle and being paid for it. The balloon-makers are doing the job of observing the weather since the five posts of weather observers have been lying vacant.
There are three posts of the senior weather observers and two for weather assistants at the Faridpur Met office.
In order to make weather forecasts, the Faridpur district Met Office was set up under the Defence Ministry. Later, their own office was built over an acre of land in Chandmari area of the town in 1981.
But this important government office has been operating for the last 35 years in the age-old analog process and now lacks modern technology.
Officials said this weather office has a barometer to measure atmospheric pressure, sunshine recorder to know the duration of sunshine, a pyranometer to measure the intensity of sunlight, self-recording rain-gauge to measure rainfall and some other related instruments but all are old.
The instruments here used to measure humidity and weather index have become obsolete and they break down from time to time.
Even after repair, these instruments become unusable more often than not. It was found out that the main activity of Faridpur’s weather office is to make weather index and gather humidity information for weather forecast.
Agriculture-related weather information are gathered from the automatic weather station. There is an automatic weather station at Met office. This automatic weather station has been set up in several upazilas besides the district towns. But those stations do not have any modern instrument.
Surjul Amin, a professional assistant at the weather office, said no weather forecast is provided from this district-level office.
“We collect information on different weather-related indexes twice a day and send those to Dhaka. We collect information from the weather station as well,” he said.
Talking about the lack of modern instruments and personnel, he said, “Information will be accurate if we get the modern instruments. Weather information can be gleaned from a higher altitude if balloons can be flown from here.”
Emphasising the modernisation of the weather office, Atul Sarker, deputy commissioner of Faridpur, said it is important to take initiatives to transform this office into a high-quality observatory centre.
“Higher authorities have been informed in this regard so that people in this region involved in agriculture may have useful information as well as advance weather reports,” he added.
Rural markets and roads are usually littered with wastes of tea, fish and cattle. Now a team of researchers of Sylhet Agricultural University (SAU) has invented a method to produce biogas and fertiliser from those.
The three-member team, led by Dr Muhammad Rashed Al Mamun, associate professor and head of Farm Power and Machinery department of the university, held a successful demonstration of their invention recently.
The two other researchers are Shankharupa Dey and Jinat Jahan, two students of the department.
They said there is a huge possibility of producing biogas as well as fertiliser through a proper management of tea, fish and cattle wastes.
The researchers said huge wastes of tea, fish and cattle are produced in Bangladesh and for lack of proper management, these affect the environment greatly.
“These wastes produce huge methane which is more harmful than carbon dioxide greenhouse gas,” said team leader Dr Rashed.
It is possible to produce 65 percent renewable energy using the wastes, he said, adding that fertiliser and fish feed can also be produced from imperishable waste after the production of fuel. “This is also very profitable.”
Dr Rashed thinks wider waste management under government and private initiatives can open up a new horizon in the energy and electricity production in the country.
He said heavy dependence on fossil fuels is one of the main contributing factors behind global greenhouse gas emissions. This not only gives a rise to global temperatures but also seriously affects the air quality and human health. And the role of renewable energy in mitigating climate change is proven worldwide, he added.
Keeping this in mind, Dr Rashed said various initiatives are being taken across the world to ensure the use of renewable energy and as a renewable energy source, biogas is widely used in different countries.
“Our efforts are also to contribute to this end,” he added.