Khulna, Aug 2 (UNB) – The people of the district are unlikely to get the benefits of having an airport anytime soon as the work on the under-construction Khan Jahan Ali Airport in Mongla is going on at a slower pace, causing uncertainty in starting flight operations and frustration among locals.
Although land acquisition for the project has been completed and construction of boundary wall is going on, albeit at a slower speed, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh(Caab) is yet to start the main work on the much-hyped project.
The government acquired 102 acres of land to build the airport on ‘short take-off landing’ system at Foyla near Rampal in 1996 following a demand of the people of southern region, according to official sources.
However, the construction of the airport remained stopped for a long time for reasons unknown. Returning to power in 2008, the Awami League government resumed its construction.
In 2011, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina assured of constructing the airport as a full-fledged one named as ‘Khan Jahan Ali Airport’ following demand by the local businessmen and people of the area.
In 2015, the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the airport project, with an estimated cost of about Tk 544 crore. Out of the amount, the government is providing about Tk 490 crore while the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab) Tk 54 crore.
At that time, then Planning Minister AHM Mostafa Kamal assured that the project would be completed by June, 2018. However, the construction work on the airport is yet to be finished.
After the Ecnec’s approval, the district administration started work to acquire 529.85 acres of land afresh for the project. After acquiring the land in Bagerhat, the district administration handed it over the CAA on August 17, 2018.
Since then, local businessmen alleged, there has been no significant progress in the project work.
The construction site of Khan Jahan Ali Airport in Mongla
On February 13 this year, Planning Minister MA Mannan visited the under-construction Khan Jahan Ali Airport and he assured the locals of completing the project after talking to the State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism. In May last, the CAA began the construction work on the airport’s boundary wall which is still continuing.
RezaulHaque, manager of National Traders, the contractor firm of the boundary wall, expressed the hope that the construction on the boundary wall would be completed within the stipulated time.
Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry, in its website, mentioned the duration of the construction of the airport is: July 2015 to June 2020.
However, locals believe that it is unlikely for the authorities to be able to complete the project work within this period.
Expressing disappointment over the slow implementation of the airport project, Md Sheikh NurAlam, Convener of Mongla Samaj, said, “We’ve long been seeing that a signboard is hung at the airport site. But nobody knows when the flight operations will begin from the airport.”
Urging the government to immediately complete the construction on the airport, HM Dulal, a member of Khulna Chamber, said: “Fast communication network could be created for expansion of trade and commerce centering the Mongla port, the Sundarbans, tourism, shrimp industry and Rampal Power Plant if the airport is constructed.”
Additional Deputy Commissioner of BagerhatMdZahirul Islam said the land, after acquisition, has been handed over to the authorities concerned and the construction work on the boundary wall has started. “I hope the main construction work on the airport will begin soon.”
Contacted ZakiaAfroze, Deputy Chief of Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry’s planning-1 wing, said, “The construction work on the boundary wall has started. The project is being implemented under Public-Private-Partnership (PPP).”
However, she could not give any specific information when exactly the construction work on the airport would be completed.
Khulna, Aug 1 (UNB)— A huge amount of carelessly discarded polythene and polystyrene is blocking the city’s drainage system, causing environment pollution as well as severe water stagnation during monsoon.
The situation is so bad that some of the roads go under water after moderate rain.
During a visit to various markets in the city, the UNB correspondent found rampant use of polybags by the traders. Locals said the administration is doing nothing.
A section of unscrupulous businessmen is producing polythene clandestinely and supplying the market, said Saifur Rahman, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Environment.
The situation is almost ironic as Bangladesh was the first country in the world to ban the production and use of polythene bags. But it is still struggling to control the menace.
Bangladesh banned polythene bag of less than 55 micron thickness in January 2002. In support of the ban, the government in 2010 enacted another law, ‘Mandatory Jute Packaging Act 2010’, for the compulsory use of jute in packaging products. But a lax implementation of the law means that the use of polythene bags and single-use plastics is still rampant.
A section of unscrupulous businessmen have been manipulating the ban. Thick polythene packaging is allowed for 23 products including readymade garments, salt and sugar. But some businessmen are producing thin polythene exploiting that approval, sources said.
Retail businessmen Md Arman Sheikh, Sheikh Imran, and Md Zahir told UNB that the owners of polythene factories have a very strong countrywide network. In Khulna, a group of businessmen have been producing and storing polythene in Baro Bazar and Daulatpur Bazar, they said.
These polythene producers supply their products to shops in the city and other parts of the country. They supply them at night, the retail businessmen said.
Polythene is extremely durable. They break down into microplastics and nanoparticles after hundreds of years and continue to contaminate water and soil. Polystyrene is not biodegradable either. Some say it takes hundreds – many insist more than a million – years to decompose.
Engineer Mridha Yasin Hamid said polythene has now become ubiquitous and a daily necessity. “People should avoid it since it harms the environment and causes waterlogging during the rainy season. We should properly discard polystyrene,” he said.
Arman Mia, a polystyrene trader at Rupsha fish market, said they buy the sheets from those who import fruit or fish. They are sold for Tk 150 to Tk 350 per piece. They become useless when they break down or develop holes.
Khulna City Corporation Conservation Officer Anisur Rahman said polythene and polystyrene are responsible for waterlogging in the city. “We’re conducting drive to improve the situation. Public awareness is the key,” he added.
Bangladesh has suitable alternatives to polythene. ‘Sonali Bag’, for example, is made from jute cellulose. It feels like polythene but is fully biodegradable and water-soluble. Such bags are also being produced from cassava roots. A key obstacle to their popularity is high prices which will come down once they go into mass production.
Khulna, Jul 31 (UNB) – The country’s fishermen have been overjoyed as they returned to the Bay of Bengal after a 65-day ban to find an abundance of hilsa, their prized catch.
A number of trawlers with hilsa have been anchoring on the Daratana River in front of the KB Bazar in Bagerhat daily since the ban was lifted on July 24. Witnesses said fishermen, traders and warehouse owners were seen passing a busy time there.
One was seen fetching buckets, the other was busy packaging while another was sending them to different parts of the country.
The coveted ‘Maach er Raja’ (The King of Fish), with its silver sheen, has flooded the local markets of the coastal areas of the country including Satkhira, Khulna and Bagerhat, said locals.
Its price also went down as there is enough supply in the market. Hilsa weighing 450 gm to 500 gm is available at Tk 500-550, one weighing 600 gm to 700 gm would cost Tk 650 -700, while 800 gm to 900 gm is available within Tk 1,000.
Owners of the fish warehouses said the price was nearly double only a week back but since the ban ended it has come down to a rational level.
Fish sellers said the price of hilsa was high coinciding with the ban from May 20 to July 23.
Sales of hilsa has been on the rise in Khulna City Corporation wholesale fish market, Khulna’s largest wholesale market, as well as by street hawkers who sell fish on the city roads and door to door at reasonable prices.
Hilsa weighing a full kilogram is being sold at Tk 1,200, again half the price from just a week back. Comfort and peace returned to the minds of buyers and sellers for its price reduction and availability. Thousands of buyers were seen hovering around the fish markets where most of them were buying their favorite fish, hilsa.
Abu Musa, owner of Madina Fish warehouse, confirmed that a huge number of hilsa has been netted in the week since the ban was lifted. He is selling a 400 gm/500 gm/ 600 gm hilsa at Tk 500 while those weighing a kilogram were available at Tk 800.
Liton, who is working at Bengal Fisheries, said hilsa from the sea is more expensive than hilsa from rivers. Before July 23, five tonnes of hilsa reached the local market everyday but last Friday, July 25, a whopping 60-70 tonnes of hilsa hit the market.
President of Fish Warehouse Association ASM Abed Ali said during the 65-day ban fishermen and their families had to live in inhuman conditions, but now they are happy with lots of hilsa and higher rate of sale.
He also expressed satisfaction over the sizes of the individual hilsa that they’ve caught, adding that if the rain continues they will be able to net even larger hilsa.
Bagerhat District Fisheries Officer Md Khaled Kanak said the fishermen have started to enjoy the positive outcomes of the hilsa ban.
More hilsa will be available in the district next year, he predicted.
As part of its policy to boost fish stocks, particularly to conserve and protect hilsa, the government had imposed a 65-day ban on saltwater fishing.
Last year, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) ranked Bangladesh as the fifth biggest aquaculture producer in the world. Aquaculture or aqua farming is defined by FAO as the production of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and marine plants.
Meanwhile, hilsa production has jumped from 298,000 metric tonnes in the 2008-09 fiscal, to almost 500,000 metric tonnes in 2017-18, according to the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock.
Narsingdi, July 30 (UNB) - The approach road of a bridge has caved in in Monohardi upazila, just two months after it was inaugurated.
A large portion of the road collapsed on the south side of the bridge over the Arial Kha River that connects Monohardi of the district with Pakundia of Kishoreganj.
Besides, cracks have developed on the Pakundia part of the approach road on the north side.
Although the contractor firm repaired the damaged road with sand bags and bamboo poles, locals fear it might collapse again anytime.
M/S Rezvi Construction of Mymensigh constructed the bridge spending Tk 9.74 crore. It was opened to traffic on May 16 last.
Hundreds of vehicles, including those plying Dhaka-Kishoreganj route via Monohardi, use the bridge every day.
During a visit to the site, it was seen that the Monohardi portion of the approach road caved in following incessant rains for the last several days.
The contractor firm placed sand bags along with bamboo poles to somehow repair the collapsed road.
However, locals fear it might collapse again in the case of heavy rains.
Local Awami League leader Lal Mia alleged that the road collapsed due to the use of substandard materials in the construction.
Rezvi Construction Supervisor Nirtan said a road may collapse after its construction. “However, we’ve repaired the road.”
Executive Engineer of Kishoreganj Roads and Highways Rashedul Alam said he was unaware of the collapse of and cracks on the road. “Actions will be taken against the contractor firm if it’s found correct. “
Dhaka, Jul 30 (UNB) – Bangladesh Railway (BR) is going to set up rooftop solar plants in its stations, office buildings, junctions, workshops and staff quarters across the country as part of government’s plan to promote green energy across the country.
Three major stakeholders -- Power Division, Bangladesh Railway, and state-owned financing agency IDCOL (Infrastructure Development Company Limited) -- have agreed in principle to work for the project.
According to official sources, about 100 MW of solar-power generation is initially planned to generate by using the rooftops of the railway establishments across the country with investment from the private sector.
The sources at the Power Division said under the proposed arrangement, the BR will provide its space of approximately over 10 million square feet (sft) of rooftops while private sponsors install plants with financial support from IDCOL. Power Division will buy unconsumed electricity from the plants.
“An initial consensus had been there over the issue in a joint meeting on July 25 at the Railways Ministry where the Power Division made a presentation on the potential of the project,” said Mohammad Alauddin, joint secretary of the Power Division and in-charge of renewable energy, told UNB.
He said German donor agency KfW, the representatives of which attended the meeting, also expressed interest to extend technical and financial support to conduct a feasibility study shortly.
Contacted, Railway Secretary Mofazzal Hossain said Bangladesh Railway has agreed with the idea of generating electricity from solar plants using rooftops.
He said a technical committee was formed at the meeting comprising representatives of the Railways Ministry and Power Division to examine the project viability.
During the meeting, official sources said, six major railway stations and offices, 17 junctions and five workshops of the railway are targeted for the project.
The office is Rail Bhaban, while the stations are Kamalapur, Khulna, Rajshahi, Sylhet, and Chittagong and junctions are in Jessore, Pabna, Abdulpur, Paradaho, Ishwardi, Bagerhat, Joydebpur, Syedpur, Bhairab, Burimari, Rohanpur, Tongi, Tangail, Gouripur, Laksham, and their adjacent offices and staff quarters.
The major workshops proposed for the solar plants are Parbatipur, Pahartoli, Ishwardi, Saidpur, and 569 small stations.
Officials said the major stations and offices have huge rooftops of 1.5 million sft while junctions and adjacent facilities have 3.45 million sft rooftop and workshops and small stations have 5.5 million sft rooftops.
Once such rooftop solar power projects are implemented, IDCOL officials said, they will annually generate 91 gig watt hours of electricity saving an amount of Tk 54 crore and they will help save about Tk 1,078 crore in 20 years.
Power Division officials said they have proposed Bangladesh Railway to implement the project under the Net Metering System (NMS) under which the railway will consume its own electricity first and then sell the extra or unconsumed one to the national grid.
In this case, they said, the railway will lease out its rooftops to private sponsors known as ESCO (energy service company) which will install the plants at their own costs with financial support from the IDCOL.
There will be a tripartite agreement among railway, IDCOL and private sponsors while railway will have a bilateral agreement with power distribution companies to sell its unconsumed electricity to the national grid.
Officials said neighbouring India has already implemented a large number of rooftop solar projects using the rooftops of its railway stations and other establishments which have been running very successfully.