Cox’s Bazar, Mar 4 (UNB) – Despite having huge potentials to emerge as green beach town, Cox’s Bazar is gradually turning into a polluted place for its unplanned growth, poor waste management and sewerage system.
Hundreds of concrete buildings, including residential hotels, multipurpose buildings and studio apartments, have been developed in the town defying environmental laws.
It has turned into a town of ‘brick and concrete’ without having any wide road, drain and modern sewerage system.
As there is no adequate trash bin, people toss litters everywhere, making the town unclean and unlivable.
Discarded plastic bags, papers, cigarette butts, fruit and vegetable skins and other things are thrown indiscriminately. The handful of trash bins the town now has are not cleaned regularly.
“This has become a serious problem for the people living in Cox’s Bazar,” said Mansur Alam, a resident of Kolatoli area of the town.
He said, “As garbage is dumped here and there and sewerage flows out on roads, bad odur constantly spreads in the air. The huge presence of tourists and poor sewerage system make the tiny town dirty and unhealthy.”
Cox’s Bazar municipality mayor Mujibur Rahman said encroachers grabbed many water bodies and canals in the town, shrinking those and hampering the drainage system.
He said the district administration and the municipality authority have prepared a list of 129 canal grabbers and a drive will be conducted soon to evict them.
Recently, the Department of Environment (DoE) served a notice on 300 residential hotels to install sewerage treatment plants (STPs) but only seven hotels complied with the DoE order.
Last year, the DoE fined Tk five lakh to ‘Nirshorgo Hotel’ while Tk 2 lakh to M/s Imagine hotel at Kalatoli for not having STPs. But no other steps were taken since then.
Visiting different areas of the town, the UNB correspondent found garbage dumped in the beach area and then burnt, which creates black smoke and pollutes the environment.
Besides, over 1,000 establishments have been built on the beach adjacent to Najirartek, Samity para, Borchara and Reju khal areas.
Assistant director of DOE Kamrul Hasan said environment in the town and the beach area is getting polluted in different ways every day.
“Necessary steps will be taken after identifying the causes of pollution and those responsible for it,” he said.
Saiful Asrab, an assistant director at Cox’s Bazar DoE, said a number of high-rise buildings have been built without taking any clearance from the DoE and following other legal procedures.
Seven hotels have installed STPs while eight others sought three months’ time to install STPs, he said, adding that legal action will be taken against the authorities concerned if they fail to set up STPs.
Moazzem Hossain, chairman of Save the Nature, said the environment of the tourist town is being polluted for not setting up STPs by the hotel authorities. If the authorities concerned do not take effective measures immediately then Cox’s Bazar will turn into a city of bad odour, he said.
Azmal Huda, general secretary of Cox’s Bazar Forest and Environment Preservation Council, said the town become unsuitable for living in near future due to the environmental pollution and unplanned construction of high-rises.
Besides, Cox’s Bazar which has been hosting over 1 million Rohingyas since August 25, 2017 is facing serious environmental risk as their presence has made a significant impact on its environment.
Since the influx in August 2017, coupled with the host community and Rohingyas from past influxes, the crisis-hit population is now almost 1.5 million in Cox’s Bazar, creating a massive pressure on the already dilapidated environment there which still remains significantly underfunded, according a United Nations report.
Some 4300 acres of hills and forests were cut down to make temporary shelters for Rohingyas and ensure facilities and cooking fuel for them in Ukhia and Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar, threatening the biodiversity of the ecologically critical areas of the country, said the UN report in September last year.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women with support from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change jointly carried out the study titled ‘Environmental Impact of Rohingya Influx.
The report highlighted the critical impacts of one of the world’s biggest influx of above 700,000 Rohingyas on the environment of Cox’s Bazar and recommended measures for migration, restoration and conversation.
Of the total 1502 hectares of forests, about 793 hectares have been encroached, says the report.
Around 3000-4000 acres (1200-1600 ha) of hilly land in Teknaf-Ukhia Himchari watershed area have been cleared of vegetation.
Identifying the encroachment as the key cause, the report says nearly 6,800 tonnes of fuel wood are collected each month and each of the Rohingya families use on average 60 culms of bamboo to construct their temporary residences at the top and slopes of hills.
Due to the indiscriminate hill cutting to provide shelters to the Rohingyas, the terrain of the hills has lost their natural setting, causing a potential risk of landslides.
According to information provided at a programme arranged by UNDP in October last, this huge population generates some 10,000 tonnes of waste a month causing adverse impacts on health and environment.
Dhaka, Mar 3 (UNB) – Though the recent strong drive against river encroachers raised a new hope for protecting the country’s rivers, green activists think the desired success cannot be achieved unless proper steps are taken to keep the reclaimed lands out of the clutches of grabbers.
Just after recovering the occupied river lands, the authorities concerned will have to set up demarcation pillars, give the river land to rivers back by dredging, planting trees, building walkways on the river banks and ensuring monitoring by river police to prevent the reoccupation of the reclaimed lands as happened in the past, they said.
The green activists also suggested engaging local people in the river protection efforts so that they can resist the grabbers and inform law enforcers if anyone makes any fresh effort to occupy the retrieved land.
Officials at the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) said they bulldozed 1721 illegal structures, including several multistoried buildings built by influential people, along the Buriganga and Turag rivers in the first phase of their drive between January 29 and February 20.
BIWTA Joint Director (port) AKM Arif Uddin said they also recovered around 35 acres of grabbed land during their first phase of the eviction drive.
He said they will launch the second phase drive on March 5 and gradually reclaim the occupied lands of all other rivers.
The government has intensified the drives in the capital and elsewhere as the High Court on January 30 last described rivers as a “legal entity” and asked the authorities concerned to act like their “guardians” to save them from grabbers and pollution.
Contacted, Ainun Nishat, Professor Emeritus of BRAC University, and water resource specialist, said BIWTA is demolishing the structures erected by filling rivers. “I think the authorities should now back the recovered lands to rivers by dredging or excavating those to ensure their proper flow.”
Or else, he said, the recovered lands will be either misused by the BIWTA or encroached again by the influential people.
Iqbal Habib, an architect and member secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), said it seems the government is carrying out the current drive with sincerity. “But we saw many such drives in the past. A few days after recovering the river lands, the encroachers recaptured those for lack of monitoring and necessary steps to protect those.”
He said strong riverbank protection measures are needed to be taken right now instead of only deploying some Ansar members to guard the repossessed land.
“Demarcation pillars will have to set up first. Then, sapling will have to be planted on the riverbanks alongside constant monitoring by the river police. Finally, walkways will have to be made. Otherwise, the encroachers will again relish on the river land,” he said.
Habib said involving local people with the process of river protection steps is necessary. “A digital map will have to be created so that local people can easily identify the river lands.”
Poribesh Bachao Andolon (Poba) Chairman Abu Naser Khan said the government must continue the drive across the country until all the occupied river lands are recovered.
He said the land grabbers should also be given exemplary punishment so that no one dare occupy river lands in the future.
Naser also said the government will have to empower National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) as per the High Court order so that it can work as a strong authority to protect the rivers and take action against the encroachers and polluters.
NRCC Chairman Dr Muzibur Rahman Howlader said they have already directed all the deputy commissioners to submit a report by each on river pollution and grabbing in their respective districts by February 28.
“We’ve received some reports by the time, and we’re expecting to get the rest shortly. Once we get all the reports, we’ll asses those for working out the next course of action,” he said.
Besides, Rahman said they visited around 60 districts over the last one year and held meetings with every district’s River Protection Committee members involving a cross section of people, including environmentalists, civil society members, local elite and administration.
“We’re now making a detailed report on the problems of the rivers and water bodies across the country with suggestions for their solutions. We’re expecting to hand over the report to the Prime Minister by this month,” he said.
The NRCC chief said no one will be able to remerge on the recovered river lands this time as the government has taken various projects for the protection and development of rivers.
He said they will propose taking some crash programmes to secure the recovered lands and free the rivers from pollution. “We’ll also propose engaging adequate number of river police to regularly monitor and protect the rivers. We’re working out various programmes and action plans to work as a true guardian of the rivers as per the direction of the High Court.”
Chattogram, Mar 2 (UNB) – The re-excavation works on 16 canals of the port city, including Chaktai Khal, are progressing fast, aiming to bring relief to the city dwellers from its vexing waterlogging problem.
The government undertook a mega project titled ‘’Canal re-excavation, renovation and expansion to eradicate water logging of Chattogram” worth Tk 5,616 crore on August 9, 2017 to end the longstanding waterlogging problem in the city.
Under the project, the implementing agency will re-excavate 36 canals of Chattogram city, construct drains nearby to remove rainwater, acquire 96 acres of land, and construct 176,000 metres of retain wall, 85.68 km of road, 48 PC bridges and 6 culverts.
The works of the project of Chittagong Development Authority (CDA) are underway under the supervision of the Bangladesh Army. The project is expected to complete on June 30, 2020 as its works started in July 2017.
Though there was a target to re-excavate of 36 canals, primarily the re-excavation of 16 canals, including the Chaktai and Mahesh khals (canals) is underway.
The 16 canals are- Chaktai Khal, BirzaKhal, Rajakhali Khal-1, Rajakhali Khal-2, Rajakhali Khal-3, Mirza Khal, Hijra Khal, Mahesh khal, Mariambibi Khal, Kolabagicha Khal, Domkhal, Chaktai Diverson Khal (also known as Baklia Khal), Bamunshahi Khal, Noakhal, Nasir Khal and Khandakia Khal.
According to the engineering department of Chattogram City Corporation, there are a total of 57 canals in the city with their total length of 163.50km. Among them, the longest canal is Khandokio as it is 8.4 km long while the second longest canal is 7.5 km Rajakhali. The length of Chaktai and Mahesh Khal which are very important for the city’s drainage system is 6km and 6.3km respectively.
Contacted, CDA Chairman Abdus Salam said, “We cannot assure the city dwellers that we’ll be able to give them the full relief from waterlogging crisis in the upcoming monsoon, but we hope there’ll be a positive result.”
In the last monsoon, he said, city dwellers experienced serious waterlogging in Halisahar, Agrabad, Chaktai, Khatunganj, Dewanbazar, Sub Area, greater Bakalia, Chawkbazar, Muradpur, Shulokbahar, Boddarhat, GEC intersection and Probortok intersection areas. Once the re-excavation work on the 16 canals is completed, the residents of those areas will get relief to some extent, he added.
The chairman said RCC retention walls on both sides of those canals will be constructed at a cost of Tk 2,640 crore to make sure those are not grabbed after the renovation.
Besides, a total of 38 bridges and culverts on the canals will be re-constructed which will cost Tk 339.55 crore. Three water reservoirs will also be built.
Apart from that, 300 kms of drain will be renovated so that water can easily move to the canals in addition to constructing 100 kms of new drain.
Brigadier General Rezaul Mazid, director general of 34 engineering construction brigade, and duty-officer of Army for canal re-excavation work, said the works are going on in full swing and it will be possible to keep waterlogging at a tolerable level from the next monsoon, he said.
Lt Col Mohiuddin Ahmed, the chief engineer of city corporation, said water-logging problem will not be solved only by renovating Chaktai and Mahesh canals. “People also need to ensure that they will not throw garbage into the canals.”
Mohiuddin said spot-based solution is needed at GEC, Muradpur and Bahaddarhat intersection to end the waterlogging problem. Eviction of the illegal establishments from both sides of the canals has started, he said adding that there will be positive results from the next monsoon.
According to urban experts, re-excavation of canals will not bring any permanent solution to the waterlogging problem. The encroachment of Chatkai Khal and the navigability problem of the Karnaphuli River also contribute to the problem.
They emphasised coordinated works among Army, CDA, Chattogram City Corporation (CCC), Wasa, PDB, Karnaphuli Gas Authority, public representatives and local people for permanent solution to the crisis.
Dhaka, Mar 2 (UNB) - Although 26 sectors have been identified to exploit the potentials of blue economy in Bangladesh, almost all the sectors remained untapped for lack of proper initiatives.
So far, only a small administrative cell, ‘Blue Economy Cell (BEC)’, was created in January 2017under the Energy and Mineral Resources Division of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, according to official sources.
But the activities of the BEC remained confined to holding occasional meetings as the administrative body is now inadequately equipped with a few officials sent on deputation.
Amid the dismal situation, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry made a recommendation to upgrade the BEC as an authority with permanent setup, but the recommendation has gone unheeded.
The 26 sectors identified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through two workshops at national level twice in 2014 and 2017.
The sectors are shipping, coastal shipping, seaports, passenger ferry services, inland waterway transports, shipbuilding, ship recycling industries, fishery, aquaculture, coastal aquaculture and mariculture, marine acquaintance products, marine biotechnology, oil and gas, sea salt production, ocean renewable energy, tidal energy, blue energy (osmasis) and biomass, aggregate mining (sand, graveetc), marine mineral mining, coastal tourism, recreational water sports, yachting and marines, cruise tourism, coastal protection/artificial islands/greening coastal belts, human resource development, marine surveillance and marine special planning.
Bangladesh won 19,467 square kilometres out of 25,602 sq km disputed areas from India in the Bay of Bengal following the settlement of maritime dispute with India on July 8, 2014.
The country won a claim to 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone and territorial rights in the Bay of Bengal following the settlement of dispute with Myanmar in December 18, 2013.
Officials said those two settlement of disputes opened the door of huge blue economy.
Official sources said the government had formed a 25-member high-powered committee, headed by the principal secretary to the Prime Minister, to prepare a comprehensive plan on blue economy.
But, in the last two years, there has been no headway in this regard because of the inactivity of the committee, said a top official of the Blue Economy Cell preferring anonymity.
Foreign Ministry officials, however, said they have recently moved for a desktop study to analyse the data of an already conducted survey to identify the presence of gas-hydride, a kind of methane gas, which is normally found in low depth of 200-500 metres of under the sea while the natural gas is found in a depth of 3000-5000 metres under the sea.
Meanwhile, the Energy and Mineral Resources Division moved twice for conducting a multi-client survey to identify the potentials of oil and gas exploration in the offshore areas.
But the multi-client survey contract is yet to be awarded to any company for unknown reasons although a Norwegian company was selected by Petrobangla.
Energy sector experts said the neighbouring India and Myanmar had moved much earlier to exploit potentials of their maritime areas.
They said Myanmar has awarded its 20 offshore blocks to 13 international companies under production sharing contracts while it again moved for inviting international bids for another 30 offshore gas blocks.
India has also awarded a number of blocks to different international companies in recent years.
About the offshore gas exploitation, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said, “Currently, work on data analysis is going on."
He said work on oil and gas exploration started in four blocks in deep and sallow sea under four Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) with five companies.
The state minister also said some seismic surveys have already been completed.
Dhaka, Mar 1 (UNB) – The Amar Ekushey Book Fair has grown enormously since its humble inception in 1972 as a small-scale book sale in front of Bangla Academy and evolved into a massive phenomenon.
Bangla Academy took charge of the event in 1978 and has since been taking care of it. With this year’s edition nearing its end, Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury said it is time for a change.
He pointed out that the fair is growing every year and the burden of arranging an event on such a grand scale is too heavy for Bangla Academy.
“Bangladesh’s publisher guilds should take the responsibility,” he told UNB, noting that Bangla Academy’s goal was to help the language flourish through research works and publications.
“Being occupied with the fair’s arrangement is diverting it from its original goal,” he said.
Bangla Academy Director General Habibullah Sirajee declined to comment, saying: “It’s up to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs to decide.”
‘More focus on books’
As the fair’s popularity grew, its ground was extended in 2014 to include Suhrawardy Uddyan. Prof Choudhury said he feels that organising the fair at one place will reduce hassle.
“Holding the fair in two places is drawing attention away from the works of different organisations and the little magazine stalls placed on Bangla Academy premises,” Prof Choudhury said, emphasising better planning for tackling unpredictable weather.
He said the fair was also losing its main purpose.
“In recent years, it has not been about books only. Many other issues are getting prioritised and books are becoming less important,” he said. “We need to make changes to ensure that the book fair focuses on books.”
Over the decades, it has grown into a phenomenal fest. This year, the fair drew huge crowds every day. A large section of them -- current or former Dhaka University students – were seen roaming around stalls, gossiping about authors, arguing about their works and buying books.
This year, the fairground has been extended to 550,000 square feet.
Altogether, 4,685 books have been published during the fair, while the publishers sold books worth around Tk 78 crore – nearly Tk 7.5 crore higher than the previous year. Bangla Academy also had a brisk sale of Tk 2.15 crore.
“This fair is a fuel for the soul,” Ishraq Sabbir, a third-year journalism student, told UNB.