Gazipur, Feb 27 (UNB) - The 23-kilometer long Chilai River, flowing through the northern parts of the district, has become toxic with poisonous industrial and construction wastes, and encroachments.
“Many locals once depended on the river for their livelihood. Now there’s not even a frog in the river, let alone fish, as it’s badly polluted,” said environment activist Prof Anowar Sadat.
Once boasted turbulent waves and flew throughout the year barely 15 years back, the river has turned into a canal.
Green activists and their organisations – Chilai Bachao Anodolan, Nodi Bachao Andolan and Poribesh Bachao – have been working for years but no visible measures have been taken to save the river from pollution.
But officials at the Deputy Commissioner’s office claimed they are taking steps to save the river and clean the environment.
Until the 90s, the Sikdar Ghat beside the Zaminder palace, now used as the DC office, was a sprawling terminal for vessels. The terminal area vanished in the next two decades, replaced by high-rise buildings.
The area has now taken an urban look. At Pubail, the Chilai meets the Balu River, which is also in a poor shape.
Near the BIDC road, the river has been encroached as construction materials have been piled up there. The river has been obstructed by installing dams at different points, while industrial waste is dumped into the river ruthlessly.
Bangladesh Nodi Bachao Andolan and Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) have been staging protests, demonstrations and holding human-chain programmes for years demanding the government save the river.
“Some influential people have been strangulating the river to death. There’s widespread pollution at different points of the river from Desipara to Shashanghat areas,” said Bangladesh Nodi Poribrajok Dol (BANPOD) President Md Monir Hossain. At places, he said, it has been occupied illegally”.
“They’ve built industries and houses occupying the river turning it into paddy field at places,” he said.
Monir said it is necessary to demarcate the river area, dredge it and remove illegal establishments.
Chilai Bachao Andolan leader advocate Jalal Uddin said the river has shrunk in width and was nearing its demise because of illegal occupation and rampant pollution.
“Influential people have built houses, industries and made paddy fields occupying the river,” he said. “It’s been mostly occupied in Deshipara, Bhurulia, Kalasikdarer Ghat and Bhawalraj Shashan areas.”
“The river once had clean, transparent water and contained large varieties of fish, but now the water is only available in it during monsoon,” he said.
Prof Anowar said once the river route was used for transporting goods, but those days are history now as the water, filled with industrial waste and sewage, has gone black.
Seven months ago, National River Conservation Commission Chairman Dr Muzibur Rahman Hawladar, its member Md Alauddin and other officials visited the river. Although the locals have brought the river’s condition to the notice of the administration, no noticeable steps have been taken.
“We’ve been planning to make the river usable, beautiful, encroachment and pollution free,” said Gazipur DC Dr Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir. “Soon, it’ll be recovered from the occupants.”
Necessary allocations have been received from the government in this regard, he said, adding, “The changes will soon be visible.”
Dhaka, Feb 26 (UNB) – The number of fire incidents has increased more than threefold across Bangladesh since 1997, with the year 2018 seeing 53 of that on average every day.
Fire Service and Civil Defence statistics showed that around 2,50,000 fire incidents took place in the country between January 1, 1997 and December 31, 2018, according to online database ‘Dataful’.
These fire incidents also caused an estimated financial loss of around Tk 6,400 crore to the nation.
At least 1,970 people were killed in around 2,00,000 fire incidents across the country between 2004 and 2018, according to available data of the fire service.
Urban experts attribute the sharp rise in fire incidents to unplanned urbanisation, violation of rules for constructing building, carelessness among people, increased use of gas cylinders and devices and lack of supervision by authorities concerned.
Last year saw the highest number of fire incidents of 19,642. But the highest number of casualties – 365 dead and 1385 injured – were recorded in 2011.
In terms financial losses, 2015 was the deadliest year as the country suffered a loss of an estimated Tk 850 crore in 17,488 fire incidents.
According to fire service data, around 5,802 fire incidents took place in 1997, but it gradually increased more than three times over the years. However, the number of casualties has been falling over the last few years, except 2018.
In 2006, 9,542 fire incidents killed 91 people and injured 873 more. Seventy people were killed and 210 others were injured in 17,830 incidents in 2014 while 68 died and 216 were injured in 17,488 incidents in 2015. The following year, 52 people were killed and 247 injured in 16,858 incidents, while 45 people killed and 269 injured in 18,105 incidents the next year.
But the number of casualties marked a sharp rise last year as 130 people were killed and 664 were injured in 19,642 incidents.
Contacted, Urban expert and former University Grants Commission (UGC) chairman Prof Nazrul Islam said usually fires are triggered by electric short-circuit, gas and other burners, cigarettes, gas cylinders and technological devices and inflammable objects and chemicals. “Sometimes, miscreants set fire to houses or shops and other establishments out of animosity.”
In many cases, he said, people’s callousness and lack of awareness are responsible for fire incidents. Public awareness can significantly bring down the number of fire incidents, he added.
Prof Nazrul said electric equipment should be inspected periodically to decrease chances of fire. "If we remain alert about small but crucial issues, the situation will improve substantially,” he said.
He said the use of gas cylinders in vehicles, houses and restaurants has now become a major worry and the government should increase its monitoring in this regard to tackle the problem.
The urban expert said the government will have to intensify its disaster management and prevention activities in urban areas as well as launch a countrywide campaign to raise awareness about the causes of fire.
Iqbal Habib, an urban expert and architect, said the number of fire incidents marked a gradual rise for three major reasons in Bangladesh – population density and unsafe house construction, unplanned and unsafe urbanisation and increasing use of technology without proper knowledge of their usage.
Besides, lack of awareness among people, lack of monitoring by the authorities concerned, lack of enforcement of laws, storing and use of inflammable chemicals unsafe way, weakness in city governance are other reasons behind the increase in fire incidents, he noted.
To check fire incidents and casualties, Habib said massive and continual awareness campaigns must be conducted involving political parties and NGOs. “’Improving the city governance skills, strict enforcement of laws and rules and regulations, making people aware about urban life and use of technology, increasing the capacity of fire department and creating trained civil manpower to provide service in case of any fire are also necessary,” he said.
Habib said the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse brought about a huge change in public attitude about safety and the fire service also increased their capability. This led to a decrease in casualties from fire incidents the subsequent years. “But things are worsening now again amid the apathy of authorities concerned,” he added.
Dhaka, Feb 25 (UNB) – Although only two days are left for the by-election to the mayoral post of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), many voters are not aware of it, largely for lack of electioneering unlike in the polls held in 2015.
According to voters, the election has failed to heat up the atmosphere as there is no opposition candidate in it.
During the mayoral election held on April 28, 2015, there was a vigorous campaign from both Awami League candidate Annisul Huq and BNP contestant Tabith Awal.
Talking to several voters of Mirpur, one of the densely populated parts of the city that falls under the DNCC jurisdiction, it was found that many residents were simply not interested to cast their vote in the upcoming by-election, and the electioneering has not caught their attention either.
When asked about the date of the by-election, one Fakhrul Islam said, “I don’t know the exact date… but I’ve heard that the election will be held.”
Fakhrul said, “No candidate came to ask for my vote. And I didn’t even see any rally or campaign in our area. Just a few posters of the ruling party candidate were hanging haphazardly.”
He also opined that he has no interest in casting vote as no strong opposition candidate is vying for it. “There’s no contest because opposition BNP is not taking part in the election. So, the candidates are not holding serious campaign and eventually the voters find no interest.”
Rezaul Karim Patwari, another resident of DNCC’s Rayerbazar area, said, “I came to know about the election after receiving a notice that all educational institutions in the area will remain closed on February 28 for the by-election. Many people of the area came to know through their children after getting notices from their educational institutions."
The DNCC mayoral post fell vacant following the death of Annisul Huq on November 30, 2017. He was elected mayor on April 28, 2015.
On January 9 last year, the Election Commission had announced the schedule of the DNCC by-polls and election in the new wards, fixing February 26, 2018 for the voting day.
But the election was not held as the High Court stayed the election schedule for six months. The court order came following three writ petitions filed challenging the legality of the schedule.
Finally in January last, the court cleared the way for the DNCC by-election and election in the new wards.
A total of five candidates are vying for the mayoral post. They are Atiqul Islam from Awami League, Shafin Ahmed from Jatiya Party, Anisur Rahman Dewan from National People's Party, Shahin Khan of Progressive Democratic Party and an independent candidate Abdur Rahim.
Election to councillor posts in the 36 new wards -- 18 under the DNCC and 18 under the Dhaka South City Corporation -- will also be held on February 28.
In those wards, however, a massive campaign was seen as voting for the councillor post is going to be held for the first time.
The total number of voters in DNCC is 2,345,374 – 1,224,701 males and 1,120,673 females.
Sylhet, Feb 24 (UNB) – Vegetable farming on floating beds made of water hyacinth and bamboo in water bodies or ponds, is gaining popularity in different areas of the district.
With support from Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (Bari), farmers are cultivating vegetables in abandoned ponds and water bodies making floating beds.
Farmers do not need to use fertilizer and pesticide for cultivating vegetables using the method and this method is helping them grow vegetables at lower cost. As the vegetables are being produced in a fully organic way, the demand for these vegetables is higher in the markets.
Many farmers are making good profits selling their vegetables produced on their floating gardens.
Visiting Rustampur area in Bagha union of Golapganj upazila, the UNB correspondent found that farmer Faruk Ahmed has cultivated tomato, eggplant, green chili, Red Spinach, Kalmi Shak, Ladies finger, Long Bean, pumpkin and bean in his floating garden.
He said he made the floating bed for vegetable cultivation under a project ‘Vegetables and Spice Cultivation Research, Extension and Popularization on Floating Bed’ of the Research Department of BARI.
“Though it’s very tough to build floating beds on 20-feet deep water, we’ve got success as the demand for vegetables cultivated in this method is very high in the market,” he said.
Md Kawser, an assistant scientist of BARI, said the cultivation method is very environment-friendly and vegetable produced on such beds are safe and healthy.
Under the project, BARI officials said, they are inspiring the farmers. Vegetables are being cultivated on 46 floating beds in Rustampur, Hazipur of Golapganj and Kotalpur of Fencuganj, and they have already got huge response from farmers of the areas.
Earlier, they applied the method of this vegetable faming in Sunamganj district headquarters and Dakkhin Sunmganj under the project on pilot basis. Now, they have a plan for expanding in other areas, they said.
Md Belal Miah, a farmer of Kotalpur village, said after collecting a vegetable from a floating bed, they can cultivate another vegetable on the same bed.
Dr Mahmudul Islam Nazrul, senior scientific officer of Sylhet BARI office, said vegetable production in Sylhet region is not sufficient. All varieties of vegetables are not cultivated in all areas. Besides, many ponds and canals are lying unused.
In such places, he said, farmers can become self-reliant by cultivating vegetables on floating beds.
Nazrul said government assistance to cultivate vegetables using the method will be increased.
Dhaka, Feb 24 (UNB) -Although the floriculture industry is booming with each passing year, there is still some way to go towards realizing its full potential.
The businesses said that recently the use of flowers has vastly increased among the young especially, as changing cultural practices combining with enhanced consumerism in a growing economy. The calendar these days is packed with days when flower sellers can make a killing, and the export market is gradually picking up. These are the trends that have expedited the growth of the flower business in the country.
Even artificial flowers are gaining in popularity gradually, thanks to their use during different occasions including marriage, political and cultural programs, mainly as decorative items. Artificial flowers also enjoy the advantage of not being perishable.
According to floriculture industry insiders, the country’s flowers and floral products are being exported to different countries including India, Pakistan, Italy, Portugal, Middle east country specially Saudi Arabia, the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Japan, Germany, Britain, Denmark and France.
A recent report of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) said the country’s local market for flowers and cut foliage has reached Tk1,200 crore per annum and growing at 10 percent per annum.
According to Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data, the country’s export earnings from Cut Flower and Foliage for the July to January period of the current fiscal (2018-19) touched $3.98 million already, up from just $0.02 million in the 2017-18 fiscal year.
EPB data also read, Bangladesh exported cut flowers, leaves, trees, plants, bulbs, roots of $86,000 (about Tk 72 lakh) in the 2016-17 fiscal, and $78,000 (about Tk 65 lakh) in the previous fiscal.
Abdur Rahim, president of Bangladesh Flower Society (BFS), said Bangladesh has an economic advantage thanks to its favorable climate and topography as well as low labour costs and relatively low capital investment, which is helping the sector to flourish. “We can better grip the markets both at home and abroad,” Rahim said.
“More than 20 districts including Jashore, Jhenidah, Magura, Rangpur, Bogra, Dhaka (Savar), Gazipur and Manikganj districts, view thethe flower and foliage farming are cultivated flowers. Around 200,000 people are directly and indirectly dependent on this sector while more than 25,000 families are engaged in cultivating flowers,” he also said.
Anwar Faruque, former secretary of Agriculture Ministry told, “We can earn huge amount of foreign currency if we can cultivate flowers properly. We noticed that the demand of Bangladeshi flowers is positive to world markets. So we should facilitate the cultivation process and train up farmers in this regard.
“The government and involved people of the sector have to move for introducing modern technologies and ensuring supply of newer seeds, building warehouses and cold storages,” he also said.
According to International Trade Centre (ITC) study, the global flower exports over the last few years have grown by more than 10% annually. Based on this trend, the global export of flowers is expected to reach $45 billion in 2018.
However, World Floriculture Map read the export value reached over $10 billion in 2015 from only cut flower segment. However, Europe is the largest consumer of floriculture followed by North America and China.
Babul Proshad, president of Dhaka Ful Bayabsayee Kallyan Somity Ltd, “We have been doing natural flower business for long years at Shahbagh, we cannot selling artificial flowers. Our business is affected over the products.
“Import duty of artificial products that are made plastic should be further increased. These items also affected for environment,” he also said.
Director of DCCI, also former president, Abul Kasem Khan said, the flower sector is a very potent industry but there is no specific policy for the emerging here. To establish the sector, infrastructure development through investing in more cold storages is much needed.
Dr. M. A. Matin, General Secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) told UNB that the artificial flowers are made of plastic or polythene materials, which are harmful to the environment. All the more reason then, to abandon them.