Dhaka, Jan 19 (UNB) - Still reeling from the shock of its massive defeat in the 11th parliamentary election, BNP is unlikely to join the upcoming upazila elections as most of its senior and grassroots leaders think the party should boycott all the elections under the current Election Commission (EC) following their bad experience in the December-30 polls.
However, the party is likely to allow its interested leaders to join the elections independently instead of using the party symbol -- the Sheaf of Paddy.
Some party leaders, however, think it should participate in the upazila polls to show the country’s people and the international community again how the country’s election system got collapsed and justify their allegations of vote rigging and various irregularities in the national election.
Talking to UNB, some senior BNP leaders said the 11th parliamentary election demonstrated that no election will be fair and credible under the current government and the EC, and their party’s participation in the upazila elections will only invite further repression and harassment of their grassroots leaders and activists.
They also said it will be very difficult for their party candidates to contest the upazila elections and carry out frantic electioneering as they might not get good response from the party’s ‘demoralised’ followers while many of their grassroots leaders are in jail or on the run facing many cases filed before and during the national election.
Under the circumstances, they said, their party should now focus on reorganising their different units and associate bodies and take some effective programmes to revitalise the grassroots and give legal shelters to the party men facing political cases instead of joining any election.
A BNP standing committee member said they recently held a meeting and elaborately talked about the upazila elections. “Most of our standing committee members suggested boycotting the upazila polls.”
Contacted, BNP standing committee member Mahbubur Rahman said their party is not going to join the upazila polls as they believe no fair election is possible under the current Commission.
“Our standing committee has taken a decision to boycott the upazila polls, and it’ll be made public very soon. We won’t join any election unless the current Election Commission is reconstituted,” he said.
Mahbub said most of their party standing committee members think BNP should not participate in any ‘farce’ in the name of election under Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda-led Commission.
Another party standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said their party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir will soon covey the media about their decision on the upazila polls. “We don’t have any confidence in the current Election Commission after the national election. What’s the point of joining farcical polls under it?”
BNP standing committee member Nazrul Islam Khan said they are now collecting various information and documents from their candidates across the country about the irregularities and vote frauds during the December-30 election. “We’re assessing the national election. So, we’re not now thinking of upazila polls.”
BNP’s mid-level leaders, including organising secretaries and assistant organising secretaries, recently held a meeting at BNP’s Nayapaltan central office and most of them suggested boycotting the upazila elections as party acting chairman Tarique Rahman, who joined the meeting through Skype, sought their opinions.
Contacted, BNP’s Chattogram divisional organising secretary Mahbubur Rahman Shamim said, “I think joining the upazila polls will be a meaningless and useless exercise. It’ll only invite more problems for our disturbed and dejected leaders and activists.”
He said the 11th parliamentary election demonstrated that no election can be held in a free and fair manner under the current administration and the Election Commission. “So, I think our party high-ups will take the right decision to boycot the polls.”
Another party organising secretary, wishing anonymity, said, “We’re demanding reelection bringing allegations of vote robbery in the national election and raising the question about the neutrality of the current CEC and the Commission. So, if we now join the upazila polls, our allegations of vote frauds in the national election will lose its credibility.”
“Ruling party men are still repressing our leaders and activists after the general election. Our many leaders and activists are on the run in fear of arrest in false cases. If we join the upazila polls, police will intensify their drive to arrest our activists and implicate them in more cases. So, I think our party should not join the polls.”
BNP publicity affairs secretary Shaheed Uddin Chowdhury Anee said he does not think their party should further join any election under the current Commission. “This Commission is biased. There’ll be serious vote-rigging in the upazila polls like that in the general election.”
However, a party vice chairman, preferring anonymity, said their party should join the upazila polls to unmask the true nature of the current EC and the government further. “We couldn’t have talked about the vote frauds in the national election had we not been there in the election race. So, I personally think our party needs to go to the polls to justify again our allegations of vote robbery in the national election.”
Dhaka, Jan 18 (UNB) - A move is underway to implement a Tk 2,000 crore project to ensure uninterrupted power supply to Dhaka’s central and south-west zones and major parts of Narayanganj within the next three years.
According to official sources, Dhaka Power Distribution Company Ltd (DPDC) has undertaken the project to implement it during the 2019-2022 period as part of its development programme.
“Once the project is implemented, the DPDC will be able to build a power distribution system to ensure non-stop electricity supply to consumers living in major parts of the two cities,” DPDC Executive Director Ramiz Uddin told UNB.
He said the project got the approval of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on November 7 last year, which was its last meeting under the previous government.
Of the total cost, the government will finance Tk 1,882 crore while the DPDC will provide Tk 78 crore from its own funds to implement the project.
“Now we’re preparing tender documents to float the tender to award contract for the job,” he added saying it may take one month or two to complete the tender invitation process.
Power Division officials said the new project was undertaken as part of the government’s current target to improve power distribution and transmission system after its success in power generation.
They said although the country’s power generation reached a benchmark of over 11,000 MW through its installed generation capacity of 18,000 MW but uninterrupted power supply in the capital city and elsewhere in the country is yet to be ensured due to poor distribution and transmission network.
“As a result, many areas face power outage despite surplus power generation,” said a senior official at the Power Division.
Officials said DPDC mainly operates power distribution systems in Dhaka’s central and south-west parts and major parts of Narayanganj city, and the project will be implemented in the two cities.
Officials said the project will facilitate the uninterrupted power supply until 2030 and another new project will be required to continue such facility.
Under the project framework, a good number of old substations, each having 33/11 kV capacity, will be replaced with new ones while 165 km of new source lines will be built and 33,157 electric poles will be installed, 1,642 km of overhead lines will be renovated.
Installation of 361 km 11 kV underground distribution lines and 2,575 transformers have been included in the project, according to the official sources.
DPDC now distributes about 1,531 MW of electricity among its 1.178 million consumers and the electricity consumption in its command area has been witnessing about 12 percent growth a year.
Khulna, Jan 18 (UNB) – The quality of service has improved greatly in recent months at Khulna Medical College Hospital (KMCH), thanks to the efforts of its Superintendent Dr ATM Monjur Morshed and his staff.
The hospital now has six new departments and a Special Care Newborn Unit (SCANU). A psychiatric ward has also started functioning while the Burn and Plastic Surgery unit has been overhauled.
Earlier there was no gastro, neurology medicine, respiratory medicine, hematology and endocrinology departments in the hospital. The patients only received primary treatment from the external departments.
On February 7, 2018, a 10-bed neurology department was inaugurated by former parliamentarian Muhammad Mizanur Rahman.
Neurology department head Assistant Professor Dr SM Fariduzzaman said poor families had to bear the cost of treatment. “Now, they are getting treatment in external and internal departments of the hospital,” he said, adding that the department started its journey with five male and five female beds.
Gastro, neurology medicine, respiratory medicine, hematology and endocrinology departments were inaugurated on the fourth floor of the hospital, with seven beds in neurology medicine, six beds in gastro, seven beds in respiratory medicine, eight beds in endocrinology, the doctor said.
Hospital sources said Superintendent Morshed initiated many steps after taking charge in 2017 to improve services including persistent supply of oxygen, shifting morgue, banning brokers, and setting up a new room beside blood bank.
Dr Morshed said a SCANU had been opened. “We had to fetch oxygen from outside for the patients but now this problem has been resolved,” he said. “Preparations to open three new operation theaters are complete. We hope to start them when we have the manpower.”
Separate wards have been set up for males and females in the Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit. Senior Staff Nurse of Jharna Khatun said the bathroom and dressing rooms for males and females would be separate from now on.
One major improvement has been the management of food. Every patient, who is admitted to the hospital, now gets a meal.
Saiful Islam, a medicine department patient, said the quality of breakfast, lunch, and dinner has seen much improvement in recent months.
Dhaka, Jan 18 (UNB) – Although the government expressed the hope before the December-30 election to achieve 10 percent GDP growth by 2021, noted economists have said it will be very difficult to achieve it within the time but it is possible in five years.
They said 10 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth will be within the reach in the next five years if some obstacles can be removed as soon as possible.
Attaining the target depends on how quickly Bangladesh can resolve the challenges, the economists said suggesting that foreign and local investments be increased and the activities of Economic Zones should start immediately.
In an exclusive interview with Nikkei Asian Review published on December 19 last, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh's strong economic growth will not just continue, but accelerate. "In the next five years, we expect annual growth to exceed 9 percent and, we hope, get us to 10 percent by 2021," she had told.
“To achieve 10 percent GDP growth is not impossible but challenging,” AB Mirza Azizul Islam, former finance adviser to a caretaker government, told UNB.
“Many countries have achieved the double-digit growth. We can also do but we’ve to overcome many challenges. We should resolve those first. Export earnings have to increase, priority should be given to remittance utilisation and investment must be enhanced,” he said.
Mentioning that the transport development will play an important role to this end, Mirza Aziz underscored the need for giving more emphasis on that.
He also said the country’s private sector will have to come forward to achieve the target.
According to the Prime Minister’s recent statement, Bangladesh will be a middle-income country in 2021, the year when the Golden Jubilee of the country’s independence will be celebrated. In 2041, the country will emerge as a developed one when the poverty rate will come down to zero.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh will be the world’s 26th largest economy by 2030, according to the projection of leading multinational bank HSBC.
Commerce Ministry sources said the government set the export target at $ 39 billion for fiscal year 2018-2019, 7.14 percent higher than last year’s $36.66 billion, following a proposal sent by the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) recommending a $40 billion export target.
Economists are largely happy with the country’s economic progress in recent years. They are optimistic that the economic growth will further increase rapidly in the seemingly stable environment following the 11th national election.
Khondokar Ibrahim Khaled, former Deputy Governor of Bangladesh Bank, said 10 percent GDP growth could be attained within the next five years if the investment is increased, particularly foreign one.
There are reasons for being optimistic that foreigners will now be more interested to invest here seeing the peaceful environment prevailing after the election, he said.
“Foreign investors face hassle in our country in various ways, especially at the airport. This must be sorted out. They’ve to be provided with more facilities, including quick service. Then they’ll be more interested to invest here and this will play a role in achieving the goal,” he said.
Some experts laid emphasis on skilled human resources. They said there are more than 16 crore people in the country who should be viewed as assets rather than a burden for the country.
To make that happen, they said, they must be imparted with requisite skills suited to the job market. If that can be done, the country’s productivity will increase across various fields and remittance also can rise, the experts said.
Prof Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said 10 percent GDP growth is not impossible for Bangladesh. “Even though we haven’t yet reached 8 percent,” he said underlining the need for overcoming the barriers to the economy towards achieving the goal.
“First of all, we’ve to address institutional capacity. Then the investment ratio has to increase. The investment-GDP ratio must increase to over 35 percent where private sector’s contribution should be 27-28 percent and easing of doing business and logistic facilities should be enhanced,” he said.
He also emphasised the need for investment to groom quality human resources and implement the proposed Economic Zones fast.
Dhaka, Jan 17 (UNB /IPS) - As a country with a large coastline, the adverse impacts of saltwater intrusion are significant in Bangladesh. Salinity mainly affects land and water in the coastal areas.
With the consequence of climate change, it gradually extends towards inland water and soil. This scenario of gradual salinity intrusion into the coastal areas of Bangladesh is very threatening to the primary production system, coastal biodiversity and human health, said researchers.
The total amount of salinity affected land in Bangladesh was 83.3 million hectares in 1973, which had been increased up to 102 million hectares in 2000 and the amount has risen to 105.6 million hectares in 2009 and continuing to increase, according to the country’s Soil Resources Development Institute (SRDI).
In the last 35 years, salinity increased around 26 percent in the country, spreading into non-coastal areas as well.
“Salinity which is rising in the coastal areas of Bagerhat, a southwestern district, is casting a huge impact on the environment. Production of various crops has declined due to excessive salinity in soil,” advocate Mohiuddin Sheikh, president of Rampal-Mongla Embankment Implementation Committee, told UNB.
Once huge coconut and betel trees were there in the area, but has decreased dramatically, he said adding, “The production of sessional vegetables has also declined. Since the late 80s, the effects of salinity in Rampal and Mongla areas have been hampering the local ecology.”
The locals, however, blame unplanned shrimp cultivation as the main cause of salinity, said the Mohiuddin adding, “Due to decrease in sweet water and fall in saline water flow from the ocean, the salinity has increased in the region.”
Studies conducted by the World Bank, Institute of Water Modelling and World Fish, Bangladesh between 2012 and 2016 have quantified the effects of increasing salinity in river waters in coastal Bangladesh, including the areas in and around the Sundarbans – the world’s largest mangrove forest that straddles the coast of Bangladesh and India.
The broad categories of climate change effects that hit the coastal areas of Bangladesh are changes in temperature and rainfall pattern, sea-level rise, change in frequency and intensity of cyclones, storm surge, changes in river and soil salinity.
More alarmingly, researchers from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research Bangladesh (icddr,b) have noticed an unexpectedly high rate of miscarriage in a small village of Chakaria, near Cox’s Bazaar, on the east coast of Bangladesh.
As they investigated further, scientists reached the conclusion that climate change might to be blamed.
Khulna region member of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) MA Savur Rana, a resident of Singarbunia village in Rampal upazila, said, “Once farmers used to harvest Aman (a paddy season) paddy in vast croplands of their areas. But, due to excess salinity, Aman paddy has become extinct.”
This has caused a huge impact on the lifestyle of the local people, he mentioned.
Between 2012 and 2017, the icddr,b scientists registered 12,867 pregnancies in the area they have been monitoring for last 30 years. They followed the pregnant women through until the end of the pregnancy and found that women in the coastal plains, living within 20km of the coastline and 7m above sea level were 1.3 times more likely to miscarry than women who live inland.
This difference, the scientists believe, is to do with the amount of salt in the water the women drink — the increase of which is caused by climate change.
Another recent study conducted by the World Bank indicates that climate change will cause significant changes in river salinity in the southwest coastal region during the dry season (October to May) by 2050, will likely lead to shortages of drinking and irrigation water and cause changes in aquatic ecosystems.
Changes in river salinity and the availability of freshwater will affect the productivity of fisheries. It will adversely affect the wild habitats of freshwater fish and giant prawn. In addition, the salinity increase may induce a shift in the Sundarbans mangrove forest from Sundari (the single most dominant and important species, with the highest market value) to Gewa and Guran.
Estimates from the research indicate that Bagerhat, Barguna, Barisal, Bhola, Khulna, Jhalakati, Pirojpur, and Satkhira districts will be affected most adversely.
This study also identifies soil salinisation in coastal Bangladesh as a major risk from climate change. In the coming decades, soil salinity will significantly increase in many areas of Barisal, Chittogram and Khulna districts. It projects a median increase of 26 percent in salinity by 2050, with increases over 55 percent in the most affected areas.
Due to the rise in soil salinity, Chittagong and Khulna districts are likely to witness the highest within-district additional migration, estimated between 15,000 and 30,000 migrants per year, said another study titled “Coastal Climate Change, Soil Salinity, and Human Migration in Bangladesh”, jointly conducted in 2018 by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Ohio State University.
“These two districts also contain the second and third largest cities in the country. Districts without large cities like Bagerhat, Bhola and Feni will generally expect smaller within-district flows, between 5,000 and 15,000, but larger out-of-district flows, particularly to districts with large cities,” said Ohio State University’s Joyce Chen, the co-authored of the study.
Meanwhile, after two weeks of bruising negotiations, officials from almost 200 countries on December 15 agreed on universal, transparent rules that will govern efforts to cut emissions and curb global warming.
The deal agreed upon at UN climate talks in Poland enables countries to put into action the principles in the 2015 Paris climate accord.
But to the frustration of environmental activists and some countries who were urging more ambitious climate goals, negotiators delayed decisions on two key issues until next year in an effort to get a deal on them.
The talks in Poland took place against a backdrop of growing concern among scientists that global warming on Earth is proceeding faster than governments are responding to it.
(UNB Bagerhat Correspondent Bishnu Proshad Chakrabortty contributed to this story.)