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.
Dhaka, Feb 24 (UNB/IPS) – Bangladesh economy’s impressive growth trajectory over the last decade has been buttressed by the demographic dividend deriving from a large portion of its population — around 65 percent on average — being of working age.
However, experts think the growing prosperity has also resulted in an increase in the population’s longevity as people live longer these days and that poses a new challenge for the government as the number of dependents keeps rising without corresponding steps to ensure their rights, dignity and necessary facilities.
According to government statistics, around 7.5 percent (12.5 million) of the country’s total population constitutes the elderly people while the number is expected to increase sharply and reach around 20 percent (over 40 million) by 2050.
Under the circumstances, the country’s population experts and rights activists think the government should take proper programmes and policies to cater to the specific needs, including health, finical, civic amenities, of the growing number of ageing population.
Prof AKM Nurun Nabi of Dhaka University’s Population Sciences department said the population trends in Bangladesh show that the country is well into third phase of demographic transition, having shifted from a high mortality–high fertility regime to a low mortality–low fertility one, offering a window of opportunity to the country, referred to as the ‘demographic dividend’.
“The demographic dividend usually continues for 30 to 35 years. Although the demographic transition creates the demographic dividend, it also brings significant challenges with it,” he observed.
In Bangladesh, Nabi said various projections suggest that by 2025 one in 10 persons will be elderly and by 2050 one in five persons will be elderly.
The population scientist said the policymakers need to take effective steps for ensuring various necessary services for the poor, middle-class and urban affluent ageing population by increasing the number of service providing institutions. “The ageing population must be integrated to society by involving them with their old profession.”
Nabi put forward some more suggestions, including creating endowment funds by building partnership between different segments of society and sectors of economy, introducing a priori-deduction system from wages at earlier ages as a forced savings for old age allowance, establishing community ageing deposit scheme, restructuring the retirement age and finding way out for resulting in crisis in occupational mobility.
Chairman of the Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Kazi Reazul Hoque said special measures and polices alongside raising awareness are essential to ensure the welfare of ageing people as their number keeps growing due to a rise in the average lifespan.
“I feel the rights of elderly persons are not being ensured now that much way. The older persons deserve more attention and care from the state as well as society,” he observed.
The NHRC chairman said ageing people, especially women ones, are very vulnerable group in the country and the policymakers need to take steps to protect the vulnerable people and ensure their rights.
He said the National Policy on Older Persons are not implemented for lack of sincere efforts by the authorities concerned while the Parents’ Maintenance Act–2013 are not being enforced for lack of its rules and regulation and awareness among people.
Hoque said the ageing people are being subjected to various repressions and negligence by their children and others.
Joint secretary to Social Welfare Ministry Abeda Akter said their ministry is thinking of taking various steps to ensure the rights and dignity of the older persons and meet the challenges of their management in the days to come.
She said the government introduced a monthly allowance programme for older people in 1998 and currently 40 lakh elderly people are getting Tk 500 every month as old age allowance. “The number of the allowance recipients will gradually be increased.”
Another official of the ministry, wishing anonymity, said they have formulated a work plan four years back in light of the National Policy on Older Persons to provide the senior citizens with various facilities, including ID cards, health cards, and reserved seats and tickets at reduced rates during their travel in buses, trains, steamers, health access vouchers, saving schemes, accommodation, but they could not implement those due to bureaucratic complications.
In his research titled “Elderly People’ in Bangladesh: Vulnerabilities, Laws and Policies, Jahangirnagar University Anthropology department teacher Sazzadul Alam, identified 12 types of vulnerabilities -– lack of social dignity, economic crisis, accommodation problem, illness, falling health, physical assault, mobility problem, emotional vulnerability, recreation problem, family burden, far from relatives and food crisis –that are faced by the elderly people in Bangladesh.
He said elderly population needs economic support, including food, clothing, medical care, and housing as well as cultural support.