October 3, 2009

A Bangladeshi farmer who killed 83,000 rats has been awarded a prize by his Government.

By Ben Leach

A month-long nationwide campaign to kill millions of rats is designed to protect crops and reduce the need for food imports  Photo: AP

Mokhairul Islam, 40, won a first prize of a colour television for killing some 83,450 rats in the past nine months in Gazipur district near the South Asian country's capital, Dhaka. He collected their tails for proof.

"I am so happy to get this honour," he said after receiving a 14-inch television and a certificate amid cheers at an official ceremony packed with 500 farmers and officials. "I had no idea that the government gives prizes for this."

"This is an exciting moment. I will continue to kill them," he vowed.

The award was also for his work to launch a month-long campaign nationwide to kill millions more, to protect crops and reduce the need for food imports.

Officials say the impoverished nation imports some 3 million tons of food annually, while the Ministry of Agriculture estimates that rodents annually destroy 1.5 million to 2 million tons of food.

"We can cut the import of food by at least half if we can succeed in this year's campaign," said Wais Kabir, executive chairman of the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council.

He asked everyone, especially farmers, to take on the killing mission as a sport. The government has said it will train mainly farmers and students for this year's campaign.

"Killing rats is not that easy, it needs training," Kabir said.

Islam said he mainly used poison to kill the rats at his poultry farm, and that the cull has paid off as the rodents now scavenged less.

"Previously I needed 33 sacks of poultry feed per week, now I need less than 30," he said.

Fakhrul Haque Akanda, a farmer from northern Bangladesh and the second-prize winner, killed some 37,450 rats mostly with traps, some he invented.

"These bloody rats are my enemy, they destroy my gardens," Akanda said.

"Please pray for me so that I can continue my mission, and teach and motivate others to join me," he told the audience before taking his prize, also a television.

Last year, the U.N. World Food Program launched a monthslong food aid project in the country's southeast after a plague of rats devoured rice crops.

News Source: Telegraph
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August 28, 2009

River grabbed to build market

AL lawmaker inspires Golachipa administration to build new market, save town
A wall being built in the Ramnabad river near Golachipa town in Patuakhali for the Golachipa Newmarket. The photo on the right shows the signboard for the proposed market, which a ruling party lawmaker is backing to "save the Golachipa town from tidal surges".
Photo: STAR
Sohrab Hossain, Patuakhali

The upazila administration with the help of a ruling party lawmaker is building a market on the bank of the river Ramnabad at Golachipa in the name of protecting the town from tidal surge.

Bizarre it may sound - even after the land administration of Golachipa upazila informed about the wrongdoing the upazila administration sanctioned 100 metric tonnes (MT) of rice under the government's Test Relief project to finance it.

Without specifying the amount of money Golam Mowla Roni, Awami League MP of Patuakhali-3, claims to have financially contributed to the so-called 'Golachipa New Market' project.

During a visit to the spot this correspondent found a brick wall being erected on a stretch of 1150 feet by 380 feet area by the bank of the river. Earth filling was also going on.

Barisal district environment department, Golachipa municipality as well as the upazila land administration -- all termed the market project illegal and unauthorised.

The lawmaker, however, told The Daily Star, 'I have taken the initiative to build a new market along the riverside as it will protect the town and also serve the interests of local businessmen.'

He claimed that the would-be market will not obstruct the natural water flow of the river and said, 'I'll distribute shops among local businessmen as per government policy.”

Golachipa Municipality Mayor Abdul Wahab Khalifa told The Daily Star that the market is being built without any prior permission from the municipality though such approval is required to raise any commercial structures within the municipality areas.

When contacted Golachipa Assistant Commissioner of Land Mohammad Jahangir said, “It is government's khas land and the land office has not given allotment to anyone. Even nobody has sought any permission from us for building any establishment.”

“I informed my higher officials of the matter,” he said without any further details.

Deputy Director for Environment Department in Barisal Kaysar Ahmed expressed his department's ignorance about such initiative and said, “It's illegal to fill the land of a river and it will obstruct the normal water flow.”

Golakhali Union Parishad Chairman Razzak Mia acknowledged that the Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) sanctioned 100 MT rice under the government Test Relief project to complete the market project and he himself is overseeing it.

When contacted Abul Kasem Md Mohiuddin, UNO of Golachipa, told this correspondent, “A step has been taken to develop the land on the riverbank. After developing the land, allotments will be given to local businessmen through land office by marking the area as non-agricultural land.”

“Roni, lawmaker for Patuakhali-3 (Golachiapa-Dashmina), has taken the step to build a new market on the riverbank and he is also financially contributing to the project,” the UNO added.

Source Link
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August 24, 2009

Madhupur forest merely exists

85pc of natural greenery gone in 40 years; govt's wrong policies blamed

Pinaki Roy

Adoption of wrong policies by the government and corruption by foresters have nearly eaten away the entire Madhupur forest, reducing the unique habitat of flora and fauna down to 8,000 acres from 45,000 acres.

A large variety of wildlife including Royal Bengal Tiger, Asicatic black bear, pea fowls, Samvar and deer used to roam in the Madhupur forest just a few decades ago.

But now the forest has been degenerated and reshaped with commercially planted pineapples and bananas and woods of alien species. Though it once abounded with medicinal plants and tubers, it now hardly produces these species of vegetation anymore.

A comparison of satellite images of 1962 and 2003 clearly shows 85 percent greenery of Madhupur has disappeared in last 40 years. Now noise of vehicles and bombings and shootings of the armed forces overwhelm the chirping of birds.

"The Madhupur forest is valuable in ecological aspects as it's the country's last remaining patches of natural forest. If we cannot conserve this, we'll lose a unique biodiversity system forever," said Dr Tawhidul Islam, one of the eminent forest experts in the country.

Following up the Department of Forest activities, it was learned that the government has never taken up any serious projects to conserve or revive the degraded natural forest. Rather forest officials promoted projects which helped them make quick bucks and destroyed the forest.

The forest department has been implementing donor-funded tree plantation projects in the forestland in different names since 1984. These projects actually encouraged the officials to strip off natural trees and plant alien species including acacia, eucalyptus, goran, gamari and rubber.

The government kept a blind eye when local people also commercially started pineapple and banana orchards in the forest. The government also paid no heed as wooden furniture shops, sawmills, pesticides and hormone shops and brick kilns mushroomed on the encroached forestland.

During this entire process, the state grossly violated the rights of the indigenous people who are traditionally living in the forest for long.

The government owes millions of dollars of soft loans to the Asian Development Bank for projects related to the Madhupur forest, the country's valuable biodiversity resource, which is gradually becoming a waste land.

The official forest coverage of Bangladesh is around 17 percent against 25 percent, the general standard that a country should maintain.

Realising the alarming situation of low forest coverage, the government has set a goal to increase the forest coverage to 25 percent by 2015.

But in reality the coverage has gone down to 7.29 percent (1.08 million hectares) according to an unpublished joint study by Bangladesh Space Research and Remote Sensing Organisation (SPARSO) and the Department of Forest in 2007.

Besides, the 7.29 percent coverage includes the forest of Chittagong Hill Tracts, sal forest, mangrove forest, bamboo or mixed forest and rubber plantation.

The Forestry Sector Master Plan, 1993, under which the government started tree plantation programme, says the annual deforestation rate in Bangladesh is 3 percent.

The Madhupur Sal Forest is a unique example how the government let the foresters steal trees, clear the forest to grow wood plants and let people grab forestland violating the rights of the forest inhabitants.

Dr Tawhidul Islam of Jahangirnagar University studied the Madhupur forest during his doctoral thesis in Durham University, UK in 2002-2006 under Commonwealth Scholarship and witnessed sad episodes of deforestation.

Dr Islam analysed a series of satellite images taken in between 1963 to 2003 and detected how the government officials cleared the forest and let others do it.

He mentions in the summary of his thesis that remote sensing techniques have shown quality degradation of the forest, signs of areas cleared for air force firing range and social forestry, conversion of forestland into rubber plantation, evidence of engulfing forests with settlement expansion, and indications of the influence of infrastructure.

His study reveals that more than 85 percent of the Madhupur forest has been cleared in last 40 years. Whatever remains, in most of the areas the age of sal forest is not more than 10 to 15 years.

Within the defined study area in Madhupur the forest coverage reduced from 3,826 hectares in 1962 to 3,573 hectares in 1977, 1,801 hectares in 1997, and only 594 hectares in 2003.

"It is evidenced that the forest department cleared out natural forests to make room for this social forestry programmes, that eventually cause deforestation. In addition, the government plan to convert land use patterns to other land use types impacted on the forest," Dr Islam cites in the summary of his thesis.

Talking with different experts and local people it is known that although severely depleted, the remaining patches of the sal forest still hold a good number of unique birds, reptiles, insects, plants and animals that are found only in a deciduous forest like this.

Bangladesh is a signatory to the Convention of Biological Diversity what makes the country responsible to take initiatives to conserve its natural resources.

But the government violated the convention by planting wood trees replacing the natural species.

According to the government statistics, right now 1,000 acres of the Madhupur forestland is being used as firing range, although article 23 (3) (ii) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1973 prohibits "firing any gun or doing any other act which may interfere with the breeding of any wild animals".

Besides plantation of exotic and commercial species like eucalyptus, acacia, banana, pineapple and so on in the National Park area of the Madhupur forest, ignoring the rights of the indigenous people is clear violation of the provisions of the Forest Act, 1927.

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August 19, 2009

Commercial tourism puts St Martin's Island at risk

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury

The government agencies shut their eyes to unabated construction works on St Martin's Island to prop up the commercial tourism, which experts see as a threat to coral reefs.
   The government seemed to have finished its duty by declaring the country's lone coral island an ecologically critical area back in 1999, with no follow-up actions to preserve its unique biodiversity.
   The island is losing its scenic beauty fast amid invasion of commercial tourism that has led to a proliferation of hotels, resorts and shops, and has been stripping the island of its natural cover to satisfy the increasing human greed.
   The government must stop all unauthorised construction works, unabated extraction of marine resources and pollution of the natural habitat of wildlife on and around the island at the earliest, conservationists suggested.
   'The St Martin's Islands is about to lose its existence although there are laws and rules to protect it from human greed.' professor Ainun Nishat, country representative of the IUCN-The World Conservation Union, told New Age Sunday. 'There are government agencies and laws. But the laws are hardly enforced.'
   Thirty-six privately-owned hotels and resorts have already been built on the small quiet island and four others are under construction, according to sources at the island.
   None of the builders bothered to take environmental clearance from the department concerned.
   'Rich people of Dhaka have bought almost a half of the island. Their men are running the hotels and other businesses here,' said Ziaur Rahman, an islander who owns a tea stall near the makeshift jetty. He described how land price there soared only in few years.
   Another youth developed his career as a local 'tourist guide' as his ancestral land was sold and a resort, Jalpari, was built there. Like him, many people are employed as caretakers of the private resorts built on their land.
   Private companies are also advertising to sell dozens of duplex cottages and resorts on the islands.
   The number of travellers has been on the rise as three spacious private ships, each with the capacity of more than 500 persons, ferry people between the island and Teknaf during peak season, apart from scores of mechanised boats.
   The small town receives on an average 2,500 visitors everyday between November and February.
   Permanent migration of people including Rohingyas from Myanmar has raised the population of the island from about 5,700 in 2001 to nearly 9,000 in 2006.
   'Everything has a capacity to bear certain amount of load, be it physical and ecological,' professor Nishat said. 'A small ecologically vulnerable island like St. Martin's cannot cater for several thousand tourists everyday.'
   He warned the island is likely to become unliveable for human being by next five to seven years for shortage of sweet water.
   'The underground water table is continuously dropping in the island made of just sand and hard rock. The aquifer cannot meet the need of ever increasing tourists and permanent population. Increased salinity would intrude into the soil of the island if over-extraction of sweet water from the deep aquifer is continued,' Nishat said.
   He said the growth of coral has almost stopped as pollution went unabated affecting the reefs in many ways including the dumping of oil spills from several thousands engine boats, and sewage and wastes from houses and tourist resorts.
   Giving an example how biodiversity is under threat, he said, 'We are internationally pledged bound to conserve the sea turtles. But they face disturbance in nesting and laying eggs these days from outdoor lights of the hotels and noise and fire camping by the tourists.'
   Nishat said, 'I'm not against tourism, but I am against commercial tourism. We must go for ecotourism.'
   'We will have nothing to see and sell if the island is ruined,' he warned.
   Syeda Rezwana Hasan, executive director of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, called for recovery of land in the island from human interference and its proper maintenance.
   'The construction works must be stopped as fragile eco-system of the island cannot sustain commercial tourism,' she told New Age Sunday.
   Ecotourism can be promoted only keeping the carrying capacity of the island in consideration, she said.
   Considering its rich natural biodiversity, the government in a gazette notification declared the island an ecologically critical area on April 19, 1999.
   When asked if they got clearance to advertise for construction of duplex cottages on the island, Zafar Iqbal Chowdhury, chairman of Pubali Group and managing director of Tokyo Resort City, admitted that they did not seek clearance from the DOE before making the announcement.
   'We will obtain the certificate before staring construction of the project,' he said.
   The DOE recently served a notice to Pubali Group for violation of the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995.
   According to the act, the court can impose maximum 10 years imprisonment or fine 10 lakh taka or both for non-compliance of a direction issued by the DOE.
   Both IUCN and BELA officials said the Department of Environment (DoE), the local authorities and the tourists are jointly responsible to protect the island.
   Asked whether the DoE had issued 'Environmental Clearance Certificates' for constructions of hotel, resorts and restaurants on the island, M Mahbubur Rahman, project manager of DOE, said they did not give permission for a single construction.
   He said local union council chairman allowed the people to carry construction materials to the island.
   The DoE official claimed that notices were served time and again to stop construction. 'But none complied with them.'
   To a question whether DOE sued anybody for unauthorised construction ignoring the law, he replied in the negative.
   'We are to go step by step,' he said.
   Moulana M Firoz, chairman of local union council, realised that he had committed mistake by giving permission to carry construction materials to the island.
   Zafar Ahmed Khan, who recently joined the DoE as its director general, told New Age that they would file cases, if necessary, to stop damage of the island. 'The issue was discussed at the conference of the deputy commissioners. The DCs will be given certain authorities, including filing of cases on behalf of the DOE, to enforce the law. We will also engage the upazila nirbahi officers too.'
   He stressed that sale of private lands on the St. Martin's Island need to be stopped.
   The dumbbell-shaped island, locally known as Narikel Jinjira, is located on the southern-most tip of Bangladesh, and separated by an 8 kilometre channel of Bay of Bengal from the mainland.
   It has about 153 varieties of fauna, 157 varieties of mangrove, 66 kinds of coral, 187 types of bivalves, 240 types of marine fish and other marine lives.

Source: newagebd
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July 21, 2009

Aila causes colossal damage to Patuakhali fish resources

Washes away 2,214 tonne shrimp
Nikhil Chatterjee . Patuakhali

THE cyclone Aila that hit the country's south-western region on May 25 caused a colossal damage to fish resources in the coast district Patuakhali.
Tidal surges triggered by the storm submerged most part of the district washing away shrimp from 1,617 enclosures and fish from about 50,000 ponds.
A large number of fishermen also lost their fishing net, trawlers and boats in the onslaughts of tidal waves.
Although the government estimate showed that the loss in the district's fishery sector would be
Tk 166 crore, the figure will be much higher, said sources in the fish cultivators.
According to sources in the District Fishery Office, Patuakhali, tidal waves up to 10 to 12 feet high that kept the district submerged for seven hours washed away more than 2,214 tonnes of shrimp from 1617 farms on 5,293 hectares of land.
The tidal surges also washed away more than 3,500 tonnes of fish from 49,290 ponds.
Moreover, around 8,000 fishermen were badly affected by the cyclone as they lost their fishing net, trawlers and fishing boats.
Kalapara, Bauphal and Galachipa are the worst-affected upazilas which lost shrimp from 1,365 enclosures and fish from 12,700 ponds.
The loss incurred by the three upazilas has been estimated at Tk 206 crore.
Md. Nazrul Islam and Md Mizanur Rahman, president and secretary of the District Shrimp Farm Owners respectively told New Age that almost all owners established shrimp farms taking loan from bank.
But the cyclone Aila shattered all their hopes.
Before this, the 'Sidr' was destroyed their shrimp farms and they had compelled to face a huge amount of money.
They did not get any kind of assistance from
the government for re-establishing their farms again, the leaders alleged.
Md Siddiqur Rahman, an owner of a shrimp farm at Char Montaj under Galachipa upazila of the district said, 'After a huge loss, I re-established my shrimp farm on 12 acres of land. I went to the different schedule banks for loan to re-establish my shrimp farm, but I was regretted from there.
On interest, I have taken loan from my relatives and friends after the cyclone 'Aila'. I do not know, what will be happened in the next days'.

New Age BD. 21 july, 2009
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