Bangladesh State of Environment Report: The Monthly Overview, November, 2013

Bangladesh has approved the commercial cultivation of transgenic Bt brinjal, becoming the first country in South Asia to cultivate the genetically modified food crop. Read more in this November 2013 edition of the Monthly Bangladesh State of the Environment Report published by the South Asia Environment Portal. Read and Share.
 
ENVIRONMENT
 
Bangladesh and its capital Dhaka have been listed as the most vulnerable to climate change among 193 countries and 50 cities across the world by Maplecroft, a leading environmental institution based in Britain. The country has also ratified the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol as the 4th country among the member of the UNFCCC. Adverse impact of climate change has started posing a serious threat to the farming sector alongside overall living and livelihood condition in vast barind tract consisting the districts of Rajshahi, Naogaon and Chapainawabgonj in Bangladesh for the last couple of years. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) accorded ActionAid Bangladesh the ‘Lighthouse Initiatives 2013′ award for its success in empowering rural women to facilitate climate change adaptation initiative.
 
LAND, AGRICULTURE, GRAZING LANDS AND ANIMAL CARE
 
Bangladesh has approved the commercial cultivation of transgenic Bt brinjal, becoming the first country in South Asia to cultivate the genetically modified food crop. The Bangladesh government has made a move to introduce genetically modified (GM) cotton varieties at farmers’ level in the country, following the release of four brinjal varieties for demonstration last month. In Bangladesh, cultivation of crops through tissue culture has brought a silent revolution in agricultural sector in Rajshahi region. Bangladesh has achieved laudable success in expanding and popularising cultivation of the flood tolerant rice varieties in the flood-prone areas throughout the country in recent years. The Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) in Bangladesh has fixed a record national target of producing 19.93 lakh tonnes maize from 2.75 lakh hectares land during this Rabi season in the country, official sources said. Some 353 hectares of land have been brought under onion and green chili cultivation in Khulna district of Bangladesh in the current season. The Bangladesh government’s National Agricultural Technology Project (NATP) helped 11.80 lakh farmers adopt new technologies to enhance agriculture productivity.
 
MINING
 
Lifting of sand from Teesta river at Lakkhitari union of Gangachhara upazila in Rangpur district of Bangladesh is going on unabated, causing serious risk for the river bank and adjoining establishments. Hundreds of acres of cultivable land and houses on the river bank are also threatened by erosion as a result, locals said.
 
WATER RESOURCES AND FISHERIES
 
An unprecedented probe into high levels of arsenic in Bangladesh’s groundwater strengthens suspicions that eating rice boosts exposure to the poison, scientists said. Samples provided by 18,470 volunteers living in an arsenic-contaminated district of Bangladesh, showed that those who ate large amounts of rice had higher levels of arsenic in their urine than those who ate little rice, they said. The paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, is the biggest-ever probe into whether arsenic-tainted groundwater in Bangladesh poses a risk for people who consume rice, the staple food. Fish farming in paddy field, the new devised technology of fish farming is gaining popularity among the people in Narsingdi district of Bangladesh. POLLUTION Illegal brick fields springing up on a vast tract of arable land in Khulna district and its adjoining areas in Bangladesh pose threat to environment. Department of Environment (DoE) in Bangladesh fined two dyeing factories TK 42 lakh for polluting the Turag River.
 
FLOODS, DROUGHTS AND NATURAL DISASTERS
 
A mega plan has been taken up for development work aimed at protecting the right bank of the Jamuna, one of the mighty rivers in Bangladesh, from its erosion and flood stretching from Sirajganj to Kurigram districts. A mild earthquake shook up parts of Dhaka, Sylhet and Bangladesh’s north-east. An official at the meteorological office said the epicentre of the quake was 389 kilometres north-east of Dhaka at Barapathar in India’s northeast. HABITAT Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh (REHAB) teamed up with the National Housing Authority (NHA) to work for development of the government’s housing sector. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation stone of bus rapid transit (BRT) and metro rail here aiming to ease the sufferings of commuters.
 
WATER SUPPLY AND SANITATION
 
Asian Development Bank (ADB) at its Board Meeting held at the Head Quarters in Manila has approved US$ 250 million assistance to 'Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply Project' of Dhaka WASA to bring 50 crore litres of water per day from Meghna River to reduce its dependency on groundwater. People of four unions of Nachole upazila in Chapainawabganj district of Bangladesh, have been showing interest in using eco-san toilets as non-government organization NGO Forum with the association of another non-government organization Agriculture Sustainable and Socio-Economic Development Organization (ASSEDO) has started implementing a project titled 'Promotion of Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene in Hard to Reach Areas of Rural Bangladesh' funded by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation-SDC. PEOPLE The Chars Livelihoods Programme (CLP) in Bangladesh, has been improving life standard of some 1.5 million extremely poor people living in the hardly reachable char areas on the Brahmaputra basin very effectively in recent years.
 
HEALTH AND OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS
 
Heath minister AFM Ruhal Haque informed parliament that the maternal mortality rate reduced by 40 per cent in last nine years in Bangladesh. Quoting the Bangladesh Maternal Mortality and Health Care Survey 2010, he said that maternal mortality came down to 194 in 2010 from 322 per one lakh in 2001. The health sector of Bangladesh has overcome poverty and low healthcare-spending to make significant achievements over the last four decades, said a six-part series on Bangladesh published by the internationally-reputed medical journal The Lancet.
 
HAZARDOUS PRODUCTS
 
A recent study found presence of a high level of lead in blood of 80 per cent children of Sirajdikhan upazila in Munshiganj of Bangladesh. The study also found a high level of lead in turmeric powder used in preparing foods at the upazila. The findings came after the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution had detected extremely high level of lead in turmeric powder produced by Pran.
 
ENERGY
 
Bangladesh, starving for less than 4,000 megawatt electricity only five years back, celebrated touching the milestone of power generation capacity of 10,000-MW with a grand and cheerful jubilation. The European Investment Bank (EIB) will provide Euro 82 million (US$ 110.73 million) worth of funds for enhancing capacity of Bangladesh's two power plants. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has agreed to provide Bangladesh government with Tk 325.6 million grants for developing renewable energy. Introduction of solar power in the rural areas of Rangpur, Kurigram and Lalmonirhat districts in Bangladesh, has ushered in a new hope for the people as electricity supply is not adequate in these areas. The Bangladesh government will set up the country's largest wind-based power plant at Anwara in Chittagong, having a 100-megawatt (MW) of generation capacity, officials said.
 
LIVING RESOURCES
 
WildTeam, a vibrant organisation founded in 2003 by a group of passionate Bangladeshi nature lovers, has been chosen as the lead partner for USAID's Bengal Tiger Conservation Activity, which will be known as USAID's Bagh Project. Poachers killed a number of deer at Dublar Char area of the Sundarbans during the Rashmela Hindu festical, despite various preventive measures taken by the Forest Department and the law enforcement agencies including Coastguard.
 

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