Bangladesh State of Environment Report: The Monthly Overview, April 2014

The Bangladesh government has launched Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project in a bid to reduce poverty in the vulnerable 12 coastal districts due to climate change. Read more in this April 2014 edition of the Monthly Overview on State of Environment, Bangladesh.

ENVIRONMENT

The Bangladesh government has launched Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project in a bid to reduce poverty in the vulnerable 12 coastal districts due to climate change. The 12 districts are Barisal, Bhola, Patuakhali, Barguna, Jhalakati, Pirojpur, Khulna, Bagerhat, Satkhira, Gopalganj, Madaripur and Shariatpur. Climate Action Network South Asia applauded the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which showed that it was still possible to avoid catastrophic climate changes only with rapid and sustained cuts to carbon pollution. Right Groups in Bangladesh, expressed concern over mismanagement of two climate funds. They also demanded inter-ministry coordination and integration of climate adaptation in the upcoming national budget for fiscal 2014-15. A recent study finds as many as 1.6 to 2.6 crore people in Bangladesh will be the victim of internal migration between 2011 and 2050 due to adverse impact of the climate change. Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) of Dhaka University and Sussex Centre for Migration Research (SCMR) of Sussex University jointly conducted the study.

LAND, AGRICULTURE, GRAZING LANDS AND ANIMAL CARE

A total of 1,25,325 hectares of land were brought under Boro cultivation in Gaibandha district of Bangladesh, during the current season with the production target of 5.04,425 tonnes of rice, Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) sources said. The Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE)’s statistics states that wheat has been cultivated on 33,530 hectare of land in Bangladesh. By dint of much interest among the farmers and others concerned, acreage of crop farming especially wheat in bed-planting method has started gaining popularity in the region including its vast barind tract in Bangladesh, for the last couple of years. The farmers in the south-western districts of Bangladesh are going to harvest optimum yields of maize this season. Bt Brinjal, introduced in the country by the Bangladesh government, for its pest resistance, has severely been attacked by pests this season for which farmers are now forced to spray a lot of pesticides, farmers alleged. Commercial farming of onion-seed is gradually being expanded everywhere in Rajshahi region including its high Barind tracts side by side with onion in the wake of gradual rising of its demands. Mango production has seriously been affected by the prolonged drought in Rangpur region of Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government has taken an initiative to reward scientists for their contributions in improving the country’s agriculture sector. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will focus on delivering technical assistance programmes to develop capacity and institutions for long term benefit of food security in Bangladesh.

MINING

Mindless sand lifting poses threat to Arkatia Bridge over Banglaee River in Dhunat upazila of Bangladesh, much to the worry of a large numbers of locals. The High Court   directed the Bangladesh government to stop sand mining from the river Padma at Charghat, Rajshahi immediately to protect its ecology from further damage.

 

WATER RESOURCES AND FISHERIES

According to records of Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC), groundwater extraction for irrigation through deep and shallow tube-wells stands at nearly 55 billion cubic metres (bcm) in recent years against the extraction of only 10-13 bcm surface water used in irrigation. About a decade earlier, groundwater and surface water extraction for irrigation stood at 40 bcm and 8 bcm respectively. The dried barind tract comprising of 25 upazilas under Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj and Naogaon districts, has become vulnerable in many ways amid declining groundwater table as the groundwater layers are not recharged properly in comparison to the declining rate. The ongoing heating condition has been posing a serious threat to the indigenous fish species, particularly the small ones, as most of the water bodies are now dying situation in the region especially in its high barind’ tract of Bangladesh. Bangladesh Fisheries Development Corporation (BFDC) has imposed a ban on fishing in Kaptai Lake for an indefinite period from May 2.

 

DAMS

The four rivers in Chapainawabganj district in Bangladesh – Padma, Mahananda, Pagla and Punorbhoba – have already lost navigability because of the Farakka barrage. Lack of water in the Mahananda has put at least 15 irrigation projects in around 10,000 hectare cultivable lands under threat. Leaders of Workers Party of Bangladesh demanded stopping unilateral withdrawal of water from the 54 common rivers, including the Teesta, by India to save northern region from desertification. The Teesta march organised by two left parties ended with a call to establish a ‘joint river basin authority’ involving Bangladesh, China, India, Nepal and Bhutan for settling disputes and water management of 57 cross-border rivers.

 

FORESTS

The forest department in Bangladesh, formed a five-member committee to investigate the unauthorised selling of 56 big trees on the premises of Lama upazila nirbahi officer's (UNO) office in Bandarban district.

POLLUTION

A section of unscrupulous traders are running illegal brickfields polluting environment in all four upazilas of Madaripur district in Bangladesh, due to lax monitoring by the authorities concerned. According to sources with Madaripur district administration, a total of 50 brickfields are running in the district. Environment movement activists in Bangladesh, voiced deep concern over land grabbing, widespread pollution and leasing of the rivers around Dhaka city posing an environmental threat to the city dwellers. Dhaka and its adjacent areas will face serious environmental hazards unless the Buriganga, Shitalakhya, Balu and Turag rivers are protected, they said expressing their concern at a press conference at the Jatiya Press Club.

FLOODS, DROUGHTS AND NATURAL DISASTERS

An Asian Development Bank (ADB) report said river erosion makes at least 1,00,000 people landless every year in Bangladesh. Most alarming is the fact that over 1,000 hectares of lands of the country are lost to rivers every year. A prediction report of Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) said 485 hectares of settlement, 5.6 kilometers (km) of active embankment and about nine kilometers of roads are vulnerable to erosion along the four rivers- Jamuna, Gangees, Padma and Meghna. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said Bangladesh sets an example on disaster preparedness and management in the world. The UN secretary general made this remake to the high-level briefing to member states on the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction at UN headquarters.

 

HABITAT

The Bangladesh government and the World Bank launched a basic urban services project, where the global lender will provide $410 million financial assistance. The Bangladesh government has failed to follow a High Court order to set up an authority to enforce the national building code. A total of 87,795 unfit motor vehicles are plying on the city roads of Dhaka in violation of set laws and posing threat to commuters’ safety, besides contributing to traffic congestion and environmental hazards. Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) introduced 10 public buses with Wi-Fi facility which government officials see as a remarkable progress towards building up a digital Bangladesh. Government’s one of the top-priority projects—Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) or popularly-known Metro Rail project—lands in trouble due to dilemmas over handover of 16.31 acres of land. The Cabinet gave approval in principle to the draft Metrorail Act 2014 with provision for establishing ‘Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority’.

WATER SUPPLY AND SANITATION

Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA) has taken a project to develop an environmentally sustainable water supply system. Under the 'Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply Project', Dhaka WASA will produce 500 million litres water per day from the river Meghna. At least 20,000 people of Khagrachhari district town in Bangladesh have been suffering for water crisis. Local residents agitating for resumption of drinking water supply blocked a road in Sylhet city for around three hours. Khulna city dwellers have been suffering for the last two months due to acute water crisis as Khulna WASA, has been struggling to meet even half the demand for water. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide $250 million for a project of Dhaka WASA to develop an environmentally sustainable water supply system in the city. Many spots along Dhaka city’s thoroughfares look like huge dustbins due to haphazard dumping of various wastes as authorities appear indifferent to the urgency of taking effective measure to keep the capital clean. After producing biogas from animal wastes and of late electricity, Bangladesh has now embarked on a plan to generate power through effective management of human waste, making a significant milestone in sanitation in South Asia.

Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA) has taken a project to develop an environmentally sustainable water supply system. Under the 'Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply Project', Dhaka WASA will produce 500 million litres water per day from the river Meghna. At least 20,000 people of Khagrachhari district town in Bangladesh have been suffering for water crisis. Local residents agitating for resumption of drinking water supply blocked a road in Sylhet city for around three hours. Khulna city dwellers have been suffering for the last two months due to acute water crisis as Khulna WASA, has been struggling to meet even half the demand for water. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide $250 million for a project of Dhaka WASA to develop an environmentally sustainable water supply system in the city. Many spots along Dhaka city’s thoroughfares look like huge dustbins due to haphazard dumping of various wastes as authorities appear indifferent to the urgency of taking effective measure to keep the capital clean. After producing biogas from animal wastes and of late electricity, Bangladesh has now embarked on a plan to generate power through effective management of human waste, making a significant milestone in sanitation in South Asia.

HEALTH AND OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS

Bangladesh has witnessed a 70% reduction in the number of malaria patients in the past five years, claimed Health Minister Mohammed Nasim. In 2008, the number of malaria patients was 83,000 but it now has come down to 26,000. The number of malaria-related deaths dropped by 90% from 194 to a mere 15 during the same period.  Dengu and malaria diseases are still killing thousands of people in the South-East Asia Region, said a WHO press release. About 40 per cent of the global population at risk of malaria lives in the WHO South-East Asia Region, home to a quarter of the world's population. Malaria is endemic in 10 of the 11 countries of the Region: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.  Maldives is the only country in the Region that has remained free of malaria (malaria-free since 1984). The total number of diabetic patients in Bangladesh is now 84 lakh, Health and Family Welfare Minister Mohammad Nasim said. National Vitamin ‘A’ plus campaign was observed in Rajshahi city and nine upazilas of the district as elsewhere in Bangladesh. The High Court issued a rule on Bangladesh government authorities asking them to explain in four weeks why they should not directed to set up a high-powered cell to monitor services of all public and private hospitals and to report on the matters to court every two months.

PESTICIDES AND HAZARDOUS PRODUCTS

Farmers in Lalmonirhat district of Bangladesh are unaware of the ratio of the pesticides to be used. They have been using significant amount of pesticides in their fields. Based  on a FAO-sponsored test at the National Food Safety Laboratory (NFSL), it has been reported that some 40 percent of the 82 food samples tested contained dangerous pesticides that were banned more than fifteen years ago. On the whole, presence of toxins in the foods was found three to twenty times the limit set by the European Union.

According to the Director General of Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) in Bangladesh, all of its field offices have been under instructions to take action against sale and use of banned and low-quality pesticides. According to study conducted by the International Labour Organisation and the Asian Development Bank, more than 70% of the Bangladeshi farmers are exposed to chemicals and more than 30% of them fall seriously ill.

 

ENERGY

Bangladesh and China have signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a 1,320 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Moheshkhali Island of Cox’s Bazar – a possible future hub of such electricity generating units. The Bangladesh government okayed the much-awaited project to construct a 365MW combined cycle power plant at Ghorashal, Narsingdi involving Tk 2,500 crore. Dhaka and New Delhi have agreed in principle to explore possibility of developing an interconnection for electricity transmission line involving Bangladesh and India’s north-eastern and north-western side. The Bangladesh government gave nod to a Tk 1,332.68 crore project aiming at improving rural power supply system in five divisions. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has envisaged to build another nuclear power plant in the southern part of the country after successful completion of the first one in Rooppur. The Bangladesh government will revise the Renewable Energy Development Policy by incorporating the provision of adopting new technology and introducing incentives to the new-generation electricity producers, officials concerned said. As part of the efforts to cut carbon emissions under a green energy initiative, the Power Development Board (PDB) in Bangladesh,  has decided to set up a 7.5MW solar power plant at Rangamati’s Kaptai Hydro Power Station area, which would be the first of its kind to supply power to the national grid. The development of wind power in Bangladesh began in 2002, but the country could produce less then two megawatts from the wind resources as yet. The Bangladesh government installed a wind-based power project in Feni with a capacity to generate 0.9mw electricity at a cost of Tk 7.11 crore in 2005.

LIVING RESOURCES

The Forest Department in Bangladesh rescued some rare species of wildlife, including civet, falcon and fish owl, from different parts across the country. White-rumped vultures are disappearing fast from Bangladesh due to unchecked use of toxic drugs in cattle apart from food crisis and the loss of their habitats.

 

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