Bangladesh State of Environment Report: The Monthly Overview, March, 2014
With release of genetically modified Bt brinjal for commercial cultivation Bangladesh is first country in the South Asia to cultivate any genetically modified food crop. Read more in this March 2014 edition of the Monthly Overview on State of Environment, Bangladesh.
Bangladesh needs to prepare an index listing the areas vulnerable to climate change to ensure transparent ad pro-poor distribution of funds allocated in this sector, speakers said at a seminar titled, “Climate Change, Global Problem Local Action: A Bangladesh case study”.
LAND, AGRICULTURE, GRAZING LANDS AND ANIMAL CARE
Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury on January 22 formally released genetically modified Bt brinjal for commercial cultivation, making Bangladesh the first country in the South Asia to cultivate any genetically modified food crop. Amid fears of adverse impacts of genetically-modified crop on biodiversity and human health, a limited produce of controversial Bt brinjal is likely to arrive on the local market in May. Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute is now developing genetically modified potato varieties after introducing first genetically modified vegetable Bt Brinjal amid strong protests from green activists. Rice varieties that are tolerant of salinity, drought and water submersion – developed by the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) – are yet to gain popularity among the farmers, with agricultural researchers blaming the slow pace of the weak initiatives by government agencies for the failure. In Bangladesh, Dinajpur Department of Agriculture Extension Deputy Director Anwarul Islam said wheat cultivation per acre of land is shrinking. Farmers are cultivating maize instead of wheat in absence of fair price of the latter. High yielding onion farming is gradually expanding everywhere in Magura district of Bangladesh following gradual rises of its demands. A good number of farmers of Langadu upazila of Rangamati district in Bangladesh, have become self-reliant and changed their lot through cultivating watermelon in the current season. Farmers’ interest continues to grow fast for strawberry cultivation in Joypurhat district of Bangladesh, while the overall output of the high value fruit has increased 10 times than before. The Asian Development Bank will finance $2 million of Japanese grants to Bangladesh to pilot a crop insurance project to safeguard the marginal farmers from natural disasters that frequently damage crops, also sliding incomes of the farmers.
WATER RESOURCES AND FISHERIES
In Bangladesh, up to 65% of tube well water is contaminated by faecal pathogens, although the level of contamination is relatively low, according to a recent study by the water, sanitation and hygiene research group of ICDDRB’s Centre for Communicable Diseases. Bangladesh's hydro-geologists have traced out fresh aquifers within 800-1,000 feet under the ground across the eighteen coastal districts, ushering new hope for 50 million salinity-prone people, gripped by severe drinking water scarcity.
An independent expert committee will be formed to help protect the Halda River, Bangladesh’s only breeding ground for carp fish. The excessively silted Teesta River has affected agriculture seriously in Bangladesh’s Rangpur, Lalmonirhat and Nilphamari districts. Bangladesh wants to buy 500 MW of electricity from the Upper Karnali and Upper Marsyangdi-II hydro-power projects in Nepal and will discuss this at a secretary-level meeting on import of hydroelectricity or undertaking joint venture power projects in the Himalayan country for exchanging electricity between the SAARC countries, an official said.
Elite force Rapid Action Battalion is constructing a training centre, destroying a part of the reserve forest in Gazipur. To pave the way, the Bangladesh government in a gazette notification earlier this month cancelled declaration of the allocated 20 acre land.
Department of Environment (DoE) in Bangladesh fined eight mills and factories in Chittagong Tk 18.6 million for polluting environment. Some 4,400 brick kilns out of 6,417 operating across the country are not environment-friendly, Bangladesh environment and forest minister Anwar Hossain told parliament. The newly-enacted law on brick production in Bangladesh, will come into force from July to check widespread environment pollution as well as save arable land and forest, sources said. The Bangladesh Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has taken the decision recently, saying that the law will be obligatory for the country's all brick kilns from July 1. Disposal of factory waste and chemicals are polluting waters of Haridoa and told Brahmaputra river in Narsingdi district of Bangladesh, posing serious threat to public health and environment as well. The surrounding rivers of Dhaka is being continuously polluted by the contamination of tannery situated in Hazaribag.
FLOODS, DROUGHTS AND NATURAL DISASTERS
Poverty incidence has come down by 36 per cent in the cyclone affected areas of the coastal belt of Bangladesh after implementation of a livelihood and life restoration programme jointly by the government and World Bank, said a project update. At least 20 people were injured as nor’wester lashed four upazilas of Pabna district in Bangladesh.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, is working with Dhaka city development authority to improve building safety standards by strengthening the construction permit approval process and related building inspection mechanisms. Participants at a human chain in Rangpur city of Bangladesh, have demanded for formation of Non-motorized Transport (NMT) Cell to ensure eco-friendly and cost effective movement management for the passersby, rickshaws and bicycles. The owners and manufacturers of battery-run rickshaws have expressed their discontent for barring on plying such rickshaws in Dhaka city, despite giving permission to import and assemble such rickshaws.
WATER SUPPLY AND SANITATION
The Cabinet Purchase Committee in Bangladesh approved nine proposals including appointment of a South Korean contractor to implement a mega project for water supply in Khulna city. The World Bank is providing support to the government of Bangladesh to increase the supply of water in rural areas. The Immediate Response Team (IRT) venture launched an innovative water treatment technology containing emergency kit and double-layered water purification tablet to treat unclean water in areas in Dhaka affected by acute water shortage.
The number of street children in Bangladesh will cross 1.1 million at the end of the ongoing calendar year, said a study.
HEALTH AND OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS
More than 3.4 million people in four districts are still at high risk of malaria although Bangladesh has significantly brought down the number of patients and people facing risk.The number of malaria patients has reduced by 2,627 and people at risk 2.3 million over the last one year. Bangladesh still lags behind in controlling tuberculosis, in order for it to attain the United Nations millennium development goals, seriously concerning health experts while the country is observing World TB. Fifty percent of the children living in hilly, chars and coastal belts are suffering from malnutrition due to poverty, according to a recent study. The latest bulletin said Bangladesh had already attained the Millennium Development Goal (MDG)-2015 target of 66% reduction, the government has claimed. With the slogan “smoking is bad for health”, Subash, a non-government organization, arranged an anti-smoking cycle rally in Khulna city.
The World Bank has approved $600 million for Bangladesh to improve the country’s quality of power supply in rural areas. Two villages under Shaghata upazila in Gaibandha district of Bangladesh, were brought under rural electrification network by Gaibandha Palli Bidyut Samity (GPBS) recently. In Bangladesh, State Minister for power, energy and mineral resources Nasrul Hamid Bipu Monday informed the parliament that 62 percent population of the country had been brought under electricity coverage. The Bangladesh government will cancel the Expression of Interest (EoI) invited earlier for setting up a 85MW naphtha-fired power plant due to higher tariff proposal and concerns over health risks, an official said. The Bangladesh Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) has sought an allocation of Tk 20.40 billion (2,040 crore) for the proposed Rooppur Nuclear Power Project (RNPP) for the next fiscal year (FY).
Bangladesh Environment and Forests secretary Shafiqur said the Bangladesh government is taking action against wildlife trafficking, while addressing a discussion at the Jatiya Press Club organized by the Forest Department under the Environment and Forest Ministry.