The first phase of the 'Capital Dredging on 53 Important Inland Waterways’ project is unlikely to end by the deadline with officials blaming a resistance from locals, disputes over demarcation, leasing out of sand fields as well as inadequate space for dumping dredged materials for the delay.
Sources at the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) said the first phase of the project, being implemented for 24 important inland rivers at a cost of Tk 1923 crore, began in July 2012 and it is scheduled to end by 2021.
But, it might need another year to complete the work as 70 percent work has so far been completed, BIWTA officials said.
They, however, said the project cost might be reduced instead of any rise even though the time is extended.
The main object of the project is to develop the navigability of dead and dying inland waterways of 53 rivers to keep those navigable round the year for smooth and safe plying of cargo and passenger vessels.
Under the first phase of the project, capital dredging is carried out on 2,386 kms of waterways under 24 river routes while the 2nd phase covering the remaining important river routes will start on completion of the first one, said BIWTA officials.
Many rivers have been facing the navigability problem. Many of those have lost their capacity of containing water because of heavy siltation and construction of illegal structures on riverbeds.
Asked about the delay in the work, Saidur Rahman, additional chief engineer (dredging) of BIWTA, said they are facing various problems in implementing the project. “Reluctance of the local administration to extend cooperation, disputes over demarcation, leasing out of sand fields and shortage of space for dumping dredged materials are the main reasons behind the delay,” he said.
Facing all the obstacles, around 1,180 kms of waterways have already been restored spending Tk 1,057 crore in the last seven and half years, he added.
“We’ve already completed 70 percent work on the 1st phase project. The project might need to be extended by one more year but it won’t increase the cost. Rather, the project might be implemented with a reduced cost,” said Saidur.
The rivers under the 1st phase of the project are Mongla Ghashiakhali Channel (MG Channel), Khogdon, Laukathi, Bhola Nala, Kirtankhola, Titas, Surma, Baulai, Natun Nadi, Rakti, Raksha Nala, Mogra, Kangsha, Bhogai-Kangsha, Buri, Ichamati, Karnatali, Palrodi, Dhaleswari, Kaliganga, Madhumati, Bhairab, Atrai, Dudhkumar, Old Brahmaputra and Arial Kha.
Replying to a query, the BIWTA official said 570.44 lakh cubic metres of silt have already been removed under the first phase project. Of them, 474.74 lakh cubic metres were removed by private dredgers while 70.70 lakh cubic metres by BIWTA’s own dredgers and 25 lakh cubic metres with the help of excavators.
A total of 1,175 kms of waterways have already been made navigable under the project, he said.
Though the MG Channel had become totally inoperative in 2011, it was opened for operation in 2015 on completion of dredging, the BIWTA additional chief engineer said, adding that vessels of 8–14 feet draft are frequently operating in the channel.
Sources at the BIWTA said about 220 colleges, schools and madrasas, dwelling units for the poor and a stadium have been built in Sunamganj, Cumilla, Netrakona and Mymensingh districts with the dredged materials.
The stadium was built on 12 acres of government land by filling the land with dredged materials in Phulpur upazila in Mymensingh district.
Over 2,000 families have benefited from the project as they got the height of their houses increased. “This will protect the dwellings from flood water,” Saidur said, adding that the production of crops, ducks and fish as well as trading on waterways will get a boost on completion of the dredging work.
A newborn girl, who was found to be alive after being pronounced dead by doctors, has finally died after 33 hours.
The baby girl who was named Jannatul after the birth breathed her last around 1:30pm on Tuesday.
As the death news spread around, villagers rushed to her house to have a last glimpse of the newborn.
Locals blamed negligence on the part of doctors and nurses of private clinic ‘Uposhom Nursing Home’ for the newborn’s death.
Zinia Khatun, wife of grocery shop owner Abdul Halim of Hajrabati village in Sadar upazila, was taken to the clinic in the district town on Sunday after she went into labour.
Though doctors suggested a cesarean section, she gave birth to the baby girl early Monday normally.
However, nurses at the clinic informed Zinia’s family that she had a stillbirth.
When the family members were taking preparations for bringing the newborn home for burial, Zinia wanted to see her daughter for one last time.
At this point, a nurse of the clinic, pressing the newborn’s throat, said, “See, she is dead.”
However, the mother was adamant to take the child on her lap. And to her surprise, the girl started moving on her lap.
As the family members started screaming, nurses gave the newborn oxygen support and suggested that she be taken to Sadar Hospital for better treatment.
Later, they took her to the district hospital on Monday morning.
Dr Asadur Rahman Malik Khokon, a pediatrician at the Sadar Hospital, said the newborn was born prematurely with pneumonia.
He said they kept her in an incubator. “We tried our best but her condition was not improving. So, we suggested that her family take her to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital.”
However, the family members took her home on Tuesday noon instead of the hospital due to financial constraints, said Jannatul’s uncle Barkat Ali. “When we were trying to manage money for the treatment, Jannatul breathed her last on her mother’s lap around 1:30pm,” he said.
Zinia blamed the negligence of doctors and nurses of the private clinic for the death of her daughter.
She also alleged that Jannatul was left on the floor after she was pronounced dead.
A school built with a personal initiative at remote Raghurampur village in Jhikargachha upazila is doing a wonderful job as it is working to groom children with special needs with education and improve the quality of their lives.
Abdul Alim and his siblings established ‘Babar Ali Sarder School’ for children with disability and autism after their father’s name with only 10 students in 2004.
The school, which now has about 400 students, has drawn the attention of many for its contributions towards helping special children to grow well but failed to pursue the authorities to provide it some support or enlist it under Monthly Pay Order (MPO).
Talking to UNB, school managing committee president Abdul Alim said a tin-roofed school-house was set up in 2004 on 33 decimals of land owned by his wife.
He started collecting children with special needs growing in their families amid negligence from the upazila and nearby areas.
“In its journey, the school has passed a long way. Now, 18 teachers are providing voluntary services for the mental and physical development of the children alongside conducting regular academic activities in nine rooms of a one-storey building,” Alim said.
He also said the school is providing books, papers and snacks to the children.
Towhiduzzaman, headmaster of the school, told UNB that these children are learning sports and getting involved in cultural activities alongside general education at the school.
“The exciting thing is that two of our students joined Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi 2019 and won medals,” he said.
Shahida Khatun, born without legs, completed her Honors and Master’s degrees from Jashore Michael Madhusudhan College, and later joined the institution as its teacher.
“I myself is a handicapped and underprivileged person. I feel proud of being a teacher here. What could be better than this?” Shahida said, adding, “If the government nationalises the school, teachers like me with physical disability would be able to live a better life.”
Sabina Yasmin, mother of a child with autism, said: “My daughter used to sit alone at home all day long, but now she remains engaged in painting and joins sports and cultural activities. There’s no alternative to such school for grooming special children with education.”
Md Wahiduzzaman, upazila social welfare officer, said it is really tough to establish such a school for children with special needs but this school is doing a very good job.
“We’ve visited the school and saw its activities, he said adding, “We’ll soon send a report to the authorities concerned for bringing it under MPO facility.”
The government has initiated a move to purchase electricity from solar mini-grid power projects to save investors from financial losses they have been suffering for the expansion of the national grid in off-grid project areas.
According to official sources, the Power Division has recently made a decision in this regard and sent a proposal to the Prime Minister for her approval as she is the minister of the Power and Energy Ministry.
“This is a policy matter which needs approval from the Prime Minister as she is the in-charge of the Power and Energy Ministry,” Mohammad Alauddin, additional secretary to the power Division and in-charge of renewable energy, told UNB.
Currently, the solar mini-grids, being set up by private sector investors, are selling electricity directly to consumers at their own rates settled under the Remote Area Power Supply System (RAPSS) where tariff is about Tk 30 per unit.
“But once the government starts purchasing power from mini-grids, the consumers will get electricity at the same rate applicable in the grid areas,” said the Power Division official.
Sources said the solar mini-grid power projects were implemented in the off-grid areas under the RAPSS where private investors install the projects for a period of 20 years with financial support from state-owned Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL).
IDCOL funded 80 percent in the projects while private investors 20 percent, they said.
During implementation of the projects, there was commitment from the government that the power distribution companies will not reach these areas with their service within the project tenure of 20 years.
But the distribution utilities, especially the Rural Electrification Board (REB), expanded their power supply to those areas amid political pressure from local MPs, said the sources.
When government utilities moved to these areas, the consumers of mini-grids gave up their connections from mini-grids and started taking new connections from power distribution utilities which put the sponsors and IDCOL in serious financial trouble.
Against this backdrop, the Power Division came up to save the mini-grids sponsors by taking a decision that the power distribution utilities will purchase electricity from the solar mini-grids like the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) now purchasing electricity from the independent power producers (IPP).
“If the Power Division’s decision is implemented, it’ll help save the investment of both the private investors and IDCOL,” said Enamul Karim Pavel, head of renewable energy of IDCOL.
Official sources said 26 solar mini-grids have so far been set up in different areas and their total general capacity is about 5 MW.
Official sources said the Power Division primarily calculated the asset value of these 26 mini-grids at Tk 109 crore.
If the government utilities purchase electricity from these mini-grids, it will require about Tk 19 crore to pay the mini-grid sponsors, they added.
Jute products are attracting huge visitors at the ongoing Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF) due to their diverse, innovative and environment-friendly nature.
Visiting the fair venue, this correspondent found that a number of pavilions and stalls are showcasing diversified jute goods with colourful designs to attract people.
The array of products includes bags, purses, folders, tablemats, prayer mats, doormats, penholders, jute houses, bedside mats, rugs and room dividers.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), Bangladesh’s export earnings from jute and jute goods increased 21.55 percent to 511.73 million in July-December period of the current fiscal year, which was 421.02 million during the corresponding period of the last financial year.
Talking to UNB, jute goods exhibitors expressed their satisfaction over a good response from buyers.
Mohammad Abdul Jalil, sales team leader of Rangpur-based brand Shatoranji of Karupannyo Rangpur Limited, said they brought many jute products at the fair getting good response from buyers.
“As jute-made products are environment-friendly, their demand is on the rise to both local and international buyers. We’ve brought many diversified goods made of jute this year. We’re also offering ‘buy one get one’ package for some jute products,” he said.
Customers, mostly the young one, appear to be more interested in jute-made items, Jalil said.
Dr SM Jahangir Alam, chairman of Swadesh Freedom Fighters Cooperatives Society Ltd, said they brought several jute items with the portrait of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the mega event marking his birth centenary.
“We brought jute-made T-shirts, bags, Mujib Coat, cap, neck-cloth and school bags at the fair for the first time. We’re getting a good response from buyers,” he said.
Jute Diversification Promotion Centre (JDPC) of the Textiles and Jute Ministry has allotted space for jute goods manufacturers at the fair like previous years.
Sheema Bose Adhara, director of JDPC, said they set up a pavilion where 25 stalls are displaying a wide range of jute goods.
“Many jute products like bags, shoes, carpets, doormats, baskets, clothes, hats, key rings, wallets, tissue boxes and other household products have been put on display to encourage buyers to purchase the environment-friendly items,” she added.
Asked about the prices of jute products, Prakritik sales executive Ferdous said they are selling items at different rates that range from Tk 40 to Tk 1,000. “We are selling jute bags for Tk 500, glass covers Tk 40 and purses for Tk 150-200 per piece. Jute sandals cost Tk 250-500 a pair while key rings Tk 60-70 apiece.”
Fatema Akter, a student of Jagannath University, said she visited the fair venue with her friends on Sunday afternoon and bought a tissue box and a bag made of jute at Tk 600. “I buy jute products sometimes as these are environment-friendly. Everyone should use jute goods instead of plastic items. We have to be aware right now to save our environment.”