Already reeling under COVID-19 woes, the outbreak of the Razor disease has dealt a crippling blow to cattle farmers in Khulna. The disease is spreading rapidly among cattle and has significantly hit the production of milk and meat in the five upazilas of the district, the farmers say.
Razor is an infectious disease that affects cattle, causing decreased appetite and weight loss, and thus reducing their ability to produce milk. Calves can become diseased by drinking the milk of an infected mother, which is also considered unfit for human consumption.
The outbreak of the disease was first reported in August last year, soon after the Eid al-Azha festival. Since then, the farmers claim that the production of milk and meat has been tapered by 3,000 and 2,000 metric tonnes, respectively, a month, despite the local Livestock Service Department continuing to provide antidotes to resist the transmission of the disease.
Officials of the Livestock Department attribute the outbreak of the disease to Haryana spices cattle illegally brought from India during the Eid al-Azha festival. Around 1.18 crore bovines had been sacrificed then.
"The transmission of the disease also accelerated in the Khulna City Corporation areas, Terokhada, Phultala, Dumuria and Dighalia upazilas as many farmers had tied their animals in waterlogged areas during the monsoon. Anyway, our prompt measures prevented the outbreak from developing into an epidemic," district Livestock Officer SM Awal said.
Last year, the Fisheries and Livestock Ministry urged the authorities concerned to stop the entry of cattle from neighbouring countries like India and Myanmar, on the grounds that Bangladesh had sufficient numbers to cater to domestic consumers.
Normally the district produces 2.5 lakh metric tonnes of milk and 1.54 lakh metric tonnes of meat every year, but in the past year, the disease has reduced the production to 36,000 and 24,000 metric tonnes of milk and meat, respectively, officials said.
Though the local administration has decided to compensate the affected cattle farmers, the latter claim "the stimulus is inadequate". Moreover, only 616 are likely to get the government aid of the 7,500 poultry, dairy and cattle farmers in the district, they say.
Though Bangladesh has made substantial strides in overall power generation over three terms of the Awami League, the government's efforts to meet its own target for power generation from renewable energy have failed to keep up.
The Power System Master PLan (PSMP) 2016 had set a target to reach the renewable energy’s share to 10 percent of total power generation capacity (2470 MW) by 2021 - a major focus was supposed to be on exploiting the potential of solar energy to achieve the goal.
Available data shows the country now has generating capacity of 20,595 MW from conventional sources while power from renewable sources is lagging far behind at 700.61 MW, which is around 3 percent of the total generation capacity.
Numbers from the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda) show that among different renewable energy sources, PV solar leads the sector with 466.68 MW generation capacity, while it is followed by hydro with 230 MW capacity, 2.9 MW from wind, 0.63 MW from Bio-gas and 0.4 MW from Biomass.
Bangladesh is far behind Pakistan and India, among its South Asian neighbors in utilising renewable energy resources for electricity generation.
The statistics show while Bangladesh generates 3 percent from renewable energy, the corresponding share in India is 24.16 percent with 90,399 MW generation capacity against its total installed power generation capacity of 374,199 MW (not including hydro capacity).
Pakistan generates 5 percent (1,870 MW) from renewable sources (solar and wind) against its total installed power generation capacity of 37,402 MW.
Experts and stakeholders in the energy sector attributed the poor renewable energy situation to the lack of commitment in policy level, scarcity of land, lack of coordination among state entities and rigid bureaucratic mindset in favour of conventional fuels.
Official sources said after the framing of the PSMP 2016, the government planned to implement a total of 36 grid-connected solar park projects with a total 2110.65 MW in public and private sectors in the last 5-6 years.
Only 5 projects were implemented so far although contracts were awarded for some 26 projects.
The five implemented projects having total capacity of about 88.5 MW, are 50 MW Gauripur, Mymensingh, 7.5 MW Kaptai, 8 MW Panchagarh, 20 MW Teknaf, and 3 MW Sharishabari solar parks.
Official sources said the grid-connected solar power plants need huge amounts of land for installing panels and other equipment, leading to large capital requirements, that has to be also supplemented by efficient management for timely implementations of solar power projects.
But most of the sponsors in grid-tied solar projects failed to arrange adequate free land while many of them also failed to arrange the required fund as banks are not found to be interested in financing non-conventional power projects, despite a refinancing scheme on offer from the central bank for supporting green energy projects, according to industry insiders.
They, however, said there is only a success area for Bangladesh—the Solar Home System for remote localities—where it had earned global recognition with installing 5.8 million SHSs for the off-grid households.
The world’s single largest project illuminated more than 20 million people to improve their socio-economic condition, said Munawar Moin, the President of the Partners Forum (PO), an association of non-government bodies working dedicatedly for the SHS programme.
Commenting on the poor progress in grid-connected large-scale solar power plant projects, he, also senior Vice President of Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association BSREA, said there is still a lack of policy-level commitment in setting renewable energy as a priority sector.
He also said fulfilling the large land requirements without running into litigation is a big challenge in Bangladesh and only the government can bypass the bottleneck like its move for creating economic zones.
Echoing Munawar Moin, Power Cell Director General Mohammad Hossain said most private sector entrepreneurs cannot arrange a litigation-free land to implement a large solar project which appears to be a major obstacle in scaling up green energy’s share in total power generation.
Green industry insiders also said that while there is land scarcity, there is huge potential for rooftop solar. The rooftops of government-buildings alone can generate huge solar power.
A study by Sreda shows Dhaka city can alone generate 1,400 MW electricity from rooftop solar if the free spaces are utilised for green energy.
Without a mandatory provision for public buildings to provide their rooftops for solar power projects, Bangladesh is missing out on the opportunity, said a top official of Power Division.
Admitting the poor progress in renewable energy in reaching the national goal set by PSMP, Mohammad Alauddin, chairman of Sreda, said renewable energy is now passing its take-off stage. During this phase, Sreda is acting as a facilitating body for different sectors interacting in the industry, to strengthen coordination and overcome the challenges.
“Any sector has to face huge challenges in the taking-off stage,” he said
In 2016, she started small -- out of the same premises she lives with her family -- more of an experiment than a business. Today, Nasrin Sultana, a resident of Jhikorgaccha upazila's Barbakpur village, is a successful woman entrepreneur who owns a vermicomposting unit.
And by funding her own studies and supporting her parents financially, thanks to her successful vermicomposting venture, Nasrin has clearly shown that a daughter should never be considered a burden, "but the pride of the family". After earning a degree in social science from Jhikorgaccha Women's Degree College, she has also completed a diploma in agriculture. "My vermicomposting business has made it all possible," says the entrepreneur.
Vermicomposting is a process based on earthworms and microorganisms through which organic waste is converted into fertilisers.
But how and when did Nasrin throw her hat into the entrepreneurial ring? “I started my business with just two big clay pots, cow dung and 100 grams of earthworms. An agriculture officer of the area provided the earthworms to me in 2016. After producing my first fertilisers, I used them on our farm land," she says.
At the beginning, her neighbours and classmates used to laugh at her. "Now they admire me," says Nasrin, who has recently constructed a shed by shelling out an additional Tk 14,000-15,000 for making vermicompost.
In Nasrin’s unit, some 195-200 kg of fertilisers are produced in each pot as there are 130 of them. "Each big size clay hole needs 200 grams of earthworms and one basket of cow dung from which 195-200 kg of vermicompost can be easily produced within 20-25 days. In the local market, a kg of vermicompost is sold at Tk 10-12."
“Vermicompost improves the fertility conditions of soil by increasing the availability of nutrients for plants, in turn increasing the farm production," she adds.
The use of vermicompost is also gaining popularity in the upazila and farmers from neighbouring areas of the district also flock to Nasrin's unit regularly for buying fertilisers. Some 2,000 farmers of the district are said to be using vermicompost on their land for producing poison-free vegetables.
Also read:The story of a self-made man
Each month, Nasrin earned around Tk 12,000-15000. "I have also built an organic agriculture farm on the roof of my house using my fertilisers," says the youngest daughter of Lutfur Rahman, a farmer.
Hirak Kumar Sarkar, upazila officer of the Department of Agriculture Extension, feels that all women in the sub-district should take inspiration from Nasrin and script their own success stories. "Many women have already shown interest in setting up small vermiculture units in the area," he says.
Theatrically inclined inmates will stage plays like Bangabandhu's prison memoir ‘Karagarer Rojnamcha’ and Munier Chowdhury's ‘Kobor’ in all the 68 jails of Bangladesh as part of a cultural festival that aims at giving the dispirited not only the much-needed recreational break but also an opportunity to prepare themselves to re-enter society.
At least, that's the hope of three research scholars of the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Dhaka, who under the supervision of Prof Israfeel Shaheen, also plan to conduct research based on the activities of inmates in the country's prisons over the next three years, apart from organising the plays.
According to Prof Ishrafeel, such research and cultural programmes specifically designed for the prison inmates in Bangladesh are unique "as the earliest expressions in modern Bengali theatre came through Munier Chowdhury's ‘Kobor,’ which was written during his stay in prison and performed by his fellow inmates at Dhaka Central Jail in 1953".
"Our research and cultural activities will take particular note of Bangabandhu's autobiographical narratives from ‘Karagarer Rojnamcha’ and ‘Oshomapto Attojiboni’, episodes of which will be performed by inmates lodged in prisons across the country," Prof Israfeel told UNB.
"We will visit Keraniganj Central Jail by the end of this month, in connection with this programme. Then we will go to Thakurgaon, Dinajpur and other districts," he said, adding that the initiative aims at bringing a ray of hope to the dispirited, in turn, helping bring a positive change in the society.
The cultural activities will later make inroads into juvenile correctional centres, mental hospitals and rehabilitation centres across the country, said Prof Israfeel, an alumnus of Delhi’s National School of Drama. "We have got the required permissions from the university, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Prisons."
In his long career, Israfil has directed of over 40 plays, including Harold Pinter’s 'The Birthday Party', Henrik Ibsen’s 'A Doll’s House' and 'The Lady from the Sea', Chekhov’s 'Three Sisters', and William Shakespeare’s 'The Merchant of Venice', 'Twelfth Night', 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'Macbeth'.
Aiming to attract more foreign businesses and customers, the 26th edition of Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF)-2021 is going to be held in March this year at its newly built permanent venue, the Bangladesh-China Friendship Exhibition Centre (BCFC) in Purbachal, instead of January at the previous venue in Agargaon in the capital.
That will spare city-dwellers the traffic that used to swarm up around Agargaon during the month long fair, while maintaining international standard. The date was changed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Also read:Shop owners demand closure of DITF-2019
The Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) and Commerce Ministry have been organizing the month-long annual fair since 1995 beside the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.
At the closing ceremony of the 25th DITF, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi had said the 26th trade fair would be held at the Purbachal New Town
Khadija Rahman, 40, a resident of Mohammadpur area said she visited DITF at Agargaon many times in her life. “We visited the fair to purchase different products including apparel, foodstuff, home appliances and electronic products, etc in reasonable prices. But the fairground was very unhealthy due to dust, waste, air and sound pollution alongside congestion,” she added.
Also read: IBBL inaugurates premier pavilion at DITF
She also said it will be really excellent if the fair is arranged in a good environment on international standard fairgrounds.
Talking to UNB, Md Iftikher Ahmed Chowdhury, secretary of Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), said they are taking preparations to arrange the fair to coincide with March 17, birthday of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. "All construction of BCFEC has been completed without official activities. Now just a formal ceremony will be held to hand over it," he said.
“The fair will be month long as usual but the date is still to be confirmed. Our Prime Minister will fix the exact date soon. Then we will announce tender and send letters to embassies of different countries,” he added.
Also read:DITF extended further; now to end Feb 6
Iftikher Ahmed said around 300 local and international stalls can be set up in the 26-acre venue in Purbachal. “No mask, No entry system will be continued in the fair for health safety due to COVID-19. Most stalls will be installed in two hall rooms but some stalls can be set up in open field too,” he also said.
The secretary added they will try to maintain international standard in DITF Purbachal venue to attract more foreign businesses and customers. “The previous venues of DITF could not be arranged maintaining international standard at Agargaon of the capital. So the government decided to arrange it at its permanent venue to maintain international standard,” he also added.
Iftikher Ahmed also said attendance may be low compared to other years due to the coronavirus pandemic. Besides, the permanent venue is new and located outside the capital.
Also read:DITF 2020: Holiday draws large crowd
BCFEC has all the requirements for a world-class venue including hall rooms, conference centres, trade information centres, meeting halls, press centre, service rooms, modern car parking, round-the-clock CCTV and even its own power substation.
According to the EPB, there were 483 stalls of different organizations from 21 countries including Bangladesh in the 25th edition. Around Tk 200 crores in export orders were received by Bangladeshi firms at the country's biggest trade show in the 25th edition.
Also read: DITF extended by four days
The foreign companies were from India, Bhutan, Pakistan, China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Nepal, Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, the Maldives, Mauritius, Russia, Iran, and Swaziland.