Tuesday, February 28, 2012

River-linking by India 'Saline death' for half the country

Impact assessment report sees ecological disaster in Bangladesh; Teesta, 3 other rivers to perish; experts fear damage may go far beyond the forecast.


Sea water will intrude Manikganj, Kushtia, Goalanda, Bhairab and beyond, travelling 280 kilometres if India implements its controversial river-linking project. 

And, biodiversity of almost half of the country, including the mangrove forest Sundarbans, will be ruined, experts say.

A study conducted five years ago by Bangladeshi experts to know the project impacts assessed that about 30,000 square kilometres of Khulna and Barisal divisions and parts of Rajshahi and Dhaka divisions including the capital would be severely affected. 

“We basically conducted a qualitative study based on information we got from several sources. The effect could be even worse,” said a senior hydro and geo-environment analyst. 

There will be no flow in the north-western rivers -- the Teesta, Mahananda, Dharla and Dudhkumar -- during the monsoon as water will be diverted to the river Fulhar through Mechi.

The mega plan that involves linking 30 major rivers and diverting the Ganges and the Brahmaputra has remained highly contentious since it was first devised in 1980. 

Environmentalists and neighbouring countries were against it, saying the scheme would wreak havoc on ecology of the entire region. 

India maintains the Rs 5,000-crore project will increase its irrigation coverage from 120 million hectares to 160 millions and boost up crop production. 

The issue drew attention of Bangladeshi and Indian media again after the Indian Supreme Court on Monday ordered quick implementation of the project and appointed a high-powered committee to put it into action.
Biodiversity, agriculture and industry of the Ganges dependable area (GDA) -- both sides of the river Padma -- and parts of the Meghna river bank will be badly hit. GDA alone covers 20 percent of the country and is home to around 30 million people. 

“Life of residents in a large area would be devastated due to lack of sweet water,” said M Inamul Haque, chairman of Water and Environment, a non-government organisation. 

The river-linking project aims diverting river water from Indian north-eastern region, an area with high rainfall (3,500mm a year) to its west, a region with low rainfall (700 mm), causing a very high-cost environmental degradation not only in Bangladesh but also in some parts of India, he said.

“It would destroy the biodiversity in half of the country's plain land and wetland.” 

The assessment report of Bangladeshi experts echoed the view of Inamul Haque. They forecast several impacts that include reduction in river flows, rise in salinity of soil, surface and groundwater, damage of agriculture, fisheries, navigation routes, coastal biodiversity and fisheries, increase in river erosion, decrease in sedimentation and ruining.

The experts who conducted the study do not want to be names at the moment. 

The say if the Indian project is implemented, water from the Bay would travel in 280km through the Madhumati, Dhaleshwari, Padma and Meghna rivers.

The mighty Brahmaputra, which is known as the Jamuna and which meets up two-thirds of the country's demand of water during the dry seasons, will loose navigation. 

The flows of some other rivers -- Gorai, Madhumati, Nabagnaga, Ichhamati-Mathabhanga, Kapotakkhya, Betna, Meghna, Surma, Kushiara, Old Brahmaputra, Dhaleshwari, Buriganga, Shitalakkhya, Arial Kha and Turag -- will be reduced. 

The scheme would require construction of large barrages to store water for lean period. India will have to release water during the monsoon. As a result, floods in Bangladesh would be prolonged, said a young hydrologist who also conducted a portion of the study. 

The report also says the river project would cause water inundations in Barisal and Noakhali districts.

No change in Delhi’s stance

New Delhi has stuck to its stance that its Border Security Force would not fire in any situation but in ‘self-defence’ along the Indo-Bangla border although Dhaka called for a complete halt to shooting at Bangladesh nationals.

In the meeting of the home ministers of the two countries in New Delhi, Bangladesh was told that the BSF fired on civilians only in ‘self-defence’ on the frontiers, said officials after the high-level talks that concluded on Saturday.

Bangladesh home minister Sahara Khatun led a 12-member delegation to the two-day bilateral talks with her counterpart P Chidambaram in which the two sides had discussed issues relating to, among others, border management, security cooperation and implementation of the land boundary protocol.
Sahara returned home on Sunday.

Her Indian counterpart defended the BSF shooting as Dhaka lodged a strong protest against the killing and torture of Bangladeshis by the Indian border guards in the meeting, a senior official confirmed.

In the meeting, India distributed a booklet that contains pictures of BSF jawans showing marks of injuries on their bodies to convince the Bangladesh delegation that they open fire just to defend themselves, said the official, adding that Bangladesh presented similar documents testifying to BSF atrocities against its nationals. 

The high-level meeting took place at a time when human rights organisations and the media across the world, even in India, were levelling allegations that incidents of killing of and torture on Bangladeshis by the Indian border guards were increasing in the frontiers. Bangladesh and India share a 4,098-kilometre porous border.

India claimed at the meeting that the incidents of killing by BSF came down to seven in 2011 from 35 in 2009, adding that no such incidents had taken place so far in 2012.

According to rights organisation Odhikar, the Indian border guards have killed 935 Bangladeshis and injured 681 since January 2000.

The Indian guards have reportedly killed 205 and injured 220 Bangladeshis since January 6, 2009 when the ruling Awami League-led alliance assumed office.

Asked about the outcome of the meeting, the home ministry’s additional secretary Kamal Uddin Ahmed, also a delegation member, told New Age on Tuesday that the scope for cooperation had expanded.

Both the sides, he said, had agreed to remove all irritants that stood in the way of security cooperation between the two countries and strengthening border management. 

During the last such meeting in Dhaka in July 29-30, 2011, Indian home minister Chidambaram assured Sahara that the BSF would not shoot at any unarmed civilians under any circumstances in the frontiers.

‘We have issued strict instructions to our Border Security Force that under no circumstances, they should fire on anyone trying to cross either from Bangladesh to India or from India to Bangladesh. The message has gone down to the jawans,’ Chidambaram had said at a joint press conference after the official talks.

Despite such assurances from the Indian side time and again, the killing of innocent Bangladeshis by BSF keep taking place in the border.

Contrary to his government’s apparent stand against the border killings, BSF director general, UK Bansal, said that it was not possible for the Indian guards to stop firing in the Bangladesh-India border, which was protested at by the government as well as a cross-section of people in Bangladesh.

‘Firing in the border can never be stopped totally… So long criminal activities would continue to take place along the India-Bangladesh border, the BSF will have to prevent such offences and it is the duty of the force,’ said the BSF chief in an interview with the BBC Bengali Service on February 7, 2012. 

When his attention was drawn to the BSF chief’s statement, the Indian home minister said it was a telephonic conversation and the BSF chief’s remarks were not presented correctly in the BBC news. 

The Indian home ministry, however, assured Sahara that Bangladeshi businessmen would now be allowed to open bank accounts and operate their branch offices in India as the Indian nationals were already enjoying such facilities in Bangladesh.

A television footage showing the torture of a Bangladeshi young man, Habibur Rahman, of Chapainawabganj, by the BSF recently sparked uproar drawing criticism from civil society and international human rights watchdogs.

Even leading Indian daily newspaper the Hindu on January 24 asked the Indian government to apologise to Bangladesh for such inhuman torture.

In a report headlined ‘Bangladesh-India border: Wall of Death’ posted online on January 4, the GlobalPost said the barbed-wire fence installed by India along the border ‘is the world’s longest – and bloodiest – barbed-wire fence.’

‘Dubbed the “wall of death” by locals, the 4,000km barrier spans the length of the fifth-longest border in the world, and is manned by the BSF, whose guards kill both Bangladeshis and Indians with impunity,’ the report said.

Although the Indian border guards claim that they open fire only to contain border crimes such as smuggling, the killing of young girl Felani sparked widespread criticism.

Fifteen-year-old Felani Khatun was shot dead by the BSF on January 7, 2011 when she climbed up and reached the top of the 2.5 metres high fence.

The home ministers’ meeting also discussed the execution of three deals – Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, Transfer of Sentenced Persons, Agreement on Combating Organised Crime and Illegal Drug Trafficking.

India pressed for the custody ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom) leader Anup Chetia and other members of the organisation kept in Bangladeshi jails. It also asked for expediting the move to sign an extradition treaty for handing over of persons wanted by either country.

Bangladesh said it was examining the draft extradition treaty proposed by India and the ULFA leader could not be handed over at the moment since the case was still pending with the High Court, according to officials.

BY : Mustafizur Rahman.

Khaleda, too, blurs distinction between rights and privilege

THE assertion by the leader of opposition in parliament and Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson, Khaleda Zia, at a public rally in Lalmonirhat on Monday that ‘if they [India] refuse to give Bangladesh its share of Teesta water, let them know that they would not enjoy transit’ is indeed loaded with feel-good sound bites and even nationalistic fervour. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Tuesday, she also asserted that ‘nothing can go unilateral.’ The problem is that she seems to have blurred the distinction between rights and privileges, just as the Awami League-Jatiya Party government apparently has. Equitable share of Teesta for Bangladesh, a lower riparian country, is guaranteed by international laws and conventions on the trans-boundary rivers; India’s refusal to give the next-door neighbour its due share is, thus, an international crime. On the contrary, whether to grant India transit through its territory or not is a matter of choice for Bangladesh. If India gets it, it would be a privilege on India’s part. Neither the ruling nor the opposition party seems to acknowledge this very simple truth.

Tagging transit with Teesta water will be as irrational and anti-people as terming development of infrastructure as the precondition for transit, as done by the finance minister the other day, will be. As we have argued in these columns time and again, whether Bangladesh should allow India transit through its territory needs to be consequent upon a number of factors; suffice it to add, getting due share of Teesta water from India must not be one of them since, as mentioned before, it is our right guaranteed by international laws and conventions on trans-boundary rivers. First, in an era of greater interconnectivity, Bangladesh needs to put transit with India in the perspective of intra- and inter-regional connectivity, making sure that the transit route connects it with as many as countries as feasible. Second, Bangladesh needs to dispassionately analyse the benefits, economic and otherwise, to be derived from the transit route; the benefits need to be equal, if not more, than what India stands to gain. Third, Bangladesh needs to ensure that expected economic gains do not override existing security concerns; in no way, should transit with India or any other country be allowed to undermine national security or sovereignty.

Above all else, to grant India transit or not should be made consequent upon change in its attitude towards Bangladesh, which has not been friendly, to say the least. According to media reports, in the first 22 days of February, the Indian Border Security Force abducted 18 Bangladeshis. The dead body of at least three of them were later found while another managed to escape from BSF captivity. BSF excesses and atrocities on the border, suffice it to say, are not the only irritants that India has given rise to and sustained over the years; there are more, e.g. huge imbalance in trade, Tipaimukh Dam on the trans-boundary river Barak, non-tariff and para-tariff barrier on Bangladeshi products, dispute over maritime boundary, etc.

It is thus disappointing that the opposition leader sought to employ nationalistic rhetoric to an essentially anti-people stance that her party has taken. She would have done well had she demanded that the government should in no way put transit and Teesta water in the same bracket, and move international opinion to force India into giving Bangladesh its due share. She could also have demanded that the government should initiate an exhaustive and inclusive dialogue on the transit issue, both inside parliament and in public forums involving politicians, academics, experts, journalists, etc, to forge a national consensus.


BPL T20 : 'A Big Shame'

Mushfiqur Rahim yesterday blasted the organising capacity of the BPL after the fiasco over the semifinal opponents of Duronto Rajshahi emerged only few hours before the game.

The captain of the franchise that lost the first semifinal against Barisal Burners by eight wickets was understandably miffed but boldly criticised the overall mishap that has become the T20 tournament.

"The whole world saw how disorganised the tournament was," said Mushfiqur Rahim at the end of the game.

"Barisal were told they have to score the [151] runs in 16 overs [against Chittagong Kings on Sunday] and they progressed. Then it was said that Chittagong would go through. This is only possible in Bangladesh. I am not saying this just as a player, but as a human being as well. It is indeed a big shame.

"Till the evening we knew it was Barisal. Afterwards during the second game yesterday [Monday], we heard it is the Chittagong Kings who are going through. That's what we knew when we went to sleep. After waking up, we find out it is Barisal. The league has been running like this. It is nothing impossible for us, so we didn't take it in that way," added Mushfiqur about the overnight fiasco surrounding the fourth semifinal spot.

The national captain also said that they didn't receive the promised payment, around 75 per cent of contracted amount, before the tournament ended.
"Not just the local players, most of the foreign players also haven't received any payment yet. And even if they have been paid, it has been very little.

"The commitment was to pay us 75 per cent of the contracted amount before the end of the tournament. But we haven't received anything of that sort. We got some of the money but not the said amount," he said.

He was also aware of the several controversies that could touch the young Bangladeshi cricketers who are playing in the tournament.

"Definitely there are good things to pick up from the foreign players, but also there are things that have been negative that is going on. Whoever can get out of this with cricket in their mind, will do good in the future," he added.

Mushfiqur also warned that in the future, such issues with pending payments could deter top players from playing in domestic competitions of this nature.


BPL T20 : Midnight farce denies Ctg justice

The latest twist in a long tale of controversy in the ongoing Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) was the outcome of a midnight drama the name of which can be best described as 'Exit Chittagong, Enter Barisal'.

It was the wee hours on Tuesday when the BPL governing council and its glorified technical committee decided that Barisal instead of Chittagong would play the semifinal as the fourth-qualified team.

But by that time the whole nation knew that Chittagong would play Rajshahi in the first semi courtesy of an earlier announcement by BPL chairman Gazi Ashraf Hossain to a loyal print and electronic media followed by endorsement from Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president AHM Mustafa Kamal, who termed Gazi Ashraf's decision perfectly within the law book while appearing in a late night show on a private TV channel.
But the U-turn understandably let loose a chaotic atmosphere in the morning. Barisal called back their Australian captain Brad Hodge from the airport, managers of the other three semifinalists called an impromptu press briefing in an apparent effort to show their support for Chittagong but left the scene without expressing anything conclusive, leaving the port city franchise to fight their own battle against what its CEO Sameer Quader Chowdhury termed a coup d'├ętat.

The BPL council issued a statement in support of their decision that read: “Since three teams, namely: Dhaka Gladiators, Barisal Burners and Chittagong Kings are on equal points at 10 each. Dhaka Gladiators beat both Barisal Burners and Chittagong Kings in their matches. Therefore, Dhaka Gladiators qualifies as the third semifinalist. In regards to Barisal Burners and Chittagong Kings beating each other once, the issue of the fourth qualifier had to be decided on the basis of better net run rate.” 

But the by-laws that the BPL governing council has taken into consideration to award Barisal the semifinal spot interprets something different. And if anyone reads between the lines of Clause Two in the article 21.8, it certainly favours Chittagong. 

The clause reads: “When three (03) or more teams finish with equal points and equal wins in the league, then the team (s) which was (were) the winner of the most number of matches played between those equal teams in the league will be placed in the higher position (s).” 

And understandably the Chittagong Kings officials came down heavily on the BPL management, even raising questions about the fairness of the tournament itself, claiming that the organisers have deprived them as per the by-laws they should have been in the semifinal. They also threatened to take legal action though they could not file the case yesterday. 

“According to the by-laws we should have been in the semifinal because Dhaka won three, Chittagong two and Barisal one match (between them). We have taken all kinds of preparations and two Pakistani players (Umar Akmal and Wahab Reaz) also arrived to play the semifinal match but we don't know what happened at midnight. Without any doubt they have flouted the by-laws,” said Chittagong Kings team manager Nasir Ahmed. 

Sameer Quader Chowdhury, CEO of Chittagong Kings, came down as hard as possible on the organisers. “It's become a stage for gambling. I want an answer from the organizers, whether they took the decision under pressure of the gamblers,” said an angry Sameer threatening that they may not continue their involvement if things go like this. 

“As an owner of the team I'm really in the dark with everything about the tournament. I have doubts about everything after the way the tournament is running. You know we were approached by the bookies from India to fix the match and we reported this to the BPL's anti-corruption unit immediately but they hardly take any action regarding these issues,” said Sameer, who claimed that they helped the authorities to capture Pakistani Sajid Khan, who was put on two-day remand for questioning about his alleged involvement in match-fixing.

BPL governing council secretary Sirajuddin Mohammad Alamgir however blamed his chairman Gazi Ashraf Hossain for creating the unpleasant situation for them. 

“We accept that it was our mistake, whatever confusion arose. Lipu bhai (Gazi Ashraf Hossain) gave his personal opinion to the media. It cannot be the stance of the BPL technical or governing council. Whatever he said, I personally think it was a mistake for which so much confusion has been created. What he told us, he thought it might happen. He didn't discuss it with anyone and told the media,” explained Alamgir in an official press conference where match referee Mike Proctor also turned up. 

But it hardly cleared the air.


US to consider Yunus as WB boss: Mozena

The US ambassador to Bangladesh, Dan Mozena, has said that Washington will give its "fullest consideration" to the candidature of Muhammad Yunus for president of the World Bank.

"I am sure if he agrees to his nomination for this position, it would be given the fullest consideration," Mozina told journalists in the northern city of Rajshahi.

The US envoy's remarks came a week after the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, proposed that Yunus be made the chief the Washington-based bank that has never seen a non-American as its head since its birth after the Second World War.

Hasina floated the idea during a meeting with a delegation of European MPs in Dhaka on Feb 22.

"I know Grameen Bank very well. You may not know ... I lived in Bangladesh a decade ago. I lived here for three years, from 1998 to 2001. And during that time, I visited so many Grameen borrowers' groups," Mozena said.

"I saw with these very eyes ... these very eyes right here, the impact of Grameen Bank in helping the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable of the vulnerable women take control of their lives. It's a beautiful sight.

"... I feel so inspired and I think of the work, of the vision of professor Muhammad Yunus as it was his idea."


Taking queries from journalists on the gruesome killing of journalist couple Sagar and Runi, the US envoy said, "I do not know if its related to the fact that they were journalists."

"If it were, then that is even more heinous, because I believe and my government believes, the media, the press is a fundamental element of democracy. There can't be democracy without free and vibrant media. And so if that attack was against the media, then it is even more horrific."

On Feb 11, Maasranga Television news editor Golam Mostofa Sarowar, alias Sagar Sarowar, and his wife ATN Bangla senior reporter Meherun Nahar Runi were found murdered at their rented flat in the city's west Rajabazar. Police are yet to arrest anyone or name any suspect.

On Sunday, the investigators said they are 'almost certain' about the motive behind the killing of the couple but would not disclose it for the sake of investigation.

"Police of Bangladesh, to my understanding, are actively investigating this case," Mozena said adding that the US government has a number of skills development programmes with Bangladesh police, knowledge from which he is 'sure' is being put to good use in the probe.

However, when asked specifically whether the US government is directly involved in the probe, the US envoy said, "We have not been asked for any support."


Strange bedfellows in Bangladesh.

SOMETHING so utterly bizarre tempts the observer to suppose that one of the fundamental rules of politics in Bangladesh may no longer apply. That rule—namely, never underestimate the Awami League’s ability to shoot itself in the foot—has long stood inviolate.

Till now? The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, is reported to have recommended Mohammad Yunus, the Nobel-prize-winning pioneer of microfinance and founder of Grameen Bank, to lead to the World Bank. 

That’s a rather generous offer of support from the very politician who pushed Mr Yunus out of his job as the head of Grameen Bank and has very recently accused him of using his influence to make the World Bank pull the plug on funding for a $3 billion bridge in Bangladesh. The so-called Padma Bridge is set to be the country’s largest-ever infrastructure project. At some point, it should connect Bangladesh’s underdeveloped western region with the capital, Dhaka. 

Bangladeshis were as surprised as anyone by Sheikh Hasina’s change of heart. “Honourable Prime Minister: You cannot be serious!!” commented a reader of the Daily Star, the country’s biggest English-language newspaper. Another reader quips that Bangladesh would soon become Switzerland, if all its politicians were as wise as the prime minister. 

Few in Bangladesh doubt that Mr Yunus must be a serious contender for the job, which would bring him to Washington, DC. But many wonder why the prime minister, after working so hard to discredit Mr Yunus and having him fired, is now pitching for him to get a new one. 

Sheikh Hasina is a lady not known for U-turning. Her vindictiveness, like that of her political rival Khaleda Zia, is legendary. It takes a big thing—like the Arab Spring say, which is said to have led her to scrap plans for a new airport near the capital—and that only after mass protests against the pet project that it was. (It would’ve been named after her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.)

The treatment of Mr Yunus has long annoyed Western governments, particularly America, where the microfinance pioneer has lots of fans, including the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. American officials had repeatedly warned that not being nice to Mr Yunus might affect bilateral ties. They are sure to have pondered what to do with a government which, as one official put it, “insists on spitting in the face of those who are trying to help it”. 

Much to the annoyance of donors—the World Bank, ADB and the Japanese—it took the Bangladeshi government three months to get rid of a crooked-looking former communications minister, Syed Abul Hossain. The World Bank had identified him as being unable to keep his hands off the $3 billion nest egg that had was set aside on behalf of the Padma Bridge. Bangladesh’s pliable anti-corruption commission has since absolved Mr Hossain of all graft allegations. But a $1 billion loan by the IMF has not been disbursed, ostensibly because progress on reform has been slow.

The economy is wobbling, the taka has been among Asia’s worst-performing currencies and reserves are just sufficient to finance three months of imports. Money is needed to patch the fiscal hole burned by an unsustainable energy policy: power plants that run on imported fuel oil. The Bangladeshi government claims that China and investors from South-East Asia are keen to stump up the money for the bridge. That would be infrastructure development the Myanmar way (or, better make that the Cambodia way instead).

Most likely, Sheikh Hasina had to sort out relations with other donor countries. Being nice to Mr Yunus—in many ways the symbol of an increasingly hostile relationship with more liberal states—may not do the trick alone. But it is a start.

Ready to fight neighbours for rights: Dipu

Bangladesh has friendly ties with its neighbours but that would not deter the government from taking legal recourse to claim its due, foreign minister Dipu Moni has said.

"Opposition parties can say many things but we will not stop from taking the legal route to achieve legitimate demands from our neighbours. It is not a weak foreign policy," Dipu Moni said on Tuesday while addressing a seminar on maritime boundary issues between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The event was held at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies auditorium.

The minister said Dhaka wants justice in maritime boundary disputes between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The two countries approached the International Tribunal for Law of the Seas (ITLOS) to settle maritime boundary dispute in 2009; the verdict is expected on Mar 14.

"We have been negotiating with our neighbours for the last 35 years but to get a quick result and ensure people's rights on sea resources, we resorted to (this) alternative route," she said.

"We expect justice from ITLOS and expect verdict in (an) Indian case in 2014," she said. "Bangladesh wants to resolve the disputes on equitable basis and there are many ways to get that."

Bangladesh has already submitted its claim for continental shelf to the UN and it takes five to seven years to get a decision from them, Moni said.

Continental shelf is the extended perimeter of each continent and associated coastal plain.

Foreign ministry's additional secretary Khurshid Alam said the government is not only sincere in establishing its rights over marine resources but is also taking the steps to explore it.

"We need to study oceanography is explore natural resources in the sea but unfortunately there is no university in Bangladesh teach that subject," he said.

He said the ministry has touched base with the education ministry in this regard and Dhaka and Chittagong universities have agreed to offer the subject. 


Govt To Pay Over Tk.1.7 Billion Extra For Indian Locomotives

Bangladesh Railway (BR) will procure 16 locomotives from India at a cost of Tk.3.66 billion under a railway development project against a credit facility of billion from India. The government was supposed to purchase 30 locomotives with the same amount.

Lack of coordination and imposing strict terms and conditions by the Indian government has forced Bangladesh Railway to spend the additional fund to procure the locomotives, a high official of BR said.

The Indian government will supply the locomotives through a credit of billion of Exim Bank of India.

The time consuming procedures and some strict conditions from the Indian side were the main reasons behind the extra expenditure, an additional secretary of Bangladesh Railway said seeking anonymity.

As a condition of funding the project, the Indian government has imposed a condition that made the Indian companies the lone eligible parties for participating in the tender for supplying the locomotives.

As a consequence of the condition, Indian firm Expotech Division was the lone participant of the tender.

In a proposal, submitted to the government purchase committee recently, Bangladesh Railway mentioned that it has decided to purchase 16 locomotives instead of 30 as the project cost had increased by 88.21 percent due to high price of steel materials and copper.

Bangladesh Railway is likely to place another proposal to the purchase committee for awarding Expotech Division of India the contract to supply the locomotives, officials said.

Earlier, the project was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on January 4 last year. The timeline for the implementation of the project was set from December 2010 to June 2013.

Dhaka Seeks Delhi’s Permission For Nepal, Bhutan Transit

Bangladesh has sought India's support for the import of electricity from Nepal and Bhutan crossing over Indian territory, as the country goes hungry for electricity to meet an ever-growing demand.

An official concerned said a high-powered delegation, led by additional secretary Md Mofezzal Hossain, sought the neighbour's help at a meeting of the Indo-Bangladesh joint working group held Monday in New Delhi.

Bangladesh is now negotiating with Bhutan and Nepal electricity import by launching joint-venture hydropower projects in the two Himalayan countries, the official said, adding that Bangladesh had already discussed the issue of importing electricity from the two countries at Saarc summit.

Talking on the matter of electricity import, power division secretary Md Abul Kalam Azad said they will also seek India's help at a secretary-level meeting, scheduled for today (Tuesday), to import electricity from Nepal and Bhutan.

"Bangladesh has set a target of importing 3500 megawatts of electricity from India, Nepal and Bhutan by 2030 through regional grid connectivity," he added.

At the meeting in New Delhi, the delegation also proposed launching joint-venture power projects in northeastern states of India.

On January 29 this year, Bangladesh Power Development Board and the National Thermal Power Company of India signed a joint- venture agreement to install a 1320MW coal-fired power plant in Khulna.

The working-group meeting also discussed the draft of a power- purchase agreement (PPA) on a joint-venture power plant in Khulna and import of 250MW electricity from the neighbouring country.

Bangladesh and India are likely to sign an initial pact on the PPA.

Besides, Bangladesh sought cooperation of India for importing 100MW electricity from Tripura.

During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit in September last year, Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar had assured Bangladesh of providing 100MW electricity from the north-eastern state.

Yahoo threatens Facebook as patent war looms

Yahoo has demanded licensing fees from Facebook for use of its technology, the companies said on Monday, potentially engulfing social media in the patent battles and lawsuits raging across much of the tech sector.

Yahoo has asserted claims on patents that include the technical mechanisms in the Facebook's ads, privacy controls, news feed and messaging service, according to a source briefed on the matter.

Representatives from the two companies met on Monday and the talks involved 10 to 20 of Yahoo's patents, said the source, who was not aware of what specific dollar demands Yahoo may have made for licenses.

Yahoo did not elaborate in an emailed statement on details of its discussions with Facebook, but indicated it would not flinch at taking the social networking giant to court over its patents.

Yahoo said other companies have already licensed some of the technologies at issue, and that it would act unilaterally if Facebook refused to pay for a patent license.

"Yahoo has a responsibility to its shareholders, employees and other stakeholders to protect its intellectual property," the company said.

The meeting between the two companies was first reported by the New York Times.

A Facebook spokesman said: "Yahoo contacted us at the same time they called the New York Times and so we haven't had the opportunity to fully evaluate their claims."

Should Yahoo wind up suing Facebook, it would mark the first major legal battle among technology giants in the social media sphere and a major escalation of patent litigation that has already swept up the smartphone and tablet sectors and high-tech stalwarts such as Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp and Motorola Mobility.

Yahoo's patent claims follow Facebook's announcement of plans for an initial public offering that could value the company at about $100 billion (63 billion pounds).

Several social networking companies, including Facebook, have seen an uptick in patent claims asserted against them as they move through the IPO process.

However, most of those lawsuits have been filed by patent aggregators that buy up intellectual property to squeeze value from it via licensing deals, and none by a large tech company such as Yahoo.

Source :

Israel will strike Iran without warning US - intelligence source

Israeli officials say if they decide to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, they will do so without the prior consent or knowledge of the US, according to an AP report citing leaked US intelligence.

­The message was conveyed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to a number of senior US officials visiting the country, the news agency said, citing a US intelligence source. 

The official spoke about the sensitive strategic negotiations on condition of anonymity. Both the US and Israel declined to make any official comment. 

Tel Aviv insists its strategy is necessary in order to protect Washington from being blamed for failing to stop an Israeli attack, should it take place. But it may also signify Israeli frustration over America’s position on the conflict.

America has told its Middle Eastern ally that it will neither take military action against Iran nor back unilateral action on the part of Israel. Washington favors sanctions over brute force as a means to stop Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

The news of Israel’s unilateral intentions comes ahead of a key visit to the US by Netanyahu, planned for early March. The Israeli premier reportedly ordered his ministers not to publicly discuss the Iranian nuclear program in an apparent damage limitation move ahead of his trip. The report of the “gagging order” came a day after Defense Minister Barak gave a lengthy TV interview in which he spoke of the danger posed by Iran.

Western countries and Israel are convinced that Iran’s uranium enrichment program is aimed at developing nuclear weapons capability. Israel is determined not to allow this to happen. Iran insists that its nuclear pursuits are purely civilian.

Tensions rose again last week after a leaked UN nuclear watchdog report stated “serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.”

In the latest bid to halt the enrichment, the US and EU issued sanctions against Iran’s oil industry. However they failed to rally all major buyers of Iranian oil to their banner. Tehran remains adamant that the move will not divert it from its nuclear research.