Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bangladesh loses 32,000 acres along borders

After getting instructions from the higher authorities, the water resources ministry has asked the Water Development Board (WDB) to protect 18 rivers along the bordering areas with India and Myanmar from this month, in order to stop river erosion, said sources in the water resources ministry. Bangladesh lost at least 32,000 acres owing to river erosion along its borders with India and Myanmar in the last 40 years, they added.

Water resources minister Ramesh Chandra Sen told The Independent that he has ordered the authorities concerned to start work to protect the 18 riverbanks on an emergency basis.

“We’ve not enough money to complete the work. But, we’ve to arrange funds to protect the river banks,” he said.

“We’re hopeful that the authorities concerned will successfully implement the protection work  within the next year,” he added.

The director general of Water Development Board, KM Shahiduzzaman, told this correspondent that he was ordered by the water resources minister to protect the 18 rivers within this month.

“There are only Tk. 50 crore allocated in the current fiscal for the purpose. But, we need at least Tk. 105 crore for completion of the work. We’ve asked the contractor concerned for starting the work as soon as possible, and we will pay the bills after arranging funds from the next fiscal year,” he said.

Sources said that the rivers Ichamati, Nagor, Atrai, Brahmaputra, Feni, Kahuya and Panuachara are eroding their banks on the Bangladeshi side, while new riverbeds are emerging on the other side. This problem will recurr if the riverbanks remain unprotected against erosion, they added.

But, the Indian and the Myanmar authorities are protecting their river banks through river protection works.

Fast erosion and changing of courses of rivers have been changing the country’s topographical contour. For common rivers, the middle of a river is treated as the border for two countries.

Sources said that erosion of river often creates riverbeds inside the Indian and Myanmar territories. They added that such topographical changes  create disputes regarding the border area.

Sources also said the Indian border security force and Myanmar have objected to Bangladesh’s initiatives to protect its riverbanks.

Bangladesh has 57 common rivers with India and Myanmar. Of these, 54 are shared with India, while the rest are shared with Myanmar.


Nation on edge

The bubbling tension between the government and the opposition over the BNP rally on Monday, which is expected to cover some one and a half square kilomteres area at Naya Paltan, appears to have spilled into the rest of country.

Allies of BNP are also joining the rally styled 'Dhaka Cholo' and expects it to be a grand gathering.

The government, however, fears that the rally may turn violent since it in reality targets to save the suspected war criminals and hence asked police to prevent it from taking place.

People are keeping their fingers crossed with Dhaka virtually cut off from other parts of the country to stop opposition supporters from coming into the capital. 

Opposition chief Khaleda Zia will address the rally in front of the BNP headquarters. BNP leaders expect that the rally will stretch from Notre Dame College in the east to Kakrail Catholic Church in the west and from Malibagh in the north to Dainik Bangla intersection in the south.

BNP's Dhaka metropolitan unit convenor Sadeque Hossain Khoka said people will stream into the area in droves before Monday noon.

The BNP leaders have said there will be 15 big screens and 300 public address system from Notre Dame College to Shantinagar via Kakrail to broadcast the rally live.

ASM Hannan Shah, head of the BNP committee to ensure security in the rally, was hopeful that they will be able to stage the rally peacefully despite threats and obstacles from the government.

"We will set an example," he said.

BNP leaders have been alleging that the government is preventing BNP supporters from joining the rally by stopping bus and launch services and closing hotels and restaurants in the city.

They started campaign for the rally after getting verbal permission from police. BNP acting secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, however, expressed his ire on Saturday when police said no written consent was given.

Digital banners and posters for the rally with photos of BNP founder Ziaur Rahman, chairperson Khaleda and senior vice chairman Tarique Rahman have covered the buildings of the area stretching from Notre Dame College to Kakrail.

The front of the BNP office is fully covered with digital banners. Leaders and activists are crowding the place 24 hours.

Several committees of the party are holding a series of meetings at the central office and the Dhaka metropolitan unit office at Maulana Bhasani Auditorium.

Traffic on the road from Notre Dame College to Kakrail halts when a rally is in progress in the area. People use Malibagh to Kamlapur road on those days.

But it is expected that traffic on the city streets will see a severe disruption since opposition supporters will be coming to the rally in processions.

Activists from far-off areas like Mirpur, Uttara or Mohammadpur use buses to meet at a designated place and then join rallies with processions. The buses are kept at Kamalapur, Kakrail, Gulistan and Osmani Udyan.

Awami League had taken a stance against the rally from the beginning. Leaders of its associate organisations have announced that they will be on the streets on Monday.

Activists of the ruling party rallied and took out processions on Sunday in several parts of the city.

They announced to prevent BNP supporters from gathering outside Naya Paltan, leading the citizens to fear a confrontation. 

Capital cut from rest of the country

The road and river communications between Dhaka and other parts of the country virtually cut off since Sunday morning as the buses were kept off roads and launches were barred to anchor at the terminal ahead of the March 12 rally in the capital. 

Visiting Gabtoli Bus Terminal, our reporter found that thousands of people were waiting there since the morning as the transport union leaders forced the bus owners to keep the vehicles off the road. 

Meanwhile, most of the long-distance buses were seen parked inside Sayedabad bus terminal in the morning.

Making stopover at different city bus stoppages, our correspondents report that almost all of the bus companies kept their vehicles off the road for 'fear of anarchy' as well as safety concerns. 

Due to take off buses in the city, the traffic movements almost remain one of hartal days.

On both sides of the streets in the city, thousands of people were seen waiting for public transports. 


The transport union leaders were seen beating some bus drivers at Gabtoli bus terminal when they were trying to operate some inter-district buses.

They also vandalised two long-route buses around 8:30am at the bus terminal, bringing a total halt to the transport movement.

After that, no long-distance buses were seen leaving or entering the terminal.

The union leaders were also seen to force commuters to vacate several long-route buses at the terminal.

Motaleb, an elderly person, who came to Dhaka from Sylhet with his wife and three sons Saturday night, was seen waiting at Gabtoli Bus Terminal for buses for Pabna. 

"I have an urgent work to do in Pabna. Now, I don't know what I will do," saying this he sat on road in his utter despair. 

Talking to another young lady whose name was not available, our correspondent reports, the lady first went to Sadarghat Launch Terminal for a launch ticket for Barisal. 

As she failed to get one, she rushed to the bus terminal and was waiting when this report was filed around 10:00am. 


Sharif Miah, an office staff of Hanif Paribahan at Kalyanpur branch, told our correspondent that a single bus of their company has not left or entered the city this morning.

Hafiz, manager of Shyamoli Paribahan at Kalyanpur branch, also echoed Sharif.
The lone bus that left the terminal in the morning is for Kolkata, Hafiz said.


After visiting Sadarghat Launch Terminal our correspondent reported that Awami League-backed workers obstructed some launches to anchor at the terminal. 

At around 6:00am, when three launches -- Kalam Khan-1, Sundarban-8 and Parabat -- reached the launch terminal carrying the people from Barisal, Bhola, Bagerhat, Patuakhali and other southern districts, the ghat workers barred those to anchor.

Seeking anonymity owner of a launch said, “The Awami League-backed workers are obstructing the launches to anchor at the launch terminal.”

Passengers of the three launches however managed to get down by boats. 

Another correspondent adds that the ghat labourers also pelted brickbats on the passengers who tried to get off the launch.

The workers also chased the three launches with boats and trawlers when those headed towards Shyambazar and Postogola to offload passengers.


Our reporter, who is covering the transport situation of Dhaka-Chittagong highway, found most of the buses parked inside Sayedabad bus terminal in the morning. 

Luckily, he got a bus for Comilla around 6:30am. On his way back to Dhaka, he went to Shashangachha bus stand in Comilla town around 8:30am and found around 100 Dhaka-bound passengers were waiting there for transport. 

In their despair bid to go to the capital, some of the commuters hired microbuses and private cars while others were seen to return home. 

Jahangir Alam, a resident of Comilla and an engineer of the Local Government and Engineering Department (LGED), returned to his house fearing chaos after waiting at the bus stand for an hour. He was on the way to his Narayanganj office via Dhaka. 

“Life is more valuable than attending office in such a situation. I would rather take a two-day leave,” Jahangir Alam said. 

"Neither Awami League nor BNP is affected by such types of activities while only the general people become the worst sufferer, he added.

One Momena Begum of Comilla and her son managed to get up a Dhaka-bound bus at the bus stand but soon they got down from the bus apprehending violence ahead of the March 12 rally of the opposition.

Another Dhaka-bound passenger Hamidur Rahman, who was waiting at Comilla Cantonment Bus Stand, said it seems that the government has called a transport strike.

Meanwhile, a conductor of Asia Line which operates on Dhaka-Comilla route told our reporter that they will halt operation for Sunday and Monday fearing vandalism. 

Md Uzzal, a Teletalk employee who was waiting at Chandina bus stand, told the reporter that he went to Comilla from Dhaka on Saturday on a official tour and boarded at a hotel at Comilla Biswa road.


Visiting Manikganj our reporter added that the launch owners have been asked by local administration to halt the launch services till the evening of March 12. 

Several launch drivers seeking anonymity told The Daily Star that the local administration asked them to keep all the vessels anchored at Paturia and Aricha ghats so that no one could come from Daulatdia and Kazirhaat crossing the Padma river.

People however were seen to cross the river by ferry or taking alternative way. 

Our Manikganj correspondent adds: The road and river communications between Dhaka and Manikganj were also disrupted.

The launch services on Paturia-Daulatdia route remained suspended since Saturday afternoon.
Paturia-Daulatdia route is the key route of communications between the capital and southwestern districts of the country.

The Ro-Ro (roll-on/roll-off) ferries were only seen to carry good-laden trucks. Only three buses were seen to cross the river till the report was filed at 11:45am Sunday.

Hundreds of people who had gone their village home during the two day weekend, could not return to their working place in Dhaka as no long-route buses were plying on the Dhaka-Manikganj highway. 

Meanwhile, security was beefed up in Manikganj ahead of the March 12 mass rally of BNP.

Md Nurul Islam, inspector of Manikganj traffic police, told The Daily Star that several additional police check posts were set up in the town fearing anarchy ahead of the opposition rally.