Bangladesh to set up dolphin sanctuaries.

Bangladesh will declare three river areas in its southwest as dolphin sanctuaries, wildlife officials said Monday, in a bid to protect the country’s population of endangered freshwater cetaceans.

The forestry department took the decision after studies found three areas in the UNESCO-listed Sundarbans mangrove forest, which straddles Bangladesh and India, were home to large populations of Irrawaddy and Ganges river dolphins.

“We have decided to declare river channels at Dhangmari, Chandpai and Dudhmukhi areas in the eastern Sundarbans as dolphin sanctuaries,” Tapan Kumar Dey, senior wildlife conservation official at the forest department, said.

“The channels and adjoining areas are home to hundreds of endangered Irrawady and Ganges river dolphins. Fishermen will be banned from fishing in the areas,” he told AFP.

Tens of thousands of fishermen catch fish and shrimp in the channels. Although dolphins are not targeted directly, they often become entangled in the fishing nets and die by the dozen every year.

A series of studies since 2002 by the Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project (BCDP) identified the three areas in the Sunderbans’ river channels which are key dolphin hotspots.

An earlier BCDP study found the world’s largest population of Irrawaddy dolphins — an estimated 6,000 — living along Bangladesh’s southern coast, including in the Sundarbans.

In other areas where the flat-faced dolphins are known to converge, such as the Mekong delta in South East Asia, populations have been estimated at less than 100.


Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wants int’l support to face challenges of climate change

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Saturday reiterated her call to the developed economies to assist Bangladesh face the risks of climate change. “Bangladesh is among the countries most vulnerable to the global climate change.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina returned home early today after a 3-day Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting in Perth, says UNB.

Senior cabinet members, Awami League leaders and MPs and high civil and military officials received her at Shahjalal International Airport at 12:55am.

Earlier, Bangladesh High Commissioner to Australia Lt Gen Masud Uddin Chowdhury and representatives of the Australian government saw her off at the Perth Airport, says a release.

The concluding segment of the CHOGM Retreat Session-3 yesterday morning deliberated on, inter alia, women as agents of change. Leaders were informed about Bangladesh achieving global acclaim as a champion of women’s empowerment and gender equality towards the attainment of Millennium Development Goal 3.

The leaders adopted the CHOGM Communiqué and the Commonwealth Declaration on Food Security Principles.

Russia’s Gazprom to explore for gas in Bangladesh.

DHAKA Oct 31 (Reuters) – Russia’s Gazprom , the world’s largest natural gas company, on Monday proposed exploring for gas in Bangladesh’s onshore fields to cushion an energy crisis that has slowed the country’s economic growth, a senior government official said.

A Gazprom delegation is visiting Bangladesh to conclude negotiations with the government for exploration of oil and gas.

“The firm will invest around $200 million to explore at least 10 wells to increase gas production to meet rising demand,” said the government’s energy secretary, Mohamad Mejbahuddin.

He told Reuters that the firm had assured the Bangladesh government that it would finish its drilling activities by the middle of 2013.

Gazprom also agreed to pay 5 percent as a performance guarantee of the total cost.

Bangladesh’s state energy firm Petrobangla has a plan to increase natural gas production to 2.2 billion cubic feet per day. At present it produces around 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day against demand of more than 2.5 billion.

Gazprom would become the first foreign company to partner with Petrobangla in oil and gas exploration without a production-sharing contract if its proposal is accepted by the government.

Gas Mafia Syndicate Makes Political Alignment in Bangladesh

For shortage of production from the gas fields, constraints of gas transmission system coupled with poor gas system operation cause downstream gas marketing companies suffer the most. In a very conservative estimate the coincident peak demand in gas system is now about 2600MMCFD but the production and supply in a supersaturated gas transmission grid is about 2000MMCFD. If the designed capacity of gas grid could be professionally utilized keeping pipelines cleaned of accumulated condensates, hydrates, a deficit of 200MMCFD could be managed playing with effective line pack [Inventory of gas in the system] of about 2500KM gas transmission grid. But a deficit of 600MMCFD and inability to use system capacity for accumulation of liquid at the bottom sections transmission system suffers gas draught. It struggles in transporting about 2000MMCFD causing low pressure at different gas hubs and growth centers. Consequently two out of five gas marketing companies TGTDCL and KGDCL suffer from insecurity of supply. The serious gas crisis prevails from 2005. Smart actions by knowledgeable professionals could have successfully confronted and overcome the situation by now. But unfortunately three governments over this period failed to do anything meaningful. In end 2011 Gas system suffers so much that all end users –Power, Fertilizer, Industries, CNG, Commercial and domestic consumers are seriously affected. The failure of the present government is the most painful as they came to state power with lot of promises .They talked about right home works, plans and mega plans. But wrong strategy, flawed planning and poor project management and extremely poor gas system management have not only worsened situation but also put the government in serious embarrassment. It is highly unlikely that situation may significantly improve over the remaining period of the government. Placing wrong party leaning professional places is one of the main reasons for present situation.

Titas Distribution System now utilizes about 1530MMCFD of the total 2000 MMCFD national production. Still Titas franchise area has gas crisis and low pressure problem. One fails to understand why market of Titas System was allowed to grow so big? Why Titas and Petrobangla were not careful from early 2000 it was apparent that production and transmission constraints would make meeting uncontrolled market demand impossible. Gas supply to greater Dhaka is constrained due to lower capacity transmission pipelines. So called smart Titas system planners are responsible for it. One wonders why Titas-Norshingdi –Joydevpoor pipeline could not be 24”OD all the way in 1980s when Titas system started indicating massive growth. Constructing 16”/14” OD Titas-Norshingdi Gas transmission pipeline in 1984 was definitely not smart when Titas committed additional gas supply in Ghorshal and Joydevpoor areas. Believe it or not Titas even try to resist when BGSL built 20”OD Bakharabad –Demra pipeline to divert separable gas from Bakharabad Gas Field at that time. Bakharabad Gas Field was primarily developed for South Eastern Bangladesh and more specifically for Chittagong. Now from Bakharabad hub about 220MMCFD gas is supplied to Dhaka System while Chittagong gets gas draught.

Chittagong System of KGDCL has a demand of 400MMCFD against which present supply is about 210-220 MMCFD. About 200MMCFD is transported through Bakharabad-Chittagong Pipeline and Shangu offshore Gas Field supplies about 15 MMCFD. In present circumstances KGDCL cannot sully gas to fertilizer plants and power plants simultaneously. It also struggles to meet the requirements of industries. The reasons of Gas crisis in KGDCL area are.

· Capacity Constraint of Bakrabad-Chittagong ANSI# 400 Gas transmission pipeline. In the present situation it cannot be operated at pressure above 820-830PSIG restricting diversion from national grid to 230-240MMCFD.

· Shangu offshore gas field production has depleted from 160MMCFD to 15 MMCFD.

· Present works of Santos to increase gas production delayed at least one year for official high handedness.

· Development of Feni Gas Field stuck in legal battle.

· Petrobangla /EMRD failed to plan and implement Bakharabad-Chittagong Loop line despite its dire necessity.

· Delay in Developing Semutang, Salda gas fields.

· Reluctance of policy makers to aggressively negotiate Myanmar –Bangladesh-India pipeline in 2005 which according to negotiated draft MOU had provision of supplying gas to Chittagong market along its route.

Situation in Chittagong is terrible now. Several investors investing in gas based industries are waiting for 4-5 years for gas connection. Potential KEPZ cannot start in full swing. KAFCO has shelved its plan for a second unit. In recent time KGDCL obliging to Government decision attempted to resume gas supply to CUFL shelving gas supply to power plants. But PDB could not agree. Some gas still goes to power generation. KGDCL was compelled to plan gas staggering to industrial consumers. But Chittagong Chamber vehemently opposed. To redress the situation Petrobangla must advise diversion of about 15-20 MMCFD gas from national grid through gas rationing elsewhere.

Problems of Marketing Companies:

Can TGTDCL and KGDCL guarantee that they have absolute control over their gas market? What is the actual non technical system loss –theft, pilferage and meter tampering? There are so many different methods of gas theft, meter tampering, pilferage and illegal connection. It is almost impossible to cure this incurable disease. System loss alone keeps above 100MMCFD gas unaccounted for over gas franchises.

Secretary, Energy is Chairman Titas Board. He is desperately endeavouring to improve situation. He must set up a very strong Vigilance team to identify and disconnect delinquent gas users. Provisions of Gas Act must be imposed.  There must be authentic soul searching how gas demand increased over the last two years when new connections were mostly suspended unless illegal connection and pilferage increased.

This writer in his time identified and disconnected several such illegal and delinquent consumers in BGSL System.. Unfortunately a very strong mafia syndicate comprising of Gas Company officials, trade union leaders, dishonest contractors, political touts and even higher government officials are part of the process. In Titas system alone in Narayanganj, Tongi, Joydevpoor, Old Dhaka areas the actual system loss may be to the tune of 60-70MMCFD.

In early days of BGSL dishonest gas consumers used to hire experts from Titas to assist them in meter by passing and tampering. When BGSL matured experts from Chittagong used to help Titas gas users. Unless business groups and Chamber leaders assist marketing companies it has now become impossible to control gas pilferage. Gas mafia syndicate makes political alignment with party in power. Gas system pilferage goes on. The difficult areas in Chittagong are Nasirabad, Halishahar, and Kalurghat.MD KGDCL informed since formation of the company his team could identify a major section of illegal gas users and recover substantial revenue as penalty. But system is far from being cured.

Another issue of Titas and KGDCL is absence of authentic as built drawing. Some distribution networks have poor cathodes protection and are not odorized regularly. Gas is odourless. If not odorized it is not possible to detect leakage. Natural gas can be silent killer. A certain mix with air makes it explosive.

The fate of digital mapping of TGTDCL is not known. As distribution networks are getting older leakages are becoming more frequent. In absence of reliable as built documentation emergency team often suffers in isolating mains to carry out repairs.

Considering unplanned growth of Dhaka, Chittagong and major cities it is strongly recommended that gas supply to domestic and commercial consumers should be gradually phased out and replaced with LPG making LPG easily available.

Present Government has taken some initiatives to meet gas crisis in Chittagong and diversify fuel mix to relieve gas system. But in actual reality the flowing two initiatives do not appear feasible.

·       Import of 500MMCFD equivalent LNG through setting up FIFO [Floating LNG Terminal] at Maheskhali, constructing a 90KM 30 “OD pipeline from Maheskhali to Chittagong Ring Main.

·       Set Up large coal based power plants based on imported coal.

Both for technical and commercial considerations both initiative will prove futile soon.


Why CNG Initiative Now Became Pain in the Neck?

CNG initiative was great to combat pollution from polluting sulphur and lead included Liquid fuels. Conversion of all Government vehicles to CNG and import of NGV articulated busses for mass transit could bring great benefits. Gas supply to CNG and CNG price should have been brought closer to alternative fuel much earlier. That could have discouraged mushroom growth of CNG Fuelling stations and CNG Conversion workshops. Private vehicles and three wheelers should not have been converted to CNG. Unfortunately a vested group –Some BNP Ministers, Some Business Leaders and dishonest Officials of Petrobangla/ RPGCL and gas marketing companies made fortunes. Hundreds of CNG Fuelling pumps and thousands of CNG vehicles caused nightmares. CNG vehicles contributed mostly to Grid locks in major cities. Taking advantage of Mother Daughter CNG system many industrialists are also using CNG causing additional pressure to gas system. The mother daughter CNG business should be immediately stopped.


Gas Pricing must be rationalized:

Gas price of all end users must be regularly adjusted to make it cost plus. Poor gas price cannot ensure energy conservation and efficiency.  In early days of Titas in sales department there was a utilization section. We used to design burners, kilns, boilers and regularly monitor that consumers sticks to those. Every marketing company must have a utilization cell which can carry out research and development on better utilization of precious gas resource.

For confronting the Present Crisis of Gas Marketing System the following Recommendations are considered useful.


·       Immediately stop mother – daughter mode of CNG utilization.

·       Make CNG price at least 75% of alternate fuel and raise gas price to CNG gradually.

·       Bring NGV articulated busses to replace CNG driven three wheelers and human haulers in major cities.

·       Digitize all as built drawings of gas distribution networks. Use of Arc –GIS can be useful.

·       All distribution networks must be regularly odorized.

·       TGTDCL must be trifurcated to create enabling atmosphere for better control. It must be placed to shareholders in AGM. There can be one company for Greater Mymensingh .One for Narayanganj, Norshingdi and one for Dhaka Metropolis including Munshiganj and Manikganj.

·       Gas distribution system in Dhaka can be isolated from Joydevpoor and Tongi the way Narayanganj system has been isolated.

·       All metering system of HP and IP DRSs of KGDCL must be refurbished for better system monitoring as KGDCL will soon require to Transport Santos share of Shangu Gas for the consumers they will directly sale.

·       Bakharabad-Chittagong Loop line must be constructed on top priority basis.

·       Gas transmission pipelines must be pigged immediately and distribution networks must also be routinely purged .

·       Gas act provisions must be strictly implemented.

“Transit “should be discussed in public forum rather than keeping it confined to some advisers and bureaucrats

Because of reality reason Speakers at a dialogue on transit have urged the government to become transparent on the issue.

They suggested that it has to be a win-win situation for Bangladesh and India to develop a sustainable and long-term relationship.

The report of the core committee on transit should be made public, they said and added that before making any decision, it should be discussed in public forum rather than keeping it confined to some advisers and bureaucrats.
They also asked the government to make public the deal and core committee report.

These observations were made at a dialogue on “Transhipment or Transit for India?” that was co-organised by International Chamber of Commerce Bangladesh (ICCB) and The Daily Star.

If India is granted transit, its trucks and rails will have passage across Bangladeshi territory to go in and out of its northeastern states, while transhipment refers to the same movement using Bangladeshi means of transport.

“We strongly recommend that the concept of transit be revised and Bangladesh goes for a transhipment agreement to help India gain access to its seven north-eastern states,” said Mahbubur Rahman, president of ICCB.

On reasons against transit, Economist Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya said the country is not ready for it yet.

Dr M Rahmatullah, a transport expert and campaigner of regional connectivity, also prefers transhipment over transit for now, considering Bangladesh’s poor infrastructure condition and from an economic point of view.

He said all roads in Bangladesh are two-lane, highly congested and cannot take over 8.2 axle-load. There is no physical link between the railways in Bangladesh and the northeastern Indian states, he added.

“Limited transit through transhipment will be ideal at the moment,” said Rahmatullah, a former director of UNESCAP.

Sohel Ahmed Chowdhury, former commerce secretary, said transhipment is preferable to Bangladesh. “Then we’ll have the control and can develop infrastructure slowly to go for transit,” he added.

Speakers opposed transit to India in the presence of three powerful policymakers. Two are advisers to the prime minister, Gowher Rizvi and Mashiur Rahman, who are believed to be the architects of a new Indo-Bangla relation, while the third is Faruk Khan, commerce minister.

With Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in January 2010, talks have surfaced over Bangladesh allowing transit to India, Nepal and Bhutan. The issues were not discussed in parliament and experts also cannot say whether Bangladesh and India opted for a transit or transhipment agreement.

Analysts and businessmen’s clear mandate to transhipment came as it would also benefit both the countries, and not just India.

“In transhipment, Bangladeshi truckers can transport goods to and from the Indian borders,” said Prof Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).

Amjad Khan Chowdhury, chief executive of Pran-RFL Group that has good business with the northeastern Indian provinces, said transhipment is less cost effective than transit.

Anwar-ul-Alam Chowdhury Parvez, former president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said, “Transhipment is the only mode for us.”

Former Finance Adviser Dr AB Mirza Azizul Islam said transhipment is favourable as Bangladesh would use its locomotives and vehicles to carry Indian goods.

He, however, questioned, “Are we already in transit?” If that is so, Bangladesh has no choice but to come back from the deal.

He also said transit to Nepal and Bhutan would not benefit Bangladesh as much, as their economies and external trade volumes are small.

Annisul Huq, former president of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said he is totally confused about what is happening between Bangladesh and India as the government is yet to make those public.

Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, said bilateral relations with India have gone through ups and downs in the past and the region has wasted a lot of time on suspicion and acrimony.

“After many years, relations with India are on track. Now we need to create a set of arrangements, which will be a win-win situation for both of us,” Anam said.

Gowher Rizvi said transit is costlier for Bangladesh than transhipment. But he said transit and transhipment will happen simultaneously.

“None of you use the word connectivity, which we favour. How long can we remain in the past?” he asked.

He assured that India will not be given cost-free transit. The adviser said a core committee formed by the government has completed a study taking into account the economic, social and environmental issues.

“All the estimates made by the core committee or by CPD are based on assumptions,” he said, adding that before determining fees, the government would analyse its returns on investments.

On giving India a corridor facility, he said it is totally irrelevant. “There is no room for the use of the corridor facility to India.”

Mashiur Rahman said Bangladesh and India need to set up a stable transit regime, specifying the methods of monitoring cost data and setting tariff-based on the data consistent with World Trade Organisation rules. He said tariff should be adjusted periodically — once in 2 to 3 years.

“Investment shall follow establishment of a credible stable long term transit regime, and without large investment, the full potential of transit cannot be realised,” said Mashiur.

Faruk Khan said Bangladesh’s interests have fully been protected in the deal with India. “We want to develop regional connectivity, not restrict us.”

On publication of the core committee report, the commerce minister said it is under the government’s consideration. “The sooner the better.”

Opposition boycotts NCC election in Bangladesh

BNP Backed Narayongonj Mayor Candidate Boycott Narayanganj City Poll..
 Barely seven hours before the Narayanganj City Corporation vote, BNP has announced that mayor candidate Taimur Alam Khandaker, who the party was backing, is boycotting the polls. No army has been deployed. Voters have been threatened in their homes, Abdullah Al Noman told journalists at a press briefing at the party chairperson’s office.
In light of this, we reject the Narayanganj City Corporation elections and withdraw our candidate, he said. Taimur is set to hold a news conference at the district BNP office in Narayanganj city. The announcement came at an emergency press briefing at the BNP chairperson’s Gulshan office.

Ruling Bangladesh Awami League has extended support to notorious god-father Shamim Osman, who faces numerous criminal charges for series of criminal activities. The ruling party extended support to Shamim Osman, though according to electoral rules, political parties are not supposed to get involved into any such elections of the local governments.

Barely seven hours before the Narayanganj City Corporation vote, main opposition, BNP announced that mayor candidate Taimur Alam Khandaker, who the party was backing, is boycotting the polls.

“No army has been deployed. Voters have been threatened in their homes,” Abdullah Al Noman told journalists at a press briefing at the party chairperson’s office.

“In light of this, we reject the Narayanganj City Corporation elections and withdraw our candidate,” he said.

An election official has dismissed the boycott call, saying such measure has no legal basis since the election is not political.

Taimur is set to hold a news conference at the district BNP office in Narayanganj city.

The announcement came at an emergency press briefing at the BNP chairperson’s Gulshan office.

Meanwhile our staff reporters at Narayanganj said, Shamim Osman’s gangs are knocking doors of the voters with threat of voting for Osman or “be ready for dire consequences”.

The government also has reportedly given secret instructions to the law enforcing agencies as well as presiding officers to “exhibit softer attitude” towards the ruling party backed candidate and his activists”.

Narayanganj City Corporation election now stands as burning evidence that free and fair election is impossible under the current government. Moreover, there are now serious doubts about the minimum integrity of the Election Commission in the country. Political analysts are predicting that, by boycotting the NCC election, Bangladesh Nationalist Party has visibly for the first time; put the very acceptability of the ruling party as well as the neutrality of the Election Commission into serious doubts.

Following BNP’s boycotting the NCC election; the remaining two of the candidates, both belonging to the ruling party would not get into head-on-collusion during the election of October 30. It is anticipated that, the loser candidate [also belonging to the ruling party] will now openly label the election to have been biased and extremely influenced by the government.

Several analysts even say that, by boycotting the election, BNP has taken the right decision at the right timing, as the ruling party is prepared to exhibit a total lawlessness and cocoon of terror during the NCC election on October 30. The analysts also feel that, boycotting the NCC election will now bring more support for the opposition party in the country, and possibly it would put extended pressure on the ruling party in Bangladesh.

Rab officials have advised voters to cast their votes without fear.

RAB has urged Narayanganj voters to ‘vote without a fear’ on Sunday, assuring them that such a large number of its members have never before been deployed in one place.

“Our members will be at each centre in uniform and plain clothes. No one will be allowed to compromise law and order,” Rapid Action Battalion’s legal and media wing director M Sohael told a press briefing on Saturday evening.

“RAB will take stern action against anyone trying to do so,” he added.

Some 1,400 members of the elite force are deployed in the Narayanganj City Corporation elections. An additional 700 personnel were added to the original number after the army failed to turn up.

“You will see RAB on your left, right, front and behind. No one place has seen such a large number of our personnel before,” Sohael said.

“You will vote safely. There is nothing to fear,” he added.

The Election Commission says there will be more than 5,000 lawmen at Narayanganj on the voting day.

Sohael said the RAB was collecting information at Narayanganj for the last one month.

“We’ll take action if we find any outsider, and against any criminal or destructive activity.”

The director said each centre, not just the ones marked risky by the Election Commission, would get equal importance from RAB.

“We are prepared to meet any situation. The RAB has proved itself in Chittagong City Corporation, Bhola by-elections and other elections by playing a neutral role.”

Voting will be held in the first NCC elections from 8am to 4pm.

BNP condemns diatribe against Khaleda in JS

The parliamentary party of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party on Friday demanded withdrawal of what was discussed in the house on Wednesday under rule 68 and alleged that the discussion had violated the rule itself.

The opposition chief whip, Zainul Abdin Farroque, at a briefing in the Jatiya Sangsad media centre, demanded withdrawal of the speeches of the ruling Awami League lawmakers who had demanded that sedition charges be brought against the opposition leader Khaleda Zia.

‘The discussion under rule 68 initiated by Suranjit Sengupta was unprecedented

in the history of parliament. For the first time issues out of parliament have been discussed,’ he said.

The discussion was supposed to continue for an hour but it dragged on for three hours in violation of the rule itself and 15 lawmakers launched diatribes against the opposition leader, he said.

‘We condemn it and demand withdrawal of the speeches,’ he said.

Farroque termed the ninth parliament totally dysfunctional. ‘The parliament is now being run by proxy. Neither the questioner nor the respondent remains present in the session. How could the opposition return to the house in such a situation,’ he asked.

He alleged that the opposition was not allowed to speak on issues of the killing of Bangladeshi nationals on the border, subservient foreign policy and Indian move to construct a dam at Tipaimukh that would displace thousands of people downstream in Bangladesh.

Farroque alleged that the speaker did not accept the opposition’s notice for discussion on law and order and the price spiral but accept an ‘unusual’ notice.

He said the government was plotting to ‘sell out’ the country forcing the opposition to take to the streets. ‘But the ruling party is trying to mislead the people about the road marches,’ he said.

In response to a question, he said the opposition might return to the house if the treasury bench brought a bill to restore the caretaker government system.

He said the treasury bench has to table the bill and cited that Khaleda Zia had passed caretaker government bill after Sheikh Hasina went out on movement for caretaker government in 1996. ‘That bill was tabled by the ruling party, not the opposition.’

Responding to a question, Farroque said the BNP was never against holding trial of war criminals rather it was the party which had repeatedly demanded trial of ‘real’ war criminals.

He said the BNP would hold trial of the killing of Siraj Sikder and 30 thousand political activists in 1972-1975, if it returned to power.

Scientists suggest alternative source of arsenic contamination

New research contradicts previous findings that arsenic contamination — an environmental crisis that affects more than 60 million people in the Bengal Basin — in groundwater may result from arsenic coming from man-made ponds, suggesting instead that it originates in sediments in aquifers.

Groundwater sites across southern and eastern Asia contains arsenic levels that can cause chronic poisoning, leading to skin lesions, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and a range of cancers.

“Almost all the major rivers draining the Himalayas are affected,” Scott Fendorf, a biogeochemist at Stanford University, United States, told Nature.

The crisis is particularly serious in in the Ganges delta of Bangladesh, where aid agencies encouraged the drilling of hand-pumped wells in the 1970s to avoid using surface water contaminated microbial diseases such as cholera. At the time, geologists did not know that groundwater was contaminated with arsenic.

And they still do not know how the arsenic gets into the groundwater. Man-made ponds could be seeping arsenic into the aquifers. But they may also be flushing out arsenic from aquifers and reducing contamination produced by sediments within the aquifers.

The scientific dispute — in press in Geophsyical Research Letters and led by Saugata Datta, a geologist at Kansas State University, United States — shows that government and funding agencies need to support studies at multiple sites, from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, according to Abhijit Mukherjee, a hydrologist at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, who is working with West Bengal’s government to find ways of predicting where safe wells might be dug.

“If that is done we have a systematic way of comparing data from sites,” he told Nature.

No army in NCC polls

CEC slams govt ‘refusal’ on deployment, says it’s a violation of constitution, EC won’t take responsibility for any trouble; no govt reply to EC’s letter for army to maintain law and order.
The government did not deploy the army in Narayanganj city yesterday, ignoring the Election Commission’s requirement of troops to maintain law and order during tomorrow’s polls.

The returning officer for the Narayanganj City Corporation polls informed the EC yesterday morning that the army would not be deployed.

Talking to reporters at his office in the evening, Chief Election Commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda said the troops were supposed to be in Narayanganj by the morning. Since that did not happen, the EC assumed there would be no army to maintain law and order in the polls.

He said the government is constitutionally obliged to meet the EC’s requirement. The commission would not take the responsibility for any disturbances during the vote.

When a reporter asked if the government had violated the constitution by not deploying the army, the CEC said, “Yes, it is a violation of the constitution.”

Article 126 of the constitution reads: “It shall be the duty of all executive authorities to assist the Election Commission in the discharge of its functions.”

Later, Huda told The Daily Star that the government had set a bad precedent by refusing at the last minute to deploy the army.

He said, “They [government] did not even inform us that they would not meet our requirement of deploying the army. It is an embarrassing situation for us.”

The EC on October 16 sent a letter to the Armed Forces Division (AFD), asking it to deploy four companies of army men for five days to maintain law and order in the election areas.

The commission wanted the government to deploy the troops as a strike and mobile force from yesterday morning till 11:00pm on November 1.

The polls chief said the EC had thought the army would be dispatched as per its requirement, since it did not receive any negative response from the government regarding the letter to the AFD, which is under the Prime Minister’s Office.

The home ministry on October 20 issued a circular saying that four companies of army men would be deployed in Narayanganj city areas.

The circular said details about the deployment would be given later.

The developments yesterday caught the EC completely off-guard.

The commission held an emergency meeting in the afternoon to assess the overall situation and expressed dissatisfaction at the government’s last-minute refusal to deploy the army, meeting sources said.

“The government could have communicated with us. We do not know why the army was not deployed,” Huda told The Daily Star.

“Once the polls are over, we will ask the government why it did not meet the requirement of army deployment.”

He said the commission had asked the home ministry to deploy more Rab and police personnel in Narayanganj city to beef up security. “We hope we will still be able to hold a free and peaceful election.”

Huda said it was not possible to postpone tomorrow’s polls, as it would have a negative impact on voters and candidates. Besides, there is a legal obligation to hold the polls within 180 days since May 5, the day Narayanganj was declared a city corporation.

The 180-day timeframe expires on November 2.

“The situation has become complicated. Yet, we have decided to hold the elections on schedule after consultation with our officials and law enforcement agencies,” the CEC said.

He said that personally he is opposed to army deployment to maintain law and order during elections. However, the commission this time went for army deployment, responding to repeated requests from two mayoral candidates and locals.

Queried if the EC had asked anyone in the government why troops were not deployed, he said, “Whom will I talk to? The prime minister, who holds the defence portfolio, is now in Australia.”