Dhaka launches global initiative to fight autism

Saima Wazed Hossain, chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Autism in Bangladesh,Health experts suggest ensuring quality of traditional medicines at WHO conference.
Bangladesh yesterday launched a global initiative to address the challenges of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) in the South-East Asia Region of World Health Organization.
Saima Wazed Hossain, chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Autism in Bangladesh, will lead the initiative titled “Global Initiative on Autism”, to be supported by WHO.
“In the last two to three years, we have already created awareness on autism, but much more needs to be done,” she told a press briefing on the sidelines of the ongoing sixty-seventh session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia at Sonargaon Hotel in the capital.
Saima, also a school psychologist and an expert adviser of WHO on mental health, said more global partnership, involving WHO and development partners, was crucial to take forward the cause of those having autism.
Around 0.8 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 years have autism or neurodevelopment disorders in Bangladesh, said Prof Golam Rabbani, chairperson of Neurodevelopment Disability Protection Trust of the social welfare ministry.
He said early diagnosis of children with any neurodevelopment disorders was better to treat them.
Autism spectrum disorders are a complex medical condition, characterised by a lack of language development, impaired social communication, hypersensitivity to sensory stimulation, repetitive mannerisms and restricted interests.
These conditions, in turn, affect a person’s health, social, educational and economic functioning, says WHO.
“We must empower families and communities with information and services to create a more inclusive world for children who suffer from ASDs,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director for South-East Asia.
“There is an urgent need to develop innovative ways and embed appropriate interventions into health systems to reach the affected,” she said at a side event of the regional conference.
In another session of the event, health experts suggested maintaining rigorous standards to ensure quality of traditional medicines.
“If appropriately integrated into the existing health systems, traditional medicines can play an important role in achieving Universal Health Coverage,” said Dr Poonam.
She mentioned that traditional medicine practitioners remain the primary healthcare providers for millions of people in South-East Asia.
In Bangladesh, around 70 people in the rural and semi-urban areas prefer to use traditional Ayurvedic or Unani medicines, Dr Gaur Mani Singh, line director of the Directorate General of Health Services.
WHO in a statement said it had launched a strategy to meet the increasing demand of traditional medicines, improve quality, safety and efficacy.
In a plenary session on harmful drinking of alcohol, Health Minister Mohammed Nasim called upon the South-East Asian countries to wage a movement against drug abuse, saying that such abuses of drugs were destroying many of the youths.
Meanwhile, Nasim on Wednesday called upon Maldives Health Minister Hussain Rashid to provide health insurance to the Bangladeshis working in the Maldives.
During the bilateral talks on the sidelines of the conference, Rashid assured of considering the issue.

Accelerate Japan Bangladesh Relations: Abe arrived in Dhaka

Japan is a tested Fried of Bangladesh.Bangladesh sacrifices UNSC candidacy supporting Japan.Bangladesh has withdrawn its candidature for the non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in support of its ‘long-tested’ friend Japan, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has announced.
The announcement came at a joint briefing after the summit talk with her Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on Saturda.
In a first visit by any Japanese prime minister in 14 years, Abe arrived in Dhaka around 1pm on a less than 22 hour tour.

Bangladesh and Japan were the two contenders for the non-permanent seat for 2016-2017.

But only one will be elected from Asia Pacific region.

Japan has long been trying to lure Bangladesh for its support for Tokyo’s candidature.

Hasina during his Tokyo visit told Japanese media at a briefing that Japanese people would definitely get “good news” during Abe’s tour in Dhaka.

She invited him to visit Bangladesh during their meeting in Tokyo in May.

“I will have to go back and discuss the matter with my cabinet colleagues. But we will definitely value the friendship with Japan,” Hasina had then said.

“We always remember with gratitude the Japanese support… Japan is our tested friend and Bangladesh is ready to make any sacrifice for the tested friend,” she also said.

During that visit, Abe promised $6 billion development assistance for Bangladesh for the next four to five years.

In his first speech on Saturday before the summit meeting he also said he would “promote” trade and investment in Bangladesh.

Making the announcement at her office, Hasina said Bangladesh and Japan have “an excellent understanding and long history of cooperation” in the field of international affairs, including at the UN.

She gave a broad context before announcing the withdrawal of Bangladesh’s candidature.

“….in view of Japan’s continued and strong support in Bangladesh’s development process, and in the interest of solidarity and unity of the Asia-Pacific Group at the UN, it is my pleasure to declare that Bangladesh would support Japan’s candidature from the Asia Pacific Group for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the term 2016-17,” Hasina announced.

“We would also withdraw Bangladesh’s candidature in favour of Japan,” she said.

Abe thanked Hasina for the announcement.

Hasina said Japan has always been supportive of Bangladesh role in particular in the “UN Peace keeping and Peace Building”.

She recalled her May visit, and said Japan has further offered technical assistance in setting up a “Peace –Building Centre” in Dhaka for which preliminary works have already commenced.

“We deeply appreciate Japan’s offer for this cooperation as well as Japan’s commitment and contribution to establishing and maintaining global peace and stability,” she said.

Hasina said Bangladesh served on the UN Security Council “successfully” winning elections in New York with overwhelming support from friends in the years 1979-1980 and 1999-2000.

“Few years back we had launched a fresh candidature to the Security Council from the Asia-Pacific Group for the term 2016-2017.

“In 2011 our long-tested friend Japan also launched their candidature for the same term from the Asia Pacific Group.

“Since then our two governments have been closely consulting with a view to upholding our mutual cooperation and Group solidarity in multilateral fora”.

Hasina also recalled with “deep gratitude the support and empathy of the friendly people and the government of Japan during our War of Liberation”.

She said she had “a frank, warm and fruitful discussion” with her counterpart.

The prime minister appreciated Shinzo Abe for bringing Japanese businesses leaders along with him.

She also highlighted the bilateral relations, and said both sides enjoy “excellent friendly relations”.

Japan has emerged as the largest development partner of Bangladesh over the years by providing over $12 billion financial support since independence.

Hasina also referred the fresh commitment Abe made during her visit in May and said “we understand the Japanese commitment would not be limited to the amount”.

She said both countries launched “comprehensive partnership” in order to further broaden and deepen the bilateral cooperation in all areas.

Japan has also launched a programme for Bangladesh under the “Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt (BIG-B)” to what, Hasina said, “help us achieve economic developments through improvement of investment climate and infrastructure”.

“I have also expressed our readiness to contribute to the Japanese construction works as well as health and nursing sectors,” she said.

Shinzo Abe in the joint press announcement expressed his gratitude to the people of Bangladesh for supporting Japan in its bid for the non-permanent seat on the UNSC.

He said this decision would “further strengthen” bilateral relations and enhance international cooperation.

Bangladesh seeks ‘Bay of Bengal partnership’ for blue economy

Bangladesh has sought ‘Bay of Bengal partnership’ for sustainable economic growth leveraging the blue ocean to its south.
“Blue economy must be inclusive and people-centric,” the foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali said on Tuesday at the end of the two-day international workshop on blue economy in Dhaka.

Bangladesh hosted this workshop for the first time bringing together more than 30 experts and representatives of 20 countries.

The foreign minister gave an idea of the collaboration that could take place and said it must be based on certain universal principles of engagement — mutual trust, respect, mutual benefits, and equitable sharing of benefits.

“And collaboration will have to be in research, observation, surveillance and in respect of sharing of analyses, outcomes, observations,” he said while concluding the two-day discussions.

The Bay of Bengal is the largest bay in the world that forms the north-eastern part of the Indian Ocean.

It is bordered mostly by India and Sri Lanka to the west, Bangladesh to the north, and Myanmar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the east.

Bangladesh took interest in hosting the workshop after it has settled its maritime boundary disputes with neighbouring India and Myanmar “peacefully”.

Sovereign rights have been established on more than 118,000 sq km of maritime territory, 200 nautical miles (NM) of exclusive economic zone, and 354 NM of continental shelf after positive verdicts in international courts.

It has raised hopes of extracting “plenty of resources” from the Bay of Bengal, considered by Bangladesh as its “third neighbour”.

But Dhaka lacks expertise and technology to exploit the resources, which is believed to have prompted the minister to seek global partnership.

The foreign ministry earlier said they were planning to draw up a maritime policy.

“Bangladesh is at a nascent stage of development and assessment of blue economy,” the foreign minister said.

He said the blue economy was “much more robust and key to sustainable development”.

Ali said it was “essential” to create robust ‘maritime domain awareness’ among people-at-large, communities, policy-makers across legislature, and executive.

It was also “crucial” to assess, observe and analyse the profound yet unmeasured and uncertain impacts of climate change on oceans and seas, including the Bay of Bengal, he said.

“This is besides the analyses done by IPCC,” Ali said.

He also pitched for generating knowledge and data that he said has to be particularly relevant to the needs of coastal and island states, whose economy are still developing.

“And, data will have to be relevant to the greater benefit of lives and livelihoods of larger population,” he said.

It was “equally important for developing countries to gain access to available, contemporary and critical data from across-the-world”.

Based on two-day discussions, the foreign minister said development of adaptive technology, transfer of critical technology to developing littoral states was a “common space” one needs to learn to share.

The role of private sector is vital and for this the minister suggested creating policy frameworks to attract critical private investment for blue economy.

He said the need of “effective governance” in policy came out clearly during the workshop as far as strategies for overall maritime and related sectors are concerned.

“The need for cooperation has come out robustly,” he said.

Based on the discussions, the minister said, “let us move together and ahead with a ‘Bay of Bengal partnership for Blue Economy’ to secure sustainable development among the coastal or littoral States”.

“…..let us go back from Dhaka with these messages,” he said.

Blue economy became a buzzword for sustainable development particularly in drafting the post-2015 development goals.

The foreign secretary M Shahidul Haque said about 1.4 billion people were living along the Bay of Bengal coast line.
“It’s a people’s highway,” he said.

But there is a strategic and geo-political interest to countries around the Bay.

“Next time we’ll discuss more on political aspects,” he said as the workshop focused solely on development issues.

Secretary of the maritime affairs department of the foreign ministry Khurshid Alam said all have to cooperate and combat the menace that damages sea, referring to the potential impacts of climate change.

“Sea unites, land divides,” he said as there is no boundary in the sea.

Reaz Hamidullah, director general of the foreign ministry’s economic wing, read out a summary of the two-day workshop and said all participants proposed for engagement based on “mutual trust, respect, equitable benefits and equitable benefit sharing”.

He said in partnership and collaboration, the state would be responsible primarily, but private sector must play crucial role.

Bangladesh no longer in pirate prone countries

blue economy
blue economy
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said journey in the sea route is safe now as Bangladesh is no longer in the list of pirate prone countries.

‘Blue Economy’ is a concept that can significantly contribute to the socio-economic development of Bangladesh, says Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

“Blue economy concept has ushered in a new horizon for economic development of the coastal countries through utilising the sea and marine resources at national and international level,” she told the inaugural ceremony at an international seminar on the issue here on Monday.

She said the role of marine resources in poverty alleviation, acquiring autarky in food production, protecting environmental balance, facing adverse impacts of climate change and other economic possibilities are unlimited.

“Alongside the existing land-based development activities, the marine-based economic activities through the management of sea and its resources through Blue Economy may be considered as a new horizon for development of the coastal countries and the small island developing states,” Hasina said.

Describing the Bay of Bengal as Bangladesh’s ‘third neighbour’, the Prime Minister said: “There is no doubt that sea-related subjects like expansion of international trade, use of marine mineral resources for long-term energy security, proper management of marine fish resources and protecting marine environment and bio-diversity would determine Bangladesh’s future development and economic growth.”

“We have to ensure sustainable development through proper utilization of the potentials of the sea and marine resources,” she said.

Hasina said that her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman enacted the Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act 1974 to establish Bangladesh’s sovereign rights over the sea and its resources.

Consequent to this some of the important provisions of Bangladesh’s Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act of 1974 were also included in the UNCLOS 1982. Especially the articles 7(2) of the UNCLOS on deltaic base line for highly unstable coastline were incorporated on Bangladesh’s insistence, she claimed.

But the Prime Minister regretted that Bangladesh could not harness resources of the sea due to non delimitation of maritime boundary with neighbours India and Myanmar for a long time.

She blamed ‘successive governments in Bangladesh’ for not taking appropriate and realistic steps to settle the issue of maritime boundary and alleged they instead ‘ created various complexities’.

“Owing to the absence of maritime boundary demarcation, people of Bangladesh were not able to take any effective steps to exploit and explore the marine resources of the Bay of Bengal,” she said, adding that while Bangladesh fishermen faced difficulties in exploiting the resources, those from other countries ‘easily plundered fish resources due to unsettled maritime boundary’.

She said after coming to power in 1996, her government ratified the UNCLOS in 2001 with a view to ensuring legal rights over marine resources.

After the ratification, Bangladesh was supposed to submit relevant scientific and technical data to the UN for establishing extended continental shelf, she said.

“In March, 2010, we conducted the first marine seismic survey in the history of Bangladesh. After completing all the technical and legal documentation details, we lodged our submission with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) on 25 February 2011; five months before the scheduled deadline.”

Hasina said ‘sustained efforts’ by her government led to the favourable verdict by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Germany in the delimitation case with Myanmar on 14 March in 2012.

“The award helped us establishing sovereign rights over the living and nonliving resources of the Bay of Bengal in the Exclusive Economic Zone within 200 nm and in the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. In the same way, the verdict with India declared on 7 July 2014 also allowed Bangladesh’s sovereign rights on all the living and mineral resources of the Continental Shelf extending upto 354 nautical miles.”

She claimed Bangladesh has set an example in Asia in settling maritime boundary peacefully with her neighbors, the allusion clearly pointing to the tensions in the South China Sea.

“A huge stock of living and non-living resources is available under the seabed and water column. But we have a dearth of skilled manpower to ascertain the availability and explore the resources. Besides, there is also lack of proper technology for exploiting deep sea fishes and seabed resources. To build skilled manpower in these sectors, we have taken steps to impart higher education on Oceanography at the Dhaka University and Chittagong University. The first National Oceanographic Research Institute’ is being established at Ramu to create marine scientific community for research,” Hasina said.

The Prime Minister insisted on strengthening the navy and the coast guard to fight piracy and protect the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone and its Continental Shelf that held the key to the steps for establishing an effective ‘blue econom
The PM inaugurated the workshop where some 32 experts, academicians and government officials from 20 countries are taking part.

Bangladesh and Japan need comprehensive partnership

Bangladesh and JapanIn this exclusive interview, Matsushiro Horiguchi, former ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh, talks to Tokyo-based Bangladeshi journalist Monzurul Huq and reflected on various aspects of bilateral relations that the upcoming visit of the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is bound to give a new impetus.

What are the main outcomes that the Japanese side is expecting from this visit?

It is epoch making that two leaders are meeting again only three months after they met last time in Tokyo at the end of May. Another milestone of the visit is that there is a record fourteen-year gap between the current visit of the Japanese prime minister to Dhaka, the last one was in 2000. This long interval was the result of political difficulties faced by Japan when the country’s prime ministers changed every one year since Junichiro Koizumi left office in 2006.

I believe the main outcome of Mr. Abe’s visit would be to show to the people of Bangladesh the real importance Japan attaches to her relationship with the country.

The visit is coming at a time when political situation in Bangladesh remains tense after the January 5 elections that the main opposition party boycotted. There remains the scope that supporters of the ruling block in Bangladesh will try to use the visit as a sign of Japan’s endorsement of election results. How do you see the visit from that perspective, and do you think Japanese prime minister should give a clear hint of Japan’s desire to see democracy in Bangladesh guarantees inclusivity, which is the essence of democratic principles?

In many of his speeches Mr. Abe mentioned very clearly about the importance of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. I believe this position is well known to everybody and Bangladesh is also not an exception.

Japan is trying to win the support of Bangladesh for Japan’s bid for a non-permanent member seat in the UN Security Council. Bangladesh is still in the race against Japan as it has not yet withdrawn its candidacy, though Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had given a clear hint during her visit to Japan in May that she might convey the good news to her Japanese counterpart at the time when the Japanese prime minister’s Dhaka visit materializes. Now as the visit is indeed materializing, how far are you optimistic about such an outcome?


In answering this question, I would like to remind you that Bangladesh has never faltered and never had been shaky on its pledge of support for Japan’s bid for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

During Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Japan in May this year, the two countries issued a joint declaration pledging to initiate a comprehensive partnership. What are the areas that this comprehensive partnership mechanism is supposed to include?

At the summit meeting last May, the two prime ministers launched the Japan-Bangladesh Comprehensive Partnership and decided to work out the details and modalities of such a partnership at the earliest. The Joint Statement issued after the summit had outlined various ideas and programs under three specific areas. The first is cooperation toward attaining global peace and stability; the second is economic cooperation leading towards the promotion of mutual interest and regional prosperity; and the third is promotion of cultural and people to people exchanges. The modalities are to be detailed based on these ideas.

Japan has committed significant economic assistance for Bangladesh during Sheikh Hasina’s Tokyo visit. What are the priority areas that Japan would like to see such economic assistance funding are channeled for the development of Bangladesh?

In my view, industrial diversification is one of the top priorities that Bangladesh needs to work out for achieving the goals of “Vision 2021”, which is to become a mid-income country by that year. In view of the remarkable economic success of China, foreign investment should play the leading role to diversify Bangladesh economy. Wider regional development, including developing infrastructure for industrial growth and improving investment environment to attract foreign businesses has already been mentioned in the Joint Declaration, and therefore very important.

At the same time, we need to keep in mind that our highest priority in economic assistance is always on areas of enhancing social development, which is, contributing to the improvement of lives and livelihood of people.

Is this economic assistance coming at the expense of some form of political support that Japan is now trying to gain from various countries around the world as the situation in East Asia is increasingly turning tense?

For many decades before the situation in East Asia started turning tense, Japan had almost always been the biggest donor for Bangladesh. A large volume of aid has been pledged as Japan-Bangladesh relationship is now being elevated to a new comprehensive partnership.

We presume that a high level business delegation too will accompany Prime Minister Abe to Bangladesh. What are the prospects of increasing Japanese investment in Bangladesh, and why Japanese investor’ are still not that enthusiastic in investing in Bangladesh compared to the enthusiasm that they have shown in investing in Myanmar, a country that in many ways not ahead of Bangladesh in creating a business-friendly investment environment?

One reason I know is that, foreign investors in Bangladesh have been requesting Bangladesh government to improve the manifold investment impediments for many years. But as the process of improvement of such impediments remains very slow, investors might have been getting a pessimistic message about the prospect of improvement. On the other hand, foreign investors in Myanmar may have a favorable view on the possibility of improvement of investment impediments in coming years, even though the present level of impediments might be quite like, or even worse than, what we see in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is also well known as a source of human resource supply. Several million Bangladeshis are working overseas and helping the economic uplift of countries where they work, as well as that of their own country. As Japan faces a serious shortage of human resources due to declining population and aging of the society, do you think there is any possibility for Bangladeshi labor force to join the labor market in Japan?

Yes, there is. An increasing number of foreign workers are now being employed by many Japanese companies for the necessity of adapting to the process of “globalization.” However, the problem is, no consensus has yet been reached on the question of accepting foreign work force in unskilled labor market for the fear of a negative impact on the wage level of Japanese workers in that category. But I believe that in this category of labor too, Japan, however, will be obliged to depend on foreign workers in not a distant future.

Last time a Japanese prime minister visited Bangladesh was in 2000, fourteen years ago. Prime Minister Abe’s visit after a long gap is being materialized at the backdrop of a number of significant developments that both the countries had gone through during that period. Though Bangladesh has achieved significant gains in political, social and economic aspects of the country, Japan, on the contrary, had faced, and still facing, a number of difficulties. Do you think these reverse trends are bringing the friendly nations closer than before?

As for the reason for a fourteen-year gap of a Japanese prime minister’s visit to Bangladesh, it was mainly because of the political confusion the country had been going through, which I have already mentioned while answering your first question. It is true that Japan faced and is still facing a number of difficulties. But, under Mr. Abe’s leadership, Japan has been recovering in many respects. The main reason that lies behind closer relationship between Japan and Bangladesh is the fact that interdependence between the two countries has been strengthening due to the deepening of globalization process.

In Japan a new non-governmental body with the participation of people from various civic groups has been formed recently with the aim of fostering a better understanding between Japan and Bangladesh. We congratulate you for being elected the first president of that organization, the Japan-Bangladesh Society. What are you aiming to achieve and what message do you intend to convey to the policy makers in Japan for further improvement of relationship between the two countries?

Japan-Bangladesh relations have been developing satisfactorily in the past decades through mutual efforts. These relations have been diversified in many ways, responding to the remarkable development of Bangladesh in recent years, and now being elevated to a new stage of comprehensive partnership. Its modalities have to be detailed by both sides.

In handling such broader concepts and related projects, non-governmental organizations like the Japan-Bangladesh Society can play an important role, as they have the participation of people from various civic groups. Our Society will be helpful to the government in finding appropriate solutions to problems extending over various sectors.

The Society is going to share a deeper understanding and professional knowledge on Bangladesh among its members, and through discussions, deliver qualified messages on pertinent issues to the government.

The Society will also undertake such projects as deepening mutual understanding and exchanges between Japan and Bangladesh on the recognition that our relations are now at a turning point from one based mainly on aid to one on closer interdependence.

Since press coverage in Japan on Bangladesh are not necessarily reflecting the actual situation of rapidly developing Bangladesh, the Society also intends to play an active role in disseminating fair and balanced information of the changing situation in Bangladesh to the people of Japan and to the world.
About Matsushiro Horiguchi
Matsushiro Horiguchi served as ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh from 2003 to 2006. A career diplomat, Mr. Horiguchi also was Japanese ambassador to Lebanon prior to his assignment to Dhaka and served in various capacities at overseas Japanese missions in countries like South Korea, Myanmar and Malaysia; as well as at the headquarters of the Japanese foreign ministry. After retiring from diplomatic service, Mr. Horiguchi joined academia as a professor at Tokyo’s prestigious Waseda University. A prolific author with his critically acclaimed book on history of Bangladesh, Mr. Horiguchi is currently teaching at Nihon University. He has been elected president of the newly formed the Japan-Bangladesh Society in July, where representatives of a cross section of various civic groups like the business community, retired civil servants, academia and non- governmental bodies joined together with the aim of fostering a better understanding of Bangladesh in Japan.

Bangladesh eyes ‘blue economy’ for sustainable growth

Dhaka is going to host an international workshop on ‘blue economy’ with experts and representatives from 20 countries.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will open the two-day workshop on Monday.

This will be the first such workshop Bangladesh will host.

Officials say the decision came following Bangladesh’s landmark settlement of maritime dispute with neighbouring India and Myanmar.

Dhaka established its sovereign rights through international court verdicts on more than 118,000 sq km of maritime territory, 200 nautical miles (NM) of exclusive economic zone, and 354 NM continental shelves from the Chittagong coast.

It has raised hopes of extracting “plenty of resources” from the Bay of Bengal, considered by Bangladesh as its “third neighbour”.

Bangladesh, which lacks expertise and technology to exploit the resources, will seek global partnership, particularly from neighbouring countries.

Bangladesh is also considering drawing up a maritime policy.

The workshop will help establish links and build relations with countries having expertise, feels the maritime affairs department of the foreign ministry.

Officials say Bangladesh also wants to better understand through the workshop the dynamics of an ocean-based blue economy.

At least 32 delegates from Australia, Seychelles, Sweden, Oman, China, South Africa, Iran, the Philippines, Japan, India, the Netherlands, Thailand, South Korea, Sri Lanka, United States, Kenya, Mauritius, Myanmar, Tanzania, and Mauritius would join the three-sessions of the workshop.

Sri Lanka has sent its minister for fisheries and aquatic resource development Rajitha Senaratne.

A senior official said the Bay of Bengal is understood to have a “geo-strategic link” but the workshop would focus solely on development issues.

The meeting is aimed at exploring the ways to utilise the blue economy as a development tool, he said.

Blue economy became a buzzword for sustainable development particularly in drafting the post-2015 development goals.

Earlier, small island nations used to discuss this at their own forum.

“It (blue economy) is not marine fishing,” said Md Khurshed Alam, a secretary (maritime affairs) in the foreign ministry.

“It means sustainable economic development, taking into account advantages and strategy of managing the resources of the blue ocean,” he said.

Estimates suggest some 30 million Bangladeshis directly depend on oceanic economic activities like fisheries and commercial transportation.

The foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali earlier said Bangladesh believed poverty alleviation was possible by fostering the growth of “blue economy”.

He advocated this recently at a global forum in the Dutch capital, The Hague, when he suggested inclusion of oceans and seas in the post-2015 development agenda.

Over 100 villages submerged in flood-hit Bangladesh-Part of embankment collapses

Bangladesh erosion-by-jamunaFlood situation in Bangladesh worsened as over 100 villages have been submerged after gushing waters washed away a portion of an embankment on Jamuna river in the country’s northwest, affecting over one lakh people.
Lives of around one lakh people have been affected badly following the collapse about 300 metres of the embankment.
At least 100 villages of Kamalpur, Kutubpur, Chandanbaisha and Velabari unions of the upazila were flooded afresh following the collapse of the embankment, said Nurul Islam Sarkar, executive engineer of Water Development Board (WDB) in Bogra.
The water of Jamuna River is still flowing 99cm above the danger level at Shariakandi point. Villagers of the five upazilas — Sonatola, Sariakandi, Dhunut, Gabtoli and Sherpur — in Bogra will be the worst sufferers if it is continued, the WDB official said.
Onrush of water in the Jamuna river damaged around 400-metre portion of the embankment at Sariakandi in Bogra region last night, inundating hundreds of houses.
“Out of over 100 villages, 50 are worst hit where the floodwaters washed away rural roads and standing crops alongside the households and other structures,” a district administration official said.
Over one lakh people were forced to take refuge on rooftops or abandoned from their homes, officials said.
Authorities have launched rescue efforts and hundreds of flood-affected people have been shifted to makeshift shelters.
All major rivers except the Ganges were flowing above danger mark and new areas of the central parts of the country, including the capital, are likely to be flooded in a day or two, according to the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC).
“The level receded below the danger level in two centres earlier this morning in the upstream regions of the Jamuna (in Bangladesh) but the other rivers continue to swell,” a FFWC spokesman said.
flood-bangladeshSome low-lying areas around the capital are already under water. The situation in the city may worsen in the next two days as rivers surrounding the capital may swell further, an FFWC bulletin said.
The flood hit the north, northwestern and central parts of Bangladesh two weeks ago affecting nearly one million people in 19 out of 64 districts across the country with the deluge marooning them in some places for nearly two weeks.
Many of these people have little or no food, drinking water and sanitation facilities.
The flood threatened road communication of the capital Dhaka with major industrial city of Khulna and coastal Barisal in southwestern region.

Exploring hydrocarbon in Bay of Bengal

bangladesh hydrocarbonBangladesh is expected to formulate a fresh production sharing contract (PSC) model to award offshore hydrocarbon blocks in the Bay of Bengal to the international oil companies (IOCs). Earlier, tenders for four rounds of PSC were floated in 1974, 1993, 2008 and 2012. Bangladesh has now a total of 23 hydrocarbon blocks in the Bay of Bengal.

According to reports, the IOCs will be interested if Bangladesh can complete a 2D seismic survey before inviting tenders for the new blocks. There are a number of companies which are eager to carry out the surveys and sell the data directly to the international oil firms. The government will not need to spend extra money for the survey because the work will be done under the PSC.

It may be mentioned here that the Permanent Court of Arbitration at Hague, Netherlands recently awarded Bangladesh 19,467 square kilometres, out of the total 25,602 square kilometres disputed with India, in the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh won another case against Myanmar in 2012, following which it received over 111,000 square kilometres of area, including the disputed 25,000 square-kilometres.

In September 2012, the state-run Petrobangla floated tenders for 12 shallow and deep sea blocks — excluding the then disputed maritime area with India — in the Bay to explore oil and gas. Despite inviting tender bids twice for shallow blocks SS-02 to SS-4, and SS-06 to SS-11, only three companies responded. In 2011, a PSC was signed between ConocoPhillips and Petrobangla to explore two offshore blocks. That was the country’s first-ever deep-water hydrocarbon hunt.

In February and March this year, Petrobangla signed deals with India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) and the Australia-Singapore joint venture, Santos-Kris Energy, to explore hydrocarbon in the three blocks.

However, the bidding process was halted for deep-sea blocks DS-12, DS-16 and DS-21 in February last year, as no multinational company had responded. The PSC was later revised to relax rules in compliance with the contractors’ demands.

Last week, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina directed the authorities concerned to float fresh tenders for hydrocarbon hunt in the Bay. Presiding over a meeting, the Prime Minister stated that no company should get more than one block in the Bay of Bengal to explore oil and gas. Various ways and means to harness the mineral resources in the Bay and using them for the people of Bangladesh were discussed in the meeting.

In fact, the government is trying to give emphasis on oil and gas exploration but there have been no significant discoveries while the existing reserve is being rapidly exhausted. The Petrobangla is prioritising oil and gas exploration in the Bay of Bengal and reassessing old fields if more gas could be extracted. The country has an estimated 16.36 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of recoverable gas reserves in its 23 discovered gas fields as of June 2012. Under the current consumption rate of around 2.26 billion cubic feet (bcf) per day the reserve gas can be used for the next 19 years, Petrobangla data revealed.

In fact, FDI (foreign direct investment) in the energy sector is failing to ensure the anticipated technology transfer in the fields of energy exploration and power generation over the past. Global oil companies often push the country to change the laws that become discriminatory to local companies. Besides the disadvantages faced by local companies due to tax-breaks offered to foreign companies in the energy sector, the thresholds fixed by the government for a project are also unreachable for the local companies.

With fast depletion of gas reserves, Bangladesh is likely to face acute energy crisis after 2016 if no new reserve is discovered. The situation has gone to such an extent that all concerned seem to have accepted the likely devastating effect of the gas supply crunch on the country’s economy as a fait accompli. In fact, gas crisis is creating a ‘snow-ball’ effect on the country’s economy, as hundreds of factories are yet to start operation and many power plants remain idle, hindering industrial growth.

Wastage is also eating up significant quantities of natural gas in Bangladesh. The inefficient use of natural gas is rampant in almost every gas-guzzling sector including power plants, fertiliser factories, industries, households and CNG filling stations, according to a recent World Bank-funded study on Bangladesh’s energy efficiency.

The recent discovery of huge gas reserves by India and Myanmar in the Bay near Bangladesh’s economic zone has encouraged a number of international energy companies to come up with proposals to initiate hydrocarbon explorations in offshore areas.

As it is evident, quite a good number of IOCs were engaged in exploring hydrocarbon resources in the country in the past. Many facilities were given to them without considering practical situation. Still, they are reportedly looking for more incentives and facilities.

The situation demands extensive exploration on both onshore and offshore blocks in the wake of increasing gas crunch, caused mainly by lack of drilling in prospective fields. Harnessing hydrocarbon, along with, power, is of crucial importance.

A radical change is, indeed, needed in the energy sector. Otherwise, energy security will be difficult to be ensured. The sector also needs to be free from corruption. The country has already lost a lot due to widespread malpractice in the sector.

‘Nano’ hits Bangladesh market

ratan_tataThe much-publicised ‘Nano’ car manufactured by India’s Tata Motors has hit the Bangladesh market.

Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed launched the vehicle at a function at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in Dhaka on Wednesday.

Nitol Motors Limited, sole distributor of Tata vehicles in Bangladesh, has fixed the price of the car at Tk 800,000.

But it will be selling the vehicle at Tk 700,000 until Friday as a special promotional price.

Prime Minister’s Economic Affairs Advisor Mashiur Rahman, FBCCI President Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed, Tata Motors Head of International Business Johnny Oommen, and Nitol-Niloy Group Chairman Abdul Matlub Ahmad and Managing Director Abdul Moshabbir Ahmed were present at the ceremony.

Tata Motors introduced the 624cc Nano as a low-cost vehicle in India several years back to attract the middle-class people but the car failed to secure the desired market.

At the launch in Bangladesh, Tata and Nitol Motors urged the government to withdraw the supplementary duty on import of cars under 700cc.

The minister called on the entrepreneurs to manufacture cars in Bangladesh instead of importing them.
Now importers have to pay 45 percent supplementary duty on cars under 700cc engine.

Matlub Ahmed said: “The price of Nano will go down by Tk 110,000 at customer level if the supplementary duty is withdrawn.

“The low-income people will be buying the car more easily because of that (withdrawal of supplementary duty).”

One can purchase the four-seat car in instalments too. For that, one has to pay Tk 299,000 first up and the rest in 42 monthly instalments of Tk 19,500.

Tofail Ahmed said: “Bangladesh is advancing. We hope we’ll be a middle-income nation by 2021.

“We want this sort of cars will be made in Bangladesh. Entrepreneurs will take initiatives for that and the government will be by them.”

Mashiur Rahman and Kazi Akram echoed the views of the commerce minister.

“We want Nano to be manufactured in Bangladesh,” Rahman added.

Oommen hoped that Bangladeshi people would like Nano.

Moshabbir Ahmed highlighted the features of the vehicle. He said it is fuel efficient and can turn in only 4 feet space.

Before the launching ceremony, Nitol Motors organised a press conference on Nano where Matlub Ahmed and Oommen spoke.

Ahmed said Nano had a ‘safe box’ for keeping money or other valuables. “Nano Twist is the lone car in the world to have safe box.”

Nano offers warranty of two years for 15,000-kilometre run.

Oommen said 120,000 Nano cars were sold in India and 6,000 in Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Nano features

According to Tata, Nano Twist is powered by a 624cc, multi-point fuel-injected, water-cooled and naturally-aspirated two-cylinder gasoline engine with two valves per cylinder.

The air-conditioned Nano has air extraction grill, C pillar trim and black dash in rear bumper.

Its overall length is 3099 mm, width 1495 mm, height 1652 mm and wheelbase 2230 mm.

The car is available in six colours — damson purple, peal white, royal gold, papaya orange, silver and dazzle blue.

Nation pay homage to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman

Nation pay homage to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman

homage to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman
homage to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman

It,s a day of sorrow !It,s The 15th August, a grief-stricken day for the Bangalee nation, is our National Mourning Day. On this day in 1975, the greatest Bangalee of all time, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, along with his 18 family members, was assassinated in one of the most barbaric carnages in the human history.

Bangabandhu’s wife Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib, sons Captain Sheikh Kamal, Lt. sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russel, daughters-in-law Sultana Kamal and Rosy Jamal, brother Sheikh Naser, farmers’ leader Abdur Rab Serniabat, youth leader Sheikh Fazlul Haq Moni and his wife Arzu Moni, Baby Serniabat, Sukanta Babu, Arif and Abdul Nayeem Khan Rintu were also killed on the fateful night. Bangabandhu’s Military Secretary Col. Jamil was also killed. Some members of a family at Mohammadpur were also killed by canon-ball fired by the killers. On the day of National Mourning, I pray to the Almighty Allah for the salvation of the souls of the
martyrs of the 15th August.

The people of this territory snatched the glowing sun of the independence, breaking the shackles of subjugation of thousands of years, under the dynamic, courageous and charismatic leadership of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. We got our own nation-state and the pride of self-identity. But Bangabandhu was killed when he had devoted himself to the arduous task of building a Golden Bangla reconstructing the war-ravaged independent country and unifying the whole nation. The defeated forces of the Liberation War made an abortive effort to ruin the tradition, culture and advancement of the Bangalee nation. Their target was to destroy the non-communal democratic fabric of Bangladesh.

WHO Declares Ebola Virus Outbreak Public Health Emergency

Ebola Virus Outbreak ebola-VirusEbola Virus The World Health Organization declared the West African Ebola epidemic that has killed nearly 1,000 people an international public-health emergency.

Meanwhile, the world’s biggest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal, MT +0.36% joined other Western companies in scaling back business plans or travel in the region.

Friday’s WHO declaration represents a call to member states and private donors to boost funding and efforts to battle the worst Ebola outbreak in history, as a surge in cases over the past two days has overwhelmed major aid organizations.

The World Health Organization names the current Ebola outbreak a global health emergency. Are officials any closer to stemming the threat of the disease? Dr. William Schaffner, a public health expert at Vanderbilt Medical Center, joins the News Hub with Michael Casey. Photo: AP

The threadbare health-care systems of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, three of the world’s poorest countries, lacked even the basics of a public-health network before the current Ebola epidemic, officials there said. Now they find their hospitals in disarray as supplies run out and as staff abandon posts after watching their colleagues succumb to the virus.

“The outbreak is moving faster than we can control it,” said Margaret Chan, WHO director general. “Countries affected to date simply do not have the capacity to manage an outbreak of this size and complexity on their own.”

Several doctors and aid workers on the ground said they had witnessed a surge in cases over the past 48 hours that has broken the predictable rhythm of the epidemic. Ebola usually takes eight to 12 days from the moment of infection to flare up and become symptomatic. Previous spikes in Ebola cases rose and fell to the pace of that incubation period.

Now, doctors say, they see back-to-back surges in patient volumes. At a field clinic in Sierra Leone, 10 people died on Friday morning, Sierra Leone Red Cross spokesman Abubakar Tarawelly said. And 40 more arrived. “The number keeps rising,” he said. “It’s getting too much for our volunteers.”

Burgeoning caseloads and the WHO’s terming the outbreak as beyond control, spells out the discouraging possibility that aid groups who came to relieve West Africa’s beleaguered government hospitals could themselves become swiftly overwhelmed by the volume of Ebola patients.

The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to be an international public health emergency on Friday. Photo: EPA
The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to be an international public health emergency on Friday. Photo: EPA
As of Wednesday, 1,779 cases had been reported to the WHO with 961 deaths. Some 140 or 150 health-care workers have been infected, 80 of them fatally. Those numbers don’t capture the unknown numbers of patients who, having seen the chaotic state of local hospitals, have decided to treat their loved ones at home.

“We do believe there are more cases than what’s being reported,” Dr. Chan said.

The epidemic is reverberating across the region’s economy. ArcelorMittal said it was delaying plans to expand its iron-ore mine operations in Liberia. The 15 contracting companies working on the expansion have declared force majeure and are removing their 645 employees, it said.

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Gaza: The role of Bangladesh as UNPO leader

Bangladesh as UNPO

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is an international, nonviolent, and democratic membership organisation. Its members are indigenous peoples, minorities, and unrecognised or occupied territories who have joined together to protect and promote their human and cultural rights, to preserve their environments, and to find nonviolent solutions to conflicts which affect them.

Although the aspirations of UNPO Members differ greatly, they are all united by one shared condition – they are not adequately represented at major international fora, such as the United Nations. As a consequence, their opportunity to participate on the international stage is significantly limited, as is their ability to access and draw upon the support of the global bodies mandated to defend their rights, protect their environments, and mitigate the effects of conflict

BREAKING all international laws, Israel continues to carry out its genocide against the civilian Palestinian population in Gaza. As the world watches with shock and horror, the United Nations has merely condemned the Israeli assault and questioned the disproportionate use of lethal weaponry on an unarmed population which cannot leave Gaza as it is sealed off from the rest of the world and, according to BBC, “there is no safe place in Gaza.” The international community seems to be powerless to stop this Israeli massacre.

Sadly enough, the world community expects the UN, the very body which created this monster in violation of its own Human Rights Charter in 1948, to effectively contain Israel and try Israeli leaders for crimes against humanity. Since the British occupation of Palestine in 1917, followed by the systematic implementation of the infamous Balfour Declaration by the British Mandatory authorities for the creation of a Jewish homeland under the auspices of the League of Nations, no Zionist leader has been brought to justice for crimes against humanity in Palestinian lands.

Bangladesh, although much neglected in world affairs, can indeed play an important role in influencing the United Nations Security Council to bring this brutal assault of Israel to an immediate end along with the economic blockade imposed on Gaza since the last eight years. Bangladesh, as a leading contributor to the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (UNPO), can pull out its contingent with immediate effect in response to the complete failure of the UN to stop Israel from committing this heinous crime against the civilian population of Gaza. Through its participation in the UN Peacekeeping missions in the different parts of Africa and the Middle East, Bangladesh has been tacitly condoning and participating in wars initiated and waged by the Western imperial powers ostensibly in the name of promoting democracy, secularism and open societies but in actuality for the control of natural resources and economic trade routes.

Bangladesh should be strong in voicing that International Law is very clear; resistance to occupation is the legitimate right of the victims of occupation. With the failure of the UN to implement its resolutions calling upon Israel, the occupier, to withdraw from all occupied territories and to recognise the rights of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian struggle is a just struggle. It is a struggle for freedom and justice against domination and aggression carried out by the most lethal weaponry that the present world possesses.


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Fact : Israel has rejected international proposals for a ceasefire in its fight against Islamist militants in Gaza, a government source said on Friday, but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said no formal proposals had yet been put forward.
Mediators hope that a truce could come into force ahead of a Muslim festival that starts early next week, but they have struggled to resolve seemingly irreconcilable demands from Israel and Hamas-led fighters, locked in conflict since July 8.

As diplomacy faltered, the fighting raged on.

Gaza officials said Israeli strikes killed 55 people on Friday, including the head of media operations for Hamas ally Islamic Jihad and his son. They put the number of Palestinian deaths in 18 days of conflict at 844, most of them civilians