The government should partially withdraw energy subsidy to divert the money to public spending on safety net for the vulnerable groups, said the top official of the Asian Development Bank in Dhaka on Sunday. Under-pricing of energy sources, including fuel and gas, results in a huge deficit in the government's budget and multilateral lending agencies have time and again recommended upward adjustment of prices to reduce losses incurred by agencies like the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation.

Farmer Shamsul Huq said he went to Alongjury union of Itna upazila eight times but did not get any fertiliser. He lanted Boro in four acres of land in Dhuldia Beel in Itna upazila, which need fertiliser now. He did not get any fertiliser as he is not on the list in Alongjury union because he is a resident of nearby Karimganj upazila with lands in the Bhuldia Beel. Aminul Islam, a teacher of Alongjury Government Primary School in Itna said he got only 600 kilograms of urea against a requirement of 1100 kgs for his 12 acres of Boro land. He also needs at least 600 kg TSP but got only 60 kgs, he told this correspondent during a recent visit to Boro fields in Haor areas. Same is the situation in other haor areas in Kishoreganj district. This correspondent talked to at least 50 farmers who said they are not getting required quantities of fertiliser due to short supply and alleged mismanagement in distribution. They alleged that they may miss their production targets for the third consecutive year, mainly due to fertiliser crisis now. Boro is the lone food crop in Kishoreganj Haor areas. The crop was damaged in last two seasons due to flood and 'cold injury' during winter. In Bhairab upazila, farmers at a recent press conference at the local press expressed resentment over fertiliser crisis. They were cooled down by the Upazila Nirbahi Officer by assuring adequate supply of the input. About 500 farmers from Abdullahpur union in Austogram upazila in an application to Kishorganj Deputy Commissioner Sultan Ahmed alleged that they did not get any fetiliser in January and that their Boro crops are being affected now for this. Transplantation of Boro seedlings in Haor areas started in January but many farmers did not get any fetiliser till now, they alleged. Farmers alleged that the crisis was created mainly due to mismanagement in distribution process. Farmers who do not live in Haor areas have not been listed for fertiliser, they said. The Agriculture Extension Department (AED) made lists of farmers in Haor areas in May and June when landowners living elsewhere were not included, they said. During the visit, it was found that at least 407 acres of Boro land owned by Jirati farmers were deprived of fertiliser only in Alongjury union of Itna upazila. Farmers having land in Haor areas living elsewhere are locally called Jirati. AED block supervisor in Alongjury union Md. Pabon Ali also acknowledged that many farmers were not on the lists prepared in May and June. AED sources said that in last season Boro production target in six haor upazilas was 4,07,598 tonnes but the yielded was 3,02,558 tonnes. A total of 1, 58,567 hectors of land were brought under Boro cultivation in the district this year. Farmers said, they may not get the targeted production this year also if the fertiliser crisis is not resolved right now. Deputy Director Abdul Baten of Kishoreganj AED however said there was no crisis of fertilier in the district. Other AED sources said they got 38,422 tonnes of urea against the demand for 42,669 tonnes. They howver said Jirati farmers were being listed for fertiliser. There is no sanction for Jirati farmers but they are terying to manage fertiliser for them, the officials said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the World Bank signed an agreement to work together to help developing nations manage water resources, combat drought, and measure changes in climate. Future projects are expected to take place initially in the Latin American region, notably in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, while other projects could be launched in other parts of the world, according to a joint statement released by the two agencies on Wednesday. This new partnership will allow NOAA scientists and resource managers and the World Bank to more readily assist global communities in building resilience to climate extremes, said the statement. Specifically, the assistance can help establish end-to-end early warning systems, enhance and protect local ecosystems, and realise the benefits of an integrated earth observing system, it added.

India's Congress-led government announced on Friday a 15 billion dollars loan bailout for small farmers in a populist pre-election budget targeting the party's traditional poor rural supporters. Finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, releasing the budget for the year starting April 1 as India's blistering economic growth has begun to slow, announced a 600 billion rupees ($15.05b) relief plan. Some 30 million indebted farmers' loans would be fully waived and another 10 million would receive aid, said Chidambaram, who presented the budget ahead of nine state elections slated this year followed by national polls in early 2009. He pledged to wrestle down the fiscal deficit and tame inflation. But the lack of any big corporate incentives along with the debt giveaway dismayed the stock market which tumbled nearly 1.4 per cent.

Three indigenous persons getting instructions to work as tourist guides at Lawachhara reserve forest in Moulvibazar district on Thursday as Forest Department's Nishorga programme arranged an 'eco-tour guide' training for 74 young men and women. The programme aims at protecting biodiversity by reducing local people's dependence on forests for living. Photo: STAR A sustainable eco-tourism programme has been developed in the protected forests areas to reduce local people's dependence on forests by creating alternative job opportunities for them. Forest Department's Protected Area Management Programme called Nishorgo developed the programme aiming at conservation of biodiversity through collaborative management with local stakeholders. Under the programme, economic incentives are being provided to locals living near Lawarchara National Park, Satchari National Park, Rema Kalenga Wildlife Sanctuary, Chunati Wildlife Sanctuary and Teknaf Game Reserve. As a part of the programme, Nishorgo has trained 74 young men and women to operate as Eco Tour Guides, developed trails for forest hiking and others. It has started professional Eco-tour Guide certification process at its five pilot sites to ensure quality eco-tour guiding facilities for nature tourists. The two-day certification course included written test and field examination. To evaluate and certify the trained eco tour guides, a board was formed consisting of Elisabeth Fahrni Mansur, CEO, Guide Tours and Mamun, CEO Green Tours, representing Tour Operator's Association of Bangladesh (TOAB), Modinul Ahsan and Kazi Nurul Karim, Assistant Conservator of Forests of Forest Department and Kazi M A Hashem of Nishorgo Support Project. The trained youths are now self-employed as Eco-tour guides who provide eco-tour guiding service at five pilot sites. The nature tourists are encouraged to hire a eco-tour guide. Guides are available at the entry areas of the parks. Tourists can also directly call a Eco-tour guide whose contact numbers are listed at Nishorgo Programme's website (www.nishorgo.org). Nishorgo Programme receives financial assistance from the USAID through Nishorgo Support Project (NSP).

Rivals felled down about 100 mango trees from a garden of a youth as a sequel to village feud at Bhatoi village in Shailkupa upazila Thursday night, locals said. Azizul planted Amropali and Mollika varieties of mango saplings on his one acre of land about three years ago, they said. This year buds grew in all the trees. Those were supposed to bear fruits this season. But Azizul's hopes dashed as miscreants fell down the trees. Azizul's father Akbar Sheikh who is at the death-bed are lamenting for the trees. He said the mango trees were the only hope for the poor family. Observing the tragic scene on Friday morning, Azizul's father lost sense. He did not regain sense since morning. When contacted, Azizul said his village rivals committed the heinous act. He informed the matter to Shailkupa police. When contacted, Shailkupa police station officer-in-charge (OC) Kazi Wased Ali assured proper action against the culprits after an investigation.

The Dhaka City Corporation has taken up an intensified plan to improve collection of solid waste through the monitoring of primary-level waste collection by community-based and non-governmental organisations. Officials at the corporation said the daily garbage was still not dumped in the right place from where the DCC carried the waste to the landfill sites.

Bangladesh on Thursday signed a loan agreement with International Development Association under which it will receive $62.6 million to improve agricultural productivity and farm income by revitalising the national agricultural technology system. The additional ERD secretary, Mohammad Mesbahuddin, and the World Bank acting country director, Mohamed Alhousseyni Toure, signed the agreement for their respective sides at the NEC auditorium. The National Agricultural Technology Project is designed to promote generation, dissemination, adoption and use of appropriate agricultural technologies through a number of policy reforms, institutional development and investment to support agricultural research, extension and supply chain development. The development of supply chains will focus on strengthening farmer-market linkages, knowledge management and human resources development. The credit from the IDA, the World Bank's concessionary arm, has 40 years to maturity with a 10-year grace period and carries a service charge of 0.75 per cent.

The Diabetic Association of Bangladesh on Thursday observed Diabetes Awareness Day to mark its 52nd founding anniversary. Experts, at a question-answer session, said some cautious food habits, physical exercise, quitting smoking and reducing mental stress could reduce the risk to diabetics. The association president, AK Azad Khan, said people should be aware that diabetes sometimes leads to kidney failure and other complications that might cause death. Founded by National Professor Mohammad Ibrahim, the non-profit voluntary socio-medical organisation started its journey on this day in 1956 to provide diabetic patients with basic health care. The association observed the day at all its 13 national healthcare networks, 10 diabetic healthcare development centres and 56 affiliated bodies across the country. The DAB brought out a procession from Manik Mia Avenue early morning. It also provided free check-ups for detecting diabetes at different places including the Bangladesh National Museum, National Press Club, New Market, Mohammadpur Town Hall, Lalbagh and NHN and DHDC centres across the country.

Bangladesh yesterday signed a loan agreement with International Development Association (IDA) under which it will receive 62.6 million US dollar to improve agricultural productivity and farm income by revitalising the national agricultural technology system. Additional ERD Secretary Mohammad Mesbahuddin and World Bank acting country director Mohamed Alhousseyni Toure signed the agreement for their respective sides at the NEC auditorium. The National Agricultural Technology Project (NATP) is designed to promote generation, dissemination, adoption and use of appropriate agricultural technologies through a number of policy reforms, institutional development and investment to support agricultural research, extension and supply chain development. The development of supply chains will focus on strengthening farmer-market linkages, knowledge management and human resources development. The credit from the IDA, the World Bank's concessionary arm, has 40 years to maturity with a 10-year grace period and carries a service charge of 0.75 percent.

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