The special assistant to the chief adviser, M Tamim, on Wednesday said that they would form another committee to review the current draft of the coal policy although a citizens' commission has declared that the government should not make changes, except to amend one clause.

FARMERS in Faridpur are getting interested in wheat cultivation due to its increasing demand, high price and favourable weather. The land for wheat farming in the district has been increased significantly over the past few years. According to the Department of Agricultural Extension in Faridpur, 25,545 hectares of land have been brought under wheat cultivation this season while the figure was 20,310 hectares in the previous year. The wheat production might be about 53 thousand tonnes this season which was about 34 thousand tonnes in the previous season. In 1999-2000 season, 12,904 hectares of land were brought under wheat cultivation in the district and the production was 24,634 tonnes, according to the regional statistical office. DAE officials said in the current season cold weather and rain made a good contribution to the expected production which could increase by 5 to 10 per cent. The officials said some 10 years back the cultivation of wheat was not on a large scale in the district. In the winter, farmers used to remain satisfied with vegetables' cultivation as well as other rabi crops. A vast tract of land remained fallow. In course of time, the scenario has been changed. Dr Sirajul Islam, scientific officer of On Firm Research Division of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute in Faridpur, said in the last few years the land under wheat cultivation had got almost double. He attributed the increase of land to rising demand of flour in the domestic market. He also added that in the past years agriculture researchers had invented some high yielding varieties of wheat, which had become very popular to the farmers. The varieties are Sonali, Akbori, Bolaka, Waghrany, Protiva, Sourav, Shotabdi, Behari Kalyan etc. Old local varieties like Sona Digha, Kanchon, Elyas etc can no longer attract farmers with their low productivity, Dr Sirajul Islam said. Oasiul Islam, deputy director of the Faridpur DAE, said his department had tried heart and soul to ensure proper supply of fertiliser, seeds and technological support. Abdul Kuddus, a farmer of village Parchar at Machchar union in the district headquarters, said he was expecting a good harvest of wheat in the current season because of favourable weather. He also added that farmers in the area got sufficient quantity of fertiliser. The farmers said they had taken to wheat farming due to its growing demand and increasing price in the market. Besides, cultivation of wheat is very easy in comparison with many seasonal crops. In the market wheat is now selling at Tk 1,100 to 1,200 per mound which was only Tk 700 to 800 in the previous year.

About 5.6 per cent of the country's adults and a large number of children are suffering from diabetes, and the number of diabetic patients is increasing alarmingly with more than 20,000 new patients in a year. According to the Diabetic Association of Bangladesh, various causes increase the prevalence of diabetes, while unbalanced food habit, lack of physical exercise, regular intake of energy-dense fast food and soft drinks are mainly blamed for diabetes. According to the data available at the association, 22,559 new patients of diabetes were registered in financial year 2005-2006, 22,324 in 2004-2005, 21,462 in 2003-2004, 20,883 in 2002-2003, 20,607 in 2001-2002 and 17,045 in 2000-2001. A total of 3,57,418 patients were registered in financial year 2005-2006, 3,34,859 in 2004-2005, 3,12,535 in 2003-2004, 2,91,073 in 2002-2003, 2,70,190 in 2001-2002 and 2,49,587 in 2000-2001, according to the association's data. Such patients were registered with the DAB-run BIRDEM hospitals in Dhaka, 13 national healthcare network centres in the city, 10 diabetic healthcare development centres and 56 affiliated bodies across the country. The DAB president, AK Azad Khan, told New Age on Wednesday

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Electricity and Port yesterday called on the government not to allow open pit coal mining in Phulbari, saying that it would lead to environmental disasters in the area. Such a project would lead to the eviction of 4.7 lakh people from four upazilas and cause the groundwater level to go further down, the committee leaders said at a press conference at Dinajpur Press Club. The government should also review the draft coal policy and maintain neutrality regarding the Phulbari coalmine issue, they added. The leaders said that according to the proposal of the Asia Energy, it would extract coal for 30 years through open pit method and export two-thirds of coal. Extraction of coal through open pit mining would cause massive damage to agriculture and the environment and threaten the livelihoods of local people, they said. The leaders also said any agreements on open pit mining would go against the interest of the country. Prof Anu Muhammad, member secretary of the committee, said the open pit method would cause more damage to ecology than the extent of economic benefit from the coalmine if the draft coal policy is not reviewed. Open pit method is not suitable for densely populated countries like Bangladesh, he added. Dr Sheikh Mohammad Shahidullah and Prof Samsul Alam also spoke at the press conference.

Speakers at a seminar held at Patuakhali Science and Technology University (PSTU) yesterday underscored the need for massive afforestation along the coastal belt to reduce damage in natural disasters like cyclone and tidal wave. Held at the conference room of the university, the seminar was presided by Prof Abdul Latif Masum while University Grants Commission (UGC) chairman Prof Nazrul Islam was present as chief guest. Speakers stressed on creation of a disaster management department or institute on the campus to build technical hands. They proposed short and long-term initiatives in this regard. Dhaka University (DU) Geography and Environment Department chairman Prof AQM Mahbub presented the key-note paper. Among others, DU Disaster Research Training and Management Centre director Dr AHM Abdul Bukee, DU Geography and Environment Department teacher Prof Nazrul Islam Nazem, Food and Disaster Management joint secretary Pranab Chakrabarty, Dr Mahumudul Islam, expert of Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP), SPARRSO principal scientific officer Dr Jinnatul Islam and , PSTU Asstt Prof Golam Rabbani addressed.

Japan and Bangladesh signed an agreement in Tokyo yesterday concerning Japanese loan assistance of US$ 65 million for 'emergency disaster damage rehabilitation' project in the country. Foreign Adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, who is now visiting Japan, and Masahiko Koumura, minister for foreign affairs of Japan, signed the agreement after their bilateral meeting, said a release from the Japan embassy. Japanese Ambassador Masayuki Inoue pledged the loan to Finance Adviser Dr Mirza Azizul Islam last month. The rehabilitation project under the loan will be started following the signed agreement. Asian Development Bank (ADB) is co-financing the loan. The objective of the project is to support 'quick restoration of economic and social activity' in the areas damaged by the floods and cyclone, through providing quick-disbursement type of import financing for essential agricultural commodities. Rehabilitating and reconstructing damaged public infrastructure, thereby contributing to sustainable economic growth, are also among the objectives. Japan has been assisting disaster mitigation and damage recovery of Bangladesh for long. For recovery from the damage caused by cyclone Sidr, Japan already has provided emergency relief goods equivalent to about US$ 327,100 and emergency grant aid through UN agencies equivalent to US$ 3.7 million. Japan has already started the assessment procedure for construction of additional cyclone shelters in affected area. In addition, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is planning to support for rehabilitation of rural infrastructures with Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) and water supply facilities with the Department of Public Health and Engineering (DPHE) under technical cooperation projects.

Speakers at a discussion meeting here yesterday urged the government to protect forests and the ecology to save the wildlife in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). They called for creating awareness and strict enforcement of environment laws. The meeting, held at the Zilla Shilpakala Academy hall room in the hill town, was organised by scouts. Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) Mohammad Khalilur Rahman was present as chief guest while Pankhaiya Para High School Headmaster and District Scouts Coordinator Omar Faruk presided over the function. They also urged local environmental activists and NGO officials to work united to save the environment and the ecology for the sake of humans. Once the ecology is destroyed, it creates a chain affect, which will bing disaster for all, the speakers said. Officials, teachers, journalists, NGO representatives and civil society members and enrironmentalists attended the meeting. After the meeting, a colorful rally, joined by hundreds of people, was brought out in the town to create awareness about the need for protecting the environment.

Bangladesh faces a critical health hazards for lack of

The government is likely to increase the price of compressed natural gas (CNG) to around Tk 15 per cubic metre from the existing price of Tk 8.5 by March, said sources in the Energy Division. Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed has already given the nod to the Energy Division to complete the groundwork for increasing the price of CNG in consultation with the communications ministry, they said.

US governors pushing alternative energy development are not shying from coal, a major culprit in global warming but also a homegrown energy source and an economic lifeline for many states. Leaders of coal-rich states say clean-coal technology is a must. Governors from states without coal want more evidence the technology works.