BMDA to supply drinking water to remote areas Rural people in 25 upazilas to be benefited Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha . Rajshahi THE Barind Multipurpose Development Authority has undertaken a project to supply arsenic-free drinking water among the rural people through pipeline. According to officials concerned, the main objective of the project is to supply round-the-year drinking water to every household of the rural people in the targeted area. The Tk 99.40 crore project titled

Speakers at a view exchange meeting yesterday called on the authorities to evict land grabbers from about 300 bighas of land at Rajpur in Lalmonirhat and return them to the genuine owners. They also called for stern action against the illegal encroachers. Rajpur Char Land Recover Committee organised the meeting at Cirdap auditorium in the capital, with Shudhir Chandra Mohonto, convenor of the committee and a former union parishad chairman, in the chair. A booklet titled 'Roktakto Rajpur' was also launched at the programme. Eminent economist Prof Muzaffer Ahmad, former adviser to the caretaker government Sultana Kamal, University Grants Commission Member Prof AHM Zihadul Karim, Assistant Professor Abdur Rob of Jahangirnagar University, FEMA President Munira Khan, ActionAid Country Director Farah Kabir and representatives of Rajpur char dwellers spoke at the programme, moderated by Bidhan Chandra Pal of The Hunger Project. Expressing their shock at the land grabbing incident during this government, the speakers criticised the local administration for their inaction and demanded withdrawal of false cases filed against the real owner of the char lands. They also urged all to unite to launch a social movement to protect the char dwellers across the country. Representatives of the char dwellers alleged that a well-connected political leader in collusion with the local police administration has grabbed at least 300 bighas of char land in Rajpur. His men also tortured the real owners of the land when they refused to hand over their land to him, they added.

The International Energy Agency on Friday called on the United States to do more to curb energy use and fight global warming, saying pricing was the best way to curb demand. The world's biggest economy and energy consumer has made progress toward a more sustainable energy system but is lagging behind other industrialized countries and even developing countries such as China in some areas, the IEA said in a report.

THE demand for food in Bangladesh and around the world is changing rapidly. Driven by economic growth, rising incomes, and urbanisation, demand is shifting away from traditional staples toward high-value food commodities. High value agricultural commodities include fruits, vegetables, spices, fish, and livestock products, many of them processed before reaching the market. In Bangladesh, additional demand for these commodities is projected to be worth about $8 billion by 2020 (in 2005 prices). This represents an enormous opportunity for food producers, processors, and sellers. Owing to the greater labour intensity characteristic of high value agricultural production, it also provides an opportunity to generate rural employment and raise rural incomes. More than 80% of people living on less than $2 a day in Bangladesh live in rural areas. This spatial distribution of poverty makes capitalising on the opportunities afforded by high value agricultural production an important strategic priority for those seeking to reduce poverty in the country. Yet, for all of its promise, capitalising on these opportunities is fraught with challenges. High value agricultural products are generally far more perishable than traditional staples, and require more sophisticated post-harvest technologies and faster and more controlled transport. Insufficient processing capacity, the lack of cold storage facilities or a functioning cold chain, and the persistence of transport bottlenecks are significant constraints to high value agriculture in Bangladesh. The promise of generating higher income and increased export revenues by accessing international markets is matched by the challenges of meeting the exacting quality and safety standards that apply in those markets -- and by the prospect of having to compete with high quality imports from those markets. Most importantly, even assuming that opportunities afforded by high value agriculture are successfully seized upon, there is no reason whatsoever to assume that the benefits of this success will extend naturally or automatically to those who need them most urgently -- Bangladesh's rural poor. A new report published this month by the World Bank and the IFC-SEDF, entitled High-value Agriculture in Bangladesh, examines the opportunities and constraints that Bangladeshi agro-businesses face in shifting to this type of production. The report presents case studies of five high-value agricultural industries/sub-sectors: aquaculture, small-scale commercial poultry, fruits and vegetables, high-value aromatic rice, and dairy, and examines cross-cutting issues that emerge as priorities for promoting high-value agriculture and related agro-business development in Bangladesh. Bangladesh's strong comparative advantage in fish production, together with burgeoning domestic and foreign demand for fish products makes aquaculture an industry of tremendous potential growth. Yet, quality problems and low productivity could blunt the competitiveness of the shrimp export industry. Improvements in pond management and the use of disease-free seed are needed to significantly improve the productivity in brackish water shrimp farms. Genetic improvement of fish stocks, combined with technical advice for farmers, are essential to sustain the freshwater aquaculture industry. Quality advisory services could also transform Bangladesh's poultry industry, where rapid growth in the last 15 years has been concentrated among large, well-established commercial enterprises. Improving technical knowledge, efficiency, control over inputs, and access to credit among small-scale poultry producers could extend this growth, generating employment and helping reduce poverty in rural areas. It will also enable them to better deal with the urgent practical realities surrounding highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Consumption of fruits and vegetables is growing in Bangladesh. Yet, the limited availability of reliable planting material and hybrid seed keeps productivity low. Post-harvest losses are high. Farmers need better market information to synchronise production with demand. High informal transportation tolls lead to excessive marketing costs. The prospects of profitably adding value through processing are limited by unreliable power supplies, which also afflict rice milling -- including the high-value aromatic rice treated in the report. The variable performance of Bangladesh's fruit and vegetable exports is unlikely to improve unless specific steps are taken to ensure long-term growth. It is important to note that the value added in Bangladesh's domestic market will likely dwarf any value addition obtainable through exports. Production for domestic consumers will also have a far greater impact on farmers' incomes than production for export. Even with relatively slow growth in per capita milk consumption compared to other high value foods, domestic production still cannot meet existing demand and Bangladesh relies heavily on imports of powdered milk. But unless they can significantly improve productivity, dairy producers in Bangladesh are unlikely to compete with imports. Dairying appears to be profitable only in certain parts of the country, where feed is more readily obtained and where there is some milk-marketing infrastructure. In these areas, farmers would benefit from better marketing arrangements as well as more effective animal health and breeding services and improved animal nutrition strategies. The formation of effective dairy producer associations could go far in improving milk marketing. The case studies presented in the report suggest a number of recommendations and policy options for developing agro-business in the country. A number of these relate to improving the investment climate and providing a more enabling environment in which the costs and intricacies of doing business are significantly reduced. Some relate to removing policy distortions, regulations, and informal tolls and costs that make doing business unnecessarily cumbersome. The case studies point unambiguously to the cardinal importance of food quality and safety. Consumers must be confident that the high-value products available to them in the market are not a public health risk if demand for these goods is to continue growing. Improving the awareness and understanding of food safety risks, and how to minimise, them is necessary for producers, consumers, and everyone along the supply chain that connects them. The capacity of institutions with regulatory responsibilities needs to be developed with new skills and technologies. High-value agriculture requires technical skills and knowledge not generally associated with more traditional production, making human capital development and knowledge management important elements in the transition. There is a lack of reliable data on most high-value agricultural commodities that deprives policy makers, planners, and investors of critical information. Systematically benchmarking and monitoring this information will enable planners to identify, document, and scale-up best practices in high value agriculture and related value chains. Access to timely and reliable market information and to new technologies will go far in determining the competitiveness and profitability of agro-businesses. Applied research is needed to build an effective knowledge base that is available to investors who participate and compete in high-value agro-business. The institutions that carry out this research and develop new technologies adapted to conditions in Bangladesh will require combinations of public and private financing and management. Procurement arrangements like contract farming are expanding rapidly in Bangladesh, and provide for more orderly marketing with less price volatility and better sharing of risks and rewards. Contract enforceability remains a major challenge, with breaches common among both producers and purchasers. Building trust and developing positive social capital is ultimately the best way to improve contract enforceability, but this of course takes time. Strengthening producer organisations may help enforce contract terms on the farmers' side, and a variety of other institutions can provide alternative fora for dispute resolution. Associations formed around professions, industries, and commodities are likely to play a very prominent role in developing high-value agro-business in Bangladesh. Effective producer groups often enable small-scale farmers to forge mutually beneficial partnerships with private industry. While the private sector will continue to take the lead in developing high-value agriculture and related agro-business, the role of government remains essential. It is essential in fostering an enabling business environment for market-led growth through stable and undistorted economic incentives and in providing critical public goods and services. The public sector's regulatory role is also very important in ensuring that the growth of high-value agriculture and agro-business does not deepen poverty, accentuate prevailing inequities, or harm the environment. Closer collaboration between the public sector, nongovernmental organisations, and the private sector would be extremely beneficial in addressing the combinations of opportunities, risks, and challenges that the shift to high-value agriculture carries for Bangladesh. Xian Zhu is Country Director, World Bank, Bangladesh, and Mona Sur is Senior Economist, Agriculture and Rural Development Department, World Bank.

Eight SAARC countries have agreed to work jointly to tackle the region's illegal wildlife trade that has assumed alarming proportions. The countries have come under the banner of the South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP), an inter-governmental organisation, to tackle the illegal trade. The South Asian region is a storehouse of biological diversity and rich terrestrial, freshwater and marine resources. As a result, illegal trade and over-exploitation of wild animals and plants pose a major challenge to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the region. In a first regional workshop held in Kathmandu, the group agreed to a series of joint action as part of a South Asia Wildlife Trade Initiative (SAWTI). This includes the setting up of a South Asia Experts Group on Wildlife Trade and development of a South Asia Regional Strategic Plan on Wildlife Trade (2008-2013). The SACEP was established in 1982 for promoting regional co-operation in South Asia in the field of environment. The group includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The workshop was organised by the Nepal Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, SACEP, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Nepal and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade-monitoring network. Senior wildlife officials from these countries have called upon the international community to support action in South Asia by providing financial and technical assistance in the implementation of the regional plan, an official statement of TRAFFIC said here. The Kathmandu workshop has agreed to focus on a number of key areas of work. These include co-operation and co-ordination, effective legislation policies and law enforcement, sharing knowledge and effective dissemination of information, sustainability of legal trade and livelihoods security, intelligence networks and early warning systems and capacity building. IANS

Environmentalists at a discussion yesterday urged the government to declare February 14 as Sundarbans Day. They said the Sundarbans with its rich bio-diversity is protecting the southwestern region of the country from natural calamities, but the forest resources are being plundered, threatening ecological disaster. The largest mangrove forest in the world must be preserved in its natural form as it is essential not only for our survival but also for the existence of the mankind, they added.

The European Central Bank repeated on Thursday its concern over growth prospects for the eurozone economy, opening the way for possible interest rate cuts in the coming months if necessary. Although the economic foundation for the 15-nation zone remained sound,

About 25,000 hectares are turning into double-crop lands in Sylhet district this year with cultivation of Irri-Boro in the current season for the first time. Loss of Amon paddy this year compelled farmers to cultivate Irri-Boro on the vast lands left fallow earlier. Farmers in large number in Sylhet Sadar, Golapganj, Beanibazar, Kanaighat, Zakiganj and Jaintapur upazilas are bringing the lands under paddy cultivation to recoup crop loss due to floods.

Short supply of fertiliser is affecting cultivation of Irri-Boro and rabi crops in Sidr affected 11 district in Barisal region. Despite constraints and financial hardship, farmers in the region are making all out efforts to recover the losses caused by Sidr but their hopes are being dashed by fertiliser crisis. Sources at fertiliser monitoring cell and Barisal regional office of Agriculture Extension Department (AED) said only 6,290 tonnes of TSP and urea were distributed among dealers and 17,500 tons were in stock till Thursday last against the demand for 40,200 tonnes in the region.

The Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority have started primary works of its mega water supply line rehabilitation project involving Tk 1,450 crore. The ADB-funded project, titled