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     Volume 5 Issue 104 | July 21, 2006 |

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News Notes

Leave Our Forests Alone
In spite of rapid, ugly urbanisation, despite the lack of basic tourist facilities, Cox's Bazar is still the hottest spot for tourists especially the local kind. The reason is obvious the gorgeous beach and its surrounding forestland. But as usual, greed always overpowers civic duty or even patriotism for the land-hungry encroachers who just can't get enough of it.
Grabbing public land in fact, is an age-old tradition of the powerful and influential of the country. Coastal areas are often the prime targets for encroachers especially for shrimp cultivation. On July 16, the Chittagong Coastal Forest Department submitted a list of 15 land grabbers to Cox's Bazar Deputy Commissioner in an attempt to recover government land and forests. The latter includes Paraban, a man made forest in offshore Sonadia and Ghatibhanga islands. According to official sources some influential leaders of a ruling party and Union Parishads are part of this unholy axis of land grabbers. So what else is new?
Most of the land being encroached upon in the tourist district is intended for shrimp cultivation. It has been alleged that a ruling party leader alone created as many as 211 enclosures on encroached land.
Environmentalists, journalists, lawyers and citizen's groups have all staged demonstrations and given memorandums to the government to save Paraban and declare it as a tourist area. Land and forests of five upazillas of the district are happily being grabbed with nothing to stop them, not even court orders. This is because-can't you guess- the encroachers are influential ruling party leaders. According to forest officials about 12000 out of 27,293 acres of forestland in the district have been grabbed.
Tourism is a very underdeveloped industry in Bangladesh even though there are so many beautiful, scenic spots that could easily become ideal tourist resorts or getaways. With indiscriminate land grabbing and that too, by ruling party members, these idyllic havens have very little chance to survive. It is commendable that the forest department has taken the trouble to complain against the grabbers. We can only hope that the government takes heed of this list and puts a stop to this blatant act of theft of public property.

Viral fever spreads in city
This season, its all for bright colours, the heat and sweat, cold drinks and ice-cream and, unfortunately, the viral fever. The viral fever, with sore throat, running nose and measles has increased in Dhaka over a month. The past few weeks, patients have been hovering outside doctors' chambers, clinics and hospitals trying to cure themselves and their family members of this influenza virus. In turn, the doctors are finding it extremely difficult to cope with the sudden rush.
According to medical experts, fluctuating temperature and polluted environment during spring were behind such 'seasonal illness.' It seems that viral diseases such as influenza, chicken pox, mumps and measles increase during the season. Viruses grow, multiply and affect people in the temperature during the change of seasons, that is froom winter to summer. Besides, the dust in the air helps the virus to travel distant places.
One such victim is Khodeza Begum, who could meet with the doctor on Saturday noon at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) to have her daughter examined after standing in a queue for five hours. A domestic help from Dhalpur, Khodeza seemed disappointed even after she left the doctor's chamber, as the doctor could not examine her daughter, 5-year-old Kamrunnahar for more than a minute. She has been suffering from the fever for the last two weeks.
According to different sources, the number of viral fever, dengue and diarrhoea patients has increased considerably this year. The young ones seem to be the worst affected in this season, they added.
"This rainy season, the number of patients with fever have almost doubled than that of last year," said one of the physicians from the outdoor section of DMCH.
At the DMCH last week, no less than 1500 patients were treated; of those 60 per cent were viral fever patients. Nearly 500 of them were children, according to DMCH sources.

India Must Clean its Own House First
It has lately become a fad in the Indian establishment to blame Bangladesh for all the miseries it is being plagued with. There is a problem with illegal immigration: Blame Bangladesh. A new insurgent group has crept in somewhere in the already troubled Northeast: Blame Bangladesh.
But the fact is that India, a riot-prone country with 900 million poor, has never been a viable option for migration even for poor Bangladeshis. Hordes of Indian managers and engineers come to Bangladesh to work in different Multinationals and thus grab the jobs of many qualified young Bangladeshis.
Bangladesh has never been a heaven for Indian insurgents; it is India, which actively armed anti-Bangladesh Shanti Bhaini in the mid eighties and early nineties. Bangladesh's repeated requested to stop funding these terrorists fell into deaf ears.
India's economic development, if one calls it so, is not a homogenous phenomenon. The country is seething with poverty and exploitation, and it is a little less than surprising that India is haunted by problems like armed rebellions in different parts. India must know that blaming Bangladesh for these homegrown problems will not help its cause.
Indian media's latest diatribe has come after the Mumbai blasts that have killed 200 innocent people. Though Indian police are yet to find the perpetrators behind the blasts, and the Indian Prime Minister himself has hinted at the involvement of Pakistan-based Kashmiris, Indian newspapers have made a claim that the bombs used in the ghastly incidents were supplied from Bangladesh. The claim, preposterous that it is, is based on nothing but malice and the intention is nothing but to malign Bangladesh's image abroad.
The irony does not escape us: The bombs used in different suicide blasts in Bangladesh came through its porous border with India.
Before pointing fingers at Bangladesh, Indian intelligentsia must mend its own problems. A Balkanisation of India will surely harm Bangladesh's democratic polity; instead of finding a goose that does not exist India should address its own ethnic and economic problems. Ignoring them or playing an indifferent fool will only bring its peril.

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