of the Planet, Friends of the Nation:
Interview with BANDHU
People have had a lot to say about the youth of the nation, and not much of it has been very flattering. We've been regarded as dangerous, violent, or sometimes annoyingly irresponsible and a burden to society. Very rarely do we actually rise to the challenge and try to disprove the prejudices and slander heaped on us. Well, recently, we seem to have found a voice to speak for us, and that comes from BANDHU. No, this is not a matchmaking company. The acronym stands for "Belfry Association for Nation's Development and Human Unison", and it is a student-run organization which deals with ecological and social issues.
Formed on June 1,
2001, the organization is run by a group of students from the Independent
University, Bangladesh (IUB). Their aim is mainly to spread awareness
regarding a wide range of social and environmental issues, and also
to try and repay, as far is feasible, the great debt they feel that
we all owe to our home planet. Here is the BANDHU team at a glance:
Early this year, BANDHU brought out a rally to protest the poaching and trafficking of domestic wild birds and migratory birds. The rally was followed by a seminar protesting the same, held in the Public Library Auditorium, where reknowned bird-watcher Enamul Haque enthralled the audience with a slide show depicting the plight of the domestic and migratory birds in this country. This seminar was arranged by BANDHU as well. Mr. Enamul Haque has also aided BANDHU in its endeavor to spread awareness against the threat to these birds, amongst schoolchildren in various schools.
The organization has also held a couple of seminars and slide shows this year, featuring the various tribes in the Chittagong hill tracts. Again, Mr. Enamul Haque presided over these seminars, where he spoke about the different tribes living in the CHT; their lifestyles and the trials and tribulations of life on the hills. The seminars were again conducted by Uday, and this time, Executive Member Shoma Dutta spoke on behalf of BANDHU.
Early this summer,
BANDHU organized an expedition to Sylhet, where they took a group of
schoolchildren on a study tour to see Jafflong and the waterfall at
Madobkundo. As well as getting a chance to appreciate some natural marvels
of the plantation district, they also got a firsthand look into the
lives of the Khasiya tribal people. BANDHU spokesperson Saeef
told the RS about the authorities' plans for building an Eco-park near
the waterfall, and the Khasiyas' reaction to it. "They
(the Khasiyas) don't want it (the park). They feel, that by
building roads and bridges to make it easier to access the place, the
developers will be taking away from the natural beauty of the surroundings.
They are also worried about the tourists, who have not respect for their
So you see, this is one group of dedicated young people determined in bringing a positive change to their surroundings. When we asked them about the problems associated with running an organization like this, Uday wryly told us that the biggest problem was with registration and the lack of funds. A relatively new group, composed entirely of students, their sources of funds are rather scarce, although recently, they have managed to secure donors who will sponsor a research expedition to the St. Martin Islands, which is what they plan to undertake next. "It's also hard to keep people motivated" Saeef told us. "When they attend the seminars, they all give us a lot of vocal support, but most people balk at the prospect of providing hands-on assistance or financial help."
BANDHU's message to the readers of the RS, and the young people of this country, as Saeef and Uday put it, is "Awareness is important, but useless without action. Be aware of your surroundings, but make this an active awareness. Do something, anything to repay Earth's credit." A very noble message, indeed. Here's wishing them all the success that they dream of, and let's all give them a hand, shall we?
Sabrina F. Ahmad
quest for Mars and a tragic tale
The Preparation: Well, this was just a one night cruise so there was nothing much to prepare for. When I went to the Sundarbans, I was onboard a launch for more than two days. I took a great deal of warm clothes because it was really cold there. This time, I just took a towel. I should have taken something warm too because the night on the ship turned out to be quite cold with a strong cold wind blowing all the time. Well, there was one more thing that I took with me, a lifejacket. My dad got a lifejacket from his connections at the BIWTA (Bangladesh Internal Water Transport Authority), the people associated with all the capsized launches and steamers. The lifejacket was brought "just in case" and me wearing a lifejacket turned out to be Robocop fitted with a disproportionate head.
The Bus Journey: I reached the office of the Bangladesh Astronomical Association at Lalmatia by the fixed time on the fixed date. There were a lot of people there, some with their entire families. We were all supposed to go first by bus to Gulistan and then to Narayonganj. Unfortunately the following day was a hartal and there was a lot of mayhem and chaos going on at Gulistan and so we had to rent a local bus and directly go to Narayonganj. The journey wasn't so pleasant. Many of us had to travel standing and traffic jams were there to greet us along the way. WE finally reached the ghat at Narayonganj. We got on a speedboat that took us to the launch moored in the middle of the river. The river was the Shitolokkha and the launch was called the M.V. Oboshor. While on the speedboat I was holding tightly to my bag carrying the lifejacket, "just in case". After boarding the launch, I initially walked around with that bag in my hand, this too "just in case". Anyway, at 8:15 p.m. the launch set off for estuary where the Shitolokkha meets the Meghna, our predetermined destination. We were to stay there for a few hours and then come back to Dhaka (this time at Sadarghat) by dawn.
The voyage: The launch was really good. After all, it was a tourist launch, not the ones we see on TV being pulled up from river beds by cranes. On the way we went past lots of other launches and steamers as well as small kheya naukas. It wasn't long before we laid anchor. In the distant hundreds of lights were coming from the Modonpur Power Station. The scene was fabulous: it seemed as if the night sky was on fire. (I'm not any poet; otherwise I could have come up with a less lousy comparison.)
The briefing: Before dinner, we were all given a briefing on Mars by Sujan Kumar Dev, Director of the Observation Unit of the Bangladesh Astronomical Association. Mars is the Roman god of war. It also has certain significance in Hindu mythology. Usually Mars is 227.9 million km away from the Sun but o 27th August it was 55.8 km away. It has a radius of 3314 km while it mass is 0.11 times that of Earth. On Mars 1 day equals 24 hours 37 minutes while 1 year is equal to 687 Earth days. The time of rotating around its own axis once is quite close to that of Earth since Mars has its axis of rotation tilted at 24 degrees to its orbital plane. In Earth's case it is 23 degrees. Mars has two natural satellites, Demos and Phobos, the former having a radius of 14 km and the latter a radius of 26 km. He also gave a lot more info. An interesting one was that on 27th August (the date the planet came closest) Mars rose at 6:42 p.m. and set at 5:55 a.m.
The tragic part: The purpose of the expedition was supposed to be viewing Mars from the river bed. Well, we viewed Mars all right, but with the naked eye, no telescope. There was one with us but it came to be of no use. With the launch constantly swaying to and fro to the waves, the focus of the telescope was constantly disturbed, making it impossible to view Mars closely. This was when I came to know many of the passengers were mentally prepared that the telescope would come to be useless. Well, I wasn't. I'm a reporter and I was supposed to write a feature on seeing Mars. How unlucky!
The journey back: We reached Sadarghat the following morning. It was hartal and so I had to take a rickshaw all the way back to Dhanmondi from Sadarghat. An empty Dhaka at early morning felt great. I also got to know where Bonghshal is and now I know where to take my cycle to be fixed. Then I went past Nogor Bhobon and spent five minutes wondering how bad it would be if such a great building were destroyed on the event of an earthquake.
The end: I tried to go to Wonderland later to finally get to see Mars but didn't quite manage it. I believe the Bangladesh Astronomical Association put up a marvellous show at the Science Museum at Agargaon and especially at Wonderland. Huge numbers of people stayed there till late at night, often hours past midnight. On the last day they even showed Mars on a projection screen at Wonderland with the help of a very high-resolution camera. They are now showing Mars at other districts like Chittagong, Khulna and Barisal. It's a really good gesture of the Bangladesh Astronomical Association to spread a science as intriguing as astronomy around the country. I wish the rivers would cooperate too it was really frustrating not to get to see Mars on the boat.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Milon Bhai for offering me to join the trip and thanks to Javed from the association for helping out with other stuff.
By Hamdan Kabir (Safir)
| Issues | The Daily Star Home|
© 2003 The Daily Star