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The power is yours

Do you remember the cartoon: "Captain Planet"? During my childhood I never missed a single episode of it as I was simply fascinated by the cartoon. I used to love the way that Captain Planet would inevitably appear and save the earth from an environmental disaster. Back then I used to seriously think that Captain Planet was the answer to all our environmental woes.

Sadly, as I have grown older I have come to realise that in real life there is no Captain Planet to solve our environmental problems. At the end of the day, it is our responsibility to ensure that we have a clean and safe environment. For this reason on 22 April, Earth Day, I decided that I would no longer sit back and watch the destruction of this planet, but raise my own as well as other people's awareness about environmental issues.

I began the day by attending a seminar where the speakers told us about the problems that Bangladesh is faced with. Apparently, arsenic pollution is the biggest environmental problem that confronts our country. As a result of consuming arsenic contaminated water numerous people are falling seriously ill. Sanitation was another problem that was addressed. In the 1980's 40 million people did not have access to proper sanitation. Presently, the figure stands at 15 million. Due to poor sanitation facilities, many villagers defecate near rivers. This in turn leads to problems like diarrhoea since many people drink river water. Also, as villagers generally wash their clothes in the river, skin diseases are spreading rapidly. The other environmental problems facing Bangladesh that were discussed in the seminar were: industrial pollution, vehicular pollution, fisheries and wetlands, deforestation, salinity, pesticides, loss of topsoil & riverbank erosion.

In the afternoon I attended another seminar where we were told about the 3R's of having a clean environment. They were: Reduce, Reuse & Recycle. By reduce what they meant was consuming and throwing away less. They mentioned that it included purchasing durable, long-lasting goods and seeking products and packaging that was free of toxic substances. It was stated that it was the most preferred way of waste management and goes a long way towards protecting the environment. As for reusing, the speakers said that we could reduce waste by repairing, donating or even selling items. We were urged to use a product more than once, either for the same purpose or a different purpose. Apparently, reusing is a preferred option to recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before it can be used again. Finally, for recycling we were told that it turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources and generates a host of environmental, social and financial benefits. After collection, materials were made into new materials or products.

In the evening I went around my neighbourhood to raise awareness about environmental issues. For instance, I distributed pamphlets that included five suggestions on how my neighbours could help to improve the environment. My suggestions were: Travel less by car and walk or take a rickshaw as much as possible, Plant trees on a regular basis, Limit the use of air conditioners as they contain harmful CFC gas, Reduce the use of paper and lastly do not leave your taps running while shaving or washing.

There are times when it seems that the environmental problems that we are faced with are too complex and therefore insurmountable. However, the truth is that by carrying out a few simple tasks (e.g. planting trees, travelling by public transport) we can help to make the earth a better place to live in. With willingness and effort we can solve many of our problems. In other words, as Captain Planet would say: "The power is yours".

By Sayeed Mahmud Nizam

The colours of baishakh

It is my favorite time of the year once again- Baishakh maash, and I am loving every moment of it! For Bengalis, this is the month of celebration, colour, mangoes and storms. April 14th was Pahela Baishakh, the first day of the Bengali New Year. This is the one day of the year that brings together all Bengalis and it is the celebration that best captures the true essence of being a Bengali.

Every year on Pahela Baishakh, I am reminded of why I love being a Bangali so much. The city comes alive to celebrate Noboborsho with rallies, cultural programs and many other events. The main attractions of the day, however, are the melas. Despite the heat and the large crowds, people flock to the melas to enjoy a day out with their families and friends. What I love most about baishakh is the color. Gone is the dull and dreary winter and summer has not yet arrived in full force. On pahela baishakh the whole city is adorned with bright festive colors. Girls wear the traditional white sarees with red border, with flowers in their hair. Tunes of our favorite bangla songs fill the air and for once it seems as if everyone is having a good time. It is a wonderful way of beginning the best month of the year.

The best part of baishakh is undoubtedly the kaacha aam. I remember how I used to look forward to the kalbaishakhi jhors so that I could run downstairs and collect all the green, unripe mangoes. We used to compete with each other to see who could collect the most. The next few hours would be spent washing, cutting and of course eating the mangoes. None of us really cared how bad some of them tasted; we wanted to have them anyway. Nowadays I appreciate the kalbaishakhi jhors for completely different reasons. I love how the sky looks just before the storms. I love how the trees sway back and forth in the wind and I just love how fresh everything smells right after the rains cease. Although most people complain about all the dust, wind and power cuts, personally, I love the storms and I do not really care if I have to spend a few hours without the electricity. I suppose you could say that Boishakh maash has caught me in a poetic mood, but I am truly in love with nature at this time of the year!

As baishakh approaches you can undoubtedly hear a few groans and complaints. Summer is here once again and people are already beginning to miss the winter days. But there lies the true beauty of baishakh. Just when the heat begins to get unbearable and people begin to curse the weather, the wind begins to blow from the northwest and all of a sudden the sky is covered with a dense mass of black clouds. The heavens finally break and the rain falls heavily leaving the country feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

For me baishakh is more than just another month in the calendar. It's what makes being a bangali feel so special. It's the beginning of summer, scorching heat and of course all my favorite summer fruits. So put on some bright colors, grab a cool drink, sit back and enjoy the month!

By Ayesha S. Mahmud

Campus news

Sunbeams celebrates pohela boishakhh

The students and teachers of Sunbeams school greeted the advent of the new Bengali year amidst great festivities. On the 15th of April, Sunbeams Senior School organized a cultural programme while a "Boishakhhi mela" was held at the junior section.

The Boishakhi festival at the junior section began at 8:30 in the morning, with the little children welcoming the New Year by singing "Esho he Boishakh". This was followed by a few more songs performed by students of kindergarten to class four. The much-awaited "Boishakhi Mela" started right after the stage show. There were several small stalls displaying various items, such as bangles, jewelry, showpieces, handicrafts etc. There were also many food stalls selling traditional Bengali junk food (!) like "kodma", "muri-murki", "aachar" etc. The "lacchi", tamarind water, lime-juice, and coconut water were a welcome treat to the visitors in the sweltering heat.

One of the main attractions of the fair was the "Nagordola" (Ferris Wheel). Young children of all ages and sizes, dressed colourfully queued up in front of the Nagordola eagerly waiting their turns on it. Even the unbearable heat did not lessen their fervent enthusiasm! There were also other rides like the "Merry-go-round" for the younger children.

The students of the senior section welcomed the Noboborsho through a cultural programme. The school premises were adorned with colourful banners and decorations. All the students were dressed in saris and punjabis. The proceedings began with the performance of some melodious songs and spectacular dance performances by the students of the dance and music clubs.

The second part of the programme consisted of a "Mukto-mancha" (an open stage performance), where the students displayed their own unique talents in the cultural aspect. Some of them recited poems, while others sang group or solo numbers. There were also some spectacular dance performances out of which Class eight's performance to some of the latest Bengali music was truly a hit amongst the spectators. Some of them also displayed their talents in playing musical instruments such as the harmonium, the guitar etc. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed this juvenile display of the flare of Bengali culture inside these children.

There were a few stalls, selling "churis", while others were selling food and refreshments. Though the atmosphere was hot and humid, the fun and festivity of the festivals were not impaired any way. It was truly a fun-filled day for all Sunbeamers.

By Nusrat

Grameen phone Zainul-Quamrul international children's painting

Menon Sarkar, a Bangladeshi boy of eight, came down from the stage with a crest and certificate and, of course, a jubilant smile. The crest was too heavy for him to hold but that was not a big deal for him. He was happy and proud to win the bronze medal even if it was the third prize. When I stopped him to ask a few questions, he said he had painted a picture of a car and a crowded city road. With a beaming smile he said: 'I am delighted to have won the prize.'

This scene was enacted at the grand prize distribution programme of Grameen Phone Zainul-Quamrul International Children's Painting Competition 2003. The function was organised by Gendaria Kisholoy Kochi-Kanchar Mela at the National Museum auditorium recently. The Deputy Managing Director of Grameen Bank, Frank Fodstad, First Secretary of the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Wilhelm A Wiig and the wife of the Indonesian Ambassador, Rini Mansjur gave away the prizes.

The little children, who came from different parts of the country like Kamrangirchar, Narayanganj, Jessore and Narsingdi, presented a picture of discipline. Three Indonesian prize winners came all the way from the Far East to attend the programme. Some of the children were so small that they could hardly reach the table from where the prizes were being distributed.

Gendaria Kisholoy Kochi-Kanchar Mela , the organiser of this competition, sought to go global by enlisting 23 countries. About 2000 children from India, Indonesia, Argentina, Germany, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Lithuania, Mexico, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Canada, Iran, Kazakhstan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Singapore, UAE and Bangladesh with their 5,000 pictures participated in this competition in four categories. Categorised by age, the four groups had 21 winners from each: gold, ten silver and ten bronze medals. The age ranged from three to 16 years.

The gold medallists of the four groups are Viraj Dharmesh Panchal from India, Habiba Rahman Rumu from Bangladesh, Zaneth Sugiri from Indonesia and Sarmin Haque Lazi from Bangladesh. And among the 84 winners, 56 Bangladeshi, 12 Indian, 15 Indonesian and one Lithuanian children won different prizes. The children had portrayed different unique features of their culture through their paintings. For instance, Lithuanian Jana Pochilenko painted three blonde girls, wearing European clothing, playing in a ground of a colony. Sanjana Snurin Palkhiwala painted children flying colourful kites whereas Bangladeshi children painted cockfights, rural fairs, football match, rural plays, handicraft exhibitions, tribal girls and other scenarios of the country.

Among the competitors, Sohail Ahmed and Sayeba Asma Mowli are physically challenged children who had won silver and bronze medals respectively. Mowli painted a paddy field where three peasants are working and the picture is a very colourful one. And Sohail's piece is an excellent piece of work where he portrayed rural life. In his picture he painted the women sewing the Nakshikantha, the haystack, the cows and a hut with a spacious yard in front.

After the prize distribution the children of Gendaria Kisholoy Kochi-Kanchar Mela performed a cultural programme including butterfly dance, songs and poems of Sukumar Ray.

The recent competition gave young children the opportunity to exhibit their works of art. With continued support, the future generation's artistic talents are sure to soar.

By Novera Deepita





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