japan-faces-heat-over-funding-coal-power-in-bangladesh-despite-carbon-pledges

Japan faces heat over funding coal power in Bangladesh despite carbon pledges

Despite Tokyo’s commitment to help phase out fossil fuels, Bangladesh is currently building the Matarbari coal plant: a power complex set to be completed by 2024 thanks to low-interest loans from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

And JICA, a government body, has been considering funding an expansion to the 10-year-old project, known as Matarbari Phase 2 — despite, earlier this year, saying it would work with Bangladesh “to promote a low- or zero-carbon transformation” of its energy economy, reports a special feature by Benjamin Parkin on Financial Times.

The debate around the Matarbari plant embodies the tensions in Japan’s fossil-fuel policies, writes Benjamin. And the country’s financing of coal power in developing countries such as Bangladesh risks falling out of step with moves to promote renewable energy at home and abroad.

Japan has long invested in Bangladeshi infrastructure, a partnership that stems back nearly as far as the South Asian nation’s independence 50 years ago.

But JICA’s support for the Matarbari units has faced severe censure. “Japan has no right to invest in coal in other countries — they have a responsibility to ensure zero emissions,” argues Hasan Mehedi, an activist with the Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt, which opposes the project. Japan is “making money…transferring pollution to other countries so that they can phase themselves clean,” Mehedi says according to the Financial Times report.

While there is some ambiguity about official Japanese policy — there is still no clear ban on coal projects overseas — the government made its strongest commitment yet at last month’s G7 summit in the UK: agreeing to halt all new direct government support for unabated coal power generation abroad by the end of 2021 (that is, plants that do not capture the carbon dioxide they produce).

That has left a few pipeline projects, including Matarbari Phase 2, in a no man’s land. They now run against official policy, but commitments were made. JICA says that preparatory surveys are continuing.

at-least-25-dead-in-chinese-province’s-heaviest-rains-in-1,000-years

At least 25 dead in Chinese province’s heaviest rains in 1,000 years

At least 25 people have died in China’s flood-stricken central province of Henan, a dozen of them in a subway line in its capital that was drenched by what weather officials called the heaviest rains for 1,000 years.

About 100,000 people have been evacuated in Zhengzhou, the capital, where rail and road transport have been disrupted, while dams and reservoirs have swelled to warning levels while thousands of troops launched a rescue effort in the province.

City authorities said more than 500 people were pulled to safety from the flooded subway, as social media images showed train commuters immersed in chest-deep waters in the dark and one station reduced to a large brown pool.

“The water reached my chest,” a survivor wrote on social media. “I was really scared, but the most terrifying thing was not the water, but the diminishing air supply in the carriage.”

The rain halted bus services in the city of 12 million people about 650 km (400 miles) southwest of Beijing, said a resident surnamed Guo, who had to spend the night at his office.

“That’s why many people took the subway, and the tragedy happened,” Guo told Reuters.

At least 25 people have died in the torrential rains that have lashed the province since last weekend, with seven missing, officials told a news conference on Wednesday.

Media said the dead included four residents of the city of Gongyi, located on the banks of the Yellow River like Zhengzhou, following the widespread collapse of homes and structures because of the rains.

More rain is forecast across Henan for the next three days, and the People’s Liberation Army has sent more than 5,700 soldiers and personnel to help with search and rescue.

From Saturday to Tuesday, 617.1 mm (24.3 inches) of rain fell in Zhengzhou, almost the equivalent of its annual average of 640.8 mm (25.2 inches).

The three days of rain matched a level seen only “once in a thousand years”, meteorologists said.

Like recent heatwaves in the United States and Canada and extreme flooding seen in western Europe, the rainfall in China was almost certainly linked to global warming, scientists told Reuters.

“Such extreme weather events will likely become more frequent in the future,” said Johnny Chan, a professor of atmospheric science at City University of Hong Kong.

“What is needed is for governments to develop strategies to adapt to such changes,” he added, referring to authorities at city, province and national levels.

‘FLOOD PREVENTION DIFFICULT’

Many train services have been suspended across Henan, a major logistics hub with a population of about 100 million. Highways have also been closed and flights delayed or cancelled.

By Wednesday, media said food and water supplies had run out for hundreds of passengers stranded on a train that had stopped just beyond the city limits of Zhengzhou two days earlier.

Roads were severely flooded in a dozen cities of the province.

“Flood prevention efforts have become very difficult,” President Xi Jinping said in a statement broadcast by state television.

Dozens of reservoirs and dams breached danger levels.

Local authorities said the rainfall had caused a 20-metre breach in the Yihetan dam in the city of Luoyang west of Zhengzhou, and that the dam “could collapse at any time”.

In Zhengzhou itself, where about 100,000 people have been evacuated, the Guojiazui reservoir had been breached but there was no dam failure yet.

A raft of Chinese companies, insurers and a state-backed bank said they had offered donations and emergency aid to local governments in Henan amounting to 1.935 billion yuan ($299 million).

SCHOOLS, HOSPITALS CUT OFF

Taiwan’s Foxconn, which operates a plant in Zhengzhou assembling iPhones for Apple, said there was no direct impact on the facility.

China’s largest automaker, SAIC Motor, warned of short-term impact on logistics at its plant in the city, while Japan’s Nissan said production at its factory had been suspended.

Schools and hospitals were marooned, and people caught in the floods flocked to shelter in libraries, cinemas and even museums.

“We’ve up to 200 people of all ages seeking temporary shelter,” said a staffer surnamed Wang at the Zhengzhou Science and Technology Museum.

“We’ve provided them with instant noodles and hot water. They spent the night in a huge meeting room.”

After the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou, the city’s largest with more than 7,000 beds, lost all power, officials raced to find transport for about 600 critically ill patients.

The neighbouring province of Hebei issued a storm alert for some cities, including Shijiazhuang, its capital, warning of moderate to heavy rain from Wednesday.

multi-sector-approach-imperative:-speakers

Multi-sector approach imperative: speakers

Experts at a virtual workshop yesterday suggested forming a time-bound national framework and proper coordination among government agencies to fight lead poisoning, which has emerged as a global concern for its deadly impact on health and environment.

They also called for enhancing technical capacity and generating awareness among people.

Pure Earth, a New York based organisation working to eradicate toxic pollution in low and middle-income countries, in coordination with the Department of Environment (DoE) arranged the event. It was sponsored by USAID, GAHP (Global Alliance on Health and Pollution), OAK Foundation and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

A Shamim Al Razi, additional secretary of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ministry, said the threat arising from lead should not be underestimated.

“We have started to phase out the use of lead. On Sunday, a team of DoE knocked down 16 lead factories in Demra. This is a cross-cutting issue linking commerce, industry and local government ministries. We need a multi-sectoral effort in this regard,” said Razi, also the chief guest.

Dr Mahfuzar Rahman, Bangladesh country director of Pure Earth, said children were being poisoned by lead on a massive scale either through lead paint, lead recycling, toys, food spices, traditional medicine, cosmetics, pottery and cookware.

Lead poisoning robs children of their health and potential, he added.

The leading cause of lead poisoning among children living in Bangladesh and similar countries is that they get exposed to recycling of lead-acid batteries, he added.

“The rapidity of the response is crucial here; the longer the exposure continues, the greater the likelihood of disease. We should act accordingly otherwise we will see a major deficit in children’s intellectual ability,” he opined.

Andrew Mccartor, vice president of Pure Earth, said over the last three decades, deaths caused by lead increased in Bangladesh while it declined elsewhere. Bangladesh now sees fourth highest death rate from lead exposure, he said.

The economic cost of productivity loss from lead exposure is US 16 billion dollar, which is roughly half the income from apparel and textiles, he estimated.

Dr Anwar Sadaat, director (planning, monitoring and research) of Directorate General of Health Service, said some 35 million children in Bangladesh have high blood lead level (6.83 ug/dl). The standard level is 5 ug/dl.

He said Bangladesh currently has no routine blood lead level testing and no evidence generation system as well.

Dr Sadaat identified seven hotspots of lead across the country including Dhaka, Gazipur, Tangail, Bogura, Mymensingh, Khulna and Magura, emphasising the need to enhance capacity to monitor the situation.

Dr Shahriar Hossain, general secretary of Environment and Social Development Organization, said high level of lead has been detected in rice and vegetable. A recent study by Bangladesh Agricultural University revealed presence of one or more heavy metals including lead in five out of 16 food groups, he said.

He stressed on the enforcement of existing law, forming a national framework, imposing a ban on using lead.

Md Ashraf Uddin, director general of DoE, chaired the event.

form-ministry-to-protect-wetlands

Form ministry to protect wetlands

The High Court has directed the authorities concerned to formulate a specific law and establish a separate ministry in order to protect and develop the wetlands across the country as public property.

The court came up with the order while declaring illegal the grabbing and filling up of water bodies, wetlands and farmlands by two companies of businessman Mohammad Noor Ali to set up a resort and an economic zone in Narayanganj’s Sonargaon upazila.

No development that is done by damaging nature, environment and ecology can be sustainable, the court observed.

The economic development that takes place protecting, preserving and developing nature, ecology and environment becomes longstanding and brings equality, amity, and peace, the court added in its full text of verdict.

The verdict was released on Sunday.

In the 132-page verdict, the HC also ordered the government to ban plastic bags in the country and to construct separate bicycle lanes on all roads and highways and establish parks, walkways and bicycle lanes on the banks of rivers and canals in order to protect the environment.

At the same time, the court has given its opinions on 14 environment issues.

It asked the authorities to formulate a master plan to make Bangladesh cent percent self-reliant in renewable energy and to establish a separate ministry in this regard.

The HC bench of Justice Ashraful Kamal and Justice Razik-Al-Jalil came up with the verdict.

On December 2 last year, the HC bench had delivered the verdict following a writ petition filed by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela).

The petition challenged the activities of Unique Property Development Ltd (UPDL) and Sonargaon Economic Zone (SEZ) owned by businessman Mohammad Noor Ali near the bank of the Meghna.

In the full text of the verdict, the HC declared illegal the inaction of authorities concerned to prevent the companies from grabbing and filling up water bodies, wetlands and farmlands in the area.

The court asked the government to take necessary steps to give a one-hour class on the importance, management and development of wetlands every two months to the students of all academic institutions in the country.

The government has been asked to form an authority to protect and preserve the world heritages like Sundarbans, historical mosques in Bagerhat and Paharpur Buddhabihar.

The court asked the authorities concerned to geographically locate all wetlands in the country through satellite and list and display them in public places at all unions, upazilas and districts for raising awareness among people.

In the verdict, the HC also asked the local administrations to arrange rallies, seminars and other awareness programmes about the necessity and efficacy of wetlands.

The court asked the Department of Environment and the local administration to jointly assess the amount of agricultural and wetlands of the six mouzas that were encroached upon and filled up by the companies of Noor Ali and to set the amount of compensations that would be paid to the people affected by the companies.

The mouzas are Pirojpur, Jainpur, Chhoyhissa, Char Bhabonathpur, Batibandha and Ratanpur mouzas.

The court also directed the local administration to restore the agricultural and wetlands to their original state within six months by removing sand after realising the cost from the companies.

The HC bench made it mandatory for attaching an environmental clearance certificate with an application filed by an individual or a company seeking permission to establish an Economic Zone.

It orders the government to include Ecoside (hurting and killing the biodiversity and wildlife) as an offence in the International Crimes Tribunal Act, 1973.

The HC judges congratulated the media and writ petitioner Bela for their effective roles in protecting and improving the environment including wetlands in the country.

Officials concerned have been ordered to send the copy of the HC verdict to all the authorities concerned including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for taking necessary steps.

The HC bench kept the writ petition as continuing mandamus so that any aggrieved person can move a prayer before it for necessary orders on the issue in the future.

chattogram’s-crb-area:-citizens-continue-protest-against-hospital-building-project

Chattogram’s CRB area: Citizens continue protest against hospital building project

People from all walks of life in Chattogram city today staged a demonstration for the seventh consecutive day protesting a government move to build a hospital at Chattogram Railway Building (CRB) area.

Hundreds of people under the banner of Nagarik Samaj gathered and protested against the project holding candles at CRB in the evening, reports our Chattogram staff correspondent.

Chattogram’s Premier University Vice-chancellor Prof Dr Anupam Sen at the programme said, CRB is considered the oxygen centre of the city. “If any hospital or structure is constructed here, the environment will be affected,” he added.

Janaswastha Songrongkhon Committee, Chattogram convener Dr Mahfuzur Rahman and International Crime Tribunal Prosecutor Advocate Rana Das Gupta were present at the programme.

Earlier in the morning, Bangladesh Nari Mukti Kendra demonstrated and held a rally protesting the project.

The government has taken an initiative to build a hospital via public-private partnership (PPP) in the area.

Bangladesh Railway (BR) signed an agreement with United Enterprise and Company Limited for a PPP project worth Tk 400 crore on March 18, 2020, under which the latter would build a medical college, a 500-bed hospital and a nursing institute, said sources in BR, east zone.

earth-filling:-hc-releases-full-text-of-sonargaon-case-verdict,-asks-for-establishing-wetlands-ministry

Earth filling: HC releases full text of Sonargaon case verdict, asks for establishing wetlands ministry

Declaring grabbing and filling up water bodies, wetlands and farmlands by two companies in Narayanganj’s Sonargaon upazila “illegal”, the High Court has directed the authorities concerned to formulate a specific law and to establish a separate ministry to protect and develop wetlands across the country as public property.

The two companies owned by businessman Md Noor Ali grabbed and filled up water bodies, wetlands and farmlands to set up a resort and an economic zone.

In the full text of the verdict, the HC also ordered the government to ban plastic bags in the country and to construct separate cycle lanes on all roads and highways in order to protect the environment.

At the same time, the court has given its opinions on 14 issues in order to develop Bangladesh as an environment-friendly country.

It asked the authorities to formulate a masterplan to make Bangladesh cent percent self-reliant in renewable fuels and to establish a separate ministry in this regard.

The HC bench of Justice Md Ashraful Kamal and Justice Razik-Al-Jalil came up with the 132-page full text verdict which was released yesterday (July 18).

On December 2 last year, the HC bench had delivered the verdict following a writ petition filed by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela), challenging the activities of two companies — Unique Property Development Ltd (UPDL) and Sonargaon Economic Zone (SEZ), owned by Noor Ali, in six moujas near the banks of the Meghna in Sonargaon upazila.

In the full text of verdict, the HC declared the inaction of the authorities concerned of government to prevent the companies from the grabbing and filling up water bodies, wetlands and farmlands in the area “illegal”.

The court asked the government to take necessary steps to give a one-hour class on importance, management and development of wetlands every two months to the students at all academic institutions of the country.

The government has also been asked to form an authority to protect and preserve the world heritages like Sundarbans, the historical mosque in Bagerhat and Paharpur Bouddha Bihar.

The court asked the authorities concerned to geographically locate all wetlands of the country through satellite and list and display them in the public places at all unions, upazilas and districts to aware people.

In the full text, the HC asked the local administrations to arrange rallies, seminars and other awareness programmes about the necessity and efficacy of wetlands.

The court asked the Department of Environment and the local administration to jointly assess the agricultural and wetlands of the six mouzas that were encroached and filled up by Noor Ali’s companies and to set the amount of compensation that would be paid to the people affected.

The mouzas are Pirojpur, Jainpur, Chhoyhissa, Char Bhabonathpur, Batibandha and Ratanpur moujas.

The court also directed the local administration to restore the agricultural and wetlands to their original state within six months by removing sand after realising the cost from the companies.

The HC bench made it mandatory for attaching an environmental clearance certificate with an application filed by an individual or a company seeking permission to establish an Economic Zone.

It ordered the government to include Ecocide (hurting and killing the biodiversity and wildlife) as an offence in the International Crimes Tribunal Act, 1973 under which the war crimes committed during the country’s 1971 Liberation War are tried and punished.

The HC judges congratulated media and writ petitioner Bela for their effective roles in protecting and improving the environment including wetlands in the country.

Officials concerned have been ordered to send the copy of the HC verdict to all the authorities concerned including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for taking necessary steps.

16-factories-recycling-lead-knocked-down

16 factories recycling lead knocked down

Department of Environment (DoE) yesterday demolished 16 factories that were illegally recycling lead and aluminium and jailed 13 people in this connection at Konapara of Demra in the capital.

A team of DoE led by Syed Ahmed Kabir, deputy director (enforcement) of Dhaka (metro), conducted the daylong drive after locals alleged that those factories were being run at night and smoke from the factories was deteriorating the area’s air quality.

Kabir said the factories have been operating for a few years without obtaining necessary clearance from DoE.

They used to melt expired batteries, resulting in smoke that poses serious health threat, he said.

elon-musk-to-offer-$100m-prize-for-‘best’-tech-to-capture-carbon-dioxide-emissions

Elon Musk to offer $100m prize for ‘best’ tech to capture carbon dioxide emissions

Tesla Inc chief and billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk on Thursday took to Twitter to promise a $100 million prize for development of the “best” technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions.

Capturing planet-warming emissions is becoming a critical part of many plans to keep climate change in check, but very little progress has been made on the technology to date, with efforts focused on cutting emissions rather than taking carbon out of the air.

The International Energy Agency said late last year that a sharp rise in the deployment of carbon capture technology was needed if countries are to meet net-zero emissions targets.

“Am donating $100M towards a prize for best carbon capture technology,” Musk wrote in a tweet, followed by a second tweet that promised “Details next week.”

Tesla officials did not immediately respond to a request for additional information.

Musk, who co-founded and sold Internet payments company PayPal Holdings Inc, now leads some of the most futuristic companies in the world.

Besides Tesla, he heads rocket company SpaceX and Neuralink, a startup that is developing ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect the human brain to computers.

Newly-sworn-in US President Joe Biden has pledged to accelerate the development of carbon capture technology as part of his sweeping plan to tackle climate change. On Thursday, he named Jennifer Wilcox, an expert in carbon removal technologies, as the principal deputy assistant secretary for fossil energy at the US Department of Energy.

bangladesh-to-get-its-first-space-observatory-in-faridpur

Bangladesh to get its first space observatory in Faridpur

The government is all set to build the “Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Space Observatory Centre”, the first of its kind in the country, at Bhanga Upazila of Faridpur. The centre is being set up with all modern facilities for observing the space with telescopes at a cost of Tk 213 crores. The project is expected to get approval from the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on January 19.

Eminent writer Professor Zafar Iqbal first brought the idea of setting up a space observatory centre at Bhanga of Faridpur to public attention. He explained that the Equator, the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricon – three imaginary lines that encircle the Earth from East to West – has an intersection point with the four longitudinal lines that encircle the Earth from North to South at Bhanga Upazila of Faridpur, making the spot an ideal location to set up a space observatory. 

Following his suggestion, the Prime Minister directed the Ministry of Science and Technology to start preparing the project. 

According to the project proposal, the centre will be built on 10 acres of land and will have a 5-storey circular building that will house reflector telescopes. The height of the observatory tower will be kept at 100 metres to commemorate the birth centenary of the father of the nation. 

The project proposal also allots Tk 1 crore 10 lacs for the travel and training of 11 officials abroad. 

The project is scheduled for completion by June 2023.

bangladesh-born-scientist-m-zahid-hasan-to-receive-us-department-of-energy-award

Bangladesh-born scientist M Zahid Hasan to receive US Department of Energy award

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will confer the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award on Bangladesh-born scientist M Zahid Hasan.

He is also Princeton University’s Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics.

The Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award was established in 1959 and honours mid-career US scientists and engineers for exceptional contributions in research and development in support of DOE’s mission to advance the national, economic and energy security of the nation.

M Zahid Hasan is known for his pioneering research on quantum matter exhibiting topological and emergent properties.

The Office of Communications of Princeton University issued a press release in this regard on January 13.

“I am quite honoured and humbled to receive this award, as EO Lawrence was one of my scientific heroes,” Hasan said.

“Lawrence’s invention of the cyclotron led to modern high-energy accelerator technology that I use in my research to explore topological states of quantum matter. I am also very grateful to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory for supporting my research leading to this award.”

Hasan was honoured in the area of condensed matter and materials sciences for “experiments using advanced spin-angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy which led to seminal discoveries of new phases of matter and new fermionic quasiparticles,” according to Princeton University’s press release.