CHAPTER XXV

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

25.1 Introduction

 

25.1.1 For attaining socio-economic prosperity of a country science and technology is a crucial area where development is essential. The need for a faster technology development is being increasingly felt in Bangladesh. Hence high emphasis will be placed on the advancement of science and technological research and innovations by adopting imported improved technology as well as through development of indigenous technology in the Fifth Plan period. Acceleration of economic development will require re-orientation of Research and Development (R&D) activities towards specific goals of national importance for achieving self-reliance within the shortest possible time.

25.2 Review of Past Plans

25.2.1 Development of science and technology is a long run process within which short term strategies are adopted for catering to the immediate needs of the economy. In order to strengthen the science and technological research, earlier plans emphasised/stressed upon the formulation of policies and strategies for this sector. But due to uncoordinated research and development work, absence of private sector's initiative for R&D and organisational weaknesses, substantial development could not be achieved in the past.

25.3 First Five Year Plan (1973-78)

25.3.1 The First Plan (1973-1978) was, in the words of the then Prime Minister Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, "a plan for reconstruction and development of the economy taking into account the inescapable political, social and economic realities of Bangladesh." Recognising the weaknesses of the Bangladesh economy as a litany of undiversified poor inheritance, characterised by an underdeveloped infra-structure, stagnant agriculture, a rapidly growing population, years of colonial exploitation and missed opportunities with debilitating effects on initiative and enterprise, the Plan spoke of its "vast manpower" as "the basic resource in Bangladesh" and, therefore prescribed that "projects and programmes must be so formulated as to make its maximum use within the constraints of technology and socio-political institutions". The planners also took cognisance of the fact that progress in technological frontier like socio-political transformation, is a sine qua non if we are to overcome the limits placed by our material resource constraints.

25.3.2 The strategy adopted in the First Plan was to concentrate energy and efforts on those fields of research whose results could lead to produce quick returns in products and services.

25.3.3 The First Plan allocation in the science and technology sector was Tk.232.60 million which was 0.58 per cent of the total plan outlay of Tk.39,840.00 million.

25.3.4 The programmes of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) during the First Plan included nuclear science and technology; electronics and applied space research; nuclear bio-sciences; and exploration and exploitation of radioactive and heavy minerals. Feasibility study of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Project was completed during this Plan period. The programmes of Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) included: development of industrial technology (process/product) for utilisation of natural resources and raw materials; food science and technology; fuel and energy; glass and ceramics; leather and animal by-products; natural drugs and pilot plant and process development centre. During this period BCSIR patented 103 processes/products based on the results achieved through research. A total of 26 industrial processes were ready for being leased out and 29 research processes were awaiting pilot plant experimentation, having proved successful in bench-scale research.

25.3.5 As the First Plan came to a close, it transpired that "some of the issues needed close and painstaking analysis" and the Planning Commission of the day went for a Two Year Plan.

25.4 Two Year Plan (1978-80)

25.4.1 During the Two Year Plan period, attempts were made to complete the incomplete projects of the First Plan. The 'Jutton' project of BCSIR was taken up. The BAEC made significant contribution by starting nuclear medicine centres at Sylhet and Dinajpur and considerable progress was made in respect of Beach Sand Exploitation Centre, Cox's Bazar. TRIGA MARK Research Reactor was procured during this plan period. Tk.391.60 million was allocated for STR during this period, representing 1.20 per cent of the total allocation of Tk.32,610.00 million.

25.5 Second Five Year Plan (1980-85)

25.5.1 The total allocation of the Second Plan was Tk. 1,11,000 million while allocation for STR was Tk.1,290 million which was 1.16 per cent of the total.

25.5.2 The BAEC's programme during this period included : research on nuclear technology; application of nuclear science in agriculture; health services and exploration of nuclear minerals and development of materials from beach sand at Cox's Bazar.

25.5.3 The BCSIR's programme during the period included : development of "jutton" for the diversified use of jute by blending with other fibres including synthetics; development of formulated food of high nutritive value; technology for the preservation and processing of fruits; fish meal etc.; development of technology for the utilisation of alternative sources of energy such as bio-gas, solar energy, etc; research on indigenous herbs and medicinal plants for the manufacture of common medicines and development of processes for the improvement of leather, ceramics, glasswares and refractory products. The agencies like Space Research and Remote Sensing Organisation, National Museum of Science and Technology, Environmental Pollution Control, House Building Research Institute, Bangladesh Standard Institute, Central Testing Laboratory, Bangladesh Medical Research Council and S&T Division had undertaken development works as well as R&D projects in the STR sector during the Second Plan period.

25.6 Third Five Year Plan (1985-90)

25.6.1 The allocation for the STR Sector in the Third Plan was Tk. 600 million (at 1984/85 prices) which was 0.24 per cent of the total allocation of Tk.2,50,000 million.

 

25.6.2 BAEC's programmes during this Plan envisaged research on nuclear technology in its research establishment named Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE), Savar. The Plan made an allocation of Tk.101.16 million for this project and it was completed in 1987. In addition to this, the Plan provided necessary allocations against some important projects, namely, (a) Exploration of Useful Minerals in Bangladesh, (b) Establishment of Four New Nuclear Medicine Centres (NMC) at Barisal, Khulna, Rangpur and Mymensingh, (c) Modernisation of existing NMCs at Dhaka, Chittagong and Rajshahi, (d) Replacement of Equipment in Atomic Energy Centre, Dhaka and (e) Construction of BAEC Housing Colony at Savar.

 

25.6.3 BCSIR’s programmes included research establishments at Rajshahi, Chittagong and Institute of Food Science at Dhaka. The Plan emphasised continuation of R&D activities in the research establishments. BCSIR undertook several research projects on energy, food, medicine, chemicals and oils, industrial wastes, etc.

 

25.6.4 Science and Technology Division's programmes during the Third Plan period, included spill-over projects of National Museum of Science and Technology (NMST); procurement of books and equipment for BANSDOC and National Science Library; feasibility study for oceanographic research; feasibility study for biotechnology, etc.. The Third Plan also included projects of Bangladesh Space Research and Remote Sensing Organisation (SPARRSO) and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI).

 

25.7 Fourth Five Year Plan (1990-95)

 

25.7.1 The major thrust of the Fourth Plan was to increase productivity, income and employment and alleviate poverty. One of the basic strategies of the Plan was to increase productive and operational efficiency in all sectors.

 

25.7.2 The objectives of science and technology sector as set forth in the Fourth Plan were to develop scientific and technological research, planning and institutions for different sectors. To attain these objectives due emphasis was laid on proper science and technology planning, and institutional and human resources development. Science and technology development was conceived in a long term perspective with expected short-run spin-offs to meet the immediate needs of the economy. The objective was to meet practical technological requirement. It was mentioned that along with development of relatively capital-intensive technologies, specially required for the capital goods sector and large industrial enterprises, improvement of appropriate traditional and indigenous technologies for small enterprises in both rural and urban areas would need special consideration. It was viewed that over time the technological transformation should bring, in its wake, desirable changes in the economic structure.

 

25.7.3 The problem which was identified during the Fourth Plan as the major constraint in this sector was that the research organisations had no linkages with the industry. As a result, most of the research findings or the developed technologies could not see the light of the day beyond the premises of the research organizations. Another problem which was identified was the absence of any satisfactory linkage between the industries and the universities. Local industries remained satisfied with the know-how of imported technology and had not taken any serious initiative to gear up R&D activity in their organisations.

 

25.7.4 The total public sector allocation during the Fourth Plan was Tk.3,47,000 million. Out of which only Tk.540 million was allocated for science and technology representing only 0.16 percent of the total.

 

25.7.5 BAEC engaged in R&D activities in science and technology in health and medicine, non-destructive testing (NDT) and quality control, materials analysis, development of electronics, radiation protection services including control of imported food stuff, environment pollution studies and monitoring geological prospecting for nuclear minerals, application of radioisotopes in hydrology including studies on deposition and movement of silt in Chittagong harbour, preservation of foodstuff, extension of shelf-life of fish and vegetables, disinfestation and sterilisation of medical products, separation of useful heavy minerals from the beach sand and fresh feasibility study of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.

 

25.7.6 BAEC also formed a joint venture with a commercial irradiation facility for preservation of food stuff and fish and sterilisation of medical and pharmaceutical products. BAEC developed analytical equipment like digital PH meter and other electronic systems but these were yet to be commercialised. NDT developed by BAEC was put in service in different industrial units in Bangladesh. In the field of nuclear technology and radiation protection services, the development of radiation shielding materials such as polyboron for neutron and high density concrete using local illuminate and magnetite for gamma radiation made significant contributions. Atomic Energy Centre, Savar produced radioisotopes which were used in NMCs, chemical purposes and related nuclear experiments.

 

25.7.7 During this period, BCSIR undertook 10 projects for implementation out of which 6 projects were completed by June, 1995. During this period, 84 industrial processes were developed by BCSIR, 23 processes were patented and 37 processes were leased out. Production of spirulina under local climatic conditions, innovation of improved "chula", bio-gas plants, etc., were some of the major achievements of this period.

 

25.7.8 Bangladesh National Scientific and Technical Documentation Centre (BANSDOC) undertook two projects for implementation during this period. These were: (a) Development and Modernisation of BANSDOC and (b) Automation and Networking of Science and Technology Libraries in Bangladesh. The second project will be spilled over to the next plan. An amount of Tk.1462.00 million was allocated. National Museum of Science and Technology implemented two development schemes during this Plan period. These were (a) Development of Project Innovated by the Young Scientists and (b) National Museum of Science and Technology (second phase).

 

25.7.9 Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC) implemented three projects during this period. An amount of Tk.59.08 million was allocated against these projects. The projects were : (a) Study on Strategy Formulation for Software Industry of Bangladesh (b) Strengthening of Bangladesh Computer Council and (c) Assistance to Secondary Schools for Introducing Computer Science Course. The activities of BCC included : organising workshops on software industry, advising government and autonomous organisations in their computerisation plans, developing human resources in the areas of computer and information technology and creating infrastructural facilities for IT application in various fields.