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Wednesday, March 05, 2003

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Dengue to become doubly dangerous
Experts warn as 3 cases reported in city last week; DCC indifferent to looming threat

Staff Correspondent, The Daily Star

Star file photo of an Aedes mosquito.

Experts have warned about a two-fold rise in the number of dengue patients in the coming
rainy reason in the city if spraying of larvaecide does not start soon.

Three people were reportedly diagnosed with dengue fever last week, all from the Mohammadpur and Rayerbazar areas of the city.

Although blood tests were not done, doctors say the patients bore dengue symptoms such as pains in the joints, high fever and dizziness.

In the last season, about 3,000 people were hospitalised across the country with dengue infection while about 150 others had died of the fever, mostly in Dhaka.

Surveillance and monitoring of dengue situation has not started yet to prevent the disease.

The Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) engages surveillance teams comprising entomologists or experts on insects to measure the spread of Aedes mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus. But this year the corporation has not as yet allocated any budget for the teams.

As a result, the DCC has no idea of the extent of the threat, experts said.

Sources also said all the vehicle-mounted Ultra Low Volume (ULV) machines to spray adulticides are now out of order and rusting in the DCC warehouse. No alternative has yet been proposed.

Sources at the DCC said the corporation has only a very small stock of larvaecide, the main ingredient in combating the Aedes mosquito.

The current stock would last a few weeks but purchase orders for new supplies have not been placed.

"The corporation will soon place orders to have a sufficient stock," said an official of DCC.

Entomologists say the absence of early preparations may spur the growth of Aedes mosquito population.

"Since the city corporation is blind to the population of Aedes mosquito I fear we may find ourselves in a situation worse than the previous years'," said one entomologist, on condition that he not be named.

"The city corporation is taking preparations to stock enough larvaecide. Two separate tenders have been invited, one yesterday and the other day before," a DCC official said.

"We have ordered 2,500 litres of adulticide for aerial spraying. Two local agents offered Anvil, a widely used adulticide for killing Aedes while the other ofered Rescene 50E, an equally effective insecticide," he added.

The official said the DCC is yet to obtain permission to spray the insecticides, which are not registered in Bangladesh. However, the government can spray the insecticide without prior permission under special considerations.

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Water crisis threatens life on Earth

Abdur Rahman Khan, The Independent

The mother planet Earth, with its 600 crore people as well as a diverse living species, faces an unprecedented crisis of water in coming years, according to a UN report released today (Wednesday).

For humanity, the poverty of a large percentage of the world population is both a symptom and a cause of water crisis. Giving the poor better access to better managed water can make a big contribution to poverty eradication, the World Water Development Report (WWDR) reveals.

The Report, first of its kind, is a joint undertaking of twenty-three UN agencies and a major initiatives of the new World Water Assessment Programme set up in 2000 with its Secretariat in the Paris headquarters of the UNESCO.

The WWDR is targeted to all those involved in the formulation and implementation of water-related policies and investment strategies, as well as to professionals at all levels.

Although it offers a broad global picture, it focuses particularly on the situation in developing countries, where the need for better infrastructure and governance is the highest priority.

With this report, WWAP is aiming to show where systems are failing, and to provide the information needed for efficient and effective capacity-building throughout the world.

The Report encompasses a broad range of components, focusing on human stewardship of freshwater, that complex aggregation of policies, legislation, social programmes, economic approaches and management strategies through which we seek to achieve water sustainability.

Although water is the most widely occurring substance on earth, only 2.53 per cent is freshwater while the remainder is salt water. Some two thirds of the freshwater is locked up in glaciers and permanent snow cover.

However, freshwater resources are being reduced by pollution as some 2 million tons of waste per day are being disposed of within receiving waters in the rivers, lakes and streams, according to the World Water Development Report.

Many countries and territories are already in a state of crisis. The report ranks over 180 countries and territories in terms of renewable water resources available per head, meaning all of the water circulating on the surface, in the soil or deeper underground.

Bangladesh ranks 76th in the list with the per capita availability of renewable water at 8,809 cubic meter per year.

The poorest in terms of water availability is Kuwait (10 cubic meter per person each year), followed by Gaza strip (52 cubic meter), United Arab Emirates( 58 cubic meter), Bahamas (66 cubic meter), Qatar ( 94 cubic meter), Maldives( 103 cubic meter), Libya (113 cubic meter), Saudi Arabia (118 cubic meter), Malta (129 cubic meter) and Si8ngapore (149 cubic meter).

By the middle of this century, seven billion people of 60 countries will be faced with water scarcity, 2 billion in 48 countries, depending on factors like population growth and policy-making.

Presently, 1.1 billion people lack access to improved water supply and 2.4 billion to improved sanitation. In vicious poverty and ill health cycle, inadequate water supply and sanitation are both underlying cause and outcome: invariably, those who lack adequate and affordable water supplies are the poorest in the society.

Worldwide, of the creatures associated with inland waters, 24 percent of mammals and 13 percent of birds are threatened and between 34 and 80 fish species have become extinct since the late 19th century mainly for habitat disturbances which can be taken as evidence of declining ecosystem condition.

With more than 25 world maps, numerous charts, graphs and seven case studies of major river basins, the World Water Development Report analyses how diverse societies cope with water scarcity, including policies that work or do not work.

The Report also outlines several reasons as to why cities and towns should take priority over rural areas when choices must be made since the urban areas concentrate not only people and enterprises but also their wastes.

The Report will be formally presented to the international community on World Water Day, March 22 during the World water Forum in Kyoto. A series of high level panel discussions will be organised to discuss the results.

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A world of children's books

Culture Desk, The Daily Star

Tiny tots, all aged between 3 to 12, witnessed February 26 a dream come true, as it came

into their lives with a promising hope, when World of Children's books (WCB), a publishing organisation for children, held a publication ceremony of Aamader Lekha Aamader Anka containing stories, rhymes as well as illustrations by some children.

The book presents literary and art work that won places in a competition 'Galpo Lekho, Chhobi Anko' organised by WCB on February 7. A total of sixteen stories and twenty drawings have been selected from that competition for the book. Artist Rafiqun Nabi and litterateur-journalist Rahat Khan handed out prizes amongst the winners of the competition on February 26 at the premises of Institute of Fine Arts, Dhaka University. The book Amader Lekha Amader Anka portrays pictorial stories, representing children and their ideas. Stories like Mach Dhora Boroi Moja talks about a child who had a wonderful time fishing in the village, or Bhuter Golpo tells the readers about a witch who lived a long time ago. Shingho o ekti Idur personifies with real life human beings and shows the imaginary relationships between the two animals.

It will not be inappropriate to say that this book has the potential to add a new dimension to the book market in the country. For, there are very few books by children out there. Aamader Lekha Aamader Anka is a glimpse of the colourful world of the children, their imaginative faculty and its potentiality, the kids' hopes and desires, often hidden deep inside their hearts. The book may stand out as an 'open letter' to the elder world.

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Comprehensive Security in South Asia: Economic dimensions
Mufleh Osmany

South Asia is perhaps the only region of the world

The New Nation

where lack of regional security is the consequence of collective default rather than design. ASEAN, in our immediate neighbourhood, is steadily moving towards comprehensive security while South-Asia is making itself more and more insecure. ASEAN has chosen the path of economic security in its march towards regional security. Here seems to be a lesson in pragmatism. The vision of South Asian security can, perhaps, be approached through the path of economic cooperation.

While all the regions are making strident progress towards regional cooperation, regional confidence building, regional trade, regional security and even regional integration; dreams of South Asian Security seems to be falling apart on the barren rocks of mutual squabble, mutual recrimination and mutual mistrust.

Progress in the matter of broad cooperation, under the promising umbrella of SAARC, seems to be hindered by lack of vision, commitment and above all, leadership. The wider possibilities and prospect of SAARC cooperation challenge the individual and collective leadership of SAARC. This historic opportunity seems to be wasted on the sterility of SAARC leadership, lack of SAARC creativity and insensitivity to SAARC ethos. The road to comprehensive security in South Asia has been boldly flagged by SAARC prospects, SAARC promises and SAARC possibilities. It is a challenge for our leadership to work collectively towards comprehensive security in South Asia. South Asian leadership seems to be abdicating this historic role.

Political leadership alone cannot fully meet the exceptions of the people of South Asia. Political leadership is generally seduced by short-term political opportunism like electoral advantages and holding the party and its allies together on a very narrow and negative platform. Statesmanship with shared vision and creative approach to the future of South Asia can build a holistic platform which will be inclusive of all the states of South Asia, and all people of South Asia. Intellectual leadership, business leadership, bureaucratic leadership, civil-society leadership, cultural leadership, media leadership, NGO-leadership and all other forms and dimensions of leadership need to forge a grand coalition around a common and shared vision of South- Asian security. The people of South-Asia need to come together so that so that collectively the future of South- Asia can be built on a strong foundation of mutual trust and shared vision of comprehensive security. The economic road to South-Asian security can follow the examples of the European Union and ASEAN. Starting with limited economic cooperation many regions of the world succeeded in building mutual confidence and trust. Economic cooperation to bring the peoples and governments of other regions together. Starting from the days of Coal Community, Steel Community and Common Agricultural Policy the European Union is now poised to forge more and more political institutions for the comprehensive security of Europe. ASEAN has achieved remarkable success in our neighbourhood. Why South Asia cannot do it? That is the historic question confronting all of us today. This is the strategic challenge for our generation.

Through our deliberations in this seminar, if we can find some light leading to our question for regional security, we can congratulate ourselves for having achieved our objectives. We hope this seminar will be able to identify elements of a confidence building programme together with a road-map to a meaningful and sustainable economic cooperation in South-Asia. A beginning has to be made. Let us begin here.

Concept of comprehensive security needs to include all aspects of both traditional security as well as non- traditional security. A realistic approach to comprehensive security would be to articulate the parameters of mutually shared concerns of holistic aspects of security of South Asia.

An objective starting point could be the wider areas of economic security including environmental security, food security, energy security and health security.

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Our Cultural Heritage and Museums

Dr. Iftikhar-ul-Awwal , The New Nation

Bangladesh emerged as a sovereign state in 1971. It has a territory of nearly 56,000 square miles and a population of about 140 million. This makes Bangladesh one of the world's most densely populated areas. Most of the terrain is relatively flat lying in the deltaic plain of Padma-Meghna-Jamuna river system. The only significant uplands are in the north-east and south-east of the country. The land is covered with a vast network of rivers, their tributaries forming a maze of interconnecting channels. In the southwest lies the Sundarbans, the biggest mangrove forest in the world with its famed Royal Bengal Tigers.

Bangladesh has a rich cultural heritage dating back to at least fourth century B.C. Over the centuries, the region had been under the sway of the Imperial Mauryas and Guptas and later under the Palas, Senas and Chandras who ruled from about the eight century A.D. till the beginning of the thirteenth century A.D. Muslim ascendancy in the region was then established by the Sultans and the Mughals. However, in 1757 Muslim rule came to an abrupt end with their defeat in the battle of Plassey. After a heroic struggle against British imperialism for nearly two centuries, Bangladesh (former East Pakistan) gained its independence as province of Pakistan in 1947. Unfortunately the expoitive policy and domineering posture of West Pakistan soon compelled its eastern wing to declare a war against its western wing in 1971. The nine months glorious War of Liberation let to a new country- Bangladesh.

Some glimpses of the country's history and heritage may be discerned from the ruins that remain scattered over many sites in Bangladesh. Archeological excavations at Mahasthan, situated about eight miles north of Bogra town on the bank of Karatoya river led to the discovery of an ancient city-Pundranagar or Pundra Vardhana which is often referred to in pre- Muslim inscriptions, epigraphic records and literary works. The Mauryas possibly founded the city in the third century B.C. It was the provincial metropolis successively during the rule of the Mauryas, the Guptas, the Palas and minor known or unknown dynasties. The discovery of punch marked and cast copper coins point to commercial interactions of the people within the city and with other regions in and around. Among recovered antiquities mention may be made of beautiful buttons, eardrops, nose studs, semi-precious stones, tapestries, terracotta figures and toys, rings, bangles, etc. Here it may be mentioned that the famed Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang visited the place between 639 and 645 A.D. and left interesting description of it. A team of French archaeologists is now excavating the site and we hope to know more about this ancient city and the life and times of its people in the days ahead.

On the slope of Lalmai-Mainamati range of hills of Comilla grew up another extensive centre of Buddhist culture. Discovered during the Second World War, excavations were undertaken by the Archaeology department in 1955. These excavations have unearthed valuable historical evidence about the Buddhist rulers of the 7th and 8th century A.D. They not only built complexes of shrines, monasteries and temples but also struck gold coins, which suggests to a high state of economic prosperity and political stability.

Another interesting site lies about 60 kilometers north- west of Mahasthan. Excavations in Paharpur have unearthed possibly the largest known Buddhist monastery south of the Himalayas. Built by the great Pala King Dharma Pala in the 8th century A.D., the Somapuri Vihara is distinguished by its cruciform shape. The Rajshahi District Gazetter points that, 'this type of temple architecture from Bangladesh, profoundly influenced the architectural relief of South- East Asia, especially Burma and Java.' Among the finds in the four wings of these monasteries are bronze images, stone sculptures, potteries, jars, terracotta plaques, cowries, a hoard of Arab coins in a small pottery and drinking cups. Paharpur is now a part of the World Heritage Site.

The art and architecture that developed during Muslim rule in Bengal were distinctive and added new flavour and variety to existing designs. The main contributions herein were the introduction of arches, domes and vaults, and the necessary use of lime as mortar which was rarely used in pre-Muslim period except for concreting the floor. They also introduced a rich variety of surface decoration represented by floral, geometric and rosette designs. The Muslim rulers of Bengal also built numerous mosques, tombs, forts, monumental gateways, roads, bridges, gardens, etc. But of all these, their contribution was most significant in the development of mosque architecture. The Sait Gambuj mosque (having actually 77 domes) built by Khan Jahan Ali in the 15th century is the finest and largest in Bangladesh. It is also a protected monument.

Bangladesh was also famous for its textiles-both of cotton and silk. Muslin cloth made of fine cotton was exported from this region even to Rome and Asia Minor some 2000 years ago. It is said to have reached such a state of perfection and excellence that European traders flocked to the shores of Bengal to procure the items. Silk, both raw and fabrics was also exported to Asia and African markets.

In the above passages, a brief review of our past cultural heritage has been outlined in the days prior to British rule in Bengal. However, with the commencement of British ascendancy in the region, the people faced economic ruination. The saddest part is that it was caused by deliberate and conscious decision on the part of the colonialists. No doubt they introduced many modern gadgets of industrialisation but only in areas where their interests served or coincided. Lack of state patronage to indigenous arts and crafts and in the maintenance of cultural properties is a stark reality of the colonial period.

It is with the liberation of the country that a spate of cultural activities and expressions, both in private and public sector, became evident. The government of Bangladesh also extended its patronage in a liberal way towards its development and enrichment.

Herein, I shall briefly outline some features of the development of museums in Bangladesh. Some of the salient features are as follows.

(a) The first museum within the present territory of Bangladesh Varendra Research Museum was set up in Rajshahi in 1910 as a private venture by three distinguished individuals. The museum is now under the administrative control of the University of Rajshahi, and has about 10,000 objects in its collection which includes inscriptions, sculptures, copper plates, coins, manuscripts, and many pre-historic items of Indus civilization, Mahasthan, Nalanda and Paharpur. From the point of view of number of objects, it is the second biggest museum of the country next to the Bangladesh National Museum.

(b) The country's lone ethnological museum is located in Chittagong. The work for the same started in the mid 1960s but it was formally inaugurated only in January 1974. Besides, the Tribal Cultural Academy located at Birisiri (Netrokona), Rangamati and the Bandarban Cultural Institutes have museums attached to these wherein tribal cultural objects are displayed. These were established in 1977, 1978 and 1984 respectively and are under the administrative control of the Ministry of Culture.

(c) Memorial museums are a distinctive feature of post independence era. Since the mid 1990's, a number of such museums have been set up. The prominent ones are Zainul Abedin collections, Mymensingh (1975); Sher-e-Bangla Museum, Barisal (1982); Osmani Museum, Sylhet (1987); Michael Madhusudon Museum, Jessore (1989); Ahsan Manzil, Dhaka (1992); Zia Memorial Museum, Chittagong (1993); Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, Dhaka (1994), Zainal Memorial Museum, Sonargaon (1997); S.M. Sultan Memorial Collections, Narail (2000); Gandhi Memorial Museum, Noakhali (2000).

(d) The number of specialised museums is also in the increase. For example, there is now Postal Museum in Dhaka (1985); Air Force Museum, Dhaka (1987); BMA Museum, Bhatiari (1993); Police Museum, Dhaka (1995); Maritime Museum, Chittagong (1995); BDR Museum, Dhaka (1996); Artillery Museum, Chittagong (1997); Dhaka Cantonment Bangabandhu Museum (1998).

(e) The spirit of our great Liberation War has led to the establishment of a number of liberation war museums. Examples: Liberation War Museum at Comilla (1974); Vijoyanghan, Bogra (1995); Liberation War Museum, Dhaka (1996); Vijoyghata, Mymensingh Cantomnent (1999).

(f) Local museums are also being established to collect, preserve and display objects mainly of the region. Examples are: Chalanbil Museum, Now (1978) and Rangpur Museum (1982).

(g) Establishment of museums through individual efforts is on the increase. Examples are: Rocks Museum, Panchagarh (1997); Ulfat Rana's Mini Museum,. Dhaka. Most of the private collections of Boldha Museum (established in 1925) set up by Zamindar Naendra Narayan Roy Chowdhury are now in the National Museum.

(h) The inadequacy of science and technology based museums is most regrettable. The only science museum of the country-The National Science and Technology Museum is located at Agargaon, Dhaka. Though the museum started elsewhere in the 1960's, it shifted its present location in 1987. The National Natural History Museum established in 1974, became a fullfledged museum 1993, and is presently housed in a building at Dhaka National Zoo. There is also, an ethonbotanical museum (established in 2000) near the Mirpur Botanical Garden.

(i) There exists now a city museum on the 5th floor of Dhaka City Corporation. Established in 1996, it aims at preserving the past history and heritage of the city of Dhaka.

(j) There are a number of site museums in the country. These have been established in the excavation sites and are under the Archeological Directorate of the Ministry of Culture.

It is, however, extremely difficult at this point of time to put a figure at the number of museums in Bangladesh. This has been so as no survey or census of museums, far less of objects, have yet been made. But knowledgeable persons in the field suggest that it could be around 100 or so.

By far the largest museum in the country is the Bangladesh National Museum. In 1983, the government decided to incorporate Dhaka Museum (which was established in 1913) into Bangladesh National Museum through an Ordinance. The Museum is a multi-disciplinary one, situated at the heart of the capital city of Dhaka. It has a total of nearly 84,000 objects in its four curatorial departments. The museum displays its objects in 43 galleries within a floor space of nearly 250,000 square feet.

The Museum's curatorial departments are:

(a) The Department of History and Classical Art (with slightly over 66,000 objects);

(b) The Department of Ethnography and Decorative Art (with slightly over 11,000 objects);

(c) The Department of Natural History (with 2300 objects) and

(d) The Department of Contemporary Arts and World Civilization (with about 4,400).

Besides, there are two service departments, namely, Conservation Laboratory and the Public Education.

Bangladesh National Museum has a large collection of ancient and medieval stone sculptures, architectural pieces and inscriptions, terracotta plaques, bronze and brass images and vases, gold and silver ornaments, coins, copper plates, arms and weapons, wooden sculptures, musical instruments, textiles, paintings, ivory object, porcelain and glass, dolls, tribal objects, manuscripts and documents. There are also galleries for ethnographic object, folk art, and boats of Bangladesh, embroidered quilts, potteries and natural history specimens.

There are four branch museums under the National Museum. These are Zia Smriti Museum in Chittagong, Ahsan Manzil Museum in Dhaka and Osmani Museum in Sylhet and Zainul Abedin Sangrahasala in Mymensingh.

The museum is an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Government of Bangladesh. It has a Trustee Board, which makes policy decisions. The chief executive of the Museum is the Director General who is appointed by the Government.

The Museum has an annual budget of over four crore taka. Needless to say, the bulk of the money comes from the government exchequer.

Although positive signs of people's interest and awareness towards museums have been amply demonstrated, especial]y since the liberation of the country, there are certain inadequacies and limitations in the operation and maintenance of these museums. The principal shortcomings and problems are as follows:

(a) Documentation of objects is a vital function of any museum. However, preparation of scientific inventory poses a great challenge. Neither the staff members possess sufficient scientific knowledge of inventory preparation nor do they have clear concept regarding object identification and verification. The work requires special skill involving modem gadgets like computers, scanners, digital cameras, and printers besides appropriate training in the relevant field.

(b) Another great problem is conservation of objects. The climate of Bangladesh is humid and hot which imposes continuous threat to the preservation of museum objects like manuscripts and documents, paintings, photographs, etc. Though there is a conservation laboratory in the Bangladesh National Museum that provides conservation functions for other museums of the country, the laboratory needs modernization and adequate skilled personnel. Due to inadequacies, research to improve conservation methods, analytical work to study objects from several points of view, preventive measures against bio- deterioration, environmental monitoring, cannot be undertaken.

(c) There is also the question of display of objects. This branch of museology is highly technical in nature and the skill required is gained through working experience and continuous exposure to modern museums abroad. The exhibits in galleries can be arranged in an attractive fashion only by the trained display department staff.

(d) Most museums in Bangladesh lack modem equipments to control temperature and humidity. But due to fund constraint and lack of technical knowledge, objects remain vulnerable to the ravages of weather and time. It is again due to fund constraint that we are unable to install modern surveillance equipment to counter possible thefts of museum objects. Again, as most objects in the museums of Bangladesh as elsewhere abroad are kept in storerooms, proper facilities for their preservation and maintenance is absolutely essential. This is often not possible due mainly to paucity of funds, and space constraint.

(e) Museums are universally regarded as custodians of national heritage. In Bangladesh, however, there is no coordinated/integrated policy to develop museums as such. Out of nearly a hundred or so museums, most are founded and managed by private bodies. They collect objects from diverse sources including valuable antiquities even though they have no legal right to collect, preserve and display ancient cultural property.

An overall control by way of registration of museums, drawing up guidelines for their operation, auditing of funds, monitoring of collections are absolutely vital. In the absence of some measure of control and monitoring of private museums, our valuable national heritage remains unaccountable and threatened. The State should frame appropriate legal instruments to bring those private institutions under some regulation to safeguard our valuable national assets.

Professor Dr. Iftikhar-ul-Awwal

Director General

Bangladesh National Museum

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