Dhaka, Bangladesh
Silenced by salinity

Silenced by salinity

Salinity is taking a heavy toll on our food production and agricultural production. A fall in freshwater flow from upstream, rising sea level, shrimp cultivation and its uncontrolled expansion, and congestion in canals for embankments built by politically influential people are mainly responsible for salinity in Mongla and other southwestern coastal areas. Now almost the entire year, land and canals are used mainly for farming brackish water shrimp that is exported to Europe and the US. People in most localities under Mongla upazila of Bagerhat now have to depend on the market for rice though paddy cultivation was once their livelihood. Similar is the story for people in parts of Rampal upazila of the same district, and some areas of Shyamnagar upazila of Satkhira. Rising salinity has taken a toll on crop production and thus turned these southwestern coastal areas into a food buying zone, according to locals and crop acreage figures of the government. In the past, people in these coastal areas depended largely on transplanted Aman rice to ensure the supply of their staple food. And during the early years of shrimp cultivation, farmers cultivated both rice and shrimp on their fields. But over the years, Aman acreage fell gradually due to rising salt content in soil, resulting mainly from continued saline water retention on farmland for shrimp cultivation and congestion in canals. In many areas the acreage has come down to one-fourth due to salinity. The coastal area has turned into a food-deficit region. People have become market-dependent. Salinity is a curse. Aus and Boro rice cannot be grown here, while Aman cultivation also faces setback. None of the varieties can tolerate such a high level of salinity. Cultivable land has come down drastically due to salinity. Plants cannot absorb sufficient amount of water due to high salt concentration. In this situation, plants actually die from water stress or drought in most soil if the soluble salt concentration is high. Plants also suffer from toxicities of specific salt and nutritional imbalances. Not only rice farming, trees such as betel nuts and coconuts as well as livestock also take the blow of rising salinity. Salinity did not impact rice cultivation only; it also affected livestock, vegetables and fruits. So given all the losses, shrimp cultivation is not as profitable as rice farming. However, income varies from one year to another due to disease attacks on shrimp farms and price fluctuations in the global market. As a cushion against these adversities, many shrimp growers in the coastal region have started cultivating carp and tilapia fishes along with shrimp. Iqbal Ahmed Gulshan, Dhaka Public varsity teachers' part-time work The University Grant Commission (UGC), the apex body to monitor the country's higher education, has stressed formulating guidelines over how much time the public university teachers should be allowed to spend in their part-time engagement with private educational institutions. The UGC in its annual report 2013 says some public university teachers engaged in part-time teaching in one or more private universities spend much more time there than in their own universities. There is no specific guideline on how much time a public university teacher can spend as a part-time teacher in any other university or educational institution. So, an initiative for formulating and implementing some specific guidelines on the teachers' duty and overall conduct is needed. UGC chairman Prof Dr AK Azad Chowdhury said his Commission will formulate the guidelines to specify how much time a teacher should spend in his own university and in his part-time engagement in other educational institutions, especially private universities. The guidelines must be formulated in consultation with the authorities of the public universities. The guidelines should also specify that how much time a teacher should spend in the classroom, interaction with students and administrative works of his or her own university. Akbaruddin Ahmed Dhanmondi, Dhaka Rich to help poor get health services Minister for Health and Family Welfare Mohammad Nasim on Friday (16th January) urged the affluent in the society to come forward along with the government to reach health-care facilities to the poor people. "Well-off people of the society should come forward to help the government to reach health facilities at the door of poor people...they (Rich) can also build up hospitals as they are establishing garments factories, hotels and other industry. "The minister said this while speaking as the chief guest at the inaugural programme of 'Distance Learning' course at Bangladesh University of Health Sciences at city's Mirpur area. Maswoodur Rahman Green Road, Dhaka

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