Increasing Tobacco Cultivation in Kushtia: Implications on Public Health



Staff Correspondent, Barta24.com, Kushtia
Photo: Barta24.com

Photo: Barta24.com

  • Font increase
  • Font Decrease

Tobacco is being cultivated in vast fields of Mirpur, Bheramara and Daulatpur upazilas of Kushtia. This results in increasing health risks and adversely affecting the environment. Due to excessive application of fertilizers and pesticides in tobacco cultivation, soil fertility is decreasing. Due to good price, farmers are cultivating tobacco by excluding other crops. As a result, there is a risk of disruption of food production.

According to the sources of Agriculture Office, there are 1 lakh 16 thousand hectares of cultivable land in Kushtia district. Boro cultivation is being done there on only 36 thousand 830 hectares of land. On the other hand, among the tobacco companies, British American Tobacco Company, Dhaka Tobacco Company and Abul Khair Tobacco Company have cultivated tobacco on about 12 thousand hectares of land. According to statistics, tobacco cultivation is being done on 3 thousand 696 hectares in Daulatpur of Kushtia, 780 hectares in Bheramara and 6 thousand 455 hectares in Mirpur this year.

Farmers said that they are turning to tobacco cultivation due to non-availability of fair price for the produce and incentives given by various companies.

Various areas of Daulatpur, Mirpur and Bheramara upazilas of the district can be seen, tobacco fields are spread over a wide area. In the fields, some are tending to the tobacco plants; some are cutting the waste leaves. Others are fertilizing the tobacco fields with their family members.

Tobacco farmers said that representatives of various companies have been helping us since the beginning of planting tobacco. Offers a wide range of inputs from seeds to fertilizers and also guarantees good prices. Moreover, it creates cards separately for the target. As a result, farmers are encouraged to grow tobacco. There is no hassle in selling either. However, tobacco cultivation requires a large amount of labor and they continue to grow tobacco despite the health risks.

Jeeban Ali Mandal, a tobacco farmer from Bolidapara area of Mirpur upazila, said, "It costs Tk. 40-45 thousand per bigha of tobacco cultivation. And it is sold for Tk. 80-90 thousand. We grow tobacco because the profit is higher than the cost of production. Who can buy a house or land with that money after getting a big sum of money after the sale?

Anwar Hossain, a farmer of Mashan area, said that the use of additional fertilizer in tobacco cultivation leads to good yield. Various companies help farmers. Again there is no problem in selling. However, there is no market control if tomato or vegetable crops are high. Nor is the price available due to lack of storage. So if there is no good market management and farmers' interests are not protected, farmers will not be interested in cultivating other crops.

Ashraful Islam, a tobacco grower of Fakirabad area, said there is no problem selling tobacco. Various companies encourage farmers to grow tobacco. Through advance loans and cards, tobacco companies supply fertilizers and seeds and purchase tobacco themselves.

Sakhina Bewa said, 'My husband died a long time ago. I can't run a family. In this time of tobacco we get some money if we work.'

She said that she gets Tk. 9 thousand per month. From picking tobacco to setting it on fire, there are various tasks to be done. This work has to be done even if the illness persists.

Environmental expert Gautam Kumar Roy said that food security, public health and environment will be at risk due to tobacco cultivation. He said that 5 metric tons of chalk is required as fuel in the cottage to burn tobacco of one acre of land.

He also said that the trees are destroyed by this. The smoke that comes out when tobacco is burned contains a variety of substances, including fungal nicotine and chemical pesticide drugs that mix with the air. Pesticides that are used until the seedlings are raised are a threat to the environment. 214 species of aquatic animals were destroyed when the rainwater from those lands floated through drains and went to rivers. This destroys habitat and disrupts their reproduction. He mentioned that nicotine smoke is highly toxic.

The land is being destroyed by cultivating tobacco; the crops are not being produced. Children are not getting education. Girls and children are sick. He also said that deforestation is causing air pollution.

Member of District Tobacco Control Act Implementation Task Force Committee and Executive Director of SAF, Mir Abdur Razzak said, "In order to grow tobacco in the village, farmers need to help the housewives (women) in the work, besides school students are involved in tobacco work without going to school. After breaking the tobacco, burning and processing these tasks are also done by women. Many times pregnant women also give birth to disabled children as a result of these actions.

He also said, 'The most tobacco cultivation in the district is in Mirpur and Daulatpur upazilas. And most disabled people are born in these two upazilas. More and more anti-tobacco awareness campaigns should be done. Apart from this, farmers should be encouraged to increase production of vegetables or other crops as substitutes for tobacco and ensure prices. He demanded the introduction of crop insurance to compensate the farmers if the price of alternative farming is reduced or if there is a loss.

However, voluntary organization 'Disha' is working to discourage tobacco cultivation in some areas of Mirpur. Disha agriculturist Zillur Rahman has been working for more than 6 years. First they started working in Kewpur village of Baruipara union. Get good response from farmers. The organization is helping farmers who want to leave tobacco plantations by providing them with training, fertilizers, seeds and pesticides. Along with the agriculture department of the government, with the support of PKSF and the implementation of the direction, we are working to move this agricultural sector forward by keeping in touch with the marginal farmers.

Executive Profile of Disha Organization

Md. Rabiul Islam said, in Mirpur upazila we have been able to encourage 1100 farmers to cultivate other crops and bring them back from tobacco cultivation. Farmers are cultivating various national fruits and mustard along with various winter vegetables in the fields where they used to grow tobacco. As the market price of vegetables is relatively good, more income is being obtained with less effort and less capital.

According to Kushtia Agriculture Extension Department sources, tobacco production continues in the district. But in Daulatpur, Bheramara and Mirpur upazilas more cultivation is done on fertile land.

Sources also said that the production of various types of food grains including rice, wheat, sugarcane, jute, sesame, dal, oil in these three upazilas is more than the desired target. Even after meeting the local demand, about half of the produce is supplied to various districts. But in recent years the amount of land for food crops has decreased and tobacco cultivation has increased. If this trend continues, the Agriculture Department fears that the necessary food production in the district will be disrupted.

Mirpur Upazila Agriculture Officer Abdullah Al Mamun said that the amount of arable land in the upazila is 24 thousand 30 hectares. Out of this, tobacco has been cultivated in 6,500 hectares this year. Earlier wheat, lentils, chickpeas, peas, corn, mustard were cultivated in these lands. Even after meeting the local demand, there was a surplus of two and a half thousand tons of food grains. But the increase in tobacco cultivation has reduced the production of essential food grains.

Due to this, farmers are discouraged from growing tobacco and encouraged to grow alternative profitable crops. Despite that, his plantation did not decrease as expected due to various material supports including cash payment by the companies.

He also said that considering the reality of the region, response will be obtained if the government provides fertilizers, seeds, pesticides and other necessary materials as incentives for the production of alternative crops. Otherwise, if tobacco cultivation continues, there is a danger of disrupting the necessary food production in the district.

Saleh Kabir Majnun Panna, Head teacher of Daulatpur Autism and Disability School, said, "The number of disabled children in our upazila is very high. Many times tobacco work is done by women. As a result, they may have problems conceiving children. Besides, if involved in this work during pregnancy, the child may be disabled. Therefore, a large amount of tobacco is grown in this upazila and the rate of disability is high because women are involved in this work, he said.

Deputy Director of Kushtia Agricultural Extension Department Hayat Mahmud said, 'It takes six months to produce tobacco. But in the same season, it is possible to earn double the income by cultivating different crops including wheat, lentils, chickpeas, peas, corn and mustard on the same amount of land as a crop for three months. We do not have the power to enforce the law to stop tobacco cultivation. Awareness is being raised to discourage farmers. He also thinks that the situation can improve if the farmers are aware at the field level.

Kushtia Civil Surgeon Dr. Akul Uddin said that the Health Department of the district is conducting various programs about the adverse effects of tobacco. Tobacco cultivation and consumption causes severe damage to sensitive organs of the human body including kidneys, heart, lungs. Tobacco has been cultivated in dangerous levels in the district.

   

Mild tremor in Chattogram, no damage



Special Correspondent, Barta24.com Chattogram bureau:
photo: collected

photo: collected

  • Font increase
  • Font Decrease

Chattogram and its surrounding districts were shaken by moderate earthquakes. The earthquake was felt at around 10:46 pm on Saturday (April 21).

Earthquake monitoring website Volcano Discovery confirmed this information. It is said there, the magnitude of this earthquake was 3.7. And the depth of the earthquake was 10 km. The epicenter of the earthquake is 43 km north of Chattogram in Kaptai upazila of Rangamati district.

However, no damage was reported in the earthquake. But people felt some tremors. Then some wrote about the earthquake on social media Facebook. 

;

Sports teaches discipline, loyalty and patriotism: PM



Staff Correspondent, Barta24.com Dhaka:
photo: collected

photo: collected

  • Font increase
  • Font Decrease

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that sports give people physical and mental strength. Also teaches discipline, loyalty and patriotism.

She said this at the prize distribution ceremony after the final of the Bangabandhu and Bangmata Gold Cup football tournament at the Bangladesh Army Stadium on Saturday (April 20) afternoon.

Along with other sports, Sheikh Hasina has urged to promote domestic sports as well. She also shed light on the steps taken by the government for the development of sports.

Sheikh Hasina said that whenever she came to power, she tried to encourage more children in sports because sports give people physical and mental strength. Also teaches discipline, loyalty and patriotism.

The Prime Minister said that she wants the children to develop into suitable citizens through sports, physical exercise and cultural activities along with education.

Sheikh  Hasina said by giving instructions to the concerned, that our children should be more interested in participating in sports, we should give equal opportunities to our domestic sports as well because our children will have more opportunities to develop their talents through local sports.

The Prime Minister said, today we can take the country forward through this sport. I can introduce the country to the whole world. I am really happy that not only our boys but also our girls are able to go abroad and show their talent. Since the formation of the government in 2009 when we started this primary school football tournament for boys and girls, Bangmata Gold Cup and Bangabandhu Gold Cup, Our boys and girls are showing excellent skills even when they go abroad across the borders of the country. Most importantly, SAFF Women-2022 has earned the opportunity to become the champion. It is our girls who have brought this achievement.

The head of the government said that the government is making one mini stadium in each upazilla, so that sports opportunities are created in each upazilla. Sheikh Hasina said, I want our boys and girls to make themselves suitable through sports, physical exercise and cultural practices along with education. All education and sports will be better in all aspects, we will walk with our heads held high all over the world. Our today's golden boys and girls will build the golden Bangladesh of the Father of the Nation's dream. My congratulations and blessings to all, she added.

;

Biodiversity of Haor threatened by temporary beauty



Saidur Rahman Naim, Upazilla Correspondent, Barta24.com, Katiadi(Kishoreganj):
photo: barta24.com

photo: barta24.com

  • Font increase
  • Font Decrease

Alpana inaugurated this road with fanfare from administration, public representatives to Bangla New Year. But no one thought that this temporary beauty would become a threat to nature. After a few days, new water will come to Haor. And now there is a heated discussion about how much damage this color will cause.

On the occasion of Bangla New Year, a beautiful Alpana was painted over 14 km from Mithamoin Zero Point to Ashtagram Zero Point on Haor all-weather road recently. Environmentalists have expressed fear that if these colors of Alpana are washed by rain and mixed with the water of Haor, it will harm the reproduction of fish in Haor.

Environmental experts said that any color naturally contains various chemical components. The amount of paint used in the Alpana on Haor road will harm the aquatic plants, fish and other aquatic animals there due to the chemicals contained in it.

Digital service provider Banglalink Digital Communication, Asiatic Experiential Marketing Limited and Berger Paints have jointly implemented the world's longest Alpana painting on Haor's all-weather road. Asaduzzaman Noor, a cultural personality and Member of Parliament, officially inaugurated the work of drawing Alpana by scratching Rangtuli at Zero Point of Mithamoin on April 12. It is known that 16,000 liters of paint has been used on the 14 km road to paint this Alpana. And a large amount of turpentine is mixed with the paint. This turpentine is more dangerous than kerosene.

Since then, environmentalists started protesting on social media, claiming that this Alpana, painted with a mixture of paint and turpentine, will have an adverse effect on crops and fish. They said that Haor is a very safe place for fish. In the first rains of Baisakh, various native species of fish including Tangra, Batasi, Punti, Mala, Boal, Shoal, Gajar, Pabda, Gulsha, Kai, Shing, Magur usually lay their eggs. If it rains, the paint used here will wash off and get mixed with the water in the Haor. This color will dissolve in the water and kill the crops, aquatic animals including fish, grasses and insects. Soil and water will be polluted and the food chain of the ecosystem will collapse.

Saiful Islam Jewel, general secretary of Kishoreganj district branch of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa), told the media, "We will dress up in Alpana colors on Baisakh, this is the traditional custom of Bengalis. But the authorities should have kept the environmental disaster in mind first. The worst thing is that the paint contains toxic chemicals. Biphenyl in particular contains endocrine disruptors, which in water will cause serious adverse reactions in fish. Whenever aquatic animals including fish are exposed to this high level of biphenyl, aquatic animals including fish will not lay eggs, they will not be able to fertilize the eggs.

About 14 percent of the country's fish demand is met from Haor. For this reason, Haor region of Kishoreganj is also called as one of the fisheries big source of Bangladesh.

According to the sources of District Fisheries Office, 28 thousand 21 tons of fish are produced from Haor in Kishoreganj in the fiscal year 2022-23. On the other hand, as the soil of Haor is very fertile, a lot of paddy is grown here. 25 percent of the country's rice demand is met from the Haor area. In the fiscal year 2022-23, 4 lakh 82 thousand 283 tons of Boro and Aman rice were produced.

Professor Ahmad Qamruzzaman Majumder, dean of the Faculty of Science of Stamford University and an environmental expert, said that the common elements that are in the color (such as benzene, diclovision, tetraclovision, toluene, cadmium, chromium); they contain many types of chemicals. The amount of paint used on the 14-km road in Haor will naturally affect the wetlands, aquatic plants, microscopic aquatic animals and even small fish.

Bangladesh Agricultural University Faculty of Fisheries Professor Dr. Haroon Or Rashid said, "Any type of chemical is a threat to aquatic life. Alpana has been painted over a large area; That must be somewhat harmful to fish and other animals. We have laws to protect the environment, like various mill factory effluents are harmful to rivers. And in that case the environmental law is also applied. Everyone needs to be more careful considering the environment before doing these things.

Environment Department Kishoreganj District Assistant Director Md. Abdullah Al Mateen told the media that the next steps will be taken by talking to the higher authorities.

;

'Developing countries like Bangladesh are the first victims of the Middle East crisis'



Ashraful Islam, Planning Editor, Barta24.com, Dhaka
Pic: Barta24.com

Pic: Barta24.com

  • Font increase
  • Font Decrease

Israel-Iran conflict has again become a great threat to the stability of the entire Middle East without the end of Israeli brutality in Palestine along the path of Israel-Hamas conflict. International relations expert Professor of International Relations department of Jahangirnagar University Dr. Shahab Enam Khan thinks so. He said, developing countries like Bangladesh will be the first victims of instability in the Middle East. Referring to this ongoing crisis as 'long-term', Bangladesh should not only rely on garments and remittances to deal with the possible situation, but should prepare international trade diplomacy. The Professor said these things in an exclusive interview given to Barta24.com. Planning Editor Ashraful Islam spoke.

Barta24.com: How to assess the recent tense situation in the Middle East? What kind of global challenges is this creating, especially for developing countries like ours?

Dr. Shahab Enam Khan: The situation in the Middle East is completely unpredictable and this unpredictability will continue for a long time. This unpredictability is not just like Israel or Iran jumping for a few days and then stopping again. This unpredictability will continue for a long time and will be at the center of Israel. The relationship between the Arab and Western world revolves around Israel. So here is the volatility centered on Israel. And the crux of it is that the Western world handles it. To be clear, the Arab world has no role here except to wage war of words. There is another point - in view of these events, there is now a big polarization between Russia-China-Turkey-Iran, centered on them. On the other hand, there has been a polarization in the Western world around Israel. This polarization will have a huge impact on the global economy. They would like the West to not be able to do this, which would put a huge strain on the global economy and monetary system. The first victims will be the developing countries.

Barta24.com: Does that mean it is becoming clear that the Western monopoly on the world order has collapsed?

Dr. Shahab Enam Khan: Absolutely. That is why polarization has been created in the world. The Western world has a monopoly on Israel but not Iran. But what will happen to Israel's relationship with the West, how they handle this relationship will depend on how the days ahead will be. What Israel's relationship with the Arabs will be does not matter here.

Barta24.com: Can't we see some kind of contrast between the speeches and statements of the Western countries, especially the United States, and their internal stand...at least when assessing the situation?

Dr. Shahab Enam Khan: That's right. I will add one more thing, that is - the upcoming election in the United States is also an important issue. Because of this, the Israel-West relationship will remain unstable for a long time. It is precisely because of this that the world economy and monetary system are under great stress which will have an impact on developing countries like Bangladesh.

Barta24.com: What kind of impact do you think?

Dr. Shahab Enam Khan: First of all, different types of sanctions, alternative currency pressure will come. Secondly, there will be a lot of strategic diplomatic pressure at this time. We have a kind of constitutional commitment to stand by Palestine, we have been showing it. We have taken the same stand in the case of Rohingyas. Stand up for endangered humanity.

Barta24.com: What kind of precautions should we take in terms of reality?

Dr. Shahab Enam Khan: We need a complete rethinking of international trade. It will not be possible to depend only on garments and remittances. India has not been hit as much by the current world situation or as much as we were by the Ukraine crisis because of the diversity of the Indian economy. I think we have to work hard on four areas. First: Energy security, more precisely we have to achieve self-sufficient energy, which is directly related to national interest. It needs to be mentioned here that many people confuse the national interest of our country with personal interest. In national interest we have to ensure our energy security from indigenous sources. We will not have it with inefficient energy institutions. The entire energy system needs to be overhauled.

Second, our trade diplomacy should not only be verbalized, but trade diplomacy should be strengthened in a practical sense. Among these will be the number one priority, 'Diversity'. That is, various sectors of the economy should be strengthened.

Thirdly, existing relations with Arab countries should be deepened. Also, it is important to create strong alliances with other developing countries that will be affected by this global tension and conflict. We may not be interested in going to BRICS and try to do something ourselves, where our own interests will be prioritized where many countries like Bangladesh are worried about the existing situation. If Bangladesh can bring many economies together to create a collective voice, it will also bring effective results.

Many countries will tell us a lot, but we have to think about how effective it will be in practice. Bangladesh has been talking about trade multi-lateralization for at least a decade, but there is no action on what to export, what to have. Indigenous people are not creating any industry here, nothing much has been done with the potential jute. That means not only words, but a practical effort needs to be taken in the practical sense.

Fourth is to strengthen and expand the internal market. At the moment, the domestic market of Bangladesh is largely dependent. A Cadbury chocolate in India manufactured by themselves to British standards and offered to consumers. There is no more trouble with foreign currency. People are eager to buy old cars in Bangladesh. With such a large market, why is the indigenous car industry not happening here? If it was a country with a small population like Bhutan or the Maldives, one would think so, but that is not the case. We are very relieved to ride in an old car, because the reality is that a car is a necessity. Where economic productivity has increased, scale has increased; Human mobility will naturally increase. But here the productivity and safety of people are being minimized by importing with 200-400% tax.

There is a lot of talk about transitioning into a developing country in 2026, but what will happen to the pharmaceutical industry here? Let the government create APIs with subsidies, let them create commodities - but apart from all this, we are filled with thoughts of impossible adventures which should not be done at all.

Barta24.com: Is excessive bureaucratic reliance a barrier to discouraging possibility and diversity?

Dr. Shahab Enam Khan: Of course, the economy can never be bureaucratic. Here the private sector needs to be brought into more policy making. Private sector believes in profit. So they always want variety. If bureaucrats could understand export diversification, why did the jute industry fail? I think creative industries should be brought in here by reducing bureaucracy dependence by going for extensive privatization. It will help the country's economy a lot in the current global crisis.

Barta24.com: The tension on the border of Myanmar is not stopping, do you see a sustainable solution?

Dr. Shahab Enam Khan: Sustainable solution will come only when Arakan is stabilized. Bangladesh needs to play a leading role in stabilizing Arakan. It can be done in many ways - single support or contribution to infrastructure development. Steps can be taken to strengthen their civil society, political society. It will be seen that the Americans from across the Atlantic are doing it right. Bangladesh is talking about democracy and then Bangladesh can work to restore democracy there. We need to engage with the actors that are active there, not just the Arakan Army because without them the repatriation of Rohingya will not be possible. The Tatmadaw (Myanmar's government military) will not solve this. Nor will the Rohingya crisis be resolved even if the Tatmadaw takes root in Rakhine. If the Tatmadaw cannot stay, the Arakan Army comes; it will not be a solution if they are not engaged. Although Bangladesh has made a lot of progress on the Rohingya issue in the past year, nothing has happened before.

Edited by: Mahmood Menon, Editor-at-Large, Barta24.com 

;