Sherpa Hossainy's Blog

Promoting green technology is the goal

Posted in Bangladesh, Business, Computer, Dhaka, Environment, Internet, IT, Software, Technology by Sherpa Hossainy on December 23, 2011

Published in The Independent on 20 December 2011

Read the article online in Independent website

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With the motto “Go green with ICT”, the fifth digital ICT fair is eyeing to endorse the latest environment friendly information and communication technology products, organisers of the fair said.

“This fair aims to promote green ICT products at affordable prices and take part in mitigation of climate change through the use of environment friendly technology,” said Tawfique Ehsan, president of Multiplan Centre Shop Owners Association, organiser of the fair.

Ehsan said, “We want to raise public awareness regarding use of green technology and integrate information and technology in everyday life.” Ehsan, convener of the fair, said this fair will also help increase the penetration of ICT throughout Bangladesh.

Visitors at Digital ICT fair checking out laptops

Leading computer and computer accessories importers will showcase the latest technologies from global brands, organisers said. More than 450 stalls will take part in the fair and some will display the local laptop brand “Doel”. The introduction of recent digital innovations around the world will help achieve the vision of “digital Bangladesh”, they said.

Kazi Obaid Alam, sales executive of Flora Ltd, said, “We are promoting technology, which is environment friendly, and at the same time energy efficient and cost effective. It is imperative to move to low-radiation, low-noise and low-heat emitting energy efficient devices. This fair will promote use of green ICT products.”

Flora Ltd is displaying two new printers from Epson — K100 and L100. The cost of printing a page in the K100 model is only Tk .90, whereas for a laser printer the cost is Tk 2 and for an inkjet Tk 4-4.5. The L100 model is designed for photo studio professionals and it can print 18,500 pages or 1,200 pictures with its “inktank” technology.

Flora Ltd, the leading computer retailer in Bangladesh, is also showcasing second generation laptops and notebooks with core i5 technology, and some environment friendly computer accessories from global brands like Uniross and Sony. The company is mainly targeting bulk buyers, Alam said. The fair is providing customers with a great opportunity as prices at the fair are competitive and they can choose from a range of options, he added.

The fair, which started yesterday, will continue until 26 December at the Multiplan Computer City Centre. Citycell is the platinum sponsor of the fair and Acer, Avira and Fujitsu is among other sponsors. More information can be found on the fair website: www.digitalictfair.com.

Visitors at Digital ICT fair check products at a stall

Although free for school students, a mandatory Tk 10 ticket to enter the fair has drawn flak from regular customers in the market who were not necessarily coming as a fair visitor. Many of them refused to pay the entry fee saying that they didn’t come to attend the fair. However there seemed to be no way of distinguishing between the fair visitors and others coming for repairing or warranty issues.

Many customers who were obstructed from going up without a ticket were told to get permission from higher authorities. But many didn’t seem to bother to go up and left.

Md Asaduzzaman Khan, a businessperson, who came to fix TV card problems, was not let in without a ticket. “It’s like a forceful sale of tickets. Do they think everyone is coming to join the fair? There are many other customers too,” Khan said. This entry fee might actually backfire by resulting in a waning number of visitors, he said.

Ehsan said with permission from the authority anyone can go up without having to buy a ticket. He stood by the decision of charging an entrance fee and hoped for a major turnout at the eight-day long event. “We are hoping to get 25-30,000 visitors in the fair,” he said.

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You can hear the sound of a clock ticking

Posted in Bangladesh, Climate change, Dhaka, Environment, Interviews, Renewable energy by Sherpa Hossainy on July 30, 2011

My interview with UK govt Climate Envoy John Ashton

Published in The Independent (Op-ed page) on 29 July 2011

Read the article on The Independent website

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The voice of urgency on climate change, despite being a globally burning issue, is yet to be widely heard in Bangladesh. The correlation of climate change with global economy, food and international security and human existence are appearing to be far more complex and steadily demanding action from a politically motivated force.

Unfortunately, few countries are so directly exposed than Bangladesh to some of the stresses that eventually everyone will be feeling as a result of climate change, if a successful response can’t be summoned. However, building a coalition of highly ambitious forces and putting political momentum into the issue is posing to be a great challenge for climate change diplomacy.

In a mission to build the much needed political response for a stronger cooperation, John Ashton, international climate politics expert and British Foreign Secretary William Hague’s Special Representative for Climate Change, came to Bangladesh recently.

“My goal is to work with like-minded people around the world to push up the level of ambition in the global response to climate change,” John Ashton told The Independent in an exclusive interview. Ashton lamented that in nearly 15 years of his involvement in this issue he can’t remember of a time when the available political momentum globally had been lower than it is now.

“You could even say that we have hardly begun to respond to this challenge at the scale we need to. It’s human nature to focus on the important at the expense of the urgent, and there are so many distractions that people regard as important,” he said.

John Ashton, William Hague’s Special Representative for Climate Change

Describing climate change as a “multiplier of stresses”, Ashton said that it’s a widely made mistake to regard climate change as a separate set of issues that are not intimately connected with other stresses society is dealing with.

Ashton said it would be interesting to see if the two main political parties in Bangladesh can transcend the deep and bitter political rivalry between them and focus on the mission.

“I think I’m fortunate to come from a country where there is a cross party consensus,” said Ashton, referring to his appointment by a Conservative Foreign Minister even after representing two previous Labour Party Foreign Secretaries in the UK. Although it is a very political role, it’s a non-party political role, he said.

Ashton said it’s imperative to pull a finely resilient carbon neutral global economy through effective politics based on a legally binding framework.

“When governments or politicians make voluntary promises it does not fill people with confidence that they will try to the limits to carry out that promise even if there are distractions. We need them to make promises that people can have faith in. That’s why this battle between legally binding and voluntary is so important,” the diplomat said.

Following the watershed at the climate talks in Copenhagen 2009, Ashton remained unconvinced about a fully fledged legally binding framework as an outcome of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa, in December this year.

“This is an extremely difficult political subject that would take years to construct. I hope we can come out with a higher degree of confidence that would lead to a legally binding project,” he said.

Responding to a question whether Bangladesh would be able sustain its growth in a low carbon economy Ashton said there is no contradiction between simultaneously wanting to have high growth and a carbon resilient growth.

“Both could be mutually reinforcing if we do it the right way. It is better to use the efficient form of energy which is low carbon rather than the inefficient energy,” he said.

Ashton cited example of the new Chinese five-year plan, which focused more on the quality of growth rather than the quantity after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao termed the country’s economic model as “uncoordinated, unbalanced and unsustainable”.

“There’s a growing realisation that if you don’t pay attention to the quality of growth you may find that the price of having very rapid growth in a very short term is that your growth then collapses, because it contains the seeds of its own destruction,” he said.

John Ashton, UK Govt climate envoy

Voicing optimism about the prospect of renewable energy in Bangladesh, Ashton said that an enormous amount can be done with the available opportunities as they don’t require a huge capital, or technologies that are not yet invented.

“I’m a bit puzzled why there are no solar water heaters in Bangladesh. In China and South America nearly every house has them. They are extremely cheap and in warm countries they can provide all the hot waters needed.” Ashton said.

Advising on Bangladesh’s 2.5 billion tonnes of high quality coal resource in its northern districts, Ashton said it would be wrong to exclude coal although it sits right at the heart of the problem.

Coal is still a very important part of the power generation worldwide. In Germany 50 per cent of all electricity comes from coal, in UK it is about 30 per cent, in America and China it’s 50 and 83 per cent respectively.

Ashton pointed out power crisis as a “particular bottleneck” for Bangladesh and said there are two things to do about coal: one is to move away from coal to lower carbon gas or other renewable; and another is to use it but increasingly apply carbon capture storage (CCS) technology that will make coal carbon-neutral.

“If you have suitable geological conditions for CCS, you can ask the donors and international financial institutions to fund for coal-fired power stations with CCS to become a part of the first-wave of CCS in the world,” Ashton advised, asking to seek help from the climate financing fund of World Bank and Department for International Development (DFID).

“World Bank can pay for the additional costs so that building such a power station is no more costly than a conventional one. It is clearly not reasonable to expect Bangladesh to pay the additional costs of CCS,” he said.

Ashton rebutted the claim of CCS technology being unproven, terming it as “nonsense” and said, “This is not some over-the-horizon technology; this is something that has been on use for a long time in an industrial scale.”

Although Ashton said that he holds no ideological standpoint on whether grants or loans should be given to the vulnerable countries to deal with climate change, rather he opted to go for the suitable financing mechanism available.

“You need a mixture of grants and loans, and you need to make sure that you are using the balance which is suitable for particular circumstances,” he said.  The climate envoy said: “The development community in the industrialised countries needs to take this much more seriously that there is a significant component of adaptation funding that has to be grant based.”

The UK is trying to help in this regard from a moral imperative and climate change is about responding to a deep inequity, he added.

“Those countries which will suffer the most, the soonest, and have the least capacity to deal with the consequences tend to be the countries which have contributed the least to the problem. Unless it’s reflected in the responses we would not be able to gain trust in the international system,” Ashton said.

But he stressed on maintaining a very high degree of transparency so that people can see whether they can be sure to put the money in, and the money don’t get diverted elsewhere.

He said there are some more areas where there is far more sensible to use loan – because it’s easier to bring business-based approach, and private sector players who will give you more efficiency in the interventions.

Urging everyone to build a century of cooperation Ashton said: “We have to learn to define ourselves and our various national identities on the basis of what we all have in common, rather than on the basis what divides us.

Ashton said: “The key is to try and build a willingness to see these problems through each others eyes. If we try to do this just on the basis of a negotiation, where we send negotiators in a big resort in Bali, or in a conference centre in Durban, we don’t learn very much about the realities.”

Putting the onus of a carbon resilient economy on the developed nations, Ashton said, “It is incumbent upon the high carbon and particularly industrialised economies to take the lead in mapping the path for a low-carbon growth model.

John Ashton, William Hague’s Special Representative for Climate Change, in an interview with The Independent

“Everybody’s life is going to be touched very significantly by climate change. The only legitimate conversation to have is one in which everyone has a voice — a global conversation.”

Describing the global spike in grain prices in 2008, following a drought in large part of Australia, one of the world’s leading grain producers, as “a prequel of what to come”, Ashton said the existing double-digit food price inflation in Bangladesh could take a grave shape if the climatic extremes are not dealt urgently. Last year in Russia, heat wave and drought led the Russian government to ban the exports of wheat that saw an immediate surge in international prices of wheat.

On the flipside of the climate change issue, there is an “anti climate change” sect who claim that the issue is a “fairy tale” and the earth will take care of itself. Blasting those critiques, Ashton said: “There are people who still say that the earth is flat. For some there is more cynical motivation because they want to prevent certain actions being taken.

“If you just dismissively say I don’t care about it, it seems to me a deeply immoral position and unacceptable according to the political morality of every society that shares this.”

Faruk optimistic about leasing lands in Africa

Posted in Bangladesh, Business, Dhaka, Economy, Environment, Export and Import by Sherpa Hossainy on July 21, 2011

Published in The Independent on July 11 2011

Read the article in Independent website

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Bangladesh can ensure food security and support the readymade garment industry by leasing farmlands in Africa despite inherent complexities involved, the commerce minister said on Saturday.

“Capital transfer difficulties, non-transparent deals and low price-competitiveness of the produce pose as major problems while growing crops by leasing foreign lands,” Faruk Khan said.

The minister said regardless of political instability in Africa and procedural complication in leasing farmlands, calculated measures can pay off greatly by ensuring food security of the country.

Khan said “cotton security” is as important as food security and Bangladesh can support RMG sector by producing cotton in Africa, as the Nile delta is suitable for quality cotton cultivation.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult for the RMG sector to import cotton and staying competitive as prices are soaring globally. We can produce cotton to back up our garment sector,” Khan said.

Bangladesh has a good image in countries like Sierra Leon, Côte d’Ivoire and Congo because of its peace keeping missions and it can cash on the goodwill to seal the deals, the minister said.

Earlier Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on May gave a go-ahead to a proposal that Bangladesh leases land in some African countries to grow crops like rice and cotton for its consumption as well as export.

The government on June formed a taskforce, headed by Dr Mashiur Rahman, adviser to the Prime Minister on finance, to examine the prospects of taking lands on lease in West African countries like Uganda, Tanzania and Guinea.

Environment certificates in quagmire

Posted in Bangladesh, Business, Dhaka, Economy, Environment by Sherpa Hossainy on June 25, 2011

Published in The Independent on June 23, 2011

Read the article on Independent website

Digital print version

Industry owners on Wednesday blamed deep-rooted corruption and bureaucratic bottlenecks as serious hindrances toward establishing sustainable and eco-friendly industries.

Corrupt practices while issuing environment clearance certificate (ECC) coupled with regulatory impediments and lack of inter-ministerial co-operation are affecting the country’s industrial growth, they said.

The industry leaders were speaking at a workshop on complexities in environment clearance certificate for industrial ventures and reducing corruption at Hotel Pan Pacific Sonargaon in Dhaka. The workshop was organised by the International Business Forum of Bangladesh (IBFB). Mahmudul Islam Chowdhury, president of IBFB, presided over the workshop.

Under section 12 of the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act 1995, no industrial unit or project can be undertaken without obtaining an ECC from the Department of Environment (DoE).

ECC ensures that the industrial unit meets all the prescribed standards set by the Bangladesh government in terms of air, water, noise and other environmental components.

The DoE classifies all industrial projects in four categories: Green, which do not have any negative impact on the environment, Orange A, which produce such wastes that can produce moderate or significant impacts on environment but the impacts can be mitigated easily; Orange-B, which produce some adverse environmental impacts but not considered overly significant and impacts can be mitigated with no residual adverse impacts, and Red, which can have a significant impact on the surrounding environment and the adverse impacts must be properly managed or controlled.

A survey carried out by the research wing of IBFB among industry owners and service providers showed that submitting an application for ECC required 10 documents on an average for Red and Orange B category, which can get to a maximum of 14.

Another survey reported in Bangladesh administrative barriers review (2006) showed the average time taken to process an ECC application by service providers takes 105 days for Red category, which may even take a maximum of 420 days.

The survey also cited the total reported cost to obtain an ECC can shoot up to Tk 6,300,000.

The DoE did not perform any further inspection after taking unofficial money from industry owners, and only 20 per cent of the time they regularly visited the industry, the survey revealed.

The IBFB survey also revealed that 70 per cent of the respondents are not satisfied with the DoE services on ECC, while 20 per cent were satisfied and 10 per cent did not answer.

Besides unearthing the dominance of unofficial money the IBFB survey also showed that after getting the ECC, 40 per cent of the industry owners did not operate ETP (Effluent Treatment Plant).

Monowarul Islam, director general of the ministry of environment and forest, rebuffed the claim of not issuing ECC to the industry owners by saying that 2,245 new ECC was issued last year while 3,408 ECC was renewed.

However Islam admitted that attitude of relevant officials in DoE is sometimes unfavourable and there are some corrupt officials who are taking bribes.

“Performance based salary should be introduced to reduce corruption like Singapore, and policy conflict within the government has to addressed for the sake of national interest,” Islam said.

AK Azad, president of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI), claimed that the country’s administration is completely corrupt.

Azad, speaking as the chief guest, said, “I had to pay bribe in the name of duty drawback system in the customs. If the FBCCI president has to give bribe, it is obvious what happens to the small business owners.”

ABM Mafizur Rahman, research director of IBFB, proposed some recommendations to get rid of corruption in the ECC issuance process: categorisation of industrial ventures, incorporating local administration, increasing manpower in DoE and the environment clearance committee, uniform validity period for ECC, changing the mindset of the people in the DoE, and publishing the news of issuance of ECC in the media.

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