Image by Rezwan

Overcrowded passenger ferry capsized in the Padma River in Munshiganj, Bangladesh

The World Cup Goal-E Project

This street in Bangladesh has a colorful world cup celebration

New Chum Hill Ruins

Remnants of Kiandra gold mine at New Chum Hill, #nsw #australia

December 20, 2012

Urban Launchpad Working On The First Bus Map of Dhaka

Image by Masuk Ahmed, courtesy Urban Launchpad

Dhaka is one of the world’s most densely populated, poorly designed, noisy, poorly administered and difficult to live in cities in the world. But on the brighter side it is also one of the cheapest cities to live. Only a small portion of the population of Dhaka has private transport. The public transport is available for the masses but not that efficient with virtually no workable map of the transport lines. But Dhaka may have a savior. 

A bunch of entrepreneurs including architects, geeks and adventurers have launched a platform called The Urban Launchpad. Founded in 2011, it is a social-venture dedicated to building open urban info-structures in places around the world that need it the most.  

Their latest project is the Bus Map of Dhaka and here is why:
In Dhaka, car ownership is at a low 1%, which means now is the critical time to shore up the alternatives and the 5 million plus ridership bus system (one of the largest in the world) is perhaps the best place to start. [..] Riding a bus in Dhaka, however, requires a bit of bravery (as we found out). First, since the informal network is a hodgepodge of services from private operators who manage their fleets independently, it is difficult for both a visitor and a lifelong local to figure out which bus goes where. There are few official bus stops and no signage that matches the buses or the stops.
What is interesting that Urban Launchpad is using crowdsourcing to gather information. They have coined the term Flocksourcing (Flocks + Mobiles) which will help rapid generation of urban data. The initial design brief can be found here:

If you believe this project can make a difference please consider donating at their Kickstarter page. Also please keep an eye on its blog for updates.

December 10, 2012

Hacking as a communication tool

Umm I didn't get it. Bangladeshi hacker defaces Punjab Assembly website to protest a Pakistani hacker's attack on some Bangladeshi sites. The site was restored and was hacked again by the Pakistani hacker to send a message to Bangladeshi hackers to not to mess with Pakistani websites. Since when hacking became a communication tool?

December 01, 2012

Bangladesh: A remarkable improvement

Here is a great documentary report on the Economist on the surprising progress on social issues by Bangladesh despite poverty. The video was shot by GMB Akash, one of the best photographers of Bangladesh.

'Industrial Scale’ Hunting of Migratory Amur Falcons in Nagaland, India

Every year thousands of migratory Amur falcons (Falco amurensis) are hunted by locals in the Indian State of Nagaland during their passage through that region. The massacre was first documented on November 1, 2012, by Shashank Dalvi and Ramki Sreenivasan on the Indian online campaign site 'Conservation India' where they wrote that "a mind-boggling 120,000 to 140,000 birds are being slaughtered in Nagaland every year during their passage through the state."

Every October, a large numbers of Amur falcons arrive in northeast India and Bangladesh from Siberia en route to their final destination — Somalia, Kenya and South Africa. Amur falcons travel up to 22,000 km in a year, in one of the longest migration routes of all birds.
Amur Falcon (Falco Amurensis). Image by Alastair Rae, from Wikipedia. CC BY-SA
Last month a group of activists (Ramki Sreenivasan from Conservation India, Shashank Dalvi, Bano Haralu, Rokohebi Kuotsu) travelled to Nagaland to check out information that thousands of falcons were being hunted annually on the banks of the Doyang reservoir during their passage through that region. They accompanied a hunting group and documented the massacre:
The Amurs spend the day on the transmission wires (almost entirely inaccessible to hunters) and descend to forested patches along the banks of the reservoir to roost (see map). The hunters ruthlessly exploit this particular behavior and set-up huge fishing nets (30-40m long, 10-12m tall) all over the roosting sites. Birds get caught in the nets in large numbers. These birds get tangled in the nets while they come to roost during late evenings or when they leave the roost early in the morning. The nets were permanent and the hunters come every morning to remove the trapped birds. The nets were observed over the entire roosting area giving virtually no safe area for the birds. Branches and paths were cleared to set up the nets.
Here is a video of the terrible proceedings (warning: graphic images):
 The Amur Falcon Massacre, Doyang, Nagaland from Conservation India on Vimeo.

 Now the shocking figures:
Each hunting group had set-up at least 10 nets. On an average, 18 birds (18.30, n=23) were caught per net; hence each group catches about 180 birds per day. This was confirmed with interviews with hunters. We were also informed that about 60-70 hunting groups operate every day. This means during the peak migration about 12,000 to 14,000 birds are caught everyday.
Each bird is sold door-to-door in nearby villages as a fresh food for a price of about Rs. 25 ($0.5). Reports say local villagers can earn a few thousand rupees by selling the smoked Amur falcons. It may be noted that Amur killing is illegal and banned by the local authorities since 2010. This story went viral and news quickly spread around the world shocking many people. There were a number of petitions online. Soon other popular sites like National Geographic highlighted the issue and called for a global solution. National Geographic commented:
The local people filmed by Conservation India catching Amur falcons, breaking their wings, sorting them, smoking them, and trading in them, cannot possibly enjoy this annual activity and do this purely for money and trade goods.
Amur Falcons being extracted from the net by hunters. Screenshot from the video by Conservation India.

Birdlife International wrote:
The recent trapping and slaughter appears to have been taking place on an ‘industrial scale’ and unless stopped will clearly have a devastating affect on the birds’ global population at these unsustainable levels.
The site also confirms that with the help of their advocacy the following happened:
The Honourable Minister (for environment and forests), Miss Jayanthi Natarajan personally intervened and The Indian Forest Department and District Administration also acted fast to destroy nets and release several still-captive falcons. The sale of falcons has now been stopped and at least one person has already been jailed.
However, hunters in Nagaland has defied the ban for many years and it may happen again in future if the behaviors of the local hunters are not changed. The Chief Wildlife Warden, Nagaland, Dimapur stated in a press note:
Seizing and releasing of the birds from the possession of the offenders did not discourage them but rather, they resented and rebelled against the action taken and continued their offence.
The press note also talks about education and awareness campaign for the local villagers and stakeholders as a future course of action. According to latest news the State department of forest, ecology, environment and wildlife has directed district forest officers (DFOs) of Mokokchung, Zunheboto and Wokha districts to immediately ban the act of capturing and killing of Amur Falcon. Bogdan Draganescu comments at the Conservation India post:
Just because these birds are numerous and are not on the verge of extinction, does not mean they are food for humans. animals should be respected not only as individuals but also as groups and societies. just as a flock of birds is. a living entity and a result of evolution of life. this is what we have to respect and conserve.
First Published in Global Voices Online.

November 27, 2012

Factory Fire In Bangladesh Questions Exploitation Of Workers

Bangladesh has more 4,000 ready-made clothes factories of different sizes, which are earning more than three-quarters of the countries export revenue. The world’s third-largest garments export industry employs more than 3 million workers, 90% of whom are women.

Over two decades these garments factories contributed to changing the role of poor Bangladeshi women who mostly used to work as housemaids. Although the cost of labor is low Vikas Bajaj wrote in the New York Times what positive impact this industry had on the families and off-springs of the female workers and how it empowered them.

As a developing country Bangladesh is under close scrutiny by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and Corporate Social Responsibility Stakeholders regarding compliance. In the past five years both CSR experts and buyers report improved labor and social compliance standards. But there are still some areas of compliance that needs further improvement. The government has been stringent on eradicating child labor and increased fire safety measures but some entrepreneurs are more keen on profit rather than improving working conditions.

The factory destroyed by fire killing more than 100 workers. Image by Ibrahim. Copyright Demotix (25/11/2012)

The recent tragic fire at Tazreen Fashions Ltd's nine story factory building in Nischintapur, Ashulia (near the Capital Dhaka) that killed more than 110 garments workers, has raised many questions. Although the factory had a total of 335 fire extinguishing equipment and 300 trained employees to fight fire in emergency situations, there was no visible efforts to douse the flames. The fire alarm went off at right time but witnesses claimed that a number of doors were locked by the management preventing the workers from escaping.

As the images of burnt bodies emerged in the social media and in TV broadcasts many people were shocked and outraged. Thousands of angry garments workers protested today (Monday) demanding justice and better working conditions. Many netizens vented their rage in Facebook, blog and other social media asking many questions.

November 25, 2012

Protests In Phulbari Against Open Pit Coal Mining Project

In Phulbari, 350 kilometers northwest of the Bangladesh capital Dhaka, local communities have come together to raise their voices against the proposed Phulbari open pit coal mining project. On November 23, 2012 the authorities had imposed Section 144 banning gatherings of more than four people indefinitely in effort to stop the demonstrations. Thousands of people took to the streets defying the ban and today is the second day[bn] of general strike in Phulbari.
Bangladesh is sitting on a considerable amount of coal and gas reserve and in 1997, when the Phulbari coal reserve (572 mill tonne) [bn] was discovered, it caught everybody's attention. The licensee of the mining project Asia Energy PLC from UK chose the open pit method, a polluting method of surface mining, which promises 80% extraction. The project, if implement fully, will acquire more than 100 villages within a 59 sq. km radius and relocate hundreds of thousands of inhabitants.

Protests in Phulbari, the police is keeping watch. Image by Shahriar Sunny.

November 21, 2012

Making a Difference

On September 15 I was in Cox's Bazar to attend the International Coastal Cleanup Day event arranged by Kewkaradong Bangladesh. I have written in details about it which has been published in the 9th edition of TRINO, Bangladesh's top adventure magazine. You can read it here (Page 15-21):
Please click here if the above doesn't work. I have taken a number of pictures during that trip. You can find them here and here.

November 07, 2012

Live Blogging US Elctions

As per CNN exit polls the contest seems to be neck-a neck. People are getting frustrated in the slow pace of election results. Please click on this link or this link for the latest standings.
 The latest standings as on 10:47 pm Washington Time:

At 11:06 pm Washington Time:

11:29 pm Washington Time: Links: Sajib is live blogging from Bangladesh For a Bengali version of Sajib's blog, see here. You can also follow the Facebook page of U.S. Embassy in Dhaka for live updates. More updates coming..