ALTERNATIVE IS THERE

ALTERNATIVE IS THERE

Although there is sufficient government land on both sides of Jessore Road, the local authorities seem to be hell-bent on expanding the historical road by felling more than 2,300 trees, several hundred of them nearly two centuries old.

And the justifications the Jessore Roads and Highways Department is offering for cutting these trees are nothing but “lame excuses”, experts and environmentalists have said, warning of an environmental disaster in the region.

On January 6, the RHD in Jessore made the decision to expand the highway to 10. 6 metres from 7. 3 metres now because of the increasing traffic on the road that connects the country's biggest land port in Benapole with India's Petrapole.

Currently, some 500 goods trucks as well as about 10,000 passengers to and from India use this route. The Benapole Port authorities collect about Tk 12 crore in customs duty every day, said port Director Aminul Islam.

Earlier in July last year, the government shelved a similar plan to fell 2,700 trees for widening the same highway following protests by the public and green activists amid media outcry.

The highway is widely known as a part of around 99km long Jessore Road stretching from Jessore in Bangladesh to Dum Dum in Kolkata.

The stretch on the Bangladesh side is 38km long and 24 feet wide, and on both the south and the north sides of the road there is government land that is at least 50 feet wide, according to the District Council that owns the land of the road.

So if they build a two-lane road along the existing one next to the trees, we can save these trees," said Amirul Alam Khan, an environmentalist from Jessore.

It is “outright foolish” to fell hundreds of trees, particularly those that bear memories of the Liberation War, just to widen the road by three meters, he added.

The RHD can easily construct a completely new road along the trees on either side of the road to facilitate the growing trade through the road between Bangladesh and India, said Aminul, also former chairman of Jessore Education Board.

The move to fell the trees sparked protests in Dhaka and elsewhere, with green activists asking the government not to take up any project without considering the ecological balance of the area and historic values of the trees.

In 1840, a Jessore landlord called Kali Poddar Babu took the initiative to build the road so that his mother could travel to take a bath in the Ganges river.

Later, as advised by his mother, a lot of saplings were planted on both sides of the road, then named Kali Poddar road, to make people's journeys pleasant ones, according to "Jessore-Khulnar Itihas" (History of Jessore and Khulna), written by Satish Chandra Mitra.

During the 1971 war, tens of thousands of Bangalees fled to India through this road. Freedom fighters and journalists from around the world also used this road to enter Bangladesh from India and the vice versa.

The name of the road has been immortalised by the American poet Allen Ginsberg, who visited the area in 1971 and wrote the famous poem, "September on Jessore Road" about the plight of millions of scared Bangladeshis heading towards India during the war. He recited the poem on November 20, 1971, at Saint George Church, New York.

At the January 6 meeting at the the Jessore District Commissioner's office, three local lawmakers, district administration officials, R&H officials and the district council chairman were present.

Jahangir Alam, executive engineer of Jessore RHD who was present at the meeting, said they sent a proposal to the roads and bridges ministry for the expansion and reconstruction of the road by felling the trees.

Asked why, he said, "The roots of the trees and the water dripping from the leaves during rain damage the road. So we decided to cut down around 2,300 trees along the road for the sake of development.

It will take at least one year just for the approval of a new project to build another road along the trees. But the existing road needs immediate repair and it cannot wait any longer.

Six firms took part in the tender for the Tk 329-crore project in November last, and the tenders were now being evaluated. The construction is likely to begin next month, he said.

Saifuzzaman Pikul, chairman of Jessore District Council, which has a long-standing dispute with the RHD over the ownership of assets along the road, said he too had no objection if trees needed to be felled for the “sake of development”.

As the trees are century old, sometimes their branches fall off, injuring people, he said, adding, "If the government orders us, we have nothing to do but to cut down the trees.

Dr Mohammad Mahfuzur Rahman, a professor of environmental science and technology at Jessore University of Science and Technology, said there was plenty of scope to build a road leaving the rain trees intact, but the authorities were not considering those options.

They want to cut down the trees," he said, sounding frustrated.

If there is a risk of branches falling, it can be stopped by forest management system, meaning by cutting off the dead or risky branches. And engineers should be able to build roads that will not be affected by the tree roots, he said.

The trees along the highway produce a huge shed, which is nearly one-fourth of that produced by the Sundarbans, he pointed out.

The 61-km stretch of the same road on the Indian side is also called Jessore Road. Running from Kolkata airport to Petrapole border via Barasat, this part too has numerous trees on its both sides.

Last year, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) felled 15 of those trees near Bongaon railway station for construction of some flyovers, triggering a huge public protest.

Green activists cited the example of the 2km stretch from Petrapole to Jayantipur on which the NHAI constructed a two-lane road keeping the trees in the middle.

The issue later went to the Calcutta High Court, which on April 17 last year ordered a stay on felling of the trees. The matter is still pending before the court where the next hearing is due today.

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Students' demo shuts Nilkhet

Students' demo shuts Nilkhet

Students of seven colleges took to the streets at 11:30 am yesterday, blocking the capital's Nilkhet intersection for more than two hours. This resulted in lot of suffering for commuters who were stuck in long tailbacks because of the demonstration.

The agitated students roped off the intersection, halting traffic movement for more than two hours, causing severe traffic congestion in the area.

They barred every vehicle and even pedestrians from crossing the intersection till noon. Some of the students sat in the middle of the road and chanted slogans.

Demonstrating students of the seven DU-affiliated colleges yesterday gave ultimatum to the university authorities for publishing their 2nd year final result by this month.

On information, DU VC Prof Akhtaruzzaman reached the spot at around 1:45pm and assured them of publishing the results by February 25.

Rejecting the vice-chancellor's assurances, the students of 2014-2015 sessions threatened to go for tougher movement from February if the authorities fail to publish the results by January.

The VC later said that they would take necessary measures to publish the result within the shortest possible time and if possible, they would do it by this month.

The students placed a five-points demand which included publication of the results of 2nd year final exam by this month, beginning the honours third year final examination by March, immediate publication of their academic calendar, immediately finishing final exams of all sessions, including the 2012-2013, one holding examinations of all sessions of degree courses and publication of their results within the shortest possible time.

Following further assurances by the DU VC, the students ended their demonstration with a threat to wage tougher movement from February if the authorities fail fulfil their promises.

We are calling off our protest upon assurance of the VC but we would go for tough movement if our demands are not met within the given timeframe,” Toufiq Mahmud, a third year student of Dhaka College 2014-15 session, told The Daily Star.

The second year final exam of 2014-2015 session was held on January 7, 2017 under the National University (NU). As the colleges gained affiliation with DU on February 17 last year, the university took their viva-voce and the responsibility of preparing and publishing their result now falls on them.

Earlier on November 25 of last year, the DU authorities published the honours final year result of 2011-2012 session after the students demonstrated for several times in the capital demanding its publication.

Yesteryday's protest follows other demonstrations by a section of Dhaka University (DU) students demanding scrapping of the affiliation with the seven colleges.

Leaders and activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League yet again barred some students from joining yesterday's movement, by threatening to evict them from the halls and harassing them verbally and physically.

As the two colleges-- Eden Mohila College and Dhaka College-- are nearest to where the demonstrations took place, their students played a key role in yesterday's demonstration and, thus, faced the brunt of the harassment.

BCL leaders of Eden Mohila College on Wednesday night directed the students not to join the protest citing instructions from the student body's top brass, said one of the victims, on condition of anonymity.

Some BCL leaders, including Joint Convener Tasleema, along with others, started hurling abusive words towards the protestors when they joined the protest defying the command, one of the assaulted female students alleged.

They also punched two female students, leaving one injured.

Contacted, Tasleema rejected the allegations saying that she only instructed the students to form the human chain peacefully without blocking the roads.

The BCL leaders of Dhaka College also tried to bar their fellow classmates from continuing the protest but later allowed it after failing to stop them, alleged one of the protestors from the college.

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Status Quo Not Altered At Doklam: India

Status Quo Not Altered At Doklam: India

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar

Indian and Chinese troops had been locked in a stand-off for over two months last year in the Doklam area near Sikkim before "disengaging" on August 28.

India said today that the status quo has not been altered at Doklam, where Indian and Chinese troops were locked in a stand-off for over two

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IBM’s year-over-year revenue didn’t decline in the last quarter

IBM’s year-over-year revenue didn’t decline in the last quarter

Here’s a surprise: After 22 quarters of consecutive year-over-year revenue declines, IBM today reported that its revenue increased from Q4 2016 to Q4 2017. The company reported revenue of $22.5 billion for the last quarter, up from $21.77 billion a year ago. Earnings per share came in at $5.18. Analysts expected revenue of about $22.06 billion and

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CES sucked this year

CES sucked this year

I’ve heard tell of people predicting the weather through achy joints. CES isn’t all that different. You get a sixth sense about the show once you’ve been to a few.

A few weeks before the show starts, as families are settling in to their holiday meals, you get a slight throb in your bones, telling you whether this CES will be a memorable one — or if

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