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WBAF-Pandemic Impact on Women Entrepreneurship

WBAF conducted a global survey (on Pandemic Impact on Women Entrepreneurship) among their members which included business owners from more than 77 countries and across multiple industries. It was designed to gather opinions regarding the impact on several domains such as economic, business, social and overall quality of life during this pandemic.

The link of the report:

WBAF-Pandemic Impact on Women Entrepreneurship

WBAF conducted a global survey (on Pandemic Impact on Women Entrepreneurship) among their members which included business owners from more than 77 countries and across multiple industries. It was designed to gather opinions regarding the impact on several domains such as economic, business, social and overall quality of life during this pandemic.

The link of the report:

MIT's COVID-19 app uses smartphones' Bluetooth to anonymously spot disease contacts

A research effort based out of MIT is looking to individuals' smartphones as tools for automatic COVID-19 contact tracing, but it's taking a unique approach that doesn't log GPS data or other potentially identifying information.

Rather, the multi-organization Private Automatic Contact Tracing (PACT) team is turning to smartphones' Bluetooth functionality – or more specifically, the short-range data strings known as "chirps" that smartphones regularly emit to connect with other devices.

By downloading a PACT app, individuals enable their phone to continuously send out these random data strings and keep a log of those from other participating devices it has encountered. If a user is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a healthcare professional, they would receive a QR code that notifies a cloud system of their status and uploads their list of received chirps.

All other participants in the system would be able to initiate a scan of the collective logs at any time through their own app and, if any of their outbound chirps match an instance stored in the cloud, would be warned of a potential (but still anonymous) COVID-19 contact. Of note, the system also keeps track of the approximate distance between each individual's device and that of their contact, as well as a rough estimate of the time they spent in range of the chirps.

“I keep track of what I’ve broadcasted, and you keep track of what you’ve heard, and this will allow us to tell if someone was in close proximity to an infected person,” Ron Rivest, an MIT Institute Professor and principal investigator of the PACT project, told the institution's communications outlet, MIT News. “But for these broadcasts, we’re using cryptographic techniques to generate random, rotating numbers that are not just anonymous, but pseudonymous, constantly changing their ‘ID,’ and that can’t be traced back to an individual.”

Once launched, participants will be able to download and join the effort "in a number of ways," according to MIT News, one of which is through another digital COVID-19 effort already launched by the organization called SafePaths.


Manual contact-tracing is a labor-intensive task for any public health organization, let alone one overwhelmed by the magnitude of COVID-19. Once established and distributed, automated systems such as these could not only cut back on that burden, but also notify officials of incidental contact that the infected individual might not recall or even be aware of.

“In order for the U.S. to really contain this epidemic, we need to have a much more proactive approach that allows us to trace more widely contacts for confirmed cases," Dr. Louise Ivers, executive director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Global Health and an advisor on the project, told MIT's communications outlet. "This automated and privacy-protecting approach could really transform our ability to get the epidemic under control here and could be adapted to have use in other global settings.”

But the particular appeal of PACT over several other automated contact-tracing or behavior-tracking projects is the minimal amount of data collection it requires. Bluetooth-enabled smartphones already keep a record of the chirps they have sent and received, and the project's database only maintains the outbound chirps of a positive case's device – in other words, no location data, and just a one-way log of unique contact events that can only be completed by a match from the second device.

The team hopes that being transparent with their approach and ensuring user privacy will help drive greater adoption of the platform and, ultimately, more comprehensive contact-tracing.

“We’re not tracking location, not using GPS, not attaching your personal ID or phone number to any of these random numbers your phone is emitting,” Daniel Weitzner, a principal research scientist in the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and PACT's co-principal investigator, told MIT News. “What we want is to enable everyone to participate in a shared process of seeing if you might have been in contact, without revealing, or forcing anyone to reveal, anything.”


Several countries have already begun looking into, or have rolled out, mobile-phone-based efforts to track the spread of coronavirus among their citizenry that are often based on GPS tracking. Reports coming out just a few weeks ago that the U.S. government was discussing similar GPS-based efforts with leading tech companies.

Policy thought leaders have gone back and forth on the concept. For instance, former FDA Comissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb floated the idea of GPS tracking on cellphone apps to ensure home isolation as a potential component of a robust coronavirus response in a report penned the other week. But more recently, he signed onto a Duke Center for Health Policy working paper that preferred "timely contact tracing ... augmented by technology" to "cell phone-based apps recording proximity events between individuals," due to concerns that these apps would not be well adopted, insufficiently discriminate between cases and contacts and potentially introduce privacy or security issues.

But the privacy and effectiveness debate hasn't stopped big tech from repurposing the data it's already collecting to help combat the disease. Within the past week alone, both Google and Facebook launched maps and reports to the public describing large-scale movement, behaviors and potential contacts within certain regions.


Managing Stress and Emotions When Working Remotely

Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy
March 31, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to spread around the globe, more and more of us are starting to make changes to the way we work. Google, Microsoft, Trader Joe’s, Gap, and United Airlines are among a growing number of U.S. companies that have already acted to address their workers’ most immediate employment concerns stemming from the pandemic, including recommending or requiring employees to work from home, offering more paid sick leave, or maintaining wages in spite of reduced hours.

We’ve spent the past four years studying the science of emotions and their intersection with our lives at work. In our research, we’ve spoken to thousands of remote workers around the world, and from these conversations — and our own personal remote work experiences — we can attest that feeling isolated is common when working from home. Living with uncertainty in the face of a pandemic makes the current situation even more stressful. Here, we’ve pulled together our top tips for both tackling the challenges of remote work and managing stress and difficult emotions.

1. Emotionally proofread your messages. As we move away from face-to-face interactions with coworkers, it’s important to reread your messages for clarity and emotional tone before hitting send. Sending a direct message or email that says “Let’s talk” when you actually mean “These are good suggestions; let’s discuss how to work them into the draft” might bring up unnecessary anxiety for the recipient. If you’re worried about how your tone will come across, pick up the phone or offer to jump on a video chat. Your colleague (who is probably also working from home) might be glad for the chance to talk.

2. Be mindful of time zones. To help people in all time zones feel included, strive to delay decision-making until you’ve heard from everyone who should be involved. This is an especially good time to hone your documentation skills so everyone stays in the loop, and to see if your team could cover some meeting content over email, Slack, or another messaging platform instead. After switching to remote work, Humu, where Liz works, set up a 15-minute companywide meeting every day at 11:45 a.m. PT (which allows for team members on the East Coast and in Europe to join as well), during which the team can fill one another in on important announcements. Everything discussed during the meeting is also sent out afterward in a companywide email.

3. Schedule time for serendipitous collaboration. When we work remotely, we miss out on all the impromptu moments with our colleagues that lead to good ideas: chatting before and after meetings, catching up in the kitchen or hallway, and stopping by each other’s desks. When meeting via phone or videoconference, schedule time for informal conversation at the beginning and end of meetings.

4. Make room for minibreaks. Stepping away from your desk for even five minutes helps you relax — and stay focused. Danish students who were given a short break before taking a test got significantly higher scores than their peers who didn’t get any time to relax. Mollie has been using the app Time Out (for Macs), which reminds her to take periodic breaks to stretch, walk around, or change position at her desk.

5. Set up an after-work ritual. It’s easy to overwork when you don’t leave a physical office at a specific time each day, so it’s extra important to keep healthy boundaries. Your brain will benefit from a signal that tells it, “Work is over!” Some ideas: Meditate, listen to music, read a magazine, or lift weights. (Some studies show that weight training boosts your mood more than cardio.) Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, ends each day by transcribing any loose notes into a master task list, shutting down his computer, and then saying the phrase, “Schedule shutdown, complete.” “Here’s my rule,” he writes. “After I’ve uttered the magic phrase, if a work-related worry pops to mind, I always answer it with the following thought process: I said the termination phrase.”

6. Put time on your calendar to exercise. Commit to getting some physical activity by blocking off time to work out on your calendar. Need some working-out-from-home ideas? Try a seven-minute workout, or a variety of desk stretches that might (almost) replace going to the gym, or just put on your favorite song and dance it out. Even better, make it a virtual group activity: Jump on a video call with a friend, pick a YouTube fitness video, and get your sweat on together.

7. Check in on each other. This can be done by setting up virtual lunches, teatimes, or what social media management platform company Buffer terms pair calls. For pair calls, Buffer employees opt in to be randomly paired with someone else at the company once a week. Calls have no set agenda; coworkers get to know each other in pairs by talking about their families, hobbies, and favorite shows. If your organization uses Slack, one easy way to set this up is through Donut, a Slack bot that pairs people automatically.

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8. Be thoughtful when you do head out. Not all of us have the ability to do our jobs from home. For the sake of those who still have to be physically present on the job (think doctors, cashiers, and pharmacists), be sure to wash your hands regularly and carefully when you go out, practice social distancing, and thank those who can’t stay home.

In these uncertain times, many companies are striving for business continuity and supporting employees as best they can in a variety of ways. Flexible, virtual work arrangements help employees continue to do their jobs, but these unprecedented circumstances require adjustments that for many come with significant challenges. It’s important now more than ever to support one another as we navigate the days ahead.

Liz Fosslien is head of content at Humu, a company that nudges people toward better work habits. Mollie West Duffy is an organizational development expert and consultant. They are the authors of the book No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

Source: NIT Sloan Management Review:

South Korea winning the fight against coronavirus using big-data and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

South Korea is fighting the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) by relying on its technological forte. The country has an advanced digital platform for big-data mining, along with artificial intelligence (AI) and Koreans are leading the technological front, with Samsung competing closely with Apple.Inc of USA.

Utilising big-data analysis, AI-powered advance warning systems, and intensive observation methodology, South Korea has already managed to bring the coronavirus situation in the country under control in a short time.

The government-run big-data platform stores information of all citizens and resident foreign nationals and integrates all government organisations, hospitals, financial services, mobile operators, and other services into it.

South Korea is using the analysis, information and references provided by this integrated data -- all different real-time responses and information produced by the platform are promptly conveyed to people with different AI-based applications.

Whenever someone is tested positive for COVID-19, all the people in the vicinity are provided with the infected person's travel details, activities, and commute maps for the previous two weeks through mobile notifications sent as a push system.

Government-run health services receive information on the person's contacts, making it easier to track those whom s/he had met during that time, and bring them under observation and medical tests. AI ensures prompt execution of all these steps. Hospitals, ambulance services, mobile test labs -- all rely on IT sector and technology to deliver prompt and efficient services.

South Korea also introduced drive-through coronavirus testing, in which a person drives his car inside a mobile testing lab, get his samples collected while sitting inside the vehicle, and gets test results within a few minutes. If found to be infected, they are immediately isolated and taken to specialised treatment facilities. Many such drive-through labs are operational, being run with 5G facilities provided by mobile operators.

Those driving on the road are notified of the nearest drive-through lab where they may undergo medical tests.

If any infected person lived or worked at a large building, temporary medical centres are set up there to provide medical tests to all residents.

AI data analysis informs government about possible clusters of the virus, or areas with most risk, thus enabling prompt medical services and mobilising awareness initiatives in those areas.

The government has implemented AI-based regulation and process design to ensure supply and distribution of masks and other preventive items. Each person has to use their ID cards to buy two masks at a time from nearby medicine-stores.  Even though several weeks have passed since the outbreak began in the country, there was not any noticeable hike in the price of daily essentials such as rice, oil, baby-food, etc.

"The ease of availability of data has enabled South Korea to define or decide or take initiative on the relevant aspects. Many countries do not have such elaborate digital data platform or sufficient technological prowess and logistics," said a Bangladeshi expatriate living in Korea.

In an address to the nation, South Korean premier Chung Sye-kyun has stressed the need to stay alert without becoming panicked, mentioning that everyone is under risk of being infected.

Mentioning that the number of coronavirus patients are coming down in South Korea and the government has managed to bring the situation under control, the premier also announced that the government offices will be run digitally with the officials and staff working from home, as an added precaution.

The author is founder and CEO of Ticon System Ltd, and has been involved in South Korea's IT sector.


How to practice social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic (Ref.: MIT Technology Review)

In theory, never leaving home during the coronavirus pandemic is the most effective means of prevention. It reduces your chance of infection and quickly contains the disease’s spread. A recent study in Science found, for example, that this kind of distancing is even better than widespread travel bans or restrictions.

In practice, however, it’s not always possible to hole up. Your circumstances may not afford you the luxury of working from home or avoiding public transit. And sometimes life happens and you just need to get on a plane.

The good news is that tamping down the coronavirus isn’t an all-or-nothing game. There are still many ways you can practice responsible social distancing even when you have to be out and about in the world. In addition to the basics—don’t touch your face, and wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds—here are some other tips, collected from half a dozen experts, to follow in different areas of your life.

The bottom line: don’t stress too much. It’s equally important to “keep some sense of sanity,” says Moses Turkle Bility, an assistant professor of infectious diseases and microbiology at the University of Pittsburgh: “Your mental health and well-being affect your immune system.” Do what you can and develop habits you can stick to, but don’t panic if you can’t do everything.

You can read all of our coverage of the coronavirus/Covid-19 outbreak for free, and also sign up for our coronavirus newsletter. But please consider subscribing to support our nonprofit journalism.

Here's what you should do when you...
take public transit
take flights or long-haul bus and train rides
are sick
need food
work out
leave and come back home
have kids

What to do when you take public transit
Stagger commute times. If you can’t drive or walk where you need to go, consider commuting by public transit during off-peak hours. Spreading out commute times, even by a small amount, can help reduce transmission risk from overcrowded subways and buses, says Julie McMurry, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health at Oregon State University, who created the popular Flatten the Curve web page with tips to contain Covid-19.

Avoid surfaces. While in transit, avoid touching poles and handles. Some recent research in a pre-print paper suggests that the virus can survive on hard surfaces for up to three days, although there is still no evidence that it is transmitted in this way. You can also wear gloves or create other makeshift barriers to stay protected, but they should be removed as soon as you are back indoors.

What to do when you take flights or long-haul bus and train rides
Monitor the coronavirus stats of your community and destination. With help from the CDC website, educate yourself about places to avoid—up until the minute you board. Information is changing “so quickly, in the matter of hours,” says Lin H. Chen, president of the International Society of Travel Medicine and an associate professor at the Harvard-affiliated Mount Auburn Hospital. It’s also important to check your hometown’s statistics so you know if you could have been exposed to the virus. Reconsider your travel if the risk is high.

Stay six feet away from people (as much as possible). The CDC’s six-feet rule might not be possible if you’re waiting in line to get to your seat, but there’s no need to rush to your boarding-area queue or crowd around a coffee shop.

Wear a makeshift mask (if it gives you peace of mind). It’s still unclear whether wearing a mask in public will reduce a healthy person’s risk of contracting coronavirus, says Chen, but the extra protection doesn’t hurt. The caveat is if you’re not used to masks, you might fidget with it and thereby break a cardinal rule of coronavirus prevention: don’t touch your face.

Take a shower after you arrive. When you get to your destination, take a warm soap-and-water shower before interacting with people or lounging around too long in common spaces. “Soap and water is one of the best disinfectants,” says Bility. A bath is more comprehensive than hand-washing when you’ve been in contact with a lot of different surfaces. Avoid rewearing your travel clothes again until you’ve washed them.

What to do when you are sick
Stay at home. If you are sick (with something other than the coronavirus), reconsider whether you need to be out and about. The coronavirus is most threatening and more likely to result in complications when contracted along with another disease, says Fenyong Liu, a professor of virology at the University of California, Berkeley. With a weaker immune system, you will be more vulnerable. Exposing others to whatever you have, especially if they are immunocompromised, will make them more susceptible as well.

Wear a makeshift mask. But for essential trips, such as to go to the doctor, wear a mask or other makeshift barrier across your nose and mouth to protect others. Even a scarf or other cloth is better than nothing for reducing the spray of droplets when you cough or sneeze. Of course, the tighter the barrier the better, says McMurry. Do not, however, hoard surgical masks, which need to be reserved for front-line health-care responders. “That backfires for everyone,” McMurry says.

Call an ambulance. If you suspect you have coronavirus, call for an ambulance instead, says Liu. Traveling on public transit puts fellow passengers at too much risk. You could also contract another infection.

What to do when you need food
Get it delivered. Always opt for grocery or restaurant delivery if you have access to those services. It will reduce the flow of people circulating in-store and the chance of community spread. When the food arrives, wait for the delivery person to leave before you pick the package up. (Many delivery apps give you the option of specifying such instructions.) This minimizes delivery workers’—and the community’s—exposure to potential germs as they go from one home to another.

Use self-service checkout. If you have to go to the store, minimize contact with other people.

Decontaminate your packages. Once you’ve received your delivery or bought your food in-store, figure out a decontamination procedure. This might be overkill right now, says McMurry, “but it’s really important that everyone consider this a dry run.” Build the habit for when things get worse.

That means if you have a porch or other outside area where you can safely leave your packages, keep them there to air out for several hours. Again, experts don’t know how long the virus survives on surfaces, so the longer the wait you can afford, the better. Wear gloves or create a makeshift barrier when opening your package, and discard the outer layer. Or simply wash your hands diligently after you’re done handling it.

Wash and disinfect items before storage. After unwrapping the packages, use warm water and soap to scrub any washable items. While no specific studies have shown the effect of water and soap on the novel coronavirus, the combination is known to work against envelope viruses in general, says Bility. The soap damages the envelope and renders the virus ineffective. For other items that can’t be washed, use friction to wipe them down with soap and water or alcohol. The evaporative action of the alcohol inactivates the virus. (The EPA has also published a list of disinfectants that work.)

Opt for cooked over raw foods. Cooking produce is the safest way to guarantee decontamination, says Liu. But diligent washing with    can also be a good defense.

What to do when you work out
Opt for in-home or outside exercises. Forgoing regular exercise can be challenging for mental health, especially during high-stress times such as this one. So consider developing routines that avoid the gym. Gyms are breeding grounds for many types of germs, which could weaken your immune system, but the heavy breathing and confined spaces also heighten the risk of coronavirus spread. Jog outside; do yoga in your bedroom; find in-home, equipment-free alternatives.

Avoid peak hours. If you do need to go to the gym, try to shift your workout schedule. Just as you should avoid peak hours on the subway, staggering workout times can help reduce risk of transmission.

 Avoid high-contact equipment. Also avoid gym equipment that requires long periods of handling, like weights, and opt for things that don’t, like treadmills. Disinfect the equipment before and after use, and don’t wipe the sweat from your face with your hands during your workout.

Shower immediately after. A generally good rule regardless, but particularly important for disinfecting your body. You want to minimize the time you spend with potential contaminants on your clothes and skin.

What to do when you leave and come back home
Run errands together and during off-peak hours. Try to get as much done as possible in one fell swoop. “You want to minimize the number of trips, then stay home for as long a period of time as you can,” McMurry says. Also, try to avoid crowds by going to stores and public places early before work or late at night. In general, reduce the amount of time you spend in locations where you don’t know the level of infection, says Bility.

Don’t mix “outside” and “inside” clothes. Every time you get home, change your clothes—and shoes—and wash them as soon as possible. If you have the option, you can also leave coats and other hard-to-wash items outside to disinfect in the sunlight. “This is especially true for people that are in areas of high risk,” McMurry says.

 Create a dedicated reentry zone. That staging area for packages is good for humans too: in addition to changing clothes and taking off shoes, use this space to disinfect your phone and keys. Phones, in particular, can be hard to disinfect, so consider putting yours in a thin plastic bag when you leave home. Wipe it down with soap and water or alcohol once you take it back out.

Take a shower after every outing. Of course, jump in the shower right away if you can. Children especially have a tendency to touch their faces, so bathe them with soap and water. If you don’t have time, at a bare minimum wash your and their face and hands, says Lauren Combe, a registered nurse and president of the National Association of School Nurses.

What to do when you have kids
Don't exaggerate or panic. Explain coronavirus in an age-appropriate manner, says Mark Reinecke, a clinical psychologist and director of the Child-Mind Institute. But “maintaining a sense of perspective becomes critically important.” Don't freak out if your kid coughs or dwell for hours on coronavirus coverage. Your kids want to feel secure.

Demonstrate good habits. Teach kids how to cough and sneeze into the crook of their arm and thoroughly wash their face and hands while singing “Happy Birthday” twice, says Combe. If you’re tired of the same song, pick something else easy for kids to remember, like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and the ABCs.

Get creative with playdates. If their schools have closed, kids are prone to quickly develop cabin fever and feelings of isolation. Use technology creatively: give them permission to FaceTime or play video games with friends, Reinecke says. Online social activities can help maintain and foster friendships. You can also opt for no-tech solutions like board games and crafts with the family. If you do end up hosting a playdate, keep the group small, make sure the other kids are not sick, and don’t share utensils, says Combe.

Source: MIT Technology Review:

Cold / Flu / WHO clarifies myths on Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
« on: March 14, 2020, 12:15:32 PM »
COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates

From the evidence so far, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in ALL AREAS, including areas with hot and humid weather. Regardless of climate, adopt protective measures if you live in, or travel to an area reporting COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by frequently cleaning your hands. By doing this you eliminate viruses that may be on your hands and avoid infection that could occur by then touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.

Cold weather and snow CANNOT kill the new coronavirus.

There is no reason to believe that cold weather can kill the new coronavirus or other diseases. The normal human body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the external temperature or weather. The most effective way to protect yourself against the new coronavirus is by frequently cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or washing them with soap and water.

Taking a hot bath does not prevent the new coronavirus disease
Taking a hot bath will not prevent you from catching COVID-19. Your normal body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the temperature of your bath or shower. Actually, taking a hot bath with extremely hot water can be harmful, as it can burn you. The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by frequently cleaning your hands. By doing this you eliminate viruses that may be on your hands and avoid infection that coud occur by then touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.

The new coronavirus CANNOT be transmitted through mosquito bites.
To date there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes. The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Also, avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing and sneezing.

Are hand dryers effective in killing the new coronavirus?
No. Hand dryers are not effective in killing the 2019-nCoV. To protect yourself against the new coronavirus, you should frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.

Can an ultraviolet disinfection lamp kill the new coronavirus?
UV lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin as UV radiation can cause skin irritation.

How effective are thermal scanners in detecting people infected with the new coronavirus?
Thermal scanners are effective in detecting people who have developed a fever (i.e. have a higher than normal body temperature) because of infection with the new coronavirus.

However, they cannot detect people who are infected but are not yet sick with fever. This is because it takes between 2 and 10 days before people who are infected become sick and develop a fever.

Can spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body kill the new coronavirus?
No. Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth). Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations.

Do vaccines against pneumonia protect you against the new coronavirus?
No. Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus.

The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against 2019-nCoV, and WHO is supporting their efforts.

Although these vaccines are not effective against 2019-nCoV, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.

Can regularly rinsing your nose with saline help prevent infection with the new coronavirus?
No. There is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the new coronavirus.

There is some limited evidence that regularly rinsing nose with saline can help people recover more quickly from the common cold. However, regularly rinsing the nose has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections.

Can eating garlic help prevent infection with the new coronavirus?
Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.

Does the new coronavirus affect older people, or are younger people also susceptible?
People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus?
No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria.

The new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.

However, if you are hospitalized for the 2019-nCoV, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.

Are there any specific medicines to prevent or treat the new coronavirus?
To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

However, those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimized supportive care. Some specific treatments are under investigation, and will be tested through clinical trials. WHO is helping to accelerate research and development efforts with a range or partners.


Nutrition and Food Engineering / Top 12 foods to reduce belly fat
« on: March 03, 2020, 10:39:07 AM »
Top 12 foods to reduce belly fat

he struggle to achieve a flat stomach is like no other. Especially for us as Indians. This is because we are used to eating dinner only after 8 pm and our traditional Indian snacks can make us lose our focus more often than not. A bloated stomach not only ruins our confidence but also tends to hamper with our personality, particularly if we are a part of the corporate world. Here are 12 foods that can help you get rid of that belly fat you have been struggling with for a while now:

1. Almonds: Rich in vitamin E and protein, almonds are also rich in fiber. If you are aiming for a flat stomach, you need to get your cravings in hand. The best way is to snack on healthy foods which make you feel fuller for a longer time and do not bloat your stomach at the same time. Almonds are a good start as they contain healthy calories and help curb your hunger.

2. Watermelon: The water-loaded fruit is extremely rich in vitamins and minerals. Not only does it contain 82 percent water, but it also helps in removing excess sodium from the body. Sodium contributes to a bloating stomach and watermelon helps get rid of that. Other than this, watermelon is also loaded with vitamin C and contains barely 100 calories in one cup.

3. Green leafy vegetables: As mentioned earlier, fiber is needed to get a feeling of fullness for a longer period of time. Leafy vegetables are also low in calories and serve the purpose of fulfilling your nutritional deficiencies, which maybe the cause for a protruding stomach. Filling up your plate with vegetables will help you keep a bulging belly at bay.

4. Beans: Beans and legumes are great for getting rid of body fat, developing muscles and improving digestion. This is because beans and legumes contain essential nutrients which help the body maintain its nutrition quotient. If you often fall prey to over indulgence, then beans and legumes are your rescue foods.

5. Cucumber: Loaded with only 45 calories, cucumbers are great for a flat stomach. This is because cucumber contains as much as 96 percent water content, which does not give you a bloating stomach and helps your body to cool down.

6. Avocado: This foreign superfood is rich in healthy fats that help your body burn bad fat easily. Considered a magic fruit due to its many health benefits, avocados are extremely essential for those looking to lose belly fat due to the presence of monounsaturated fatty acids present in the fruit.

7. Oats: This weight loss superfood is high in protein and low in calories, which make it the perfect food for a flat stomach. Oats take time to digest in the body and hence, tend to burn calories. This is what makes oats a good source of energy through the day and lowers your cholesterol.

8. Water: Water is the ultimate answer to many of our bodily troubles. Need to lose weight? Have enough water,. Have a headache? Complete your water intake every day. Need a flat stomach? Wash off toxins from your body with enough water. However, it is important to remember that too much water can lead to potassium loss in the body. Therefore, sticking to a minimum of 2 litres is essential.

9. Apples: Another fiber packed food, apples are great for a flat stomach. Mid-day snacks are often dangerous, especially if you are working. Too much stress can also make us hog on unhealthy foods. Apples are great as healthy snacks as they make you feel full for a longer time.

10. Peppermint: Peppermint is considered to be great for removing belly fat as it has healing and calming digestive properties which work in the favour of our body. The best way to consume it is in the ]form of tea. You can also add one drop of peppermint oil in your water and consume it.

11. Eggs: Our favourite Sunday breakfast food can be added to our list of belly reducing foods. This is because eggs contain proteins, essential for a thin stomach. Upping your protein intake on a daily basis will definitely help you achieve this goal faster.

12. Fish: Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and proteins, both of which are extremely needed nutrients for weight loss and a flat stomach. Consuming good fats help get rid of bad ones and thus contribute to a healthier and fitter body.


কৃত্রিম বুদ্ধিমত্তা ব্যবহারে আইন চায় ব্রিটিশ পুলিশ

কৃত্রিম বুদ্ধিমত্তার মতো আধুনিক প্রযুক্তি পুলিশের ব্যবহারের জন্য আইনি কাঠামো তৈরির আহ্বান জানিয়েছেন ব্রিটিশ পুলিশ বাহিনীর সবচেয়ে বয়োজ্যেষ্ঠ সদস্য ক্রেসিডা ডিক। তিনি লন্ডন পুলিশের প্রধান। লন্ডন পুলিশ গত জানুয়ারি থেকেই কৃত্রিম বুদ্ধিমত্তার সাহায্যে পরিচালিত চেহারা শনাক্তকরণ প্রযুক্তি ব্যবহার শুরু করেছে।

কৃত্রিম বুদ্ধিমত্তা, বায়োমেট্রিক, ডিএনএর মতো প্রযুক্তি নিয়ে দেশটির বর্তমান সরকার ২০১৯ সালের নির্বাচনী ইশতেহারে আইনি কাঠামো তৈরির অঙ্গীকার করেছিল। ক্রেসিডা সে অঙ্গীকারকে স্বাগত জানিয়ে গত সোমবার এই দাবি করেন। কৃত্রিম বুদ্ধিমত্তার মতো আধুনিক প্রযুক্তি পুলিশের ব্যবহারের জন্য আইনি কাঠামো তৈরির আহ্বান জানিয়েছেন ব্রিটিশ পুলিশ বাহিনীর সবচেয়ে বয়োজ্যেষ্ঠ সদস্য ক্রেসিডা ডিক। তিনি লন্ডন পুলিশের প্রধান। লন্ডন পুলিশ গত জানুয়ারি থেকেই কৃত্রিম বুদ্ধিমত্তার সাহায্যে পরিচালিত চেহারা শনাক্তকরণ প্রযুক্তি ব্যবহার শুরু করেছে। কৃত্রিম বুদ্ধিমত্তা, বায়োমেট্রিক, ডিএনএর মতো প্রযুক্তি নিয়ে দেশটির বর্তমান সরকার ২০১৯ সালের নির্বাচনী ইশতেহারে আইনি কাঠামো তৈরির অঙ্গীকার করেছিল। ক্রেসিডা সে অঙ্গীকারকে স্বাগত জানিয়ে গত সোমবার এই দাবি করেন।

ক্রেসিডা বলেন, পুলিশ বাহিনী আধুনিক প্রযুক্তির কোনটি ব্যবহার করবে আর কোনটি ব্যবহার করবে না, তা নিশ্চিত করা হবে এমন এক আইনি কাঠামোর মাধ্যমে, যা সংসদে আলোচনার মাধ্যমে ঠিক করা হবে। তিনি আরও বলেন, ‘আমাদের যেভাবে আইন ঠিক করে দেওয়া হবে, আমরা সেভাবেই কাজ করব।’

সূত্র: রয়টার্স


Didn't know about this before

Unfortunately, the new deal was not successfull. Rather, global retail giant Walmart has paid $16bn (£11.8bn) for a majority stake in Flipkart, making this the world's largest ever e-commerce acquisition. 

Its a very good initiative. But search criteria should be enriched. I did not find proper searching settings here.

Hmmm... you have rightly pointed out. Thanks for your observation.

21st century skills and the 4th Industrial Revolution (by Manzoor Ahmed)

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently said, "It is not only Bangladesh, the whole world will need skilled manpower… and for that we have reformed our education system, giving priority to vocational training." She was speaking at the international conference on "Skills Readiness for Achieving SDG and Adopting Industrial Revolution 4.0" on February 2, 2020. The event was organised by the Institute of Diploma Engineers Bangladesh (IDEB) and the Colombo Plan Staff College in Manila, Philippines.

The Prime Minister has rightly indicated an important priority. The question is: how are buzzwords such as the "Fourth Industrial Revolution" understood and what is happening on the ground in the thousands of secondary level institutions across the country?

Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum and the organiser of the annual Davos Summit, is credited with popularising this term. As Schwab explains, the First Industrial Revolution started in the 1780s, using water and steam power to mechanise production. The Second, beginning in the 1870s, used electric power to create assembly lines and lead to mass production. The Third, starting from the 1960s, used electronics and information technology, also known as digital technology, to automate production. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) now builds on the digital revolution.

The latest Industrial Revolution blurs the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres in an unprecedented way. The 4IR is radically different, since it is more than only a technological shift in economic production, as the previous three were. It opens unlimited possibilities for addressing critical challenges of poverty, inequality and sustainable development. However, beyond the hype surrounding 4IR, the potentials and challenges have to be seen from the perspective of the real world, especially from the point of view of low income countries like Bangladesh where the majority of the world's people still live. The prospects and problems are spectacularly different for most people in these countries when compared to those in wealthier countries.

Over 80 percent of our workforce are employed in the informal economy, which is not regulated by worker welfare and rights standards. A third of the workforce has no education, 26 percent have only primary education and 31 percent have only up to secondary education, according to a 2017 Labour Force Survey. Over 40 percent of workers are engaged in the low-skill and low-wage agricultural sector. The concept note for the Eighth Five Year Plan (FY2021-25) that is under preparation says that the overall quality of the labour force is much below the level that is needed to achieve the planned 15 percent growth in manufacturing, to expand the organised service sector, and to facilitate the transition to an upper middle income country.

Life and the livelihoods of the majority of people in Bangladesh are largely characterised by the use of the second or even the first Industrial Revolution technologies. At the same time, ironically, most people are also touched by the third Industrial Revolution through the penetration of mobile phone technology. The features of 4IR can be found in a handful of the better educated and privileged population who benefit from or contribute to its development at home or abroad. What this means is that simultaneously, technologies and people's skills, as well as their attitudes and aspirations, have to be lifted across the board in all four phases of industrial revolutions, starting from wherever the people are on this spectrum. This is where skills formation, the role of the education system and the relevance of 21st century skills come in.

What we call 21st century skills are not necessarily all novel, nor do they mark a clean break from what were important in the 20th century or the 19th century. There are common and timeless elements of quality and relevance for learners and the whole of society in any system of education. Education systems have always struggled to achieve and maintain these essential elements, and they have not become invalid in the 21st century.

This formulation of 21st century skills recognises the value of the foundational skills of multiple literacies, the essential tools for learning. This is the base on which the higher order skills of solving problems and thinking critically are built. Young people also have to be helped with social and emotional maturity and acquiring moral and ethical values—the qualities of character. A lifelong learning approach has to be adopted for this. As in the case of technology adoption and adaptation, skills development and education also need to consider the perennial basic and essential elements that can respond to the diverse phases of technology, production, consumption, lifestyle and expectations in which people find themselves.

The education authorities—the two divisions of the Bangladesh Ministry of Education and the National Curriculum and Textbook Board—are engaged in a review of school curricula in the context of 21st century challenges. What is more important than formulating the curriculum is to find effective ways of implementing the curriculum. Teachers—their skills, professionalism and motivations—are the key here. So is the way students' learning is assessed. Look at the negative backwash effects of the current public examinations—too early and too frequent; many questions on what they actually assess; and the distortion of the teaching-learning process in schools.

A good move is to start streaming students to different tracks from 11th grade rather than 9th grade, something which is under consideration now. The aim is to build a common foundation of competencies for all, and not force young people to foreclose their life options early.

Klaus Schwab had warned that we face the danger of a job market that is increasingly segregated into "low-skill/low-pay" and "high-skill/high-pay" segments, giving rise to growing social tensions. Coping with the implications of this danger for education and skill development is a continuing concern. We cannot discuss the numerous structural and operational obstacles to necessary reforms in education and skills formation and how to deal with these within the confines of this article. But we can hardly ignore them either.

The decision-makers of today find it difficult to free themselves from the trap of traditional, linear thinking. They are too absorbed by the multiple, immediate crises knocking at their doors every day. Can they find the time and focus their mind enough to think strategically, looking at the bigger picture and with a longer time horizon, about the forces of change and disruption that are shaping our future?

Manzoor Ahmed is Professor Emeritus at Brac University.


QA Mechanism / THE World University Rankings 2020: methodology
« on: February 17, 2020, 12:16:48 PM »
THE World University Rankings 2020: methodology

In collecting and considering data for the World University Rankings, we are scrupulous and transparent. Here we detail what goes into our assessment of almost 1,400 institutions worldwide

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings are the only global performance tables that judge research-intensive universities across all their core missions: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. We use 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons, trusted by students, academics, university leaders, industry and governments.

The performance indicators are grouped into five areas: Teaching (the learning environment); Research (volume, income and reputation); Citations (research influence); International outlook (staff, students and research); and Industry Income (knowledge transfer).

Teaching (the learning environment): 30%
Reputation survey: 15%
Staff-to-student ratio: 4.5%
Doctorate-to-bachelor’s ratio: 2.25%
Doctorates-awarded-to-academic-staff ratio: 6%
Institutional income: 2.25%

he most recent Academic Reputation Survey (run annually) that underpins this category was carried out between November 2018 and March 2019. It examined the perceived prestige of institutions in teaching. The responses were statistically representative of the global academy’s geographical and subject mix. The 2019 data are combined with the results of the 2018 survey, giving more than 21,000 responses.

As well as giving a sense of how committed an institution is to nurturing the next generation of academics, a high proportion of postgraduate research students also suggests the provision of teaching at the highest level that is thus attractive to graduates and effective at developing them. This indicator is normalised to take account of a university’s unique subject mix, reflecting that the volume of doctoral awards varies by discipline.

Institutional income is scaled against academic staff numbers and normalised for purchasing-power parity (PPP). It indicates an institution’s general status and gives a broad sense of the infrastructure and facilities available to students and staff.

Research (volume, income and reputation): 30%
Reputation survey: 18%
Research income: 6%
Research productivity: 6%
The most prominent indicator in this category looks at a university’s reputation for research excellence among its peers, based on the responses to our annual Academic Reputation Survey.

Research income is scaled against academic staff numbers and adjusted for purchasing-power parity (PPP). This is a controversial indicator because it can be influenced by national policy and economic circumstances. But income is crucial to the development of world-class research, and because much of it is subject to competition and judged by peer review, our experts suggested that it was a valid measure. This indicator is fully normalised to take account of each university’s distinct subject profile, reflecting the fact that research grants in science subjects are often bigger than those awarded for the highest-quality social science, arts and humanities research.

To measure productivity we count the number of publications published in the academic journals indexed by Elsevier’s Scopus database per scholar, scaled for institutional size and normalised for subject. This gives a sense of the university’s ability to get papers published in quality peer-reviewed journals. Last year, we devised a method to give credit for papers that are published in subjects where a university declares no staff.

Citations (research influence): 30%
Our research influence indicator looks at universities’ role in spreading new knowledge and ideas.

We examine research influence by capturing the average number of times a university’s published work is cited by scholars globally. This year, our bibliometric data supplier Elsevier examined 77.4 million citations to 12.8 million journal articles, article reviews, conference proceedings, books and book chapters published over five years. The data include more than 23,400 academic journals indexed by Elsevier’s Scopus database and all indexed publications between 2014 and 2018. Citations to these publications made in the six years from 2014 to 2019 are also collected.

The citations help to show us how much each university is contributing to the sum of human knowledge: they tell us whose research has stood out, has been picked up and built on by other scholars and, most importantly, has been shared around the global scholarly community to expand the boundaries of our understanding, irrespective of discipline.

The data are normalised to reflect variations in citation volume between different subject areas. This means that institutions with high levels of research activity in subjects with traditionally high citation counts do not gain an unfair advantage.

We have blended equal measures of a country-adjusted and non-country-adjusted raw measure of citations scores.

In 2015-16, we excluded papers with more than 1,000 authors because they were having a disproportionate impact on the citation scores of a small number of universities. In 2016-17, we designed a method for reincorporating these papers. Working with Elsevier, we developed a fractional counting approach that ensures that all universities where academics are authors of these papers will receive at least 5 per cent of the value of the paper, and where those that provide the most contributors to the paper receive a proportionately larger contribution.

International outlook (staff, students, research): 7.5%
Proportion of international students: 2.5%
Proportion of international staff: 2.5%
International collaboration: 2.5%
The ability of a university to attract undergraduates, postgraduates and faculty from all over the planet is key to its success on the world stage.

In the third international indicator, we calculate the proportion of a university’s total research journal publications that have at least one international co-author and reward higher volumes. This indicator is normalised to account for a university’s subject mix and uses the same five-year window as the “Citations: research influence” category.

Industry income (knowledge transfer): 2.5%
A university’s ability to help industry with innovations, inventions and consultancy has become a core mission of the contemporary global academy. This category seeks to capture such knowledge-transfer activity by looking at how much research income an institution earns from industry (adjusted for PPP), scaled against the number of academic staff it employs.

The category suggests the extent to which businesses are willing to pay for research and a university’s ability to attract funding in the commercial marketplace – useful indicators of institutional quality.


Universities can be excluded from the World University Rankings if they do not teach undergraduates, or if their research output amounted to fewer than 1,000 relevant publications between 2014 and 2018 (with a minimum of 150 a year). Universities can also be excluded if 80 per cent or more of their research output is exclusively in one of our 11 subject areas.

Data collection

Institutions provide and sign off their institutional data for use in the rankings. On the rare occasions when a particular data point is not provided, we enter a conservative estimate for the affected metric. By doing this, we avoid penalising an institution too harshly with a “zero” value for data that it overlooks or does not provide, but we do not reward it for withholding them.

Getting to the final result

Moving from a series of specific data points to indicators, and finally to a total score for an institution, requires us to match values that represent fundamentally different data. To do this, we use a standardisation approach for each indicator, and then combine the indicators in the proportions indicated in the table.

The standardisation approach we use is based on the distribution of data within a particular indicator, where we calculate a cumulative probability function, and evaluate where a particular institution’s indicator sits within that function.

For all indicators except for the Academic Reputation Survey, we calculate the cumulative probability function using a version of Z-scoring. The distribution of the data in the Academic Reputation Survey requires us to add an exponential component.

The calculation of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020 has been independently audited by professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), making these the only global university rankings to be subjected to full, independent scrutiny of this nature.


Quantum Technology

Quantum technology, particularly quantum information science and the development of future electronics, is considered to be one of the major technologies that would totally change human life and lead us into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It lies at the heart of many future technologies because most of the future technologies – for example, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and their future development and potential – are all based on and limited by the power of computation and communication. It is believed that only quantum information processing can fully allow AI and other relevant technologies to achieve their potential or even revolutionise them.

We are now entering the era of the so-called second quantum revolution, where many intriguing quantum properties, such as superposition, entanglement and nonlocality, can be utilised to develop new technologies. Implementation of these quantum technologies combines a wide range of research, from quantum theory and algorithms to all aspects of quantum engineering in materials, devices, architectures, and so on. Over the past decade, NCKU has put a lot of resources and manpower towards quantum science and technology. This investment has led to the finest research outcomes in Taiwan and a new Center for Quantum Frontiers of Research and Technology (QFort).

QFort focuses on three strongly correlated research directions: theory for quantum devices and quantum computations; superconductor-semiconductor (and other emergent materials) hybrid quantum devices and qubits; and quantum material foundry.

Many outstanding enterprises, including Google, Microsoft, Intel and IBM, etc, have started to develop their own quantum computers or quantum software. The ultimate goal is to construct the universal quantum computer, providing overwhelming advantages against the classical one. The research team at QFort will use the quantum computer platforms, such as IBM-Q or Rigetti Computing, to test our quantum theory. From this, they will develop some efficient quantum algorithms to accomplish the desired tasks. They plan to examine the non-trivial properties in quantum correlations, including the spatial quantum steering and its temporal version, by constructing the efficient quantum circuits running on these platforms. In addition, to support the experimental research, they plan to study temporal quantum correlations in our hybrid quantum devices. This includes formulating precise measures of quantum correlations and investigating applications in quantum networks. They also plan to explore potential quantum sensing applications.


Another major research direction is to create and develop complementary metal oxide semiconductor-compatible (ie, promising for rapid scaling) hybrid quantum bits and devices by integrating superconductors and semiconductors, or other emergent materials, including topological insulators. For example, it can address a major challenge of scaling up the number of semiconducting spin qubits, since entanglement between them has been limited by very short-range exchange interactions. Hybridising superconducting microwave cavities and semiconductor spin qubits makes it possible to achieve long-distance entanglement of a large number of qubits. The research team has so far achieved many pioneering advancements in semiconductor quantum electronics. For example, it developed the world’s first all-electric all-semiconductor spin transistor by employing quantum point contacts as the spin injector and detector. It has also created a method to simultaneously manipulate and probe two spin types with controllable quantum phase correlation, which could lead to new kinds of interferometer or design principles for spintronics. Moreover, the zigzag Wigner crystal and some new types of Hall effect that were recently observed by the team are not merely of fundamental interest but also have potential technological applications; for example, serving as a quantum mediator to couple qubits that are physically apart.

Emergent quantum materials can create new paths to advance quantum technology, since intriguing and exotic quantum features contained in these materials can lead to new design principles and architectures in quantum logics; for example, the topological quantum computing based on the Majorana fermions. The QFort centre integrates scholars with different expertise – ranging from theoretical prediction to numerical simulation, epitaxial growth and material characterisation – to achieve cutting-edge breakthroughs in quantum materials. Their research interests centre on the topological materials, complex oxides and van der Waals materials. Some of their notable works include the theoretical prediction of the very first topological semimetal, an all-optical control of multiple ferroic orders beyond room temperature in a non-volatile way, and the first realisation of a gate-free monolayer pn diode.

Quantum science and technology is a highly interdisciplinary field, associated with physics, nanotechnology, material science, electrical engineering, computer science, and so on. QFort at NCKU has successfully integrated outstanding scientists and engineers from different disciplines and different countries to serve as a research hub and facilitate the development of quantum technology.


ভাঙার অনুমোদন নিয়ে গোপনে জাহাজ নির্মাণ!

জাহাজ ভাঙা শিল্পে বিশ্বের শীর্ষ দেশ এখন বাংলাদেশ। সম্প্রতি আন্তর্জাতিক এনজিও সংস্থা     ‘শিপ ব্রেকিং প্লাটফর্মের’ এক প্রতিবেদনে বাংলাদেশকে এ স্বীকৃতি দেয়া হয়। তবে দেশের শিপইয়ার্ডগুলোতে বিদেশ থেকে আমদানি করা স্ক্র্যাপ জাহাজ ভাঙার লাইসেন্স দেয়া হলেও নিয়ম লঙ্ঘন করে অনেক ইয়ার্ডে নতুন জাহাজ নির্মাণ করা হচ্ছে। সরকারকে রাজস্ব ফাঁকি দিতে পরিত্যক্ত জাহাজের অব্যবহূত যন্ত্রাংশ দিয়ে বানানো হচ্ছে এসব নৌযান। এতে নৌপথে ঝুঁকি বাড়ছে। যেটা সরাসরি আইনের লঙ্ঘন বলে জানিয়েছে পরিবেশ অধিদপ্তর। প্রতিষ্ঠানটি বলছে, শিপ ব্রেকিং ইয়ার্ডগুলোকে ছাড়পত্র দেয়া হয়েছে আমদানি করা পুরনো জাহাজ কাটার জন্য, নতুন জাহাজ নির্মাণের জন্য নয়। লাইসেন্স ছাড়া যেকোনো সাইজের নতুন জাহাজ কেউ নির্মাণ করতে চাইলে সেটা সম্পূর্ণ বেআইনি।

শিপইয়ার্ডগুলোতে নতুন জাহাজ নির্মাণ হচ্ছে এমন চিত্র উঠে এসেছে পরিবেশ অধিদপ্তরের সাম্প্রতিক এক প্রতিবেদনে। প্রতিবেদন অনুযায়ী, চট্টগ্রামের সীতাকুণ্ড উপজেলার পাঁচটি ইয়ার্ডে নতুন জাহাজ নির্মাণের কাজ চালানো হচ্ছে বলে প্রমাণ পাওয়া গেছে। এসব ইয়ার্ডের মধ্যে মেসার্স এইচএ মান্নান স্টিল, মেসার্স ক্রিস্টাল শিপার্স লিমিটেড, মেসার্স ওশান ইস্পাত, মেসার্স জিরি সুবেদার স্টিল রি-রোলিং মিলস লিমিটেড এই চারটি শিপইয়ার্ডে সরাসরি পুরনো স্ক্র্যাপের সহায়তায় বার্জ জাহাজ তৈরি করা হচ্ছে। অন্যদিকে মেসার্স আরএ শিপ ব্রেকিং ইয়ার্ডে সরেজমিন প্রমাণ না পেলেও সেখানে গোপনে নতুন জাহাজ নির্মাণ হচ্ছে বলে ধারণা করছেন পরিবেশ অধিদপ্তরের পরিদর্শকরা।

সম্প্রতি স্ক্র্যাপ জাহাজ বিভাজনকারী শিপ ব্রেকিং ইয়ার্ডে অনুমোদনহীনভাবে জাহাজ নির্মাণ কার্যক্রম পরিচালনার দায়ে অভিযুক্ত চার ইয়ার্ডের বিরুদ্ধে এনফোর্সমেন্ট মামলা দায়ের করার জন্য সুপারিশ করেন সরেজমিন পরিদর্শন করা দুই পরিদর্শক। বাংলাদেশ পরিবেশ সংরক্ষণ আইন ১৯৯৫ (সংশোধিত ২০১০) ও পরিবেশ সংরক্ষণ বিধিমালা, ১৯৯৭ (সংশোধিত ২০০২), অনুসারে এ মামলার সুপারিশ করা হয়।

পরিবেশ অধিদপ্তরের পরিদর্শকরা জানান, লোকবল সংকটের সমস্যা থাকলেও আমরা নিয়মিত শিপইয়ার্ডগুলো পরিদর্শন করে থাকি। তবে আমাদের কাছে তথ্য আসে যে, মালিকরা তাদের ইয়ার্ডে পুরনো স্ক্র্যাপের সাহায্যে নতুন জাহাজ গোপনে তৈরি করে সেগুলো ব্যবহার করছে।

পরিদর্শকদের দেয়া তথ্য অনুযায়ী, মেসার্স  এইচএ মান্নান স্টিলে আট-নয় বছর ধরে কোনো স্ক্র্যাপ জাহাজ কাটা না হলেও পুরনো জাহাজের প্লেট ব্যবহার করে বার্জ নির্মাণ করে মালিক অন্য জায়গায় নিয়ে ব্যবহার করছে। এদিকে মেসার্স ক্রিস্টাল শিপার্স লিমিটেডের জাহাজ নির্মাণের কাজ শেষ পর্যায়ে। অন্যদিকে মেসার্স ওশান ইস্পাত ইয়ার্ডে একটি জাহাজ নির্মাণ শেষ করে সমুদ্রে চলাচলের জন্য ব্যবহার করছে এবং আরেকাটি নির্মাণের কাজ শেষ পর্যায়ে। আর মেসার্স জিরি সুবেদার স্টিল রি-রোলিং মিলস লিমিটেডের ইয়ার্ডে দুটি জাহাজের নির্মাণকাজ চলছে। যার মধ্যে একটি নির্মাণের শেষ পর্যায়ে, অন্যটির কাজ চলছে।

সর্বশেষ মেসার্স আরএ শিপ ব্রেকিংয়ের ইয়ার্ডে জাহাজ নির্মাণ হচ্ছে এমন অভিযোগ থাকলেও পরিদর্শনে সেটা পাওয়া যায়নি। তবে এ ইয়ার্ডে গোপনে বার্জ জাহাজ নির্মাণ হয়ে থাকতে পারে বলে আশঙ্কা করছেন তারা। নতুন এ জাহাজ নির্মাণ অন্যান্য ইয়ার্ডে হচ্ছে কিনা, সে বিষয়ে গোপনে খোঁজ রাখছেন পরিবেশ অধিদপ্তরের সংশ্লিষ্ট কর্মকর্তারা। অসমর্থিত সূত্রের বরাত দিয়ে তারা বলছেন, এগুলোর বাইরে আরো ১০টির বেশি ইয়ার্ডে এ জাহাজ নির্মাণ হতে পারে।

এ প্রসঙ্গে পরিবেশ অধিদপ্তরের পরিচালক (চট্টগ্রাম অঞ্চল) মোহাম্মদ মোয়াজ্জেম হোসাইন বণিক বার্তাকে বলেন, জাহাজ ভাঙা শিল্প এবং জাহাজ নির্মাণ শিল্পের জন্য ভিন্ন ছাড়পত্র সংগ্রহ করতে হয়। কিন্তু কেউ জাহাজ ভাঙা শিল্পের জন্য লাইসেন্স নিয়ে জাহাজ নির্মাণ করতে পারে না। আমাদের কাছে যে প্রমাণ আছে তাতে চারটি প্রতিষ্ঠান সরাসরি পরিবেশ অধিদপ্তরের অনুমতি না নিয়েই ছয়টি নতুন জাহাজ নির্মাণ করছে। যেটা পরিবেশ আইনের সুস্পষ্ট লঙ্ঘন। এমনকি তাদের কাছে বিডার (বাংলাদেশ বিনিয়োগ উন্নয়ন কর্তৃপক্ষ) কোনো অনুমতিপত্র আছে কিনা, সেটিও খতিয়ে দেখা হচ্ছে। আমরা প্রতিষ্ঠানগুলোর বিরুদ্ধে কঠোর পদক্ষেপ নেব। প্রয়োজন হলে ইয়ার্ডের অনুমোদন বাতিল করার মতো সিদ্ধান্ত নিতেও পিছপা হবে না পরিবেশ অধিদপ্তর।

এর আগে গত বছর ইস্পাত শিল্পের গ্রুপ কেএসআরএমের মালিকানাধীন খাজা স্টিলে দুটি নতুন জাহাজ এবং গোল্ডেন ইস্পাত লিমিটেডের মালিকানাধীন গোল্ডেন আয়রন অ্যালায়েন্স শিপইয়ার্ডে একটি জাহাজ নির্মাণের প্রমাণ পাওয়া যায়। পরবর্তী সময়ে তাদের জরিমানা করে জাহাজ নির্মাণ বন্ধ করে দেয় পরিবেশ অধিদপ্তর।

সংশ্লিষ্টরা বলছেন, দেশের জাহাজ ভাঙা শিল্প খাত বিশ্বে শীর্ষস্থানে থাকলেও দেশে এ খাতে ক্রমশ জটিলতা বাড়ছে। এদিকে সরকারের কর ফাঁকি দেয়ার জন্য এসব জাহাজ নির্মাণ করা হচ্ছে কিনা, সে বিষয়ে সংশ্লিষ্ট দপ্তরের তদন্ত করা উচিত।


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