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Cablegate: The Bangladesh Paradox at the Local Level: Some Good

R 050954Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 7182
AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU
AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
AMCONSUL KOLKATA

UNCLAS DHAKA 000833


STATE FOR F, SCA/FO, SCA/PB, SCA/RA
USAID FOR ADMINISTRATOR HENRIETTA FORE; ASIA FOR AA MARK WARD;
ASIA/SCAA FOR RENEE HOWELL


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID ELAB EAGR ETRD SOCI PGOV BG
SUBJECT: THE BANGLADESH PARADOX AT THE LOCAL LEVEL: SOME GOOD
THINGS ARE HAPPENING

REF: DHAKA 00770


SUMMARY
-------

1. The USG is contributing to the development of Bangladesh and
finds many outstanding, willing partners. On a recent trip to
CoxQs Bazaar and Teknaf in south eastern Bangladesh, the
Ambassador and other Embassy officers observed several USAID
projects which are helping to modernize energy use, protect
precious bio-diversity areas, and train women to build solar power
units, among other activities. Despite substantial challenges--
including world-wide increases in the cost of food and fuel, local
government inefficiencies and corruption, and the devastation
caused by natural disasters-- Bangladesh shows an admirable
ability to achieve positive results in the face of adversity.

INAUGURATION OF A BIOGAS PLANT AT THE AL JAMIATUL ISLAMIA DARUS-
SUNNA MADRASSAH AT HNILLA, SOUTH OF COXQS BAZAR
--------------------------------------------- -------

2. Southeastern Bangladesh contains some of the last remaining
forest and bio-diverse areas in the country. Illegal hunting and
rampant tree-cutting for local fuel needs provide two major
challenges to the longevity of these nature areas. USAIDQs
Nishorgo project, followed this year by its new Integrated
Protected Area Co-Management (IPAC) project, focus on conserving
biological diversity and building technical capacity for the
management of protected areas. One key objective is to reduce
dependency on firewood obtained from protected areas.

3. At the Al Jamiatul Madrassah, a co-educational residential
religious school for more than 700 boys and girls, the Nishorgo
project installed a human-waste biogas plant and improved stoves
through USAIDQs Nishorgo project. This madrassah, one of many
surrounding the Teknaf Nature Reserve that has exclusively used
wood from the reserve as fuel, is now taking a leading role in
adopting this technology to reduce the exploitation of forest
resources, lower operating costs and provide a healthier
environment for the students.

4. At the madrassah the Ambassador met with cooks and observed
the operation of two improved stoves that save an estimated 78
tons of wood fuel annually. Introduction of this technology will
save the madrassah 75 percent of its energy costs. Moreover, these
steps will save 288 mature trees per year, preventing 50 tons of
green house gases from entering into the atmosphere. This will
help mitigate the impact of climate change. Through Nishorgo, 878
households near the Teknaf Game Reserve have purchased and are
using the environmentally friendly stoves which generate more heat
with less fuel. Another 2,859 of these stoves are in use around
other environmentally protected areas in the country.

5. At the same madrassah, the Ambassador visited a human waste
biogas plant, the first of its kind in the area and the first in a
madrassah. The students produce 300 kg. of human waste a day.
The biogas plant uses human waste as raw material to produce 425
cubic feet of biogas each day, enough to cook 36,500 kg of rice
per year. The madrassah is the first educational institution in
the greater CoxQs Bazaar area to adopt this improved energy
technology. The gas will replace 7.5 tons of fuel wood per year.


INAUGURATION OF A TOURIST WELCOME CENTER AT THE MOCHONI NATURE
PARK AT TEKNAF
--------------------------------------------- -------

6. The Ambassador inaugurated a community-managed Nature Tourist
Center at the Mochoni Nature Park located within the Teknaf Game
Reserve south of CoxQs Bazaar. Developed with support from the
Nishorgo project, the new Mochoni Nature Park has substantial
potential for nature tourism, given its lush and mountainous
scenery. The Mochoni complex also houses student and staff
dormitories. The eco-friendly architecture marks a departure from
common local building designs. A new Nishorgo eco-cottage recently
opened adjacent to the Mochoni Nature Park, the first of several
small lodges designed to encourage local tourism, thus
demonstrating the nature reserve is a community asset which should
be protected.

7. With technical assistance from the Nishorgo project, the
Mochoni reserve utilizes a co-management system which brings
together representatives from local government, business, NGOs and
local community groups to jointly manage issues of common interest
in and around the park. This co-management system, implemented
around several parks and reserves in the country, has proven to be
an effective method of bringing stake-holders interested in all
aspects of the parks and its resources together, helping ensure
the agreed-upon objectives are sustained.

SOLAR POWER TAPS THE LOCAL SUNSHINE AND TRAINS YOUNG WOMEN IN A
NEW HI-TECH ENERGY EFFICIENT RESOURCE
--------------------------------------------- -------

8. The Embassy team visited the Grameen Shakti Technology Center
in CoxQs Bazar. The center is one of twenty established in rural
Bangladesh by Grameen Shakti, an affiliate of Grameen Bank, with
funding under USAIDQs Rural Empowerment through Renewable Energy
activity. The activity focuses on empowering rural women and
youth by training them as technicians in the solar renewable
energy sector. Over 1000 rural women have been trained to provide
technical support to this on-going and rapidly expanding program.
The USAID-funded activity has trained 15,000 women and young
people on the advantages, use and maintenance of renewable energy
resources. The Ambassador observed a training program for women
users of solar home systems, and exchanged views on the benefits
of solar energy and the usefulness of the training led by women
engineers at the technology center. The Ambassador observed women
entrepreneurs trained at the center use their newly acquired
skills to assemble solar home system components through which they
earn about $80 per month, locally considered a good wage. Grameen
Shakti plans to continue training women technicians with a target
of 100,000 over the next five years. In addition, they aim to
install one million solar home systems by 2015.

BANGLADESHQS SHRIMP FARMS IMPROVE THEIR PRODUCTIVITY UNDER CAARP
--------------------------------------------- -------

9. Shrimp exports are the second largest revenue earner in
Bangladesh, after textiles. The shrimp industry was badly
decimated as a result of Cyclone Sidr in November 2007, when
shrimp farms in southern Bangladesh were nearly totally destroyed
by the storm. USAIDQs Cyclone Affected Aquaculture Rehabilitation
Project (CAARP) is designed to re-establish and enhance the
productive capacity of fish resources in the south and southeast
of the country, thus contributing to the livelihoods of poor
families in rural areas.

10. The Embassy team visited the Niribili shrimp hatchery in
CoxQs Bazar, supported by a USAID World Fish Center project. The
shrimp hatchery is part of a program to improve the quality and
quantity of BangladeshQs shrimp for the export market in socially
and environmentally acceptable ways. Shrimp post-larvae are the
most important input for producing and raising the yield and
quality of shrimp sold to farmers, who then raise the shrimp to
full size before export.

11. The Niribili hatchery is an industry pioneer in terms of
improved productivity and quality. The Niribili hatchery, with US
support, has developed and expanded its business network from the
southeast of Bangladesh to the southwest where the shrimp farmers
are concentrated. A commitment to quality has helped shrimp
farmers grow shrimp with a substantially reduced incidence of
disease. Hatcheries like Niribili are part of the local shrimp
production chain leading to annual shrimp exports of $455 million.

12. In addition to seeing shrimp larvae raised from eggs, the
Embassy team also visited the USAID-developed Pranti laboratory in
CoxQs Bazaar, responsible for testing shrimp larvae for disease.
The future of the shrimp industry here depends on quality control,
and this state of the art laboratory will help Bangladesh increase
the quantity and quality of their shrimp. We observed shrimp
being screened for various viruses which can infect and wipe out a
shrimp farmerQs entire crop, resulting in huge losses and
financial ruin. After being screened, shrimp larvae are available
for sale to shrimp farmers who are assured that the larvae are
healthy and will not infect the rest of their crop.

RURAL ELECTRIC POWER ON THE US COOPERATIVE MODEL
--------------------------------------------- ---

13. Energy shortage is a major impediment to economic growth in
Bangladesh, especially in rural areas. The Increased Capacity for
Energy Access project of USAID is designed to improve the
management of rural electric cooperatives and to strengthen the
local governance over the electricity sector. USAIDQs prime
implementing partner for this activity is the National Rural
Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) which is comprised of
electric cooperatives in the US.

14. In CoxQs Bazar we visited a rural electric cooperative (known
locally as a Pally Bidyut Shomity or PBS). This PBS, like the
other 69 PBSs in Bangladesh, receives assistance from the U.S.
Government through USAID to expand access to electricity in rural
areas. The Ambassador met with the local PBS management and
congratulated them for a well-managed cooperative. He also met
with beneficiaries who were waiting for new connections and to pay
bills. The Ambassador asked customers if they were satisfied with
the electric cooperativeQs services. While customers were pleased
with the service orientation of the PBS, they expressed
dissatisfaction with the frequent disruption in the supply of
electricity, a widespread problem in Bangladesh, particularly in
rural areas. The USG has supported rural electrification in
Bangladesh since 1977, providing more than $220 million since the
programQs inception.


QUALITY MEDICAL SERVICES IN A POOR RURAL SETTING, COURTESY OF A US
FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATION, WITH USAID TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
--------------------------------------------- -------

15. The Memorial Christian Hospital at Malumghat, Chakaria, CoxQs
Bazar, provides both outpatient and inpatient medical treatment
and care to over 35,000 patients per year. The purpose of the
visit was to observe the USAID supported obstetric fistula
treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention activities implemented
by EngenderHealth in partnership with this hospital. (Note:
Fistula is a condition caused by prolonged labor that leads to a
hole between the birth canal and the intestine, with the result
that fecal matter and bodily fluids pass into the birth canal.
Women with this condition are often abandoned by their husbands
and ostracized because of their inability to have children and the
foul smell). After a briefing on the fistula program and other
hospital activities, the Ambassador and team members walked
through different sections of the hospital including the fistula
ward set up with USAID support.

16. Since July 2005, the hospital has repaired 72 fistula cases,
sometimes involving complicated and multiple surgeries in
individual cases, and has raised awareness of health workers and
key community members in the district on the causes, prevention,
treatment, and rehabilitation of fistula cases. The program has
effectively integrated fistula repair and rehabilitation services
at the hospital and coordinated clinical and outreach programs. In
addition, Memorial Christian Hospital offers primary health care,
emergency care, labor and delivery care, gynecological, general
surgery, orthopedics care, and outpatient care for people in the
southern part of Chittagong district and in CoxQs Bazar district.
The hospital treats an average of 32,000 outpatients and 3,500
inpatients annually, performs 1,200 surgical operations and
approximately 1,000 deliveries annually.

17. The hospital is renowned for its dedication and commitment.
The exceptional commitment of the staff in delivering health
services to the community, key to the success of the fistula
program, is very impressive. The staff at the hospital includes
American surgeons who spend years in residence. Given the
isolated venue of this hospital, this island of American medical
excellence is a proud achievement. The USGQs partnership with
this hospital has created a wonderful opportunity for poor women
to access fistula and other medical services and permitted them to
return to their normal lives.


PASI

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