Bangladeshi scientists launch IsDB-funded eco-friendly homes in Rohingya camps

Bangladeshi scientists launch IsDB-funded eco-friendly homes in Rohingya camps
Rohingya refugees gather at Jamtoli refugee camp in Ukhia district near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (AFP/File)
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Updated 28 April 2022

Bangladeshi scientists launch IsDB-funded eco-friendly homes in Rohingya camps

Bangladeshi scientists launch IsDB-funded eco-friendly homes in Rohingya camps
  • Research on introducing jutin housing to Cox’s Bazar financed with $100k grant

DHAKA: Bangladeshi scientists have introduced eco-friendly housing to Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar using a new durable material developed in a project financed by the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank.

Bangladesh hosts more than 1.1 million Rohingya who fled neighboring Myanmar during a military crackdown in 2017. Most of them live in Cox’s Bazar district, a coastal region in the country’s east, which with the arrival of Rohingya, became the world’s largest refugee settlement.

The location, climate and topography of Cox’s Bazar make it vulnerable to natural hazards and extreme weather events such as cyclones, landslides and flash floods. The Rohingya crisis has increased the size of the population, creating new environmental risks due to deforestation and infrastructure pressure.

The construction of sustainable housing based on jutin — a combination of jute fiber and resin — has been spearheaded in Cox’s Bazar by the Dhaka-based ICDDR,B (formerly known as the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh), one of the world’s leading global health research institutes that also undertakes environmental intervention work. 

“The houses made of jutin are heat resistant, which means people will feel significantly cooler temperatures while living in these houses compared with outside temperatures,” project coordinator Dr. Mohammad Mahbubur Rahman told Arab News earlier this week.

In a pilot project, the ICDDR,B has built six jutin houses in Cox’s Bazar. Two of them are expected to be handed over to Rohingya refugees and another four will host communities in the area next month.

“Our research is still underway,” Rahman added. “We are now collecting data on these houses in different conditions, like the changes of temperature between day and night, and in different seasons.”

Jutin was invented by Bangladeshi scientist Dr. Mubarak Ahmad Khan, who patented the material in 2008. 

Lightweight, durable, bio-acceptable, heat and saline water-resistant, jutin has been developed as an alternative housing material in disaster-prone coastal areas of Bangladesh. According to Khan, it is four times stronger than tin, which is traditionally used in small house construction.

“Jutin is mainly a housing material which can be used instead of wood. It also has uses in the electric appliance and car-making industry,” Khan said. “In the cyclone-prone areas, sometimes people get injured when tin from the roofs flies away due to gusty winds.”

ICDDR,B research on introducing jutin to the camp areas of Cox’s Bazar was financed with an $100,000 grant under IsDB’s “Transform Innovation” initiative.

It costs about $1,000 to build one 14-square-meter jutin house measuring 2.6 meters in height.

Dr. Farjana Jahan, principal investigator of the jutin house pilot project, said that makeshift houses for Rohingya refugees are mainly made from plastic that is replaced every six months.

“Jutin houses are much more durable and last up to 60 years,” she told Arab News. “Jutin can be considered as a climate smart solution for addressing the shelter issues in the Rohingya camps.

“These jutin houses are fully environment friendly, free from chemical exposure, have enough ventilation and daylight facilities, and can be dismantled easily during an emergency. It will also reduce the concern with fire incidents, which is a big issue in the highly congested camp areas.”


Pentagon finds no wrongdoing in 2019 Syria strike that killed civilians

Pentagon finds no wrongdoing in 2019 Syria strike that killed civilians
Updated 6 sec ago

Pentagon finds no wrongdoing in 2019 Syria strike that killed civilians

Pentagon finds no wrongdoing in 2019 Syria strike that killed civilians
WASHINGTON: An investigation into a 2019 strike by US forces in Syria that killed numerous civilians found no violations of policy or wanton negligence, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
The internal US Army investigation focused on an operation by a special US force operating in Syria which launched an airstrike on a Daesh bastion in Baghouz on March 18, 2019.
The investigation was sparked last year after the New York Times reported that in the original strike the US military had covered up dozens of non-combatant deaths.
The Times report said that 70 people, many of them women and children, had been killed in the strike.
The Times report said a US legal officer “flagged the strike as a possible war crime” and that “at nearly every step, the military made moves that concealed the catastrophic strike.”
But the final report of the investigation rejected that conclusion Tuesday.
It said that the US ground force commander for the anti-Daesh coalition received a request for air strike support from Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the extremists.
The commander “received confirmation that no civilians were in the strike area” and authorized the strike.
However, they later found out there were civilians at the location.
“No Rules of Engagement or Law of War violations occurred,” the investigation said.
In addition, the commander “did not deliberately or with wanton disregard cause civilian casualties,” it said.
The report said that “administrative deficiencies” delayed US military reporting on the strike, giving the impression that it was being covered up.
The Times cited an initial assessment of the incident saying that about 70 civilians could have been killed.
Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said that 52 combatants were killed, 51 of them adult males and one child, while four civilians died, one woman and three children.
Another 15 civilians, 11 women and four children, were wounded, he said.
Asked if anyone was being punished for the civilian deaths, Kirby said the investigation did not find the need to hold any individuals accountable.
The probe “did not find that anybody acted outside the law of war, that there was no malicious intent,” Kirby said.
“While we don’t always get everything right, we do try to improve. We do try to be as transparent as we can about what we learn,” he said.

Pakistani man completes 50-day motorbike ride to realize ‘dream,’ perform Umrah

Pakistani man completes 50-day motorbike ride to realize ‘dream,’ perform Umrah
Updated 49 sec ago

Pakistani man completes 50-day motorbike ride to realize ‘dream,’ perform Umrah

Pakistani man completes 50-day motorbike ride to realize ‘dream,’ perform Umrah
  • Biker, vlogger Abrar Hassan has traveled to over 80 countries, 13 on his motorcycle
  • “Warm welcome” received in Makkah, Madinah compelled him to explore other Saudi cities

ISLAMABAD: 

Pakistani biker and vlogger Abrar Hassan had already traveled to more than 80 countries, at least 12 of them on his motorcycle, by the time he decided this year it was time to pursue possibly his greatest dream — a bike ride to Saudi Arabia to perform the Umrah pilgrimage.

On Feb. 9, Hassan set out from his hometown of Nankana Sahib in Pakistan’s Punjab province, embarking on a journey that entailed crossing three continents and riding for 50 days before he arrived in Madinah on March 27. From there, he went to Makkah, Islam’s holiest city, and performed Umrah.

“It was always my dream (to travel to Saudi Arabia on a motorbike) and it came true this year,” Hassan, a mechanical engineer with a German automotive company, told Arab News in video messages from Madinah.

“There are probably some feelings you can’t describe in words ... So, everything has been surreal for me, and I absolutely loved every single moment of it.”

Hassan, who has loved adventure and photography since he was a child, said it was an “amazing experience” to cross multiple borders and meet so many people along the way. But he pointed out that the special blessing was to arrive in Madinah just a few days before the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadan and keep the first fast of the year there.

And he thanked the people of Saudi Arabia for the “warm welcome” given to him and the love he had received. He noted that one memorable experience had taken place soon after he entered the Kingdom and involved a group of women selling tea.

“When they came to know that I was traveling on a motorcycle from Pakistan to perform Umrah, they didn’t take any money from me and said, ‘you are our guest,’” he said.

A video of Hassan’s interaction with the women went viral on the internet and gained him fame in the country. “Whenever I go out with my motorcycle ... the support and love I am receiving right now is just incredible,” he added.

The affection compelled Hassan to extend his stay in the Kingdom and explore other cities.

“I have visited Riyadh, Madinah, and Makkah so far, but in the next few days I am starting my travel to different cities of Saudi Arabia,” he said. “I am going to Jeddah, Abha, Al-Bahah, Jazan, and AlUla near the Jordan border.”


Swiss woman indicted over ‘extremist knife attack’

Swiss woman indicted over ‘extremist knife attack’
Updated 26 min 39 sec ago

Swiss woman indicted over ‘extremist knife attack’

Swiss woman indicted over ‘extremist knife attack’
  • The 29-year-old unnamed woman allegedly attacked two women in a department store in the southern city of Lugano
  • She has been charged with attempted murder and violating laws against association with Al-Qaeda, Daesh and related groups

GENEVA: Swiss prosecutors said Wednesday they had indicted a woman for attempted murder on behalf of Daesh group over a brutal knife attack in November 2020.
The 29-year-old unnamed woman allegedly attacked two women in a department store in the southern city of Lugano.
She has been charged with attempted murder and violating laws against association with Al-Qaeda, Daesh and related groups, according to the indictment. She was also charged with unlawful prostitution.
The attorney general’s office said the indictment related to an ‘extremist knife attack’ and the alleged assailant, a Swiss citizen, “intended to kill her victims and to commit a terrorist act on behalf of Daesh.”
“The suspect acted willfully and with particular ruthlessness. She brutally attacked her randomly-selected victims with a knife, with the aim of killing them and thereby spreading terror throughout the population on behalf of the ‘Daesh’,” it said.
One of the two victims sustained serious neck injuries while the second victim, with help from others at the scene, managed to overpower her attacker and hold her until police arrived.
The attacker was arrested and detained.
Police quickly discovered she had been linked to a 2017 jihadism investigation.
The woman had formed a relationship on social media with an extremist fighter in Syria and attempted to travel to the war-torn country to meet him, police alleged at the time.
She was stopped by Turkish authorities at the Syrian border and sent back to Switzerland, they said, adding that the woman had suffered from mental health problems and been admitted to a psychiatric clinic.


Wall collapse at salt factory kills 12 in west India

Wall collapse at salt factory kills 12 in west India
Updated 48 min 51 sec ago

Wall collapse at salt factory kills 12 in west India

Wall collapse at salt factory kills 12 in west India
  • The workers stocking salt in bags were found buried in the wall debris in the factory
  • The injuries of 13 workers, mostly fractured bones, were not life-threatening

NEW DELHI: A wall collapsed in a salt packaging factory in western India on Wednesday, killing at least 12 workers and injuring another 13, a government administrator said.
The workers stocking salt in bags were found buried in the wall debris in the factory in Morbi district, 215 kilometers (135 miles) west of Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat state, said J.B. Patel, the district officer.
The injuries of 13 workers, mostly fractured bones, were not life-threatening, Patel said.
He also said that the rescue work was almost over. Other details were not immediately available.
Authorities are investigating the cause of the wall collapse.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the deaths as heart-rending. “In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon,” he said.
Building collapses are common in India as many of them are poorly constructed using sub-standard material. A building collapse in 2013 killed at least 72 people in Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment capital.


Afghanistan’s Taliban mediate cease-fire between Pakistan, local militants

Afghanistan’s Taliban mediate cease-fire between Pakistan, local militants
Updated 52 min 36 sec ago

Afghanistan’s Taliban mediate cease-fire between Pakistan, local militants

Afghanistan’s Taliban mediate cease-fire between Pakistan, local militants
  • A TTP statement confirmed that talks were underway in Kabul and that a cease-fire has been put in place will May 30

KABUL: The Taliban in Afghanistan have mediated a temporary cease-fire between Pakistan and a local Pakistani Taliban militant group following talks between the two sides in Kabul, an official said on Wednesday.
The Pakistani Taliban — known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — has carried out some of the bloodiest attacks inside Pakistan since 2007. It is not directly affiliated with the Afghan Taliban, but pledges allegiance to them.
“During the talks, in addition to significant progress on related issues, a temporary cease-fire was also agreed upon,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter, confirming the talks in Kabul.
Pakistan carried out a number of operations against the TTP, but, despite reducing the militant group’s footprint, it has not been able to fully stop attacks, which, in recent months, have begun to rise again along its western border.
A TTP statement on Wednesday also confirmed that talks were underway in Kabul and that a cease-fire has been put in place will May 30.
It was not clear who was representing Pakistan’s government in the talks. Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman did not reply to Reuters’ request for comment.
Islamabad says the TTP have been able to find safe haven in Afghanistan over the years — a charge both the Taliban and the previous US-backed governments have denied.
Last year, the two sides had agreed to a cease-fire but talks failed. The talks, also held inside Afghanistan, broke down due to a disagreement over the release of TTP prisoners held by Pakistan, according to local media.
Pakistan is also currently dealing with a surge of attacks by separatist insurgents in its southwestern province of Balochistan, which also borders Afghanistan.