Conservation and development ideas of the natural environment: present and past
Translated by Adnan Tazvir
Original writer: Kazi Khaliluzzaman Ahmed
Even in the last fifty years, people have not bothered about the conservation and development of the natural environment. Natural resources such as soil, water and underground-aquatic life and other resources have been used indiscriminately by humans.
Throughout the ages, especially since the beginning of the First Industrial Revolution after 1750. The Goals were more economic development, more resource mobilization. As a result of the advancement of technology, it is possible to gradually increase the use of natural resources by controlling the nature. In the end, not only the use, but also the nature is being destroyed.
The rapid increase in the use of trees, organic matter and especially fossil fuels (petrol, kerosene) has led to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. It accumulates in the atmosphere and disrupts the return of sunlight from the earth, which is gradually condensing. As a result, global warming is increasing and natural disasters are occurring more and more devastatingly all over the world than in the past.
Although the issue was discussed somewhere in the middle of the last century, it did not, in fact, gain importance in the international arena or at the domestic level in policy-making, even in research. However, indiscriminate felling of trees, cutting down of hills, increasing use of various natural resources, dumping of waste in water, destruction of rivers and reservoirs continue in the countries of the world. The degradation of the natural environment and the environment has not yet gained much importance in any discussion on development in the domestic and international arena.
The importance of the problem of natural environment and the increasing concentration of the environment in the world consciousness first came to the fore in 1972 through the United Nations Conference on Human Environment held in Stockholm. Awareness of this and the importance of taking steps to control environmental degradation gradually increased.
In fact, when Bangladesh became independent in 1971, the natural environment was not a serious issue in the country or at the international level. Poverty alleviation was the most important issue at that time by accelerating economic development.
In reality, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of independent Bangladesh, was aware of various aspects of the environment and took a number of important steps to protect the environment. He realized that for the recovery and progress of the devastated economy of Bangladesh and the protection and development of natural resources for the protection of human life and continuous improvement of their living standards.
Bangabandhu’s awareness of the environment and some important steps in this regard are indicative of his extraordinary wisdom and prudence in the context of the development-concept prevailing in the world at that time (which did not include environmental protection).
Needless to say, his meditation and tireless work were focused on taking measures to ensure the rehabilitation and resilience of a devastated economy and countless poor people of the country. In addition to being very busy in fulfilling that responsibility, he was also keen on environmental awareness.
The role of wildlife is important in maintaining the balance of the environment. Biodiversity is shrinking worldwide. Due to human aggression and the impact of climate change, the environment of wildlife is becoming increasingly hostile due to the wide variation of cold and heat. Therefore, it is important to take appropriate measures for the protection of wildlife.
Bangabandhu realized this at that time and on his instructions ‘Wildlife (Conservation) Order 1973’ was issued on 17th March 1973. This order was later amended twice and the ‘Bangladesh Wildlife (Conservation) Act (Amended), 1974’ was enacted.
Catching, killing, hunting or injuring most native wildlife is prohibited. Under this Act, the government is empowered to establish wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and protected areas wherever appropriate. “Today, everyone is concerned about the current fragile state of biodiversity. I believe that if the path taken by Bangabandhu for the conservation of wildlife was followed properly, the biodiversity in Bangladesh would be much better than it is now.”
Bangabandhu attached importance to waterways for riverine Bangladesh. The rivers are wide all over the country and the cost of shipping is also low. Therefore, waterways can play a special role in human travel and transportation of goods. Despite recent policy and efforts to develop waterways by dredging rivers, progress has been limited.
In fact, in this riverine country, a high quality waterway network could have played a significant role in building a golden Bengal by ensuring relatively affordable shipping and navigation across the country, from which the country and its people have been deprived till now. It is important to pay special attention to the present reality in the way shown by Bangabandhu.
There are many haors (a kind of swamp) across a wide area in the north-east of Bangladesh. The total area of the haors is about 850,000 hectares, which is about one-fifth of the total area of the country. Haor based areas provides 16-17 percent of the total paddy production in the country and about one-fifth of the fish production.
Haors are also a land of natural beauty and biodiversity (especially in the case of fish). Haor based areas continues to play a brilliant role in the field of folk music. Realizing the multifaceted importance of haors, Bangabandhu directed the formation of Haor Development Board in 1974. This board was abolished in 1982. Later, on the instructions of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the Bangladesh Haor and Wetland Development Board was formed again in 2001.
Finally, on 17 November 2014, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina directed to upgrade the board to the level of ‘Bangladesh Haor and Wetland Development Department’ under the Ministry of Water Resources and after all the formalities, the department was constituted on 24 July 2016.
In order to speed up its activities, the National Committee on Haor and Wetland Development of Bangladesh was formed under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and a 20-year haor master plan was formulated from 2012-2032 for the overall development of the haor area including public life, livelihood and environment.
In fact, the people of Haor are still facing various problems. Paddy is wasted from time to time in flash floods. Many times this happens because the dam is not repaired in time. Ordinary people are being deprived due to leasing of reservoir and canal bills to some people.
They are not allowed to fish even though it is legal in open water during the rainy season. The educational activities of the students were disrupted due to the disruption of traffic during the monsoon. Government officials and even many NGO officials do not stay in the workplace due to the difficult living conditions in Haor. As a result, the people of Haor are often deprived of health care and other assistance.
The above and other issues are supposed to be in the master plan. It is important to implement planned, effective and continuous multi-dimensional activities for the development of haor and haor people. Since the National Committee on Haor Development has been constituted under the leadership of the Prime Minister and a master plan has been prepared, it is hoped that the implementation of various activities for the development of Haor will gain momentum in terms of reality.
If this happens, it will be a very important addition to the national development of the people of Haor and at the same time realizing the importance of Haor in the national arena, real respect will be shown to Bangabandhu’s instructions to take steps for the development of Haor.
Bangabandhu was aware of Bangladesh’s rights in the sea and maritime economy. As we know, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Germany ruled on March 14, 2012, with Myanmar, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands, ruled on July 7, 2014, settled with India, and both In that case, Bangladesh won. As a result, Bangladesh got 1 lakh 18 thousand 813 square kilometres of state sea and beyond that, Bangladesh’s free access to the continental shelf was ensured.
The Bangabandhu government also took initial steps to establish state authority at sea by enacting the Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act, 1974. This Act declared the legal authority of Bangladesh in the coastal, adjoining and economic zones, protected areas and subcontinent. However, if there is a dispute with any other country over any part, it can be settled.
If it does not resolve the issue, the relevant international legal or arbitration system may be resorted to. The Bangabandhu government started negotiations with the Indian government after India demanded a part of it and at one stage the final decision was entrusted to the then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi and the then President of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
However, no agreement has been reached with India in this regard during his lifetime. Moreover, Myanmar also raises demands in some parts. No other party or military government that has been in power for a long time after Bangabandhu has solved this problem.
It is significant that under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Bangabandhu, a successful settlement of maritime disputes with India and Myanmar was in favour of Bangladesh. Undoubtedly, the initiative taken by Bangabandhu to establish the just rights of Bangladesh at sea was a prudent step in the light of reality.
In conclusion, it was not easy to get information about ‘Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib’s environmental thinking’. The above discussion-analysis is presented on the basis of all the information that has been collected in all possible investigations in a short time at hand. This shows that in just three and a half years of his rule, he has also given very far-sighted thinking about the environment and has taken many initiatives.
Source: The Daily Ittefaq