Pollution persists due to lack of political will: Syeda Rizwana Hasan

Syeda Rizwana Hasan speaks at a discussion at the BRAC Centre in Dhaka on 31 January, 2024.Courtesy

Syeda Rizwana Hasan, the chief executive of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) and a lawyer of Bangladesh Supreme Court, has said the proliferation of plastic and polyethene use and pollution remains unchecked due to lack of a political will.

In her keynote speech during a discussion on ‘Plastic and Environment’ at the BRAC Centre in Dhaka on Wednesday, she also emphasised that plastic is not a cheap product; while it may appear inexpensive, its detrimental long-term effects are enormous.

The programme 'Sustainability Shorts' was launched with the discussion, as an endeavour to amplify messages around sustainability and cascade best practices among communities, according to a press release.

Syeda Rizwana Hasan highlighted that everyday 3,000 factories are producing 14 million polythene bags in the country. She suggested using environment-friendly biodegradable indigenous materials like jute, fabrics etc. for product packaging and everyday shopping instead of single-use plastic.

This approach, she noted, would not only protect the environment but also contribute to the expansion of domestic products.

In an effort to tackle plastic pollution, top local and multinational companies have formed the 'Bangladesh Sustainability Alliance' (BSA) in November 2023 in presence of the-then special envoy to the prime minister on environment and climate change, Saber Hossein Chowdhury.

Asif Saleh, executive director of BRAC, moderated the question-and-answer session. In his speech he said that BSA serves as a platform where diverse perspectives on preventing plastic pollution and protecting the environment are welcomed and encouraged. While introducing Syeda Rizwana Hasan to the audience, he mentioned that she is recognised universally for her wisdom, knowledge, clarity, and bold actions in environmental protection.

During her keynote speech, Syeda Rizwana Hasan presented various facts and data, emphasising the domestic and international laws related to plastic pollution and the necessity of ensuring proper plastic waste management.

She pointed out that between 2005 and 2020, per capita consumption of plastic products in Bangladesh increased from 3 kg to 9 kg, with a significant portion ending up in land and rivers.

She highlighted existing positive laws in the country to regulate the arbitrary use of plastic products, which requires proper law enforcement to halt plastic use and ensure effective waste management. Challenges such as insufficient market monitoring and budget constraints in plastic waste management were also acknowledged.

Representatives from various organisations, including BRAC Enterprises, PRAN-RFL, Bangladesh Petrochemical Company Ltd., and Marico Bangladesh, participated in the session along with young climate activists.

The Bangladesh Sustainability Alliance is the first of its kind initiative that brings together businesses and other organisations to address the sustainable development agenda on a broader scale.

The alliance brings together diverse perspectives, resources and expertise from multiple stakeholders to accelerate progress on sustainable development in order to meet the greatest societal and planetary challenges. The thematic areas of work are biodiversity, nature, livelihoods and waste management.

The founding members of the Alliance are BRAC, Pran-RFL, Standard Chartered Bangladesh, Unilever Bangladesh Limited, Bangladesh Petrochemical Company Limited, and Marico Bangladesh Limited.