Sustainable development plans required

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

The consequence of environmental pollution is so grave that it affects everyone in the state and society. Again, this pollution does not always hover within state borders rather spread throughout the region and the world. People in poor countries are more affected by climate change, although they have a very small contribution to it.

The World Bank's "Country Climate and Development" report published on 31 October revealed that environmental pollution is responsible for 32 per cent of deaths in Bangladesh. At least 169 children out of every 100,000 die prematurely due to pollution. Almost cent per cent people of Bangladesh breathe polluted air and various diseases including diarrhea and cholera are increasing due to water pollution. People have been suffering from mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and chikungunya due to rising temperature.

According to the World Bank report, four regions of the country are said to be more vulnerable in terms of environment. These are Barendra, Chittagong Hill Tracts, coastal and haor areas respectively. But these areas do not seem to have been prioritised in the government's anti-pollution programme. Various development projects are being adopted in Chittagong Hill Tracts by destroying hills and forests indiscriminately. Even though the water level in Barendra region is gradually decreasing, there is no effective initiative to boost the water flow of the river.

Floods wash away crops almost every year in the haor region. No sustainable plan is known to have been taken. Coastal areas are the most risk prone area. Cyclone hits the region almost every year. Due to increasing salinity, the livelihood of people in the southern region is also under serious threat.

In the event, planning minister MA Mannan underscored various programmes of the government to prevent environmental pollution and combat climate change. These programmes do not seem to be able to play a role in protecting the environment though. Rural areas are relatively safer than urban areas. Dhaka is one of the most uninhabitable cities in the world with a population of one and a half million. Both air and water here are polluted. The severe outbreak of dengue this year is also an indirect outcome of environmental pollution.

The most danger part of World Bank report is that environmental pollution has also stopped our development. Cyclones cause $1 billion in damage every year and 8 per cent of GDP is lost to environmental pollution. The government utterly failed to take any sustainable action against this scourge. Use of polythene was stopped from Dhaka city years ago which returned now in full swing.

All our development should be environmentally friendly to avoid pollution. Destruction of natural resources such as forests, rivers, wetlands, should not be allowed in the name of development. Environmental laws must be fully complied with in making industries. No matter how powerful the perpetrators are, strict action should be taken against them in case of violation of law. It must be remembered that destroying the environment means destroying the country while pushing people to death.

Among all these negative news, the vice president of the Asian region of the World Bank came up with a good one. Bangladesh has reduced the death toll from cyclones by 50 per cent in the last 50 years. But we must not be complacent. Government shelters have played a significant role in providing protection to vulnerable people. At the same time the weather forecast should also be accurate. There had been a setback with the cyclone forecast during the recent cyclone Sitrang, which is by any means uncalled for.