The biggest challenge for the government is to balance development and protecting the environment.
We have enough laws to protect the environment. It is the main responsibility of the department of environment to monitor whether these laws are being implemented. But this is not solely the responsibility of the environment department. There are other departments of the government too.
The department of environment is too project-oriented, focused on implementing projects funded by development agencies. They fall short of monitoring environment and pollution. As a result, Bangladesh is steadily slipping in global environment indexes.
The environment department took up many projects related to air pollution, river protection and waste management, but with no success. Once the projects were over, no measures were taken to ensure these were sustained.
If the department can increase its competence, technical skills and infrastructure to take action against polluters, then it will be possible to improve the environment. The enemies of the environment are powerful. The department of environment does not have the clout to control them. Any action that is taken eventually falls flat. The environment department needs to be strengthened. It must be bold.
The forest department is more focused on collecting revenue than protecting forests. This mindset has to change. They must involve the local people in protecting forests. They have to stand up against illegal occupation of forest areas.
The responsibility of the government agencies in protecting the environment and forests must be specified. They must strengthen their internal governance or they will not have the moral right to take action against others.
*The writer is an Emeritus professor, Brac University