Youth speak out against pollution
World Environment Day
Photo: Md. Farhad Rahman
Everyday our capital city Dhaka is affected by various environmental problems, and is projected to be the world's 4th most populous city by 2020 with 22 million inhabitants, according to United Nations Population Fund (UNPF). Due to urbanisation and lack of environmental consciousness of the people, environment's harmony and balance is on the verge of a very critical phase in many places around the world.
The pollution of our land, air and water has caused changes that we are only beginning to understand. In developed countries, a large amount of excess food go to waste, while half of the world's population lives on less than $2 a day. As individuals we did not create these problems, but as individuals we can solve them. Every single one of us depends on the planet, and every single one of us is responsible for its survival. Dhaka's deteriorating situation demands immediate attention from the government because some of the damages might become irreversible.
Moreover, the ways that we grow our food, produce our goods and power our homes and cities are depleting resources, polluting the planet and drastically reducing the biodiversity of our planet. By increasing our respect for nature in all its incarnations, we will have taken a big step towards building a sustainable future. Sustainable living will protect the resources that help us to live and enjoy life for future generations.
The demands of city life has created a number of environmental problems: crisis of pure drinking water, incapacitated drainage system, unplanned high rise buildings, discharge of industrial waste in rivers and water bodies, insufficient disposal facilities for solid waste, deforestation and loss of wildlife.
Many of us are still unaware of the disaster we are heading towards because of all the pollution. Three quarter of the surface of the earth is water, most of which is in the form of ice in the polar areas. As the earth is getting warmer day by day, the ice, which was in this form for millions of years, is melting and as a result the sea level is rising gradually.
This is a major cause of concern for Bangladesh because its physical geography is almost flat and the average height of land is only 30 feet from the sea level. Environment experts predict that if global warming continues, most of the coastal areas of Bangladesh would be inundated within a few years.
Photo: Md. Farhad Rahman
In addition, seawater would penetrate the country's fertile land and ruin thousands of hectares of cultivable land in the coastal areas. Our land will no longer be able to produce any crop, as it will be repeatedly washed away by salty water. There would be no existence of the Sunderbans (the world's largest mangrove forest and a well recognized site of world heritage), which would bring a great ecological imbalance. The most crucial fact that is likely to appear is food and habitat crisis in our country due to global warming.
The fact is we are going to be the worst affected by the impending environmental disaster, for which developed countries are mostly responsible as they produce the bulk of greenhouse gases. The developed industrialized countries emit the largest quantity of those gases which play a vital role in increasing the temperature of the atmosphere. We will suffer the most for actions that we were hardly responsible for.
|Photo: Kazi Hirok Al-Arafat
In the last century, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased dramatically because people started to burn vast amounts of fossil fuels: coal, petroleum and its derivatives. Burning these fossil fuels, as well as other activities such as clearing land for agriculture or urban settlements, release gases including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide can also trap heat in the atmosphere. Currently 44% of greenhouse gases come from burning fossil fuels and another 25% come from the deliberate burning of tropical rain forests. We may not stop burning fossil fuels but we can at least reduce the usage of fossil fuels and certainly our whole-hearted effort can stop the burning of tropical rain forests which is also responsible for global warming. As these gases build up in the atmosphere, they trap more heat near the earth's surface, causing earth's climate to become warmer than it would naturally be. Environment scientists predict that unless drastic actions are taken, global temperature will continue to rise by 1.4 to 5.8° C by the year 2100. The consequences of such increase in temperature may be devastating. These warmer temperatures could melt parts of polar ice caps and most mountain glaciers, causing a rise in the sea level of up to 1 meter within a century, which would completely inundate a number of low-lying island nations and flood many coastal cities. Many environment experts opine that Bangladesh is more vulnerable to such an environmental disaster. Therefore, whenever the term 'global warming' comes up, experts mention the name of Bangladesh as it is going to be affected first and the most. Many plant and animal species will probably be driven into extinction; agriculture will be severely disrupted in many regions; hurricanes and droughts would be more frequent.
Dhaka city once had a natural drainage system with its intricate network of natural canals that served as water reservoirs after heavy rainfall and events of flood. But these canals and ponds have been filled up for construction of roads and houses. Unplanned and illegal constructions of buildings are greatly responsible for the floods that victimize the inhabitants of this city every year.
Discharge of untreated solid waste, sewerage and industrial effluent into the surrounding rivers and lakes is the main reason behind water pollution. All the four surrounding rivers of Dhaka-- Buriganga, Shitalakhya, Turag and Balu are thoroughly polluted. People dump waste materials into these rivers although there are the Matuail, Bern Band and Uttara landfill sites where the collection, processing and dumping of solid waste is carried out in proper manner. It causes air pollution with its strong stinking odour. It is also a breeding ground for vectors of several diseases.
Green spaces are becoming a rarity in Dhaka city. Although the Forest Department claims that 17% of the total land area of our country has forests, recent researches by other organizations such as UNDP have found statistics that are alarmingly lower.
Therefore, to address all this alarming global issue, World Environment Day was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972. It is celebrated each year on June 5 to stimulate worldwide awareness of the environment and enhance political attention and action. Unlike many other International Days, World Environment Day is a people's event with colourful activities such as street rallies and green concerts. The day's agenda is to give a human face to environmental issues and empower people. The government of Bangladesh must inform the world leaders about the impending disaster. The developed industrialized countries, notably G-8 countries, are producing deadly greenhouse gases to make their economy more robust. The concept of globalisation is also deteriorating the condition of environment. The competitive open market economy is also adding fuel to produce more greenhouse gases. So the players who are playing key roles in the world politics have to think about these issues. It will be unanimously conceded that only their initiative can save the world from the inevitable disaster. Along with them, each and every one of about 6.5 billion people of this world has to play his/her part in protecting the environment. The United Nations and other international environment organizations have to play a more intensive role to protect countries like Bangladesh from the effects of global warming.
United Nations and Youth Association of Bangladesh (UNYSAB) is a voluntary youth and student movement for United Nations in care of UNIC. It is dedicated to conveying the voice of the young generation regarding current global issues such as Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), COP, human rights and development, environment, disarmament, social justice, etc. It is a dynamic platform for students to develop their organizational and leadership skills, intellectual abilities and research orientation. On 4th June 2009, United Nations and Youth Association of Bangladesh (UNYSAB) along with Star Campus are organizing a Roundtable discussion on “Combating Climate Change and what we can do in response” on 4th June at the UNDP Conference Hall, IDB Bahaban, Agargaon, Dhaka. It will be followed by a photography exhibition and a rally on 6th June at TSC, Dhaka University.
Amatus Samiu Binte Awal
WE all remember the blistering heat of Dhaka city that almost roasted us a few days back. The temperature of recent Dhaka made us ask why we have to live in such a city. The problem is that Dhaka (and Bangladesh) is not an isolated island. The whole world's environment is at risk. The polar ice caps are melting, the temperature of the world is rising, the ozone layer is decaying etc. We fail to realize that we are responsible for these environmental disasters to a large extent. In a recent environmental performance index by Yale University, Bangladesh came 125th among 149 observed countries. India and Sri-Lanka were at 120th and 50th positions respectively. It is high time we create awareness to make Bangladesh a better place to live. The World Environment Day (Friday 5th June) can be an opportunity towards this end.
Bangladesh faces a number of environmental problems due to its geographical location, high population density, poor socio-economic development, inefficient resource management and institutional framework. A study on Bangladesh state of environment identified five environmental issues that are land degradation, water pollution and scarcity, air pollution, biodiversity and natural disaster.
The World Bank said Bangladesh could avoid 15 thousand deaths and save up to 800 million dollars a year if air pollution in four major cities can be reduced to acceptable limits. This year World Bank gave $62.2 million credit to help Bangladesh control urban air pollution through cutting emissions in key polluting sectors such as transport and brick making.
Knowing these facts, can we sit and do nothing? Why can't we think that environmental degradation is the degradation of our entity? We cannot solve all those problems just within a day. Also an individual cannot solve all the problems. The solution requires a collective effort by both domestic and international forces. Only if we work together we can solve the severe environmental problems of the planet earth.
This year's World Environment Day theme is 'Your Planet Needs You-Unite to Combat Climate Change'. It reflects the urgency for nations to agree on a new deal at the climate convention meeting in Copenhagen, and links with overcoming poverty and improved management of forests. Combating climate change and preserving ecosystems services that underpin our economies is an issue for everyone. Every individual's efforts, no matter how small, can contribute to the sustainable development of our economies and communities around the world.
The host country of the year is Mexico. This reflects the growing role of Latin America in the fight against climate change, including its growing participation in the carbon markets. On world environment day, individuals, non-governmental organisations, community and youth groups, business, industry and the media can organise activities to renew their commitments to protect and develop the environment. They organise activities such as clean-up campaigns, tree plantations, colorful street rallies, green concerts, essay and photo competitions for school students, recycling efforts etc. to raise awareness among people.
We all love our country. Our one act of random kindness can make this country even a better place to live. So, let's make this world environment day a brand new start for the betterment of our country.
SOURCE: The 2008 World Fact book
(Department of Business Administration, Jahangirnagar University)
EFFECTIVE environmental policies and keeping environment free from all sorts of pollution is a burning issue in the present world context. Latest scientific findings have confirmed that environment of our planet can become dangerous for human existence unless development strategies all over the world are reassessed. Knowledge of such possible consequence has led to international consensus on a development concept, which has been termed as sustainable development. Problems of environment friendly development are, however, many and require immediate and careful addressing.
Air is polluted from various sources. Railway engines, mills and factories and powerhouses use coal and oil, buses, trucks and cars use petrol and diesel. All these things pollute the air. Water is polluted in many ways. For example, farmers use chemical fertilizers and insecticides in their lands to grow more food, the rain and floods wash away some of the chemicals and they get mixed with canal and river water. Mills and factories pollute water by throwing the waste materials and unsold products into rivers and canals. Steamers and even sailboats pollute water by throwing oil, food waste and human waste into the big canals and rivers. Unsanitary latrines in the countryside standing on the banks of rivers and canals also pollute water. Buildings and Industries are established everywhere without assessing their impact on the environment. Urbanizations by cutting trees are largely degrading the environmental balances. As a result, our fundamental right to life has become endangered.
Environment pollution is a common scene in the whole world, particularly in the developing countries like Bangladesh. It may create confusion in our mind whether Bangladesh does have any environmental laws and policies of its own. However, it may come as a surprise that there are about 185 laws and ordinances in Bangladesh, which have been promulgated for different purposes. Not only this, Bangladesh has already ratified 37 international treaties and signed other 23 treaties so far. International assistance is also flowing towards Bangladesh having limited expertise in formulating environmental policies and legislations.
However for better protection and conservation of the environment, the Environment Conservation Act, 1995 was enacted. But it has failed to work out for its in-built inadequacy.
Massive industrialization and growth of a lavish consumers' society in the developed countries have largely accounted for the ills caused to world environment. While the industrialized countries are now showing concern and taking all possible steps to arrest the rend of environmental degradation, conventional industrialization is booming in vast majority areas of the developing countries where for reasons of the goal of poverty alleviation development as such is considered more important than to take environmental issues into consideration. It is not that the developing countries do not understand that environmental hazards can be counterproductive in the long run in any development strategy. But the harsh realities dictate them to count short-term needs than to consider long-term gains.
It is a matter of hope that nowadays people of every sphere are becoming concerned with the vital issue. For example, we can say that about Syeda Rizwana Hasan, who recently won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her pioneering work in spearheading the fight against ship breaking in Bangladesh. As Director of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), she has almost single-handedly taken on the ship breaking industry and its lobby. Ship breaking is not just a national issue, but an international one. Because developed countries are sending their waste to our countries, and using our coastal areas as nothing more than dumping sites. Aside from her extensive work on ship breaking she has also been at the forefront of most of the major environmental causes fought in court and continues to be a major figure in environmental law.
Finally it can be said that, the mass people should be made aware of the law and the bad side of the pollution and only then the environment can be protected from being polluted. Only government can't solve this problem, general people should come forward to save the environment.
(The writer is a student of 3rd year, Dept. of Law, University of Chittagong).
Green is trees
Growing leaf after leaf up to the sky
And when you're walking on the forest floor
Looking close, it's a home to one's eye
Starting as a sprout growing with all its might
Full of mystery and an emerald light
Green is happiness filled with laughter
But that's just one factor
Green is large, green is small
Green can be moss on a historic wall
Green is fresh, green is juicy
Just like a lime or a kiwi
It's in the grass, it's in a rainbow
It's the colour of a traffic light's go
And when the moon's out get an avocado
Mash it up and have yourself a plate of nacho
Green is summer, green is spring
Green can be a mango with an orange ting
But most of all green is deep
Filled with life making you free
And when you need the stress to fade
Smell some pine with the colour of jade
After all these no wonder I like green
But maybe now you agree with me.
Grade Six, Arbutus Middle School,Canada
Environment pollution is a cause of concern for all. With the rise in number of vehicles, air pollution is increasing day by day, so is sound pollution. Whenever we go out of our house, we cannot guarantee that we will return home safely without a severe breathing problem or acute deafness.
The level of sound pollution in our country has exceeded beyond tolerance level and is a concern for the general people. Sound pollution is one of the major causes of health hazards in Bangladesh. From deafness to heart attack, blood pressure, indigestion, peptic ulcer to headache, noise pollution can be the cause of many dangerous and fatal diseases. The main source of noise pollution is the hydraulic horns of vehicles, blaring of microphones and cassette players, of which the most harmful offender is the hydraulic horns used by buses, trucks and taxies. The rising number of noise pollution is also affecting the hearing power of thousands of children everyday. A child's health may also be adversely affected by loud sounds from the radio, television, DVD players and, not speak of, microphones, also the sound of mills and factories and any loud noise.
A residential area of Chittagong named "Love Lane". People's negligence in protecting environment as they throw household wastes into the adjacent large drain that is supposed to flush out heavy rainwater but most of the time remain clogged thanks to the peoples' effort!!
On the other hand, air pollution in our country is indicating an upward trend in gross emissions in recent years. The increasing amount of unfit vehicles in our country is giving rise to air pollution. Motor vehicles, especially two-stroke engine vehicles are an increasingly important source of air pollution emissions in Bangladesh. Though two-stroke vehicles are banned officially but still in rural areas, they are still seen in rural roads in an alarming number. With air pollution in rise, the diminishing ozone ionosphere is leading to global warming and the unpredictable seasonal variation, and is also causing the adverse effects of health hazards, like asthma and lung cancer and many more.
|People dumping wastes in their own backyard instead of dumping them in the dustbin.
Although urbanization, industrialization and motorization are essential for economic development, urban people always intend for as much possible calm and quiet life, free of disquieting sounds and poisonous smokes. Noise pollution is a neglected issue in Bangladesh, so is air pollution, but it is a severe health hazard. For the physical and mental health of the people, particularly of the children, it is imperative for the decision makers, leaders, planners, engineers and concerned persons to keep the noise level within acceptable limits and to stop the car in each signal, to reduce air pollution. It's time for us, the younger generation, the future generation of the country to work together to reduce pollution so that in the long run people can eradicate the word 'pollution' from the country once for all.
(A college student of Chittagong)
THIS year, Mexico is hosting World Environment Day on 5 June under the theme "Your Planet Needs You - Unite to Combat Climate Change", chosen by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The theme basically aims to prevent pollution around the world.
In Dhaka city, vehicular emission is the main cause of air pollution. Some environment related organisations have identified that the vehicles that run by two-stroke engines are the main source that generates comparatively a large amount of smokes and gas. Sadly, in our country, most of the vehicles like tempos, mini-trucks, and motorcycles have two-stroke engines. Moreover, huge number of old and poorly maintained buses emit smokes in the urban areas everyday. The automobiles that use diesel as fuel generate black smoke that unburned fine carbon particles. This polluted air is making the city life unbearable for the people. The roads of Dhaka especially Manik Mia Avenue, Tejgaon, Farmgate, Motijheel, Mohakhali Gulshan and Banani have become more commercial than ever before. As a result, you cannot imagine these areas without traffic jam. Just imagine that you are sitting in a bus or a car in the traffic jam on your way home or workplace and you are inhaling the smell of petrol! There are some people who like the smell of petrol. But do you know what the smell contains and how it is threatening for your life? It contains lots of harmful particles that have short-term and long-term harmful effect on human life. Short-term effects include irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, and upper respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Other symptoms are headaches, nausea, and allergic reactions. Some of the long-term effects we can include chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer, heart disease, and even damage to the brain, nerves, liver, or kidneys. Continual exposure to air pollution affects the lungs of growing children and may aggravate or complicate medical conditions among the elderly.
Another major air pollution creator would be the industries that emit harmful chemicals, gas and toxics regularly. The industrial sources include brick kilns, fertiliser factories, sugar, paper, jute and textile mills, spinning mills, tanneries, garments, bread and biscuit factories, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, cement production and processing factories, metal workshops, wooden dust from saw mills and dusts from ploughed land, and salt particles from ocean waves near the coastal lands. These industries pollute air and water as well. The harmful chemicals and industrial wastes are drained in the near by river and the pond of the industries. The farmers use this polluted water to plough their farmland to grow crops. It makes the harvested crops poisonous. Thus it is obvious that the poisonous crops are declining our health slowly and gradually.
A major duty for us today is to prevent environmental pollution. The theme of the World Environment Day is concentrating on tree plantation that can reduce air pollution. So it is the best way to celebrate World Environment Day by planting trees and encouraging people to plant trees as many as possible.
If the environment is in danger, it is obvious that you are in danger too. You live in the natural environment and you are surrounded by it. It also can be said that you are an element of the environment. So it is natural that if the environment suffers, you would be the sufferer. The environment needs your help to be healthier again and that is why it is asking for your contribution. Can you hear the environment's voice which is full of expectations? The choice is yours!
FLIP through the newspaper or simply shuffle some news channels, you are bound to find some alarming news on sound pollution, air pollution, water pollution, mismanagement of wastes, deforestations and so on. All these things are responsible for the term “environmental pollution” that slowly but effectively are pushing the human being into danger, threatening the lives of this world.
We have experienced some of the adverse effect of environmental pollution and we all know what type of disasters this pollution can bring. But still most of the time we actually blame others for being negligent to the environment which leads to suffering of the people. What we do not do or think is what we can do in actual to help save environment to ensure a safe living. And more importantly, while thinking about what we can do, we actually end up wondering that there is no point in doing anything good if others do not do the same. But we never think that to do something good, first we need to make us believe that one have to take up the initiative and we can take that bold step.
Photo: Mottakin Chowdhury
When the drains get clogged because of little rainfall and the wastes float on the road, when we see an almost empty bin surrounded by wastes that lies scattered on the road which causes bad odour, age old trees are being cut down to make “not so eco-friendly” eco-park, wetlands are being captured to make sports ground, noisy traffic signals that increases air pollution, industrial smokes causing severe breathing problem or health hazards to the innocent school students of the adjoining school of that very industry, making of luxurious homes narrowing down the beautiful lakes, industrial wastes that pollutes the river or simply using of harmful chemical fertilizers for bumper harvest that actually causes death of the kids and things like these, we simply blame others and hopelessly say that Bangladesh has no hope! But we never think that it is we the people who throw the wastes here and there, cut off the age old trees without even roping a single plant or considering that the unplanned deforestation can bring more disaster than money, put on music on a loud volume unnecessarily, keep on the horn of our vehicles or use mikes for some publicities in front of the hospitals or schools, use harmful fertilizers, pollute the water lands and encroach the rivers to make money. Smokes from our unfit vehicles and mismanaged industries are bringing us closer to the disastrous effect of the global warming. All of our irresponsible acts are approaching the environment towards appalling threat. And even after all these things; it is we, who can change this situation, we can prevent all types of environmental pollution.
Nature is such a thing which can be friends of the mankind when taken care of properly but when the mankind becomes negligent towards nature, it becomes the greatest enemy of the mankind and that is why at first we have to be the true friend of environment. The biggest problem of ours is that we always think if no one stand beside us then we cannot alone help save environment. Moreover, we always think about environmental issues when it hits headlines or World Environment Day nears. But we have to think about what we can do to save environment. Then we can persuade others to join the cause. Hence instead of playing the blame game, it's time to be aware and act carefully as well as creating awareness among others to protect the environment. Without everyone's effort, things will never change.
AS I made my small trip to the nearby bakery for some goods for the late night studying, the place I had been living in for the past 8 years seemed alien to me. The bustling of the cars, the smokes coming out of their rears, people backing up into the small roads and taking off with their chaotic families. The newly built 'Pizza Corner' a hit in the whole mountain, attracting the attention of hundreds in the town, creating chaotic scenes that rule out all pre-existing ambience. Kodaikanal that was once known as a remote tranquil area, a hill station secluded in the midst of the southern mountain ranges in India, has become something else, something that is now based upon pure materialism. A place that was meant for a peaceful vacation out in the woods has now become a muddled journey through a cloned mini Singapore. The lights, the dense air that creates a humidly set environment, without question brings up the thought “how did this all happen so fast?”
Environmental changes are happening on a daily basis. It is so evident that we notice every minute of it and reject it out of our bodies to ignore doing anything about it. Generations have lived past the years leaving behind nothing but a polluted world. Actions that have caused severe damage to our environment are affecting us today.
With a generation of young spontaneous teenagers that amble on earth, new ideas slaughter old manifestations. The new turn, the key to change, is in our hands. The truth is out, and we see its changes. Our environment is in danger. Is this what we want? Is this what we like seeing? Small steps can lead to massive changes. The reluctance to changes will keep us from all the good that this earth has on hold for us. Breaking free from that reluctance is the key to a better world.
Sabiha Mahmud Sumi
(The writer is a Bangladeshi student of grade 12, Kodaikanal International School in Tamil Nadu, India)
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