DISREGARD for environment is all but glaringly visible in all sectors of development. Unplanned development policies and consequent action relegate environment issues to secondary considerations, which will cost the country and its people heavily in the long run. Against this backdrop, the call that green activists and experts put out at a seminar on Sunday for the government to frame and implement an ecologically sound policy is something that the government should seriously consider. The people who spoke at the seminar on sustainable development rightly observed that Bangladesh, which formally adopted the Sustainable Development Goals on September 25, 2015, needed a comprehensive policy on the development of environment for a sustainable growth. Whatever development projects the public or the private sector takes up should ensure that they do not negatively impact environment. Without taking into account ecology and biodiversity, Bangladesh would not be able to meet the sustainable development goals, which emphasise the protection of environment. The demand, therefore, for an impact assessment of development projects, not in monetary but environmental terms, is what is needed for the benefits of the people.
The concept of sustainable development, advanced in 1987 by the United Nations in its Bruntland Report, was, in fact, defined as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ Bangladesh evidently lacks in fulfilling this goal. Many projects are implemented on faulty environmental impact assessments and environmental clearance certificates are issued to non-compliant industrial units. Immediate economic benefits have almost always been prioritised, sidestepping the issue of biodiversity and ecological integrity. A case in point is the recent issuances of clearance to ‘five air-polluting cement factories’ within six kilometres of the Sunderbans, the world’s largest contiguous stretch of mangrove forest, whose biodiversity has already been at risk for the Rampal Power Plant project. Moreover, unplanned industrialisation in major cities, especially Dhaka and Chattogram, has put many rivers and the surroundings in jeopardy. The government is supposed to increase forested land to 20 per cent of the country’s total landmass by 2030, but the reality is that it is losing land every year to government agencies that demand land for their establishments and development projects.
The government must, under the circumstances, ensure that no development project is taken that could cost environment dearly. Before taking any projects or issuing clearance certificates to private sector projects, the government and all the authorities concerned must meticulously consider and weight the impact on environment. Any compromise with environment will further aggravate the already existing climate crisis in Bangladesh. The government, therefore, must prioritise environment issues in public interest.
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