Economic growth means nothing if the quality of our lives suffer
It is a sad reality that over the years, we have not treated the Sundarbans very well, in spite of always referring to the mangrove forest as a national treasure.
The value of our Sundarbans is not merely symbolic. The simple truth is, the forest protects lives and livelihoods, acts as a bulwark against the sea, and thwarts natural calamities.
Just recently, Bangladesh experienced the devastating Cyclone Amphan. The damages wrought by this powerful cyclone would, no doubt, have been a lot worse had it not been for the Sundarbans.
And yet, we have been unable to return the favour.
Extensive research has been done that shows the link between protecting the environment and public health. This goes beyond merely protecting national treasures like the Sundarbans, but applies to how we treat our rivers, our air, our waterbodies. All of these things add to the quality of life, and in the end, economic growth means nothing if the quality of our lives suffers.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought renewed appreciation for nature, and it has also shown that it is indeed possible to change our behaviour when needed. Dhaka’s air, most of the time one of the worst in the world, has recently shown small signs of improvement.
At the heart of the problem is that environmental protection has never been a priority on the policy level. This kind of thinking is short-sighted, and will ultimately be damaging to our economy. The 2020s could yet become a decade for sustainability, and this means greater attention to conservation, and the protection of all those natural treasures we often take for granted.