Sunday, June 16, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Wreck it as you please

When it comes to protecting the environment, Bangladesh fails badly

Update : 08 Dec 2018, 05:24 PM

The rich countries of the world have brought the planet to the brink of disaster, and poor countries like Bangladesh are paying the price, or so the story goes.

And there can be little argument with the big picture as far as the math is concerned -- Bangladesh is indeed too small a player for its actions at home to make a difference in terms of the global climate front, and all we can do is fight and lobby and make our voices heard in places where the more important nations might be listening: In Paris, in Marrakech, now in Katowice.

It will come down to the actions, promises made, and promises kept by the US, China, and countries of Western Europe, while Bangladesh, the country where people actually have to deal with the adverse effects of climate change in their day to day lives, can only cross their fingers and hope the right decision is taken at the top levels.

This narrative suits us; it largely lets us off the hook for a lot of the disasters at home, and allows us to fight with words rather than with actions.

It also lets us indulge in that most loved of Bangladeshi pastimes -- passing the buck and playing the blame game.

Yes, the detrimental effects of this country’s actions are very small on a global scale, but can we claim any kind of moral high ground when our own activities have so badly destroyed our environment far beyond repair?

Set aside for a minute the question of whether the global temperature rise will be limited to 1.5C or go further and look at the immediate environmental challenges in Bangladesh right now: Air pollution, river pollution, and noise pollution are just some of them.

It is technically winter now, and so as predicted, the level of dust pollution in the air is at truly ungodly levels, causing a wide variety of respiratory ailments and other health issues in people; dust mask sales are through the roof, as accidentally opening your mouth on the streets could cause you to inhale a fistful of dust.

It only takes one wrong breath to fall sick for the rest of the week.

Our rivers are so contaminated that most aquatic life has died off, and with our groundwater resources depleting rapidly, it is important to turn to river water, but alas, those resources have been destroyed through years of industrial pollution dumping.

We keep saying rivers are our lifeblood, but we don’t treat them very well.

Thirdly, there’s the problem of noise, which many will shrug off as unimportant. That is probably because we live amid such stupidly high levels of noise (from car horns to random, unplanned construction work) that we have completely forgotten what unnatural decibel levels these are.

All of these stated problems -- and these are just three broad examples -- could lead to a public health catastrophe, and to get there we will not need the help of big, rich, evil, industrialized nations.

We are, tragically, capable of ruining our environment perfectly fine by ourselves, and if Bangladesh is a victim rather than the perpetrator of any sort of global environmental crisis, it is not through any credit of our own; it is simply that we are just not powerful enough.

Because of our appallingly irresponsible actions, and because of our disregard for the environment and our total lack of planning, Dhaka is, every year, a major contender for the dubious award of least liveable city in the world … and we are not even in the middle of any kind of war.

We were given a good thing and we wrecked it.

Abak Hussain is Editor, Editorial and Op-Ed, Dhaka Tribune.

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