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Breathing in poison

  • Published at 12:01 am February 20th, 2019
Air pollution
Is this air breathable? MEHEDI HASAN

Towards a mechanism for monitoring environmental pollution

People’s behaviour towards the environment and nature are constantly changing.

The term “neo-liberalism” has fuelled this culture aggressively. In general, economic development is intrinsically connected with global warming and climate change. Consequently, assimilation capacities of the Earth are lessening because of indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources. If fossil fuels were not used for industries and automobiles, the release of CO2 would not have made the environment so hazardously dangerous for living. 

However, it needs revolutionary change for the collective world and resources utilization. In terms of sustainable economy and environmental security, the new leadership in France, New Zealand, and Japan have blown in some fresh air.

Environmental planning and management imply the socio-economic development of society, as well as the stability of biosphere and individual eco-systems. Pollution control agreements between local government and industries are an important part of environmental management. This kind of agreement ensures control of noise, water, air, land, odours, radioactive waste, river pollution, industrial pollution, forest monitoring, waste management, and not only in national level, but at grassroots level. 

Social and politico-economic capital can be built both at national and local levels through pollution control agreements. All types of industries -- agriculture, textiles, manufacturing, food, construction, and mining can follow the standard level of pollutant emission and management systems ordered by government authorities. In Bangladesh, there are 21 departments of environment at the district level which are mostly incapable of monitoring and controlling environmental catastrophes.

On the other hand, Bangladesh is a land of forests, water, minerals, and land resources generally placed at the local level. But a gap between policy formation and enforcement of environmental regulations is widely characterized by less transparent functioning of the environmental institution, poor administrative practises, lack of manpower, and active public participation at the grassroots level. 

Over the last two decades, Bangladesh has attained a consistent growth in different sectors: Industrialization, infrastructure development, health care, food productivity, social safety nets. Such sector-centred development merely embraced the protection of natural resources and environmentally sound management practices in the development history of the country. 

Historical trends of the environmental movement in Bangladesh was initiated by the national commitment of the country to Stockholm Conventions in 1972, which preceded the formulation of first Water Pollution Control Ordinance in 1973 followed by Environment Pollution Control Ordinance in 1977. 

In 1985, the Department of Pollution Control Ordinance was established, which was subsequently renamed and structured as the Department of Environment (DOE). The idea of environmental protection through national efforts was first recognized and declared with the adoption of the Environmental Policy 1992. Since then, very few environmental policy directives and guidelines have been put into action. Till to date, Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act (ECA) 1995 serves as the only legal basis for Environment Conservation Rules (1997) that specifically deals with conservation and improvement of environmental standards for controlling and mitigating environmental pollution. 

Bangladesh needs pollution control agreements between local government and industries to control and monitor waste and effluent treatment plant operation, waste recycling systems, river encroachment, and pollution. Every day, we are exposed to vehicles and construction-induced noise pollution, radiation of mobile towers, and excessive use of agro-chemicals. Industries induced air pollution and commercial cultivation, in forest areas, land-use patterns, and of course integrated environmental development, are all factors that have a negative effect. 

Agreements of pollution control can lend a hand for a cooperative and integrated approach in environmental security through power-sharing strategy among administrative actors and relative decentralization within vertical administration. Various research has shown that the implementation of environmental policies has been hindered due to some institutional and functional limitations. 

Hence, the present situation calls for a periodic review, amendment, modification, reform, and proper implementation of the existing policies as part of the environmental management strategies.

The role of the local government is important for a sustainable environment.

There are two main components of a local governance system: Prudence allowed to the local government to perform fundamental functions that allow them to represent the preferences of the citizens in the decision-making process, and mechanisms that hold the local government accountable.

It is time to employ the capacities of local government in industrial pollution control;,start the culture of polluters-pay, build green products oriented corporate image, effectively monitor the noise, water, land, odour, and air pollution. Particularly, it would be aimed at introducing more people-oriented policies to combine the environmental sustainability and economic development of Bangladesh. 

Shishir Reza is an environmental analyst and associate member of Bangladesh Economic Association.

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