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Plastic, climate change, and Game of Thrones

  • Published at 10:51 pm August 1st, 2019
Photo: BIGSTOCK
Photo: BIGSTOCK

It is time for us to wage a war

We humans are eating about five grams of plastic every week -- which is the equivalent of a bank card, according to a recent study by Australia’s University of Newcastle.

The research commissioned bythe World Wide Fund (WWF) finds that an average person may be likely ingesting around 1,769 particles of plastic every seven days. Most of the micro-plastics we consume come from the regular tap and bottled water.

Micro-plastics are tiny plastic particles smaller than five millimeters. They are polluting not only our waterbodies but also our oceans and marine life. 

So evidently, every day, we drink plastic, we eat plastic, and we even breathe plastic contaminated air. The amount of plastic pollution, however, varies by location, but nowhere is untouched, suggested the study. 

Bangladesh banned the use of single plastic and polythene bags in 2002. But like scores of laws in this country, this ban exists only on paper. You go to buy groceries from the roadside shop or vegetables from the kitchen market, you will get heaps of free plastic carriers (most developed countries charge for carriers, and are aiming to eliminate the single-use of plastic bags). You take a walk in the streets, you will see discarded plastics are everywhere.

If we get an hour of rain, the roads of our big cities get water-logged, disrupting normal life. One primary cause of this city menace is plastic clogging in sewerage lines. Have you ever watched any city road extension work for a few minutes? You will be amazed to note that the earth they dig is crammed with polythene.

Our country is plagued by dengue fever at the moment. Our city hospitals are struggling with dengue patients. The authorities have finally acknowledged the situation to be alarming. They have taken a number of initiatives to bring the situation under control, but what is missing is that they have failed to create mass awareness among the people. There must be a nationwide vigorous campaign with the slogan like “keep your surroundings clean.”

Can’t we use our school and college students in every area just for an hour a week to keep our surroundings clean by removing plastic waste and trash? Can’t each university country-wide start a similar initiative? Can’t every ward in all the city corporation areas across the country start a similar campaign? 

Just an hour a week. A collective campaign and activities like this can bring real change. We cannot deny that our poor waste management and excessive discarded plastic waste play an intrinsic role in creating ideal breeding grounds for Aedes mosquito. 

And there is the effect of climate change. Analysts now suspect that global warming resulting from climate change could be the major cause behind the outbreak of dengue fever in South Asia. Temperatures ranging between 27 and 32 degrees Celsius together with occasional rain is perfect for Aedes mosquito breeding. 

It has been a much talked-about issue for decades that Bangladesh would be hard-hit by climate change. A World Bank report published in 2018 predicts that in Bangladesh, the hill tracts would be the most affected regions by 2050 for deforestation, hill cutting, and damage to water resources.

In Bangladesh, says the report, Chittagong division emerges as the most vulnerable to changes in average temperature and precipitation followed by Barisal and Dhaka divisions.

It seems we are fast approaching that catastrophe. Over a million Rohingya refugees live in Teknaf and Ukhiya upazilas in Chittagong division. Unicef estimates that some 60 babies are born each day in the camps. 

UNDP earlier in a report on the impact of the Rohingya refugee population on the environment of Cox’s Bazar said 4,300 acres of hills and forests were cut down to make temporary shelters and facilities in the district. The report also said that the restoration of the eco-system will become irreversible if measures are not taken immediately.

We cannot see any probable solution to the Rohingya crisis. And now concerns are growing over the question: Will they ever go back to Myanmar?

Bangladesh is over-populated and vulnerable to the sea level rising. Every year, floods and river erosion displace thousands of people across the country. And these people end up in the capital or other cities as climate refugees. 

A new Unicef report warned that the lives and future of over 19 million (nearly one in three children) Bangladeshi children are at risk from flooding and other climate change-linked disasters. 

HBO’s fantasy drama production Game of Thrones is one of the most-watched TV series of all time. The story is about a fictional medieval empire which is mired in a civil war. Jon Snow, one of the central figures in Game of Thrones, first registered the fact that the humans are at the risk of being wiped out by the dead. 

The army of the dead, as shown in the series, is basically the army of dead humans. Jon Snow invests all his energy to make the infighting rulers realize the imminent danger. He begs them to take him seriously, and help him build a great army to fight against the army of the dead. 

Time has come for us, much like Jon Snow, to launch the greatest crusade to save this planet from pollution, to make our lives liveable. Since Bangladesh will be one of the few countries to be hardest hit by climate change, it’s us who have to take the lead. 

Rahad Abir is a writer.