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BEN Newsletter, Vol.8, No. 47 (November 18, 2012)

Upcoming Climate Change Conference and What should Bangladesh do

The 18th Conference under the UN Framework for Climate Change (UNFCC) will be held in Doha, Qatar, during November 26 to December 7, 2012. Also, the signatory countries of the Kyoto Green House Gas Reduction Protocol will hold their 8th conference. The role of this UN Conference in promoting international collaboration for reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emission and in arresting or slowing down the drastic effects of climate change is very significant.  With time, the debilitating effects of climate change are becoming more evident.  One of the main effects of climate change is increased frequency of natural disasters and extreme weather events across the world.  After the recent super storm Sandy, many politicians in the US now recognize the linkage between the super storm and climate change.

It is disappointing that the international community as a whole is yet to make adequate progress in combating climate change or adapting to it.  Even though the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol is about to expire at the end of 2012, the GHG reduction goal set by this Protocol is yet to be met. Also, no agreement about a second commitment has yet been reached. The United States, along with several other developed nations, are insisting on imposition of GHG reduction target on China and other rapidly developing nations. The latter countries are however resisting this effort noting that their per capita GHG emissions are still much less than those of developed nations and their share of GHG emissions has begun to rise only recently, unlike that of developed countries who have been emitting high volumes of GHG for more than two hundred years since industrialization begun, causing the problem of climate change. Because of this dispute between some developed and large!

  developing nations, small and Most Vulnerable Countries (MVC) continue to suffer the imminent danger of the effects of climate change.

 

In this backdrop, Bangladesh and other MVC’s will need to carefully evaluate their positions and assert their rights in the upcoming UN climate change conference. On the one hand, MVC’s must voice their need for financial and technical assistance from developed nations to take steps to adapt with immediate effects of climate change. On the other hand, they should refrain from siding with developed countries in pressuring emerging developing countries to take on unreasonable GHG reduction targets, while encouraging the latter countries to take on voluntary GHG emission reduction targets.

Lastly, Bangladesh and MVC’s must assert on the right of climate refugees to migrate and get resettled in safer areas of the world. Many low-lying areas of Bangladesh will get submerged as a result of sea level rise caused by climate change. This will render many people to lose their homes, lands, and sustenance.  The responsibility and cost of rehabilitating these climate refugees must be borne by the international community, since Bangladesh and MVC’s are not responsible for climate change.

To play the necessary and rightful role in the upcoming UN climate Change Conference in Doha, Bangladesh must carefully consider issues at hand, collect all relevant data and information, and above all, select a strong delegation comprising of experts who are passionate about the welfare of the country. BEN hopes that the delegation members will not misuse the opportunity to travel to Doha for sightseeing, shopping, and other personal purposes at the expense of effective participation in the conference proceedings.

Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) and BEN held a special conference on climate change in 2009 and adopted a detailed resolution offering recommendations about Bangladesh’s both domestic and international tasks. BEN hopes that Bangladesh government and members of Bangladesh delegation to Doha conference will make good use of this resolution and the volume containing papers and proceedings of the BAPA-BEN conference to prepare for the Doha Conference.

In the run up to Doha Conference, civil society and pro-environment organizations in Bangladesh are organizing discussion events and seminars.  BAPA, in cooperation with other such organizations, convened one such important seminar on November 12, in which the country’s environment minister, Dr. Hassan Mahmud, was in attendance as the chief guest. (The website below provides a news report on this seminar.)

 

http://www.thenewnationbd.com/newsdetails.aspx?newsid=57312

BEN hopes that discussions held in this seminar will play an important role to inform the policy makers and prepare them better to participate effectively in the Doha Conference.  Below are some links to Doha conference related news reports and articles that may be of interest to the readers.

 

Devastating fire at Boubazar slum in Dhaka

Early morning on Sunday, a devastating fire gutted about 700 homes and killed 11 people, of whom six are children and five are women. All of them lived in a two storied tin shed house, that was the home for 46 families. The cause of the fire still remains unknown. Several thousand people have now been rendered without any shelter.

http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/latest_news.php?nid=42529

In recent years, slums have spread in Dhaka city alongside glamorous shopping malls and posh apartment buildings. A major part of Dhaka city’s population lives in these crowded slums. They have very little access to modern urban utilities. Their children do not have adequate opportunities for education. These slums often get burnt. Often they are bulldozed in the name of recovering public lands or beautification of the city. These uprooted people then become completely shelterless. Yet, it is people living in slums are who build the city, keep it running, and work in garment factories earning foreign exchange.

The division of the city between slums and well-to-do parts is a consequence of the current development pattern. As a result of this pattern, urbanization in Bangladesh is not pro-people and environment friendly. Wetlands are disappearing. Instead of developing good public transportation system, private cars are encouraged, leading to horrendous traffic jam.

Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) and BEN, in cooperation with universities and other pro-environment organizations, held in 2011 a special conference on urbanization problems. The resolution of this conference put forward an alternative development and urbanization strategy that does not lead to cities divided into slums and well-off section, that conserves greenery and water bodies, and that protects environment.

BEN expresses its deep sorrow at the deaths caused by Boubazar slum fire, and conveys its sincere condolences to the relatives and friends of the deceased. BEN urges the government to provide adequate financial help and moral support to the affected families so that they can find alternative housing and rebuild their lives. BEN hopes that this recent tragic blaze will draw the attention of the people, policymakers, and political leaders to the root problems that create slums and prod them to adopt a pro-people and pro-environment development and urbanization strategy.

Illegal digging of the Saari River in Sylhet for coal production

There is no end to assaults on Bangladesh rivers.  First, India withdraws and diverts water from our rivers using its upper riparian location.  Second, adoption of the “Cordon Approach” and dams, embankments, and other river flow intervening structures built inside the country are disrupting the rivers.  Third, industrial and other domestic wastes are discharged into the river to pollute them and illegal encroachments and bulkheads are setup to diminish the width of the rivers.  In addition to the above, recently haphazard digging of riverbeds for extraction of sand, stones, and coal is spreading across the country. Such haphazard digging of river beds is often aggravating the problem of river bank erosion.

According to a recent “Prothom Alo” news report, digging of river banks of the Saari River near the Sylhet border to extract coal has been on the rise.  Ongoing river digging for stones has already caused damage to Saari River, Gwain River, Pain River, Lala khal River, and many other water courses along the Sylhet-India border.  Digging for coal is worsening the situation. Every day about a hundred boats with each carrying 5 or 6 laborers are now engaging in river digging for coal. This is happening right under the eyes of the local administration, Border Guard of Bangladesh (BGB), and other government agencies, who seem to be unconcerned by it all.

The rivers along the Sylhet border are considered are some of the most scenic areas in Bangladesh, drawing many tourists for recreational activities. Unplanned stone and coal extraction has degraded the environment and natural beauty of the area.  The natural course and flow of these rivers are getting adversely affected.  BEN hopes that the relevant government authorities will take steps to protect these rivers. BEN also hopes that the local people will rise up against these damaging activities.

While digging for stone and coal is a specific threat to rivers of Sylhet region, unplanned digging for sand is ubiquitous problem. Bangladesh needs a comprehensive approach to solve the problem. On the one hand, the country requires sand, bricks, and stone to meet the demand arising from the housing construction boom. On the other hand, Bangladesh needs to rejuvenate the rivers through dredging. It is necessary to link these two needs. Digging activities may be directed to spots where dredging is necessary. In addition to using the sand, the extracted mud may be used for manufacturing bricks. In this way, the commercial interests of brick makers and sand diggers may be used for the greater purpose of rejuvenating the rivers. BEN hopes that the government will do some serious thinking and move in the direction suggested above.

 

 

The need to control brick fields to protect the environment

To meet the demand for bricks caused by the soaring growth in the housing and construction sector, highly polluting wood-fueled brick fields are being set up all over the country. In a recent article, Mr. Munir Chowdhury, chief of the legal enforcement division of the Bangladesh Department of Environment, have explained and drawn attention to the deleterious effects of these brick-fields. 

http://www.prothom-alo.com/detail/date/2012-11-15/news/305500

The government needs to introduce and encourage use of low-polluting technology and fuels in the brick fields. As noted in the previous item, there may be a symbiotic and leveraging connection between river dredging and brick fields, by making brick fields use soil removed by dredging.  BEN hopes that the government will make an effort to find and utilize win-win solutions that may exist for many burning problems of the country.

 

BEN

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