100-day programme of Environment Ministry is a visionary step

Published : Tuesday, 30 January, 2024 at 12:00 AM

The 12th parliament of Bangladesh will go into its maiden session today. The country received a new parliament on January 7. The new cabinet was formed straight away and newly appointed ministers and state ministers assumed office from January 14. While the nation welcome the new government in a peaceful and festive manner, the newly elected Awami League government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, needs to work to achieve their promises of their election manifesto. For that, different ministries of the government need to declare and act on short, mid and long-term plans.

All the ministries should provide a clear picture to the people about what they will do in office on three different timelines – the first 100 days, the first year and the whole five-year term. Unfortunately, we did not see the ministries declare a public plan for different terms in the past. But this time, there came a positive change as the Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Saber Hossain Chowdhury announced the 100-day programme on January 25.

We must first congratulate the Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister for taking a drastic step to declare the 100-day plan, which he promised immediately after taking office. Usually, our leaders avoid such declaration as it creates a scope for justifying accountability to the people. But the Environment Minister was very courageous and confident to take such a step. However, if we analyze the commitments expressed in the 100-day programme, we will find some commitments requiring alignment with different stakeholders. Moreover, if the programme contained micro level work plans, then it would have been more visual to the people considering it to be a 100-day programme.

In light of environmental protection and combating climate change, air pollution still remains one of the top most challenges for Bangladesh, especially for its capital Dhaka. Different species, especially the birds, in the city are also becoming critical victim of air pollution along with the people.Though this problem of air pollution exists throughout the year, in the winter or dry season the problem goes bizarre due to heavy dust. The most important reason of dust pollution is the unplanned development works in this city. Multiple diggings of roads throughout the year by gas, electricity, water and other utilities authorities and low quality road constructions creates dust. While transporting the soil, dug for public or private constructions, in open vehicles also creates huge dust.

Furthermore, after cleaning the drains of the city, the waste is kept on the side of the road. Due to presence of the pathogen in the drains, it causes unhealthy air. Construction materials such as bricks, sand, cement, brick chips are transported openly contributing to dust pollution. Brick kilns are also one of the major sources of air pollution in Dhaka. Moreover, different types of chemicals like; lead in different industries also generates dust.

Water pollution is another great environmental risk for Bangladesh. Our huge water sources are being polluted unceasingly. During last 40 years, extreme pollution events occurred in bordering rivers adjoining Dhaka city while many canals, ponds and other water-bodies are mostly captured illegally inside and in surrounding areas of Dhaka and other major cities.

Sound pollution is another menace for Dhaka citizens. We suffer a lot for continuous use of loudspeakers along with excessive usage of horns by the vehicle drivers. Moreover, vehicles, transiting through Dhaka, not only create sound pollution but also bring dust to the city. Additionally, visual pollution is also damaging environment as well as causing mental health problems for the citizens.

Moreover, the actions of the city corporations have been dissatisfactory till now. Despite having the status of full ministers, the two Dhaka City Corporation Mayors have failed to show any commitment as they lack any concrete action plan to improve the environment at the city. To point at the basics, the waste containers of the city corporations mostly remain open and often they dump the wastes in open space. There is also no significant effort for the city corporations to create mass awareness about preserving environment.

To make the 100-day programme of the environment ministry a success, coordination and all-out commitment is required. All the ministries should declare their nationwide plan along with all Member of Parliaments (MPs) for their own constituencies to protect environment. The city corporations and local government authorities all around the country should declare their own 100-day plan. Only then, the Environment Minister will find success with his plans.

Creating mass awareness will remain critical. If the citizens cannot be educated on the ill effects of environmental degradation, then no plan will work. Children should learn about different techniques to reduce pollution at schools by involving them in weekly cleanliness program and the guardians should involve them in cleaning practices at home from their childhood. Additionally, the city mayors and councilors should arrange an awareness campaign like cleanliness drive weekly at their own areas for three hours. All the ministries and local government offices shoupt take similar programs. Moreover, the government should introduce the idea of using different bags for different types of wastes to the citizens so that those can be processed separately.

To reduce pollution, the government should launch educational or awareness campaign in all big cities taking capital Dhaka as a model first as the whole world usually focus on Dhaka due to its concentrated development. Along with the existing laws, new acts should be enacted especially for adopting modern construction technique. The works of mega projects also adopt modern construction technique. No construction materials should be kept in open space or should be transported openly in vehicles. Tongi-Sadarghat and Tongi-Kanchpur by-pass should be created to divert transiting vehicles away from Dhaka.

The brick kilns also should use green brick technology. Besides, the brick kilns should be relocated at less populated areas while eliminating the illegal ones as promised by the ministrys 100-day programme. The construction areas should be covered to prevent dusts from spreading. Development projects should be completed in minimum duration. Masks and other useful materials should be supplied by the government for free to the citizens living in adjacent areas of mega projects. The adjacent areas of the already completed portions of mega projects like; metro rail or elevated expressway must be immediately cleaned.

The environment ministry should coordinate with the city corporations to arrange for watering the construction sites of mega projects, other roads of Dhaka and site of mega events like; Amar Ekushey Book Fair. This initiative is small but extremely effective to reduce air pollution in a short period. They must also ensure that the garbage and drains wastes are immediately cleared. The city corporations must clear wastes from canals and uproot the illegal occupants surrounding the canals, rivers irrespective of any pressure.

The utility supplying bodies and roads management bodies should work in a coordinated manner. The industries must adopt technology to properly process their wastes and the relevant government authority must act honestly to check on those processes.

The authority should create by-pass immediately for transiting vehicles as it will reduce air pollution, sound pollution and traffic jam of Dhaka city. All construction materials should be carried by covered dump truck. Moreover, the government should formulate a modern traffic policy to eliminate useless horn honking at roads. The government should declare clear policy to reduce visual pollution including removing unplanned wires, billboards, and banners as well as ensuring properly painted and clean building throughout the city. Moreover, the government must act fast to preserve the forest areas as well as to start nationwide effective campaign for tree plantation. Furthermore, the relevant authority should check on pollution from the agricultural sources and take steps against food pollution to protect the ecosystem.

Bangladeshi has been leading different environment related forums under the visionary leadership of premiere Sheikh Hasina. Bangladesh has taken some drastic steps like creating Delta Plan 2100, eliminating several coal-based power plants, recognizing environment challenges at the coastal areas etc. But our day-to-day activities are taking away all the benefits by creating greater environment hazards, particularly in Dhaka.

The Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Saber Hossain Chowdhury has come up with a topline plan to protect environment of the country. Before reaching those goals, he needs to address the small things for better results. We commend him for his approach and expect that all other ministries will declare their short, mid and long-term plans to the people. Our ministers, state ministers, city mayors, MPs and local government authorities must realize that, environment is a concern for all. Only if we can protect and preserve environment, then the development of Bangladesh will be visible to the citizens as well as the whole world and we will be enabled to reach our goals.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Editor at Kishore Bangla

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