Urbanizing rural areas and environmental conservation

Published : Tuesday, 26 February, 2019 at 12:00 AM  Count : 173

During the last decade, Bangladesh has placed itself as a role model of development in front of the whole world. Many development projects were implemented and many are still going on. We must acknowledge the effort of the current government and the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who was elected the leader of the government for the consecutive third term few months back.

Till now, the development of Bangladesh has majorly concentrated on the city areas, especially Dhaka, the capital. Though connectivity and utility has spread in the rural areas also, there is a lot to do for those areas. The government also expressed their will to turn the villages into towns. But the modality or process that will be followed to achieve that target stays as a concern as a lot might be at risk if that development compromises some important factors.

For a country to progress, along with the big cities, the suburbs and rural areas also need to move forward in terms of development. It is all about arranging all the facilities at rural areas that are available in cities. Most of the people of Bangladesh still lives at villages and without their development, it will not be possible to reach any national goals. Many people from the villages have moved into cities for a better life as our villages lack different facilities and services like; education, health, employment, connectivity etc.

Though several improvements have taken place in the recent past it still requires a lot of work. The government is planning to transform the villages into towns or in simple words to have urbanization in those parts as they also can realize the importance of our villages in the progress of our country. But the concern is if this initiative will push natural degradation throughout the country which is becoming a challenge for the whole world in this era of modernization.

It is true that all citizen facilities do not exist at satisfactory level at rural areas. Different socio-economic factors are pulling the villages backwards. Imagining about village, we can see lustrous greenery with rivers passing by slowly and all other beautiful images with calmness of the nature. Though the picture of our villages today are not quite the same due to the influence of modernization and technological progress throughout the nation, but still that beauty very much exists. Along with this positive side of the rural areas, several problems are keeping the residents of those areas backward.

Among all the problems that exists in our villages, lack of education facility remains at core. The villagers do not have enough schools and colleges. Moreover, the educational institutes of our rural areas lack qualified teachers. Good teachers do not want to stay at villages now. There are almost no lab facilities compared to the schools of the cities. Politics and corruption surrounding the educational institutes turned out to be the greatest problem for the improvement and all these factors are keeping the villagers away from education.

The students at rural areas do not have access to internet or technological education. Though we often see happy faces of rural children with laptops or tabs but that is just promotion of some projects and is not a reality. It is hard to find any rural school child with a laptop or tab. Digital learning is still a dream for these people. On top of that, the villagers are not very concerned about sending their children to schools. Though the scenario has improved with years but that is not at all satisfactory.

Health facility is another major concern in rural areas. Though there are upazila health complexes and even some private hospitals at some upazilas, the quality of health services from those still remains a big question. Government doctors should be available in the government hospitals but that is actually dream for the rural area citizens as most of the doctors remain absent as they practice privately for a better livelihood. Medical lab facilities are also very poor and in most cases, the patients need to be city bound for their treatments. It is very hard to save a critical patient who needs emergency medical support. Lots of improvements are required in this area.

Communication is still a problem for the rural areas especially the watery zones. Despite huge number of roads built in the last decade, there are still many remote areas which cannot be accessed. There are few villages which still has almost no connectivity with the cities. Hence, the economy of these areas is still completely dependent on farming and that requires dependence on the nature and some other factors. The farmers are also often deprived by the middlemen who buy their products to sell in city markets. But the farmers have no other way as they cannot afford to access the markets by themselves.

Truly, utilities like electricity has covered a lot of rural areas during the last decade as many villages are now having complete electricity facility but still a huge gap exists. It is unfortunate that despite strong efforts of the government, we are not cent per cent covered by electricity facility. But the effort in this particular area is commendable and we can hope that the goal of full country electricity coverage can be realized soon someday.

Several socioeconomic factors are also hampering the lives at rural areas. Human factors like child labor is very common as the children accompany their parents in farming and other activities as they from a very tender age starts to earn for the sake of the family. Issues like dowry and under-aged marriage still prevails at large despite strong laws. Women are not treated equally and on several instances, girl children are seen as a burden. Lack of education is not allowing them to come out of these practices.

Most importantly, the touch of slight modernization is changing the landscape of our country as the youths are turning towards drugs, pornography and several other crimes. We are not enabling them with the better sides of technology or developments rather the well known picture of the rural sites are being compromised. We often fail to protect the natural beauty as thousands of buildings are being made in rural villages by cutting down trees and by destroying animal shelters.

All these issues surrounding our villages require a great attention from the government as we are talking about modernization of our villages. We are planning to turn them into towns but that should not be in the cost of destruction of nature. While the whole world is suffering from global warming and climate change issues, we need to be careful from now so that the environment is never damaged. But that is exactly what might happen. We do not need cities like Dhaka or even any other divisional cities of Bangladesh anymore where we cannot breathe freely due to several types of pollution and loose all our physical abilities even before we age properly. It is not an ideal city and we cannot allow our villages to have same fate.

The concept of transforming villages into towns should mean enabling the rural citizens with all facilities available in the cities while protecting the environmental capacity. Before launching any nationwide or district-wide project, the government should select one upazila from each division. They should transform those upazilas first by ensuring presence of all citizen facilities from banking to education to health to employment to everything else. Connectivity, utility and technological advancement must be ensured. While ensuring these facilities, the government should also conserve the environment in modern and sustainable ways. For a single tree cut, five more should be planted. These upazilas should be declared model upazilas. Schools, colleges, health centers, government and private offices all should exist there.

As the upazila elections are to be held soon, the candidates should learn from these upazilas about what they need to do for their constituency. They can later by acquiring support from the government transform their constituencies as those model upazilas. In this way, they will know before elected that what they need to do. If this can happen, then the villages of Bangladesh will get a new look – a combination of nature and urbanization. But this will require the government to start working now. The government should not hesitate to avoid this project as for effective planning; this model based approach can be of great help.

The government should plan from different angles before extending urbanization to the rural areas. Unplanned urbanization is causing our beloved Dhaka city’s death. Having all citizenship facilities at villages will also contain the citizens from moving to Dhaka or other cities for whatever the purpose is. We expect we can sustain our developments along with protecting the natural landscape which always had been our pride. We hope Bangladesh moves forward with all its citizens living at both urban and rural areas.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)

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