World Environment Day & Bangladesh: 2012 - Barrister Harun ur Rashid
On 5th June every year, the World Environment Day is being observed by all nations including Bangladesh to highlight the link between environment and well-being of human beings.
The 2012 theme for World Environment Day is “Green Economy”. The UN Environment Programme defines the “Green Economy” as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.
In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low in carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.
Practically speaking, a green economy is one whose growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. These investments need to be supported by targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and regulation changes.
In Bangladesh, various socio-political organisations including major political parties had chalked out programmes on the occasion. It demonstrates that people have become aware of the benefits of preservation of natural environment with flora and fauna. Print-media had come out with special supplements for the Day.
In Bangladesh, environment degradations are accentuated by
• Population explosion compared to small size of land territory
• Geographical location--in the north glaciers of the Himalayas are melting and in the south sea-rise is likely to rise
• There is lack of awareness of the ill effects in people in rural areas and there is no organization which explains to ordinary people how the global climate change would adversely affect health, output in agriculture and disappearance of trees together with flora and fauna.
A recent report of UK Department for International Development (DFID) of 2007 presents a bleak picture of Bangladesh by 2030. The Report predicts that the population will be nearly 200 million by 2020, with 40% under the age of 15 years of age. An additional 6-8% of Bangladesh will be permanently under water and flood-prone areas will increase (from 25% to 40% by 2050).
At present, a severe cyclone strikes Bangladesh every three years, and the country faces serious monsoon inland flooding that may submerge over 60% of the country every 4 to 5 years. In a changing climate, Bangladesh is likely to experience higher-intensity cyclonic storm surges and heavier, more erratic monsoon flooding.
The World Bank Report in March 2012 estimates that monsoon floods will affect an additional 2 million people by inundating new areas due to climate change. For cyclonic storm surges, currently 8 million people in the coastal area are vulnerable to inundation depths greater than 3 meters and this number will increase to 13.5 million by 2050. In addition, another 9 million people are expected to be exposed to inundation depths above 3 meter due to climate change.
Furthermore every year 200,000 people are reportedly displaced from their lands due to river erosion. The sea –rise may submerge about 17% of Bangladesh territory in the south displacing about 23 million people.
World Vision Chief Economist, Brett Parris reportedly said that “climate poverty” in Bangladesh is on the rise and stated: “We are seeing a convergence of climate change and poverty that is reducing the ability of poor communities to grow crops, access water and house and feed themselves.”
Action by Bangladesh:
Bangladesh will require climate-smart policies and investments to make itself more resilient to the effects of climate change, says a new World Bank report in March 2012 ‘The Cost of Adapting To Extreme Weather Events in a Changing Climate’.
Bangladesh has been active at the highest political level to sensitize the environmental degradations to Bangladesh at various multilateral forums including at the UN. “Our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is negligible, but the fact is that we are the worst sufferers of the global warming," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said.
A massive project has been undertaken for preservation of the bio-diversity of the ‘Sunderbans’ with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank. Coastal afforestation program is being strengthened. A program has been chalked out to conserve 10% per cent of the forest area of the country as reserve forests, national parks and natural conservatories by the year 2015.
Meanwhile a robust 134-mitigation and adaptation action plan to combat the adverse effects of the climate change has been adopted by the government, recognising the wide range of stakeholders and their diverse interests in natural resource management and engaging these stakeholders fully. Massive forestation is being implemented through distribution of plants to people across the country.
The government has also adopted plans to formulate a long term vision “The Bangladesh Delta Plan-2100” for 50-100 years to address the country’s climate change related issues of water safety, food production, salt intrusion, land shortage and environmental and ecological problems. A Delta Plan Preparatory Team with Bangladesh and Dutch experts has been formed for the purpose.
The Delta Plan will facilitate conservation of natural resources in a comprehensive manner, especially the river floodplains and coastal ecosystems that will eventually ensure sustainable provision of services to the life and livelihoods of vulnerable people. It will also harmonise regional development plans for agriculture, environmental affairs, urbanisation, and tourism.
Oxfam estimates that at least $50 billion dollars will be needed per year if poor countries are to cope with global warming. It has called on the affluent countries to provide about 30% per cent of that sum in order to reflect both its wealth and its share of global toxic emissions.
The report estimates that adaptation costs from increased risks of cyclones and inland monsoon floods in a changing climate for Bangladesh will be approximately US$5.7 billion by 2050.
On 10th June, 2009 the Prime Minister told parliament the country would be able to pool the resources it would need to tackle the impact of global warning.
The government has also promulgated the Climate Change Trust Fund Act 2010 by which a Climate Change Trust Fund has been constituted from its own resources.
The government has already allocated $300 million to it since 2009. By 2011-12 financial year, $300 million ($100 million per fiscal year) has been allocated to the Fund, out of which 66% is available for government-sponsored projects and 34% is reserved as fixed deposit to address emergency.
The government has also established another funding window, the Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund for projects under six major themes: (a) food security, social protection and health, (b) disaster management, (c) infrastructure, (d) research and knowledge management, (e) mitigation and low carbon development and (f) capacity building and institutional strengthening.
About $125 million with contribution from UK ($94.6 million), Sweden ($13.6 million), Switzerland ($3.8 million, Denmark ( $1.8 million) and European Union ($ 11.7 million) has been created for the Resilience Fund.
Out of this fund, 10% would be allocated to private sector. . It is reported that 53 NGOs are being considered for funding to combat the global warming fallout. World Bank would provide technical assistance and trustee of the fund for 5 years (2010-2014) and would charge 4.5% per cent for its service.
Another source of fund of $110 million is the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience which has been supported by World Bank, Asian Development Bank and International Finance Corporation. There are five specific projects such as food security, coastal water supply, sanitation, capacity building and coastal housing.
On 15th May, 2012 the Climate Trust Fund Board headed by the Environment and Forests Minister Dr. Hasan Mahmud approved five projects that would be implemented by various Departments of the government.
The departmental projects include the Community based Adaptation in the Ecologically Critical Areas through Biodiversity Conservation and Social Projection Project, Development Initiative ”Bondhu Chula” Improve Cook Stoves Project, Development of Agricultural weather Forecasting system to protect agriculture from adverse impacts of climate change, Setting up Rubber Dam at Rangunia, the Araikha River Embankment Protection Project in Madaripur.
Thee other projects will be undertaken by local government and one NGO. Palli Daridro Bimochan Foundation will implement the Renewable Energy Development in remote off grid (Char and Haor) areas, Satkhira Zila Parishad will undertake a Rehabilitation Project, Mymensingh Municipality will carry out work to reduce Water-Logging in the area
Bangladesh has been nominated by the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to help poor countries fighting global warming, said Minister for Environment and Forests Dr Hasan Mahmud.
The minister disclosed on 14th May 2012 at a seminar in Dhaka on adaptation programme to face climate risk saying Bangladesh's nomination to the GCF is the recognition of its role by the climatic vulnerable countries in the international forum.
The GCF was launched at a UN climate conference in Durban last December to help channel up to $100 billion a year by 2020 in aid to poor, vulnerable countries to adapt to climate change and cut emissions.
The Bonn meeting on 14th May 2012 of the ad-hoc working group was the first step to negotiate a new global treaty by 2015 that for the first time will place rich and poor countries under a common legal regime to address climate change. Bangladesh participated in the Bonn talks.
The next UN Conference on Climate Change will be held in Doha and hopefully the new global accord will be completed by 2015, coming into effect in 2020.
Observers say the talks for the completion of the global treaty by 2015 will be arduous. The thorny issues include determining the agreement's exact legal status and apportioning carbon constraints among rich and poor countries. The Doha Conference will determine whether we will have to wait until 2020 for a new global treaty or be able to do it by 2015.
Bangladesh is playing a significant support role to the Chair of LDC Group and two important contributions Bangladesh has made so far. One is that Bangladesh has been highlighting the topic of loss and damage due to climate change backed by research inputs and the other has been the issue of displacement and migration of people due to submerge of lands because of sea-rise..
The Rio+20 Conference in Brazil will be held in June 20-22, 2012 in Brazil and the Conference is expected to focus on two themes—a green economy in the context of sustainable development as well as poverty eradication.
Bangladesh will participate in the Rio+20 Conference and is expected to highlight that the increase of population in the world poses a great risk to sustainable environment. The Bangladesh delegation also will raise how to ensure implementation of global political pledges both at international and national levels.
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