PM TO TACKLE THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH
Mohit Ul Alam
Our Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is going to New York to receive the Champions of the Earth Award from the United Nations in the Policy Leadership category on 27 September. In their award citation, Mr. Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), the wing that gives the highest United Nations prize for environment, said, “Through a number of forward-looking policy initiatives and investments, Bangladesh has placed confronting the challenge of climate change at the core of its development . . . [and] Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has demonstrated leadership and vision in both making climate change an issue of national priority and advocating for an ambitious global response. As an early adopter and advocate of climate change adaptation policy, she continues to be an example to follow as world leaders seek to take action on climate change as part of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate conference in December.”
Al Gore was the 45th Vice President of the USA, but he was more than that. He was an environmentalist, and a documentary film, entitled “An Inconvenient Truth” that was released in 2006 and won two academy awards was scripted by him. I happened to see that movie and felt like watching a horror movie. It was on the climatic disaster the world was facing because of the excessive emission of smoke from the industrialised part of the world that cracked the ozone layer and started the process known as global warming. In that film, it was vindicated with much emphasis that if reparable measures were not taken the impact of the global warming would result in risen sea level and cause the lower third part of Bangladesh, one of the most vulnerable countries to face eco-disaster, to be inundated by sea water. Vivid images on slide show that created a nauseated feeling in me carried a graphic illustration of the southern districts of Bangladesh sunk under water and the sea waves lapping at the coast of Dhaka. And all this, the film stressed would happen before 2050, by which year one of every seven Bangladeshis in the nether region would lose their homeland and rush to Dhaka.
The film became one of the most shown documentaries in the history of documentary films, and Al Gore himself won the Nobel Peace Prize in the following year, and the whole matter was urgently taken up by Sheikh Hasina, and her bidding in this respect is outstanding. Being the Prime Minister of one of the most climatically run down countries in the world, she made Bangladesh the first developing country to respond to adaptation policies of climate changes, and then she framed the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan of 2009, and set up its own Climate Change Trust Fund supported by nearly US$300 million of domestic resources from 2009-2012. An estimated 6-7 percent of its annual budget, to the tune of US$ 1 billion, is allocated on climate change adaptation policies, with only a meagre one-fourth contribution to come from the donors. The parliament passed a bill in 2011 guaranteeing protection of natural resources, as a result of which the forestry reserves have increased by 10 per cent. The wetlands and the herbivorous zones as well as rivers and plateaus have been brought under focus for sustainable development. All this constitutes an aggressive but positive approach towards improving the ecological status of Bangladesh. And this can be found as well being corroborated by the fact that Bangladesh has recently elevated its position from the lower-income group to lower-middle income group of countries.
Having taken care of the affairs at home, the Prime Minister has attended many international conferences on the climate disaster and drove this point home that the least developed and developing countries are not responsible for the ecological imbalance, but rather it’s the industrially developed countries which have polluted the environment by their aggressive anti-nature, dehumanised development planning, and, therefore, the industrially rich west must shoulder the bulk of the expenses to be spent in meeting the challenges of environmental changes. She was heard and the affluent industrial belt has come to acknowledge their share of the guilt and shown willingness to recompense for it in a likable manner. Under her leadership Bangladesh has impressed the world by showing that economic growth can take place in a sustainable way not by destroying the ecological balance but by supporting it through pragmatic projects that tie up man and nature together in a creatively constructed zone.
Apart from all her prime ministerial initiatives, what Sheikh Hasina has been doing in facing the challenges of climate changes echoes a deep strain our literature is imbued with. A great segment of our literature is actually ecology-friendly, singing the praise for our flora and fauna. Masterpieces like Pather Panchali, or poems like Jibanananda Das’s “Wherever you like to go—go, I’ll remain on the bank of Bangla,” or Jasimuddin’s “Invitation,”—“Will you go my friend along with me to my little village?” immensely glorify the nature of Bangladesh, and the PM by her efforts for sustainable development are actually translating those dreams into reality: “You won’t find anywhere a country as beautiful as my country is” as a song says.
All this is good—though; however, there are reasons to be necessarily on one’s own guard. The western capitalistic economy is a shrewd player in world politics. It has a way of dealing with the frontline political or cultural leaders from the developing world by a pair of strategies. They either try to contain the upcoming leaders from the developing world by rewards or awards or curb their enthusiasm by constraining measures. That Bangladesh Prime Minister is going to receive the highest environment award has made all of us proud, but the award must not be strung with a set of ‘invisible’ conditions.
The ‘invisible’ conditions may appear in the form of eco-friendly suggestions mainly propagated by NGO’s (which are in some way or other extended branches serving the purpose of multinational capitalistic economy), which raise a hue and cry over every development initiative taken up by a democratic government. Whether it’s a case of building a deep-sea oil-drilling plant, or setting up an energy-producing plant at the midst of the Sundarbans or developing a coal-mining project at Boro Pukuria, they (the NGO’s) will instantly raise their voice in protest and stage a human chain on the busy streets of the capital, totally forgetting that the basic method of civilisation lies in managing the natural resources to the best usages of mankind and nature. The west has done it, and still is doing it, and now it’s our turn to modernise our country in every possible way, and not get confused by misconceived or ill-guided ideas. When proper planning and management is in place, the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, would be served with greater efficacy as planned shelter would be provided for the wild lives, including the Royal Bengal Tigers. If the Bangladesh forests have increased by 10 per cent, the security and safety for wild lives has also increased by the same percentage.
The writer is Vice Chancellor of Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Trishal, Mymensingh
SEPTEMBER 24, 2015