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Taking matters into our own hands

  • Published at 05:00 pm February 5th, 2020
Photo: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Can the government take on climate change

It’s more than a trifle difficult to explain the impact of climate change to a people so used to river erosion and the appearance of sandbanks. If that itself isn’t a challenge, the theory of 25% of land covered by forests is harder still.

The facts have featured in text and curricula but the numbers exhorting for action are dwindling by the day. Far from planting trees they have their job cut out to protect open spaces and playgrounds.

Reserve forests are being destroyed with abandon and the annual tree plantation affair has become symbolic more than resolve. The magnificent trees that aligned the Jessore Benapole road have all come to grief in the interest of its widening for all the protests of environmentalists.

It took a prime ministerial decision to initiate a replanting measure but how many will actually survive and who takes care of them isn’t quite clear. The trees that were cut down were hundreds of years old and most of us won’t see such splendour in our lifetime. 

The abject shame is that countless acres of khas government land are slowly being demarcated for this or the other development project without planned plantation of trees that will survive.

The race is on for allocation of the city’s Agargaon area for offices and there are no signs of trees despite the irony that that’s the venue for the annual tree fair. Sometime last year, there were reports of 3 million trees to be planted in memory of the martyrs of the Liberation War.

Properly planned in well-marked out areas this will have a positive impact against climate change but the coastal belt needs protection as does replenishment of the Sundarbans so often the vanguard against threatening cyclones.

Real estate companies were charged with ensuring green spaces in areas that were built up but the shrewdness of architects was no match for town planners, and the RAJUK inspectors had incentives to tick the boxes.

What the newly elected mayors and even members of parliament can do to address the situation is up in the air. The government has taken on climate change with an array of measures but unless adequate funds can be made available these aren’t likely to be sustainable.

The latest allocation of $1 billion is substantive but pales in the requirements of remedial steps With the disaster of the Spain COP, the focus now is on the November meeting in the UK. With different parts of the world differing in their views the prospects are bleak. 

A stream of nationalist leaders has divorced themselves from the Paris Agreement with the United States, Australia, and Brazil leading the pack. 

Donald Trump doesn’t believe climate change is an issue, Bolsonaro believes the Amazon Forests are Brazil’s to decide, and the Australians consider their coal reserves to be of use rather than left be.

Europe is leading the race in conservation and a decided incline towards renewable energy. Germany has come to an agreement with coal miners to terminate extraction by 2038. 

Unfortunately, Europe alone will not do in the fight against fossil fuels. There are huge economic implications and though the US Treasury secretary might have sounded a trite rude in advising teenage activist Greta Thunberg to go study economics, he wasn’t totally wrong. 

Then again the teenager has a point of her own. What is economics if it isn’t farsighted enough for their generation? 

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.

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