• Friday, Oct 07, 2022
  • Last Update : 10:24 am

OP-ED: Have we forgotten Mother Nature?

  • Published at 07:33 pm September 25th, 2021
climate change

We need to stop damaging the environment around us

Climate change is real, and the sooner we address it the better.

Climate change refers to both global warming and abrupt shifts in weather patterns. Bangladesh is a riverine country and situated in the delta of Padma and Jamuna. Except for the hilly areas in Chittagong and Bandarban, the rest of the country has a gentle slope with an elevation of fewer than nine meters above sea level. As a country primarily dependent on agriculture, it’s obvious that climate change imposes a dire risk on all of us. 

The rising sea level has exacerbated salinization in the southern districts of Bangladesh. The saline waters degrade soil quality, which in turn affects agriculture. Many farmers will be losing their primary source of income. Additionally, a shift in rainfall patterns means some areas will face droughts while some areas will experience heavy precipitation, resulting in flooding. 

This unpredictable change in weather is another threat to our agrarian economy. Then there is the rising sea level threatening the loss of land. According to a report by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Bangladesh may lose 11% of its land by 2050. 

Furthermore, almost 35 million people live on the coastline, and they are in immediate danger of the increasing frequency and severity of tropical storms like cyclones. All these calamities induce migration to big cities as livelihoods are at risk. EJF estimates that by 2050, one in every seven people in Bangladesh will be displaced due to climate change. The irony is that the same people who are being affected are not responsible. It is the big cities and their shopping malls, factories, and expensive cars that are to blame. 

Our cities are anything but sustainable. If we want to safeguard the livelihoods of those who are most adversely affected, we need to focus on sustainability. 

The first step towards sustainable living is renewable energy. Around 65% of our power production is from our natural gas reserve, while the rest comprises of fossil fuel and coal. The figure shows how only 3% of our energy production is met through renewable energy and those are areas where it is not possible to reach using traditional manners. 

The biggest consumers of energy are the cities, and it is important to find ways for our houses, offices, and factories to find an alternate solution. One of them is solar energy. 

Solar energy installation has lost momentum due to fast-expanding electricity in off-grid areas, which means that areas that rely on solar because there was no other option will now switch to the traditional power line. Due to the massive expansion of the electricity grid, the electricity price is lower than what one would have to pay if using the solar home system. In that way, offices and factories can utilize their roofs to install the panels and generate electricity. 

Floating solar panels are another great way to generate the required electricity for irrigation, and produces more electricity than the land-based system. Ponds cover an estimated 150,000 hectares in Bangladesh. If one-third of these ponds were used for floating solar systems, each pond could generate 15,000MW of electricity. 

It will not only power irrigation pumps, but also help to power rural homes. Right now affordability is an issue, which I believe can be solved through mass production of the floating solar panels.

The second step in sustainable living is reducing plastic usage. Plastic is responsible for 80% of Dhaka’s water-logging problems, and has created a three-metre thick layer on the Buriganga river bed. A new study found that when plastic goes to sea and is exposed to the sun, it releases methane and ethylene -- two powerful greenhouse gasses that worsen climate change. While the world was trying to find an alternative solution, Bangladeshi scientist Mubarak Ahmed Khan invested years into making a biodegradable polymer of jute that is as durable as polythene. He named it “Sonali bag,” and this is indeed a milestone that can save the environment. 

However, in his interview, he stated that he was facing a lack of investment to scale up the project. This project could not only solve our global plastic problem, but could also revamp the dire state of our jute industry, creating jobs nationally.

The final and crucial step in combating climate change is awareness. Before attempting to solve any problem, we need to first understand that there is a problem. Every time I use the Mawa Ghat to cross the river, I see passengers throwing plastic cups, cigarette butts, and paper straight into the Padma. 

This is alarming, and we citizens need to be taught how to be more environment-friendly. From not using a gas stove to dry our clothes to not throwing plastics everywhere, we need to be aware of the kind of Earth we are leaving for the next generation. Re-use that plastic bottle instead of throwing it away, recycle old clothes instead of buying new ones, plant more trees, and educate your children on how to protect Mother Nature. Collectively, Bangladesh needs to create opportunities for climate science, and inspire the next generation to pursue these careers. 

Protyasha Ghosh is a freelance contributor.

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