Environmental Studies at Stamford University Bangladesh
K. Maudood Elahi
Appreciating the growing need for environmental education as well as its global and national importance, the Stamford University Bangladesh (SUB) has, with due approval of the UGC, recently started the Department of Environmental Science. It is beyond doubt that environmental problems caused by pollution, destruction of nature and biodiversity and the failure to use natural resources in a sustainable manner require multi-disciplinary approaches for better understanding and effective solution. The four-year Bachelor courses offered in the Department of Environmental Science (DoES) seeks to provide training in many of these approaches so that students gain an expertise appropriate for managing environmental issues vis-à-vis sustainable use of natural resources, and be capable of identifying proper and specialized solutions needed to address the problems
Traditionally, the study of environment has been very much related to disciplines like, biological sciences, chemistry and earth science. But now-a-days it has increasingly become multidisciplinary drawing materials and expertise from pure sciences, engineering, health sciences and social sciences. In accordance to modern trend Stamford is offering courses in this newly established Department to students not only from relevant science streams but also those from non-science (subject to fulfilling certain conditions).
The course structure of the DoES incorporates a wide range of environment oriented areas having immediate relevance to human environment and earth sciences or in short, man-environment relationships. Therefore, the DoES offer courses to science and non-science streams of students. The admission seekers, in order to sit for an admission test, must have a minimum of second divisions at SSC and HSC or a GPA of 5.0, or a minimum of O-level in 3 subjects and A-level in 2 subjects with satisfactory grades.
The Department and its Present Activities
Students of the Bachelor in Environmental Science are required to complete 142 credit hours including a project work and viva-voice. At this level, the environmental science program is designed to train students in most environmental issues pertaining to present-day national, regional and global dimensions affecting man and its habitat. Therefore, the issues are related to earth's topography, soil, air, water and biodiversity at large as they interact with man and resources in his existence in a given habitat. Specifically the program ranges from subjects, for example, from environmental chemistry, environmental impact assessment (EIA) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to environmental economics, disaster management, and environmental laws and ethics. Apart from its own modest laboratory for cartographic, GIS and Remote Sensing studies, the department uses the facilities of the Departments of Chemistry, Microbiology and Pharmacy at the Stamford University. The Department organizes regular study tours out side Dhaka but there are several field visits to various parts of Dhaka City and its periphery in order to expose the students to problems of urban and industrial environment.
The Department has a plan to set up a GIS Resource Centre to be used for research and training on geo-environmental data base management, spatial and digital remote sensing analysis and mapping for the proposed postgraduate programs. It also envisages extending facilities for short/certificate courses in GIS for external graduates in the fields of environmental management and planning, and automated cartography. We do not think these too ambitious as within the first year of its existence, the DoES has been able to establish credit-transfer arrangement with the University of Teesside, UK and subsequently, join its MRes. Program with a view to lead the postgraduate students for higher degrees leading to M. Phil. or Ph. D. Besides, DoES maintains regular liaison with a number of environmental activists groups/bodies such as, Bangladesh Society of Environmental Scientists (BSES), Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (BAPA), Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO), Disaster Research Training & Management Centre (DRTMC), etc. within Bangladesh, and UNEP and UNESCO (UNO), IDS (UK), TIEMPO (UK), ICIMOD (Nepal) etc.
The DoES has an experienced team of full time teachers all whom are well trained and have higher degrees from universities at home and abroad. Besides, there are a number of part-time/adjunct teachers for course-specific assignments of teaching. It has got well-equipped laboratory and computer facilities. The main library of the SUB has a rich collection of books on environment and related fields. The Department is covered by the regular scholarship policy of the university. Besides, it also offers special scholarships to outstanding students every year.
There is an informal student's activity group, named, Stamford Environment Forum (SEF) aiming at motivating and sensitizing students and general people on environmental problems currently faced by Bangladesh and the world. The Stamford University Bangladesh encourages this kind of students' activities and being a new department the students have also availed of this opportunity to form the forum under the guidance of teachers. The forum has liaison with similar activity groups in Bangladesh. Such contacts undoubtedly make the students aware of current trends in environmental problems as well as make them interested in current research thrusts for their future academic exposure.