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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 124 | June 21 , 2009|


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Unysab-Star Campus roundtable on
‘Corporate Environmental Responsibility’


ONCE upon a time the Buriganga River which flows by Dhaka was indeed grand, but now it is one of the most polluted rivers in Bangladesh. A thirty feet high dump of polythene bags dwell on the river bed of Buriganga and not to mention the uncontrolled discarding of industrial and human waste. This single issue accounts for many waterborne diseases such as cholera, which poses a serious danger to public health." The water of Buriganga is now so polluted that almost all the fish in it have died, and the increasing filth and human waste have turned it into a pool of black gel. Even rowing across the river is now difficult as it smells so bad” said Ainun Nishat, a top environmental expert. But this does not suggest the end; we have so much to contribute to change this terrible condition.

The World Environment Day was first observed by UN in 1972. The main aim was simple: to create awareness and save what is left of our planet. The theme for this year's Environment day was “your planet needs you - UNite to combat climate change”. The United Nations of Youth and Students Association of Bangladesh (UNYSAB), UNIC and Star Campus together held a round-table discussion entitled 'Corporate Environmental Responsibility'. The President of UNYSAB, Nafeez Nipun welcomed everyone with a brief introduction about the World Environment Day (WED). He stressed on the questions that the youth has about the responsibilities of the corporate organizations and their contributions on environmental issues. The opening speech was given by Dr. Kazi Ali Reza of UNIC. He talked about how the corporate organizations contribute to the responsibility of preventing the environment. A video conference took place on the 2nd of June between Bangladesh and Kenya arranged by UNIC. They focused on many environmental issues and their possible solutions. UN and corporate houses go back in 1946 to work together to save the environment. Ban Ki Moon's message for this year's WED was read out by him. It reflected the urgency for nations to agree on a new deal at the crucial climate convention meeting in Copenhagen. His message was humble: switch off the lights, clean up your local park and use public transport.

Asrar Chowdhury, teacher of JU, joked that he is not a specialist. The resources that are communally used if overused then it will die down. He mentioned about The Daily Star “Nodi Bachao, Dhaka Bachao” campaign. He said, “in order to create awareness, young people's role is very important since we cannot relocate our cities in this small country.” A presentation was shown which focused on facts such as what we are drinking, what we are breathing and some other similar stories. A country requires at least 25% of forestry whereas we have only 14% and the level is retreating. It also pointed out a few measures that can alter our fate. Identifying vehicles with no catalytic convertor, relocating the industries out of the cities and above most create awareness and preserving our dear forests: can be some of the ways.

Shahnoor Wahid, the editor of Star Campus, focused more on the “Nodi Bachao, Dhaka Bachao” campaign. This campaign has been going on for a month now. He said, “We have been collecting photos of this particular pollution.

And yes we were aware of the powerful negativities that might stop us. But it is pleasing to see that other electronic media and other dailies are joining us. The participation of the population is necessary as well”. He also mentioned about the politicians showing interest in protecting our rivers. His grief remains that how the ancient people took care of the rivers for 200 years to settle their civilization and how the city folks are destroying it all within a handful of years.

Niaz Rahim, the group director of Rahim Afroz, told everyone how they are contributing in saving the environment. The production of batteries does have perilous wastes. In particular he mentioned the lead and acid hazards. He also showed a presentation showing how the lead-acid pollutions are controlled. The runoff treatment plants and the acid-fume removal scrubber are well maintained for removing the wastes. They have their own environment policies. “We will do more than the legal requirement which will promote greater environmental responsibility” Niaz Rahim said strongly. “Our environmental management system (EMS) obeys the three R principles: reduce, reuse and recycle.” They are also collecting the used lead batteries from all over the country and recycling them. They also signed a MOU with the United Nations. “We are also doing activities among school children to create awareness” said Niaz Rahim.

Dr. Mokaddem Hossain, a teacher of Dhaka University, talked about the contribution of the different sectors in environment pollution.He said, “Our industrialists need to ensure that people and environment friendly products are needed to be manufactured.” Dr. Aminul Islam who represented UNDP also presented on the subject. He pointed out how we are borrowing natural resources from the future generation. “High consumption of industrial products affected the natural resources which are pressing on the world energy level. Regulations are necessary to sustain our environment such as promoting green growth and saving non renewable energy as much as possible.” The after effect of pollution can be very detrimental. He drew an example of America's chromium pollution and how the government at that time built walls surrounding the infected water to protect other water bodies.

Shampa Reza, the special guest of the program shared her views with the young people. She has a school in Sylhet and they work for the environment. “We have an organization called 'Manimal' which comprises of young students who visit different schools. The group takes various animals with them.” She talked about her experiences on how she had to deal with pollution. “The greediness of bad people is driving the rate over the chart. Ethics are being polluted and it is affecting the environment.” She joked that how we put formalin in our food and feed it to our own children! He also told the audience, how she got to know about UNYSAB. Anisur Rahman talked about the decentralization of facilities. “No matter how much the city corporation tries to keep the city clean, it is us who are not playing our parts and making our own city dirty” he said. Other corporate houses such as the Standard Chartered Bank have their own contribution for the environment." We offer our assistance to anyone who wants to walk the same beneficial path.” She showed how their buildings are environment friendly and how they encourage the customers to go for online banking rather than old fashioned paper work to cut down on the use of paper. M S Islam, an agriculture scientist who represented Grameen Shakti made a point on population eruption." We aim to establish renewable energy to empower rural people,” said M S Islam. He made a presentation marking all the aspects he talked about. “We plan on giving 50% of the population renewable energy utilizing green power such as solar energy and biogas” he said. They also have a tree plantation program. Using this green power schools, hospital even houses are supplied with electricity.

So are there any laws against this pollution? Of course there are. But the reluctance of the politicians promotes no implications. “Can media play an organized role in the grass root level? ” asked Turag from Ideal school. Tanvir inquired why the research results on environmental issues do not get enough attention. A student from IBA said that corporations who are not doing anything must be provided with motivation. And in order to create awareness, he suggested that there can be green awards, green labels on certain products and green campaigns all over the country. Shakil from DU mentioned about “Shobuj Biplob”. He asked why it is not patronized by the media.

The president of UNYSAB, Nafeez Nipun said how different NGO's, different pressure groups; MNC's can work together to contribute to our environmental problems. Dr. Ali Reza concluded the discussion. “I hope our words do not stay within these walls” he said. A final presentation prepared by UNYSAB member, Nabeera Rahman, with photo courtesy of Hasibul Sakib Haque was shown. Pledges were made by the attended guests and each was gifted with a plant.

UNEP launched a Twitter contest where anyone can enter the website (www.twitter.com) and for every user logging in, a tree will be planted in Nairobi. We can all do our part to protect the planet by using less and acting more. However if our actions are complicated and doubtful, it will be difficult to take appropriate responsibilities for our actions. This is one of key causes of our environmental pollution. If we are motivated by an ethically clean and pure mind, may be without too much effort we can contribute to build a healthy ecosystem.

(The writer is a member of Unysab)

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