ULAB Workshop on
'Climate Change Save Bangladesh'
Tarif Mohammed Khan
OVER the last one year, climate change scientists have been sending alarming news that a significant part of Bangladesh will be submerged in the next twenty or so years due to the effects of climate change and resulting sea-level rise. The Bangladesh Government is naturally concerned and has been highlighting this perilous problem in national and global forums in an effort to look for solutions. But will this be enough?
There is an urgent need to inform the young generation about the implications of the impending crisis since they will be most affected if the gloomy predictions come true. They will need to play an active role in finding ways to mitigate the adverse impacts on our people and society. With this in mind, the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) organized a study tour to the Sundarbans, a part of Bangladesh which will be the one of the first to be affected by sea level rise. The main purpose of the tour, participated by one hundred and nine undergraduate students and four faculty members, was to conduct a workshop on 'Climate Change Save Bangladesh' in the Sundarbans.
The tour, which was organized by ULAB Adventure Club, started on 14 January, 2010 with a six hour bus journey from the ULAB campus to Mongla Port, where a three-storey launch, Mitali-5, was berthed and ready to receive us. That would be our floating hotel for the next four days and nights. After a night's journey, we woke up early next morning to the sight of a magical Sundarban dawn at a place called Kachikhali in Sarankhola Range, close to the Bay of Bengal.
We went ashore at Kachikhali beach for a briefing by Mehdi Rajeb, Lecturer and the tour leader, on how we were expected to behave in the forest, with an emphasis on creating zero pollution. We then set off on a long trek through the beautiful wildlife sanctuary to emerge three and half hours later onto the pristine Jamtali beach. We pitched our posters in the sand and sat in a semi circle in readiness for the workshop on climate change.
Everyone was captivated by the beauty of the location, the Indian Ocean sea on one side and the Sundarbans on the other.
The workshop began with five minutes of silent meditation. With eyes closed, we took in the sounds and smell of the waves and the Sundarbans. We felt at one with nature. It was a near spiritual experience for all of us.
Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Imran Rahman spoke about global warming, its causes and effects, how we are all contributing to it through our unsustainable life styles. He drove home the startling realization that a meter rise in sea level would submerge the very beach we were sitting on, as well as a most of the forest land. He asked us to think about ways through which we can conduct our personal and work lives in a more sustainable manner, in order to minimize the adverse effects of climate change on future generations. We were to be spokespersons for the cause of sustainable development.
Dr. Jahirul Haque, Deputy Director of Academic Affairs, enlightened us about sustainability and survival. He spoke of the devastating effects of hurricane Sidr and explained how our environment is being polluted every day. He encouraged us to become better informed on environmental issues in order to enlighten our family and friends. We adopted the motto: 'Be sustainable, and help others understand what sustainability is.'
Our adventure club advisor, Mehdi Rajeb, gave useful examples of what sustainable development means in our everyday life. He inspired us to go for more tree plantation and asked us to use our natural resources carefully with an eye towards our future generations. He emphasized the need to keep our environment free from pollution. The workshop session over, we picked up all the litter from the beach, leaving it as we found it.
The trip continued next day to Kokilmoni where the after-affects of Sidr were still evident in the devastation of forest ranger's office. A sweet water pond nearby provided the opportunity for some of us to take a quick dip. On the banks of the pond, we saw an area of compressed grass which was a tiger's bed very recently and fresh tiger paw marks in the mud. In the afternoon, we went ashore at Tinkona (three-sided) Island, to catch the heavenly scene of deer grazing on a grassy range. The island looked completely unspoilt and alive with a rich variety of plant life. Our advisor told us to imagine a world without such places. The idea wasn't pleasing and we realized that we have to stop climate change at any cost.
On our way back home from Sundarbans suddenly I recalled an inscription that adorns the door of Diwani-i-Khas in Delhi's Red Fort, built by the great Moghul Emperor Shahjehan. It reads 'Aagar Firdaus bar ruey jameen ast, Hamen ast u-Hameen ast u- Hameen ast'. (If there is a paradise on earth, then it is here, it is here, it is here.) To me nothing could be more true than our experience in Sundarbans.
(The writer is a student of ETE Department, ULAB)