|Volume 5 Issue 06 | June 2011|
Leaving Behind the Legacy of a Healthy Environment
PINAKI ROY contemplates on giving back to nature.
Planet Earth is our common home.
The earth's resources are limited. It is expected that everyone will share the benefits equitably. But what is really happening here? Commercial extraction of natural resources driven by human greed and implementation of wrong development policies are destroying the ecosystem, causing extinction of many species.
The scenario of abusing the environment is more or less the same in all parts of the globe. The situation is worse in a country like Bangladesh where more than a thousand people elbow each other to make room in a square km area.
In the 1930's, Mahatma Gandhi insisted all to adopt a simple lifestyle, asserting that nature produces enough for our needs if only everybody took only enough for him/herself and nothing more. No one would die of starvation.
A recent study of the World Food Programme (WFP) states that one third of the total food produced every year is wasted, leaving around one billion people worldwide hungry out of a total of 6.6 billion.
In this situation, everybody must avoid a culture of extravagant material consumption and pursue ways to preserve the planet by improving consumption patterns. At this stage, we need to think about what kind of ethical ground we are maintaining for our environment.
June 5, World Environment Day, has always been a day of green activities involving people from all walks of life. It's a day that reminds earth dwellers about their responsibility to Mother Nature. The focus is on ensuring a sustainable ecology for the future generations.
'Forests: Nature at your Service' is the theme of the World Environment Day 2011. Nature provides for us as long as we keep the natural system alive and do not destroy the biodiversity. One cannot think of milking a cow after killing it for meat.
Worldwide, 1.6 billion people directly or indirectly depend on forest resources.
The facts about destruction of world forests are simply incredible. The tropical rainforests, producing 40% of total oxygen in our atmosphere and home to 50% of animals, plants and insect species, are being destroyed at a rate of 40 to 50 million acres per year. That's an average of 75 acres every hour of every day.
As many as 48 species of life forms are pushed into extinction every day due to human commercial aggression in the form of making paper. The Americans use 50 million tonnes of paper a year, consuming 850 million trees to produce that paper.
Compared with the world scenario we can easily understand the severity of abuse of Bangladesh's forest area. We have successfully brought down the capita forest in Bangladesh to a 0.022 ha, one of the lowest in the world.
The annual deforestation rate in South Asia is 0.6% and it is 3.3% for Bangladesh. According to the country's Forestry Master Plan drawn in 1993, the actual forest cover of the country will not exceed 6% against the world standard of 25%.
Asian Development Bank's (ADB) country strategy paper citing 'available information' suggests that currently only 10% of the 1, 20,000 hectares of the country's Sal forest area is actually covered by Sal.
According to earlier estimates of Bangladesh Forest Department, a total of 2.52 million hectares, nearly 17.4% of Bangladesh was regarded as forest, of which 1.52 million hectares was under the direct control of Forest Department (FD), Government of Bangladesh.
However, a recent analysis of satellite images under a joint project of the government with Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) called National Forest Assessment (NFA) reveals that the actual total area of the land under 'Forest' in Bangladesh is not more than 1.44 million hectares.
Already 40% of the Sundarbans forest is affected by top dying, which is killing the famous Sundri tree from the top downwards. Massive deforestation in the Kassalong, Reinkhyong reserve forests occurred in 1979-84 when people from the plain land were settled in this area. Likewise, the Sangu and Matamuhuri Reserves have also suffered quite extensive destruction because of illegal logging.
The situation is so bad that newly settled people set up village after village in the reserve forest area and live on logging and clearing the forests. It was reported in newspapers a couple of months back that a herd of elephants living in Pablakhali do not get any shrubs or herb or other fodder as newly settled people have cleared the bushes.
Over the years, Bangladesh has already lost about 10% of its mammalian fauna, 3% avifauna and 4% reptile during the last 100 years out of 125 species of mammals, 750 species of birds, over 500 species of fishes, 125 species of reptiles and nine species of amphibian.
In addition to that, a total of 201 species of wildlife in the country are threatened under different degrees of extinction risk in the country, the local chapter of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) identified.
Loss of endangered species is mostly caused due to loss of habitat. Forests are increasingly being degraded and denuded by encroachment and faulty management practices. Wetlands are in worse condition compared to forests. Wetlands are being converted into agricultural land and substantially degraded through the so-called development activities.
The impact of human activities cause the temperature to rise more rapidly than usual, leading to global warming. Keeping this consequence in mind, all of us have no choice but to cultivate a lifestyle that accepts sufficiency rather than greed and excess. Bearing in mind that the earth's resources are limited, each person must avoid a culture of extravagant material consumption and pursue ways to preserve the planet by improving consumption patterns.
The industrial sector must actively apply eco-efficiency principles in order to use less energy and materials for the same amount of output and to reduce emissions and waste. An ethical or moral regime of choice between right and wrong, between what is materially attractive and morally reprehensive can show the world foundation a new global environmental ethic.
In many traditional societies, respect is built around knowledge and experience. There people value the “wisdom of the elders” and the “sacred ecologies”. In Bangladesh, for example, the Baul philosophy, a syncretic religious tradition of Bangladesh that integrates wisdom from Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity into secularism and has the elements of liberalism, universalism, particularism, naturalism and mysticism, has always promoted living in harmony with nature.
The Bauls teach us to cleanse the fickle minds of ours with the thought that people come into Earth only for a short period of temporary stay and we do not take away our riches and wealth when we have to finally take our last breath.
If our short and fleeting stay is not governed by an ethical and moral regime, we fall prey to all kinds of deviations and delinquencies including environmental crime. After abusing the natural resources for hundreds of years, destroying ecology and biodiversity, now it is time to pause a little. It is now time to rethink a way of life that gives back to nature and leaves a future to the young and the unborn.
Should we not give them a chance to a future in a world with a clean environment and healthy ecological system?
Pinaki Roy is Deputy Chief Reporter, The Daily Star.
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