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     Volume 4 Issue 47 | May 20, 2005 |

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People's Report on

Bangladesh Environment

Elita Karim

What is unique about 'The People's Report on Bangladesh Environment' is environmental issues from the viewpoint of the people affected by them and attempt at presenting its conscientious. This edition focuses on the urban environment and covers a number of issues related to urbanisation, namely, poverty, population, health and nutrition, industrialisation, energy and the like. Issues such as land and agriculture, forestry and biodiversity, water and climate have also been taken into account.

This report consists of two volumes; Volume I exposes people's perception, views, survey outcomes and expert's opinions on environmental issues, developmental policies and directions. It emphasises on the individual aspects of industry, water, land and agriculture, fisheries and livestock, forestry and biodiversity and climate and also their effects on the environment. Volume II provides corresponding database on the many different aspects of Bangladesh environment.

Published by the Unnayan Shamannay under the Sustainable Environment Management Programme (SEMP), this publication was supported by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

One might wonder about the reason behind the Urban Focus. Clearly, urbanisation is a predominant aspect of contemporary life. People of a varied background and occupation live in urban areas, although perhaps the middle-income group represents the mainstream population.

Despite the over crowding, traffic jam, smog and noise, people prefer to live in urban areas. Some have even moved from the village homes and built permanent homes in the city. Urban residents experience the environment in a variety of different ways depending on their occupation and where they live. Therefore, their perception about the environment may vary on the basis of their everyday experience. Some, in the urban areas, are lucky enough to experience and enjoy public water supply, mass transit, shopping malls and amusement parks.

Poverty exacerbated by over population is a major factor in the weakening of the ready assets and also the man-made resources that a society can provide.

Poverty in Bangladesh is expected to grow with rapid urbanisation. The growth of the urban poor in number means that excessive pressure will be applied on the limited utilities present, which would only complicate further the vicious circle of poverty and environmental degradation.

According to Federico Mayor and Jerome Binde, the urban population world-wide is currently growing two to three times more rapidly than the rural population (The World Ahead: Our Future is the Making, Zed Books/UNESCO, 2001). It has been estimated that four billion people will be living in urban areas in the couth comprising about 57 percent of its total population. Therefore, according to the report, management of urban environment is probably a necessity, which also has a global context. The report further talks about the environmental problems that intesifies urban poverty. For instance, the poor are being forced to live in environmentally unsafe areas, like flood plains, polluted sites near solid waste dumps, open drains, sewers and around polluting industries. Because the urban poor suffer from insecurity, overcrowding, inadequate sanitation and water facilities, various kinds of violence and changes in the labour market, the interlink between environmental degradation and poverty is more pronounced in urban areas than the rural areas.

According to some experts mentioned in the report, there is a growing need to reinvent cities. Dhaka, according to them, is not yet a city. "It is only a gigantic, bursting agglomerate of building, bazaars (markets) and glorified bastees (slums)."

A solution suggested by the report is regaining public space for all citizens. Major importance has been given to the many necessities of people to lead a decent life in the urban environment, namely health care, safe water, employment opportunities, a roof over people's heads, no threat of eviction, security, education, sanitary latrine, gas and electricity.

A huge number of issues have been discussed, starting from the provision of legal settlements to homeless people, eradicating the illegal settlements, to the provision of safe drinking water, security, health and medical facilities for everyone.

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