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A prayer for green future -The Asian Age


 Creator, Thank you for the waters of the earth, for the life-sustaining rains, lakes, and deep oceans. Keep us mindful of how precious these are, and how vulnerable they are. Help us to work together for clean water, and for the sharing of it with those who have need of it today. We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. Human health, wellbeing and the prosperity of cities are closely linked to the environment.

A healthy environment - clean air, clean water, productive forests, land and seas - is an essential element that also influences our quality of life, from our standard of living to our public services and education. Acting as hubs for food, water, housing, energy and transport, urban areas have a key role to play to address this situation. Cities can be designed to be more resource-efficient and energy-efficient, reducing impacts to ecosystems, minimizing pollution and acting to mitigate and adapting to climate change.

Despite significant improvements, air pollution remains a major environmental health risk in our cities, contributing to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer and other health effects.  Exposures to particulate matter, ozone and carcinogenic benzo(a)pyrene are of high concern. Congested urban traffic conditions and frequent short journeys results in higher air pollution emissions per kilometre compared to free-flowing longer journeys. Our seas and oceans are an integral part of our history, economy and way of life.

Oceans supply nearly half of the oxygen we breathe, absorb over a quarter of the carbon dioxide we produce, play a vital role in the water cycle and climate system, and are critical for biodiversity and ecosystem services. Our marine environment supports our economy with crucial jobs, seafood and raw materials. Urban planners can focus on the 'greenification' of city areas, with ample green and blue spaces which contribute to clean air and reduce noise.

These areas encourage physical activity; improve mental health and social interaction.  Planners can also look at improving mobility, making transport infrastructure modern and more efficient, with more walkable and cyclable neighbourhoods and by facilitating access to local services. Such green planning can also contribute to local climate regulation to reduce heat in core built up areas of cities. Well managed, well planned and well governed cities can be a positive game changer. Urban areas already serve as magnets for talent and innovation and are well placed to lead the way to a greener future.

Cities are a source of problems, but at the same time they also have a huge potential to develop solutions towards a resource-efficient economy and a low-carbon society. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations. Environmental degradation and climate change related risks and vulnerabilities have intensified in Bangladesh. 

Loss of forest land, the degradation of land, sea and river water pollution, indiscriminate filling of water bodies for land acquisition, unsustainable use of ground water and fishery resources in ponds, lakes and rivers, and unsustainable ways of shrimp farming have collectively taken a huge toll on the degradation of the eco-system and consequent loss of bio-diversity.

The agenda for green growth for Bangladesh is undoubtedly daunting, but not impossible. The 2041 Perspective Plan, currently under preparation, provides a major opportunity to jump start the green growth agenda and step up the policies, programmes, institutional reforms and financing that will allow Bangladesh to reconcile its growth and poverty agenda with environmental protection.

A first major strategic consideration in translating the vision of 'green' growth and corresponding targets for environmental management into actions is to demonstrate tangible ways in which the green growth strategy can help the growth agenda. For example, in the context of a neo-classical growth model, green growth strategy can help accelerate growth by increasing the availability of capital that substitutes for exhaustible natural resources (e.g. renewable energy; conservation of surface water) and by increasing the productivity of capital (e.g. avoiding land degradation, reducing the adverse effects of natural disasters, cost savings on health, etc).

Second, is the challenge to identify and adopt policies, institutions and programmes that internalise environment as an integral part of the growth process and not as an add-on to worry about as an international commitment or as a part of a donor commitment. Bangladesh has made a start in this integration process by incorporating climate change agenda in the national plans and in the budget. But there is a long way to go. Incentive policies for environmental protection such as adoption of green tax on fossil fuel consumption are missing.

Similarly pricing policies for water, fertiliser and timber do not allow for environmental consideration. Regulatory policies for controlling water and air pollution are either weak or not properly enforced. Monitoring and evaluation of environmental degradation and effectiveness of redressing measures is absent or weak owing to a lack of adequate information and capacity.