With increased production on scant lands and development projects in biodiversity-rich areas, the accelerated growth will continue in the future, mounting pressure on the environment and biodiversity, environmentalists have said at a webinar.
"Bangladesh is 91st out of 190 countries in terms of size but 43rd in terms of GDP. This means by using the domestic resources, we develop much more than other countries – which is putting pressure on the resources," AK Enamul Haque, executive director and CEO of the Asian Center for Development, told the programme titled "Achievement in Conservation Sector in Last 50 Years and Challenges Ahead" Wednesday.
The programme was co-hosted by The Business Standard and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Enamul Haque said, "Bangladesh produces $100 per acre of land, while Pakistan produces $15, India $41 and Sri Lanka $58. In other words, now the pace of development in Bangladesh is high, so the pressure on the environment will increase. Against this backdrop, the emphasis on conservation needs to be amplified."
Water resource and climate change specialist Dr Ainun Nishat mentioned the enactment of various laws since 1972 to protect the environment, wetlands and biodiversity. At the same time, he highlighted the weaknesses of the laws.
He said, "Though the initial conservations began in 1972, effective measures have been taken up only 10-15 years ago."
"So far, Bangladesh has been participating in international events on environment conservation hosted by other countries. Ministers are attending the programmes if those are at the ministerial level, and bureaucrats are joining the bureaucratic level events. But, they did not implement the recommendations after returning to the country," he said.
"Environmental conservation is still at an early stage in Bangladesh, more knowledge needs to be produced in this regard," he added.
Jahangirnagar University zoology Professor Monirul H Khan emphasised the protection of wildlife habitat for wildlife conservation.
He said, "Tigers, deer and crocodiles survive in the Sundarbans because the mangrove forest is in a relatively good condition. But forests in the Chattogram Hill Tracts and Madhupur Bhawal are in misery. On the other hand, forests in Chattogram and Cox's Bazar have become fragmented – which previously was the home for bears, apes and leopards. Those jungles now do not have the wildlife species except monkey and barking deer."
"The biodiversity-rich areas are hosting more and more development projects. But sustainable development does not allow the separation of biodiversity and conservation of the wildlife," he further said, adding artificial and man-made forests are not the alternatives to the natural greeneries.
"Therefore, we need to emphasise conservation of the entire natural ecosystem. Still there are biodiversity rich areas out of the reserved spots," added Prof Monirul.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), advocated for public engagements and considering the opinions of the masses for development projects in biodiversity rich areas.
She said, "The environmental impact assessment report of every project is supposed to be made public for opinion, but the process is often bypassed showing the excuse of numerous acts and regulations."
She urged the government to formulate a guideline immediately in this regard.
Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, underscored the participations of the youths in development projects. He said laws will be implemented when there will be youths to implement those.
He put high hopes on the youths of the country.
Retired chief conservator of forest Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmad talked about participatory social forestry as a means of participation.
Among others, Ecofish project team leader Abdul Wahab, Bangladesh Bird Club founder Enam Ul Haque, Arannayk Foundation Executive Director Rakibul Hasan and a number of young wildlife conservators spoke at the programme.
IUCN Country Representative Raquibul Amin and The Business Standard Editor Inam Ahmed moderated the webinar jointly.