Greening Bangladesh: Saving environment globally and educating our offspring

Islam Md. Hashanat

"Man has gone to the moon but he does not know yet how to make a flame tree or a birdsong. Let us keep our dear countries free from irreversible mistakes which would lead us in the future to long for those same birds and trees." --AnonymousVery recently, while visiting Rangamati Lake with Mr. André Berg an agro tourism specialist from Italy, one thing I have learnt by heart how to love the environment and our earth. Actually we were plying through the lake to reach Shuvolong, which took about an hour by engine boat from Parjatan area of Rangamati. On our way, we took various types of fast food and drinks and enjoyed the beauty of the nature. Suddenly, unconsciously, I threw the waste packet of my chips to the lake water. To his utter surprise Mr. Berg shouted at once "Noble, how can you do that"? At first I could not realize what happened, then I understood what mistake I had committed. Mr. Berg couldn't believe how I could throw that packet into the water being an educated citizen especially working in the tourism sector. I was amazed more than I was ashamed. He asked the boat to stop and turned back. He collected the packet by himself and put it in the wastebasket. During the next few minutes he talked about the general consciousness of the European people regarding littering in the public area, either on the road or in water. I understood from his action how they try hard to keep the environment clean. We are unconscious and do not even try to become friendly with nature and the environment. Since then I always try to do something for saving the environment and at least to educate and urge my fellow mates not to destroy the environment and the earth.


In recent years it has become a major subject to relate Environmental issues in teaching. Teachers all round the world are using the environmental theme as a means of linking the classroom to the world. The environmental problems are threatening the earth and we need to find ways to help. The main purpose of the environmental issuebased instructions can reflect our deep conviction that the subject matter needs to be taught for its own sake as well as their recognition of its intrinsic appeal to motivate and involve the teenagers and other learners in learning and helping out to save our dear earth.

Today, on the eve of "The World Environment Day" I would like to draw the attention of those who love nature and of course, human beings to educate our offspring in this regard. But before going to the depth of the matter, let us find out what is happening globally in the context of environment.

Our environment includes human society as well as nature. Recent studies show how this mother nature is endangered for the activities of human beings. The environmentalists and the scientists work hard to find the reasons for global warming, deforestation, greenhouse effect, ecological balance, etc. and try to give us the solution to protect the nature of this earth.

The most alarming of all man's assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers and sea with dangerous and even lethal chemicals. Air pollution is a common hazard in both industrial and developing countries. One of the most dangerous forms of air pollution is acid rain. Acid rain results from the release into the atmosphere of sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide. Electrical generating plants, industrial boilers, large smelters, and automobiles are among the chief source of these emissions. The gases react with water droplets, forming a diluted mixture of sulfuric acid and nitric acid, and it is this mixture that returns to earth in the form of acid rain, mist or snow. Pushed by the wind currents, the acid rain often falls to the ground far from its point of origin. Recently acid rain killed vast stretches of forest in Canada, the United States, and central and north Europe. In Europe nearly every species of tree is affected. Acid rain has acidified lakes and streams, rendering them unable to support fish, wildlife, plants or insects. In Sweden at least 40,000 of the 90,000 lakes have been affected, and in the United States one in five lakes suffers from this type of pollution.

Another most common and dangerous form of air pollution is "gases" such as carbon dioxide (from deforestation and the burning of coal, oil, natural gas and fossil fuel). Carbon dioxide level within the atmosphere during present time is increasing at an alarming rate. Scientists estimated at least seven billion tons of carbon the states are pouring down each year into the atmosphere. The increased amount of carbon dioxide causes increase of global mean surface temperature about 2º-3º Celsius. Results of the global warming would be more dangerous because moisture in the soil evaporates at higher rates with the overall temperature rise. The deserts are expanding for this as it has already happened with the Sahara desert of Africa. And, for the same reason habitats of some animals have started shrinking and range of insects are expanding. It would become another threat to the world as WHO (World Health Organization) predicts that malaria and dengue fever could reach epidemic levels. Bangladesh is a burning example in this regard, as our people fell victim to this deadly fever in the recent past and precautions are yet to be taken for the prevention of this disease.

High above the earth's atmosphere there is a thin veil in the stratosphere called the ozone layer, which protects the earth from the sun's destructive Ultraviolet (UV) ray. This protective layer is being damaged by chemicals known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are released into the atmosphere by the daily use of such industrial and household products as refrigerators, air conditioners, foam insulation, cleaning chemicals, and food packaging. The CFCs rise into the ozone where the sunlight decomposes them, releasing chlorine. The chlorine attacks the ozone, thinning or making a "hole" in it and allows more UV rays to penetrate the earth. Over exposure to UV rays can increase the risk of skin cancer, weaken the immune system and damage the retina.

It is estimated that in the United States alone one in six Americans will develop skin cancer as a result of over exposure to UV rays.

For the same not only the human beings are at risk, so do the animals, plants, and the environment in general. With the thinning the ozone layer, UV rays can penetrate the oceans, and can seriously reduce the yields of economically important crops such as soybeans, cotton and rice.

As the question comes of animals, plants and the whole environment, we recall the above words of Mahatma Gandhi. When a plant or animal is gone forever, we say it is extinct. Although extinction is a natural process, in today's world it is happening at an alarming rate. Experts estimate that one species plant, animal or insect becomes extinct every day. At that rate, within next 20 years one-fifth of all species could be extinct.

To prevent wildlife in the United States from becoming extinct "Endangered Species Act" was passed in 1973. It established two categories of species in trouble: endangered and threatened. Endangered are those species where so few numbers are left on the brink of extinction, and threatened are those, if not protected, they are likely to become endangered. The African elephant is one of approximately 1,117 species on the endangered list, and there are more than 4,000 species waiting to be put on the list.

To reduce elephant poaching and collapse the market for ivory, in 1989 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) banned the ivory trade. However, poaching continues. We human being are the real danger with all our greed.

Let's come back to our global warming factor again. The impact of warming on water and water bodies are more severe. Rising water, resulting from melting polar icecaps and water expansion from the increasing warming are the most widely anticipated consequences of a warming world. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that water level of seas and ocean will rise from 25-95 centimetres by the year 2100 and 30 centimetres by this century. In such case a low-lying nation like Bangladesh will lose about 20% of her land from the coastal area. Not only land will be submerged under the sea, but also encroaching salt water will contaminate sweet water supplies of the coastal zone and farms of the same land. And such disastrous climate change could cost a country like Bangladesh a lot. Because of the rise of sea levels, heat waves, flood, drought, water logging and hurricanes may occur more rapidly than ever before. That is the reason the industrialized and affluent nations set national or regional limits of releasing carbon dioxide, the chief suspect in any kind of global warming.

Another main reason for global warming is deforestation, whereas protecting all the forests is one key to our survival on this planet. Saving of the forestland is necessary for the continuity of earth's living organisms including human beings as well as existence of the earth as a whole.

Deforestation is mainly induced by increase in population worldwide and especially more on forested tropical countries. Among other reasons of deforestation are natural calamities like fire, earthquake, erosion from the volcanoes, avalanche, ice storm, insects and pests, drought, excessive rainfall, flood, etc.

Natural calamities are beyond our control, but the other reason for deforestation, rapid growth of population, is definitely in our control. Human activities such as logging, mining, farming, for getting building materials, for construction of houses, conservation of forest land for making grazing lands for livestocks are some of the primary reasons for clearing forests by people in the earlier days. But with the growth of population and with their changing demands and invention of various consumer goods and services for meeting ever increasing unlimited human demands forest lands are being used for various purposes. Previously, approximately 60% of the earth's surface was covered with forest. But today forests occupy about 30% of earth's land surface.

And, in Bangladesh it is more alarming, only 8% of the whole country is now forest.

Actually deforestation started between 1800's and 1900's due to industrial revolution and due to logging activities vast amount of forest have been cleared mainly in the tropical countries. From then deforestation proceeded at an alarming rate. From 1950 to 1973 about 7.7 million acres (20,000 square kilometers) have been destroyed. In 1973 about 20% of the earth's land remained with forest. It has been estimated by the environmentalists that the world's forest land might be reduced to approximately 14% by 2020 and due to faster population growth, this will be more in tropical countries. The approximate rate of tropical forest destruction every year is about 50,000,000 acres in Latin America and South Asia.

Since 1970's, due to rapid and increased deforestation of tropical forests some unique species of plants and animals and wild lives have been totally destroyed or have become extinct before the consequence of such extinctions could be realized. This also caused "Green House Effect" resulting in global warming due to fewer amounts of oxygen and more of carbon dioxide release in the air.

We know that ecological pattern of the earth as a whole is largely influenced by forests. Forests exercise great influence in the continuity of life in earth's living organisms including human beings by flowing solar energy among different levels of consumers, i.e. living beings, by cycling different chemicals, minerals and gases through the ecosystem. Forests also help the soil develop, provide suitable environment for the wild life habitat, prevent soil erosion and flood, provide food and grazing land for livestock. Moreover, forests produce fuel, chemical and medical substances and valuable good for the economic development of any country of the world. Besides nature, scenic beauty, resources and peaceful pollution free environment of the forests provide opportunities for many recreational activities. So, during the holidays people go in forest areas for such activities as camping, hiking, fishing, picnicking, hunting or even just to spend a short while to look at the beauty of the nature, relax and enjoy.

As this is the case what did we do to protect the forests and the whole environment? Day by day deforestation continued at an alarming rate in the northern part of the country and consequently the places are turning into deserts. Coastal areas are facing natural calamities on regular basis. Therefore, it is high time to think and take necessary actions to protect the environment as a whole. And, it will be wise to start such activities with our offspring, as they are the future of the nation. Those, who are still very tender, we have to mould their mind in a way that through out their lives they will remain friendly to the mother nature and do every possible thing to save the earth.

As the environmental issues are already there in the syllabus of some classes in different levels of their studies, why not make it compulsory to do something practical with them? I would like to urge the educated people of the country to take the responsibility in this respect and lead the mass to the same way. Through proper education, both theoretical and practical, we can enlighten our next generation and guide them to act supportively for the cause of saving the environment from every kind of danger. If we could include "Greening" as a practical activity in the schools and colleges, it will help solve the problem of deforestation and also will make the offspring more conscious about the importance of the nature. Questions may arise as to what would happen to all other problems such as air, water and sound pollution, overall global warming, rise of the sea-level water, dangerous gases that threat human lives? Yes, we can fight against all of them, but as we belong to a poor Third World country, knowing all our limitations, we have to start with the most basic of the environmental problems, that is, deforestation. If we could solve the problems of deforestation a good number of other related problems will be solved automatically. And, it will be easy for us to help our younger generations to encourage them to plant a tree and make our country green again as it was before. If every student of our country at school or college levels put one tree of their own and take care of that for at least up to the growth of the same, we will find our country green and picturesque. The "Greening" activity could be started at school level and in the school premises they could plant trees. There are ample opportunities in most of our schools to plant a few good value trees, by turn, which would be asset for them. Students of every class should take part in practical activities regarding the "Greening" project of the school and by turn they will work. It must be ensured by the teachers that every single student is participating in such activities. Even the students, who show best performance, could be rewarded for their work. In few schools in the city area where the facility of planting a tree is not available, they could at least make various tubs of different plants and on regular basis could take care for the newer plants and tubs. It could help them understand the importance of Green Bangladesh and at the same time will provide them a better-decorated classroom.

We however can come to the conclusion of our discussion by saying that we should realize before it is too late that we have to save our own environment for our own survival. It is the right of our children to have a better environment to grow up in. We hope that we could see the Green Bangladesh again in our lifetime. Let us hope for the best.

Source: The Daily Star, 2 June, 2001