Thinking about our ecology and environment

by A U M Fakhruddin

Ecological imbalance consequent upon environmental degradation has become a matter of growing public concern across the world today. People are now familiar with the phrases like greenhouse effect, climate change, global warming, sea-level rise, depletion of ozone layer and desertification.

While Dhaka city is beset with problems like accumulation of very harmful automobile fumes containing carbondioxide, carbon monoxide and hazardous level of lead suspended in the air, and tanneries at Hazaribagh are producing toxic chemical effluents; some parts of north-western Bangladesh are facing a slow desertification process because of indiscriminate felling of trees. Ecological cost of withdrawal of the Ganges water upstream is obvious. According to the National Environmental Management Plan or NEMAP report, over the past 20 years felling of trees for timber, fuel and encroachment on areas covered by forests has reduced the total reserve forest coverage by a staggering 50 per cent. Unrestrained use of ground water for irrigation has lowered the water table, industrial pollution is affecting both the terrestrial and aquatic environment, and agro-chemical pollution continues to degrade the food chain.

We all know that the temperature of the Earth is gradually increasing. Greenhouse gases are created through the burning of coal, oil, and gas. People have been burning a huge amount of fossil fuels to run factories and in transportation. The major source of global warming is carbon dioxide pollution from power plants, automobiles and industry. Deforestation is another source because trees remove carbon dioxide from the air as they grow and release it when they are cut down and burnt.

According to scientists, the Earth has warmed by 1 degree Fahrenheit in the last 100 years. This may seem very small amount, but small changes in the Earth’s temperature can have devastating effects. For example, a five-degree drop could trigger an Ice Age. This warming will have a devastating impact on the environment, say experts.

Rising ocean temperatures are thought to damage, and in some cases, kill coral reefs, which are home to a fourth of all sea life. Global warming could lead to more severe droughts in some areas. We in Bangladesh feel alarmed as we learn that a considerable part of the territory in the south may go under water because of sea-level rise. Another possible effect is the melting of the polar ice caps, which would increase sea levels and cause beach erosion and flooding. A warmer climate will affect food crops by increasing irrigation demands and decreasing food production in poor countries.

It is said that global warming can have a direct effect on human health, such as causing more people to die in severe heat waves and leading to the spread of infectious diseases such as malaria and cholera, which thrive in warmer climates. It is common knowledge that the best means to slow climate change is to use energy sources more efficiently as energy production and use account for about 88 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists suggest us to plant trees as they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

This, in a nutshell, is what a critical ecological situation we are faced with today. So the need of the hour is to successfully encounter the environmental challenge. And Samunnay has been assiduously giving thought to the issue over the past several years. A research group dedicated to environmental studies and allied issues, Samunnay has published a guideline for those who intend to identify problems arising out of the ecological imbalance in Bangladesh and find out solutions to them .

They have been publishing an impressive quarterly English journal called Ecofile, and Paribeshpatra in Bangla. Its latest publication is a handbook, Apnar Charpashey Paribeshkey Kibhabey Dekhben, written by Faruk Chowdhury. The book contains detailed questionnaire for field workers who collect data and information for identifying the causes of environmental degradation. Written in plain language, it will be of use to those whom it is meant for.

Source: The Independent, 2 June,2001