Dhaka experts decry resistance to environmental plans, laws

Speakers at a day-long conference on environment in Dhaka on Saturday underlined the need for concerted efforts to ensure the implementation of laws for safeguarding the environment keeping in view the fact that those violating law become more powerful and pose more risks to environmentalists.
The conference was intended to brainstorm the implementation of policies, laws and rules on environment by identifying the causes of their non-implementation or inadequate implementation and remedies.
The day-long ‘Special Conference on Environmental Policies & Act Implementation Problems’ was organised jointly by the Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon and the Bangladesh Environmental Network at the Krishibid Institution auditorium in Dhaka city.Prof Jamilur Reza Chowdhury who was the chief guest at the inauguration of the seminar said that policies, laws and rules are adequate in the country, but problem lay in their implementation. Quoring from a source he said that there are 185 laws that relate to the environment. A survey done under his guidance identified 64 other laws that relate to the construction of buildings.
Prof. Chowdhury said an investigation of the Rana Plaza building construction (collapse of that building caused the highest casualty of 1100 plus people in the world) relevealed that those having money power violate rules at will.
In respect of the Detailed Area Plan (DAP) of the Master Plan of Dhaka, he said because of the influence of powerful quarters the plans looks like abandoned. He said that the relavant authorities have in recent years passed building and development plans that contradict the master plan. The master plan did provide for flow of storm water to waterbodies to do away with the problem of water logging, but now powerful people say storm water can be pumped out. This happened despite the fact that at the political level there was clear commitment to protect water bodies.
He said that a number of workers of BAPA moved with bails granted in cases filed against them by powerful people. Working for the cause of the environment would become more risky if powerful people do not understand that healthy environment is in the interest of all including themselves.
Bangladesh Poribesh Andolan (BAPA) and Bangladesh Environment Network (BEN) jointly arranged the daylong convention on ‘Environment Policies and Acts’ Implementation Problems’ at Krishibid Institution Bangladesh in the city.
Speaking at the function, urban geographer Prof Nazrul Islam observed though there are many policies, laws and directives of the court to protect the environment, those are not properly enforced. He said the mass media has always cooperated with environmental movements. But in recent times those who violate environmental laws and regulations have also become owners of mass media outlets. Time ahead is thus more risky for environmentalists, he said.
BAPA general secretary Dr. Abdul Matin said their organisation was against neither the government nor any other quarters, it worked in favour of healthy environment and sustainable develoment.
Planning Secretary Bhuiyan Shafiqul Islam said there is no alternative to prioritising the environment in development efforts. “Taking lessons from the previous experiences, all our he development programmes and activities must be environment-friendly ones.”
Environment and Forest Secretary Nazibur Rahman said the government has given directives to be tough to protect the environment. “We’re working to protect the public interest. There’ll be no compromise when it comes to protecting the environment.”
BEN coordinator Dr Nazrul Islam said flawed development policies harm the environment and “We must prioritise our local knowledge and technology in the development policy.”
Fifteen sessions were held in the convention with the participation of local and international experts, scientists, researchers, development activists, public representative and government officials. – Staff Reporter