Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday reiterated her government’s commitment to the fight against climate change, giving a vivid description of how the once-dreaded future is already at our doorsteps and wreaking havoc in parts of Bangladesh. There is a possibility, she said in parliament, without offering specifics, that some four crores of people from 70 upazilas in 19 districts in the country might be displaced due to climate change. The PM also said the average temperature of Bangladesh went up by one degree Celsius in May and by 0.5 degree Celsius in November. Among the more visible features of the changing climate, she added, are the increase in average rainfall and other weather events, outbreak of different insect-borne diseases, the salty water of sea now entering up to 100km into the river during summer, etc. All these, in short, present a grave threat to the continuation of life as we know it.
These also underline the need for urgent action to address the immediate concerns, and for measures tailored to meet the needs and challenges of the future. The PM in her speech talked about the various initiatives that the government has taken, including the formulation of Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan, to increase the national capacity to combat the adverse impacts of climate change. Her pronouncements are reflective of Bangladesh’s increasingly assertive role in the global climate change negotiations. We have two points to offer to this: first, any plan, national or regional, will not be effective without a greater involvement of the local people and the local government; secondly, there should be a political commitment to address the discrepancies between the government’s climate strategies and its current approach to development works, which are often found to be not environment-friendly and contrast the official line on climate change.
Over the last decade, the government has undertaken a rash of projects and initiatives that experts say would hurt the environment, as well as expanded coal-fired power generation which risks “locking Bangladesh into a carbon-intensive development path”, as a UN report warned in 2019. The government’s single-minded fixation on development, unmindful of its environmental repercussions, is self-defeating, to say the least. It’s important to realise that for any development to be sustainable, these discrepancies must be brought down to a minimum. We urge the government to keep these points in mind as it carries on with its commendable leadership in the global fight against climate change.