Hiren Pandit: The USA is our very dearest and closest influential friend in is always busy with new strategies to keep Bangladesh under pressure. Not being able to take special advantage by questioning the impartiality and acceptability of the last 12th National Parliament elections, or to say, not having the opportunity to meet with the ministers of various ministries, they do not consider the January 7 election to be fair and acceptable, but there is a difference of opinion about the vote, said US Ambassador Peter Haas. Now it is the time to get closer. This time, he expressed interest in working closely with the people of Bangladesh on climate change and environmental protection.
US Biden administration spokesperson Matthew Miller and another Indian-origin spokesperson Vedant Patel admitted that the country is committed to advancing relations with Bangladesh even though they do not consider the January 7 general election (in their words) to be fair and acceptable. Meanwhile, they sent a team to observe the violence during the election, not the voting. Their observation report must also be in front of them. However, the people of this country would have been happier if they looked at those for whom the political, social and other conditions of the country have turned bad. But everything is making us optimistic, if something happens, where will the environment and climate change go if it is not fixed this time?
Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Saber Hossain Chowdhury said that Bangladesh and the United States will work together to protect the environment and combat climate change. He said this after a meeting with US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas at the Secretariat recently. He also said that there was a discussion on how both countries can further advance bilateral relations in the future. The meeting is a fruitful step to strengthen our partnership and explore new avenues for cooperation. US Ambassador Peter Haas mentioned that although there are differences on some issues, the US will work with Bangladesh on other issues including dealing with climate change.
We are committed to strengthening our partnership to support Bangladesh’s climate goals. We will continue to work together to build a more climate-resilient future for both our countries. Both the environment minister and the Ambassador emphasized on increasing collaborative initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance Bangladesh’s capacity to adapt to the effects of climate change. The Minister said that the country’s wetlands will be mapped within the next year. On the occasion of World Wetland Day, he informed this information in the speech of the chief guest at a seminar organized at the Forest Department recently.
Wetlands are an important part of our environment. Wetlands play an important role in biodiversity conservation, climate regulation, flood control and livelihoods. There are rivers and canals in the country, everything falls under wetland resources. On the one hand, we have a challenge with rivers, on the other hand, encroachment and pollution. We are not in control of everything. There is a coordination issue here. But to what extent we are fulfilling the responsibility we have – this question is also coming up. We have 13 Ecologically Critical Areas. Of these, except one Sundarban, the remaining 12 are only at the declaration stage. How do we enforce the declaration?
It is one of our natural resources, but how much can we ensure the use of these resources? If we talk about sustainable development, what is the role of these natural resources? How much can we use it? At this time, he urged to make the coordination between the ministries more effective to protect all the natural resources of the country.
Urging to take effective steps without getting stuck in the day, the environment minister said, if today was not World Wetlands Day, then we would not have got the opportunity to have this kind of discussion here. We want to truly negotiate for solutions. We want the forest department to organize a day-long discussion in the next week to 10 days. So that we can determine the goal of what work we will do in the next year.
Even that team could not provide information on major disruptions. But now they are talking about a different opinion to protect their face? The twelfth national parliament election was held on January 7 amid various unwanted activities and running around in some Western countries including the United States.
Bangladesh Awami League formed the government under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina for the fourth consecutive time with absolute victory. Government and heads of state of different countries congratulated Sheikh Hasina after the election victory. Ambassadors and heads of missions of various countries in Dhaka also went to Ganabhaban and congratulated the Awami League president. But only the United States was silent. However, the country’s President Joe Biden recently wrote a letter to Sheikh Hasina. In the letter, Biden said that the United States will support Bangladesh in achieving its economic goals.
Joe Biden also promised to work together to build an open Indo-Pacific region. In addition, the US President expressed hope to work together on regional and global security, climate change, energy and global issues. However, the letter did not contain any message about the victory of the Awami League in the election or the formation of a new government. Peter Haas was running around forgetting to eat and drink for a year leading up to the Bangladesh election. He sometimes staged a dharna at the door of political parties and you. Again the leaders of BNP Jamaat and Jatiya Party have been sitting with him from time to time formally and informally.
The US ambassador has tried to raise the specter of a fair and impartial election. But Peter Haas became silent after BNP Jamaat’s unprecedented protest in Dhaka on October 28 last year. But he was at Bangabhaban during the swearing-in of the cabinet. The next day he met the Minister of State for Information Technology. After that, Peter Haas has been continuously talking about relations with Bangladesh by meeting with various ministers including the Foreign Minister, and Law Minister. He met Environment, Forest and Climate Change Affairs Minister Saber Hossain Chowdhury at the secretariat on February 4.
When asked what was said about the election, the environment minister told reporters, “Peter Haas said, “They think that the election in Bangladesh was not free and fair. Still, they want to advance relations with the United States. However, they are determined to strengthen bilateral relations with Bangladesh. However, according to analysts, working together is not their main objective, we will have to wait for some more time to know if Peter Haas chose to meet the ministers as a ploy to question the election. According to them, the comments of Peter Haas and the language of Biden’s letter after the election prove that the United States is interested in working with Bangladesh for its interests, but the country wants to create discomfort at home and abroad with the January 7 vote.
Because many people think that the United States wanted to bring an unelected government in Bangladesh with their favorite civilians. In 2006-2007, the US ambassador to Dhaka, Harry Thomas and Patricia Butenis succeeded in establishing an unelected government, but Peter Haas and the Biden administration failed this time. Even if the BNP does not come this time, the United States is not getting any opportunity to question the acceptability and neutrality of the election. So, they talk about the election here and there, on the one hand, they are trying to make Bangladesh uncomfortable. On the other hand, they are commenting that there is a difference of opinion about their failure to vote for Dhaka.
Observers in this context, if necessary, the government ministers should give some advice to Peter Haas to refrain from making negative comments about the election even if he meets them. The United States, the only influential bearer and bearer of democracy in the world, has its electoral rhetoric on the one hand, which is highly visible, but its economic issues, on the other hand, are increasingly visible. Because the United States raised questions about this election, but there are many democratic states, which applauded this election. Immediately after the election, they congratulated the government.
The US government’s statement on the election was that it was not fair. But at the same time, they said that they will continue to work with the government. What remains to be seen is how much access America gets to countries with which the government will start doing business. The behavior of the Americans is that they did not come to this country to implement democracy or human rights. The sooner we can understand that he is or will be looking after the interests of his country, the better. What Peter Haas said before the election, he also said to protect the interests of his country. What they are saying now is basically their national interest. In Bangladesh today they have applied pressure on various issues. For example, labor rights and human rights. The US seeks to achieve geopolitical interests by applying pressure.
They want to reduce China’s hegemony in the region and they bring these issues forward to reduce it. But not because of the United States of Peter Haas, for our existence, we will save the environment, we will save the country from climate change, and we will only save the country if we save it. The environment is getting polluted due to our ignorance. Living space is shrinking. Everyone should come forward from their respective positions to protect the environment. If everyone is not aware, just enforcing the law will not bring much success.
A beautiful world cannot be imagined without considering the environment. The relationship between environment and development is not contradictory. The environment has a close relationship with development. If the country is not developed by protecting the environment, it will not be sustainable. For this reason, not only the government or various organizations should work, but every person in society should work from their position.
Economic development should be made possible by saving the environment. Most of the country’s rivers, including Dhaka, are now dying due to encroachment, pollution and waste. Not only in Dhaka but in the entire country, the river is tired and devastated today. The extent of encroachment becomes clear as soon as you look at the banks of any river.
The situation has reached such a level that the existence of many rivers is now under threat. Many rivers can no longer be traced back to reality. Due to encroachment and pollution, 175 of the country’s 405 rivers are on the verge of extinction in the last 4 decades. The remaining 230 are also at risk. 24,000 kilometers of waterways have been reduced to 6,000 kilometers. Agriculture, communication, environment, biodiversity, and human livelihood are all serious threats. The need to protect rivers and water bodies cannot be overstated.
Environmental organizations, and human rights organizations are saying, starting from the very top, officials at various levels of government continue to say. But nothing is working. The court order has not made much progress. Where is the crisis? Many feel that there is a lack of determination and goodwill on the part of those concerned about encroachment polluters. At various times, the government conducted eviction drives against illegal structures but stopped before it got too far. Rivers should be protected by keeping the national interest above all kinds of individual and group interests.
There are policies and laws to protect rivers. These policies and laws must be implemented. Besides, water management should be done properly. The river should be allowed to flow naturally. The river should be protected for the sake of the country. All the rivers of the country should be saved. Proper maintenance should be done. Dredging should be arranged. Work should be done keeping in mind the importance of river restoration and maintenance. If the river is not saved, it will be difficult to save Bangladesh, that is, the public life of Bangladesh will be disrupted.
Our rivers are related to our life, livelihood, culture, art and literature. For thousands of years, these rivers have enriched our agriculture, nature, and economy. If the river is not protected, the future of Bangladesh will not be protected.
For this, river protection should be considered as a priority and work should be done accordingly. Everyone should come forward for this. The government needs to take a long-term plan very soon to save the rivers. There is no alternative to protect the river and maintain the navigability of the river if Bangladesh is to be saved. Sustainable development also requires the protection of rivers and proper use of water.
The river is the life of Bangladesh. Therefore, to protect the life force of the country, it is necessary to stop river encroachment and prevent river pollution. Development that can be accelerated while preserving a safe environment for future generations is considered sustainable development. The government is taking special steps for this. Bangladesh has implemented the MDGs with great success.
Taking this issue into consideration, the United Nations has formulated and implemented the Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030). Besides, the Government of Bangladesh is determined to implement the Vision 2041. Rivers change course frequently due to the adverse effects of climate change. As a result, overgrown land has become a common sight in Bangladesh and arable land is shrinking. There are about 109 char upazilas in 32 districts across Bangladesh. Seven hundred rivers flow through this small country. Human occupation, lifestyle and literary culture are all directly or indirectly dependent on the river.
In our country, the land cultivated near the river uses river water. Produce is transported to the city by river. Rivers are an integral part of our social life and play a role as one of the driving forces of the national economy. Understanding the importance of rivers is therefore most important. The food demand of the growing population is expected to increase by 50 percent by 2030, to 70 percent by 2050, while total energy demand, including hydropower and other renewable energy resources, will increase by 60 percent. Both water and energy demand for increased agricultural production will increase competition in water-intensive sectors. The importance of regional uniform river management is immense for relief from the impact of climate change.
For that, we have to emphasize river management based on the agreement between India and Bangladesh. A political decision should be taken in this regard. The young generation should be involved in the fight to build a beautiful Bangladesh by protecting the river and the environment. It is important to solve the river problem by implementing the Water Policy of 1999 and the Water Act of 2013 to protect the rivers.
For that, any plan should involve the victims and the victims first. It is very important to give importance to regional uniform river management to get rid of the impact of climate change. For that, we need to emphasize river management based on the agreement between India and Bangladesh. For the sake of the country, and the sake of future generations, we must protect the environment and prevent climate change.
The writer is a columnist & researcher