Published by: Concern Universal, Bangladesh; Manab Mukti Sangstha; State University of Bangladesh, First Published: September 2015
Degradation of the natural environment and its impact on human lives is now visible all over the world. As a densely populated country with limited natural resources, the situation in Bangladesh is even more precarious. Environmental pollution, especially those linked to soil, water and air have emerged as big challenges to sustainable development of the country. It is against this backdrop that the volume 'Contemporary Environmental Challenges in Bangladesh' containing 55 articles in Bangla on diverse environmental issues has been published by the Environmental Science Department of the State University of Bangladesh with the financial support of the NGOs Concern Universal, Bangladesh and Manab Mukti Sangstha. The anthology, in fact, has been published as a component of the project 'Promoting Rights and Accessibility of the Ultra-Poor in Char-land Areas through Democratic Local Governance'.
As the editor Khan Ferdousour Rahman claims, the task of bringing out this edited volume was undertaken from the felt need of a comprehensive volume on the subject of environment, which is accessible and meaningful to the general readership. Apart from some well-known writers on the subject, a majority of the contributors were young scholars from different universities of the country. As a result, the discourses have been very frank, elaborate and intensely argumentative about the environmental maladies of Bangladesh. The main attraction of the volume has been the diversity of topics. Starting with the 'what' and 'why' of environment, the themes include political ecology, climate change, drinking water crisis, river erosion, nature as a teacher, natural state of Dhaka, role of youths in preventing environmental disasters, tannery wastes in poultry industry, curse of urbanisation, risks of earthquake, quality of underground water, Arsenic pollution, solid waste management, clinical waste management, stagnation in waste management of Dhaka city, air pollution and public health, river pollution, harmful impact of pesticides, gender context of climate change, environmental damages caused by tobacco, utilising jute for improving environment, agro-forestry, social forestry, adulterated food, harmful impact of brick kilns, public health implications of genetically modified crops, hindrances to environmental research, studying nature in Bangla language, children's health and environmental cleanliness, how to save the near-extinct vultures, economy of solar power, Sundarban's struggle for survival, environment and the country's future, environmental education, and greenery at the centre of everything. All these themes provide a glimpse into the present state of environmental challenges in the country.
In addition to young scholars, the volume also contains write-ups by some leading figures in the field. Contributions by these environmental experts have added to the value of the book as a reference material.
The term environment is closely linked to the concept of sustainable development. The recently declared sustainable development goals of the United Nations are also based on this concept. This concept received global recognition in 1987 through adoption of the recommendations of Brundtland Commission (formed in 1982) through a consensus at the UN General Assembly in New York. As per this concept of sustainable development, the level of natural resources consumed at present should remain the same in future. For this purpose, the costs of technology should be decreased, alternative technologies should be invented, and economic growth should happen in such a manner that the supply of resources could be maintained in the long run. Therefore, sustainable development entails conservation of natural environment and biological diversity alongside improving the living standards of the people.
The editor of the volume Khan Ferdousour Rahman, who is also head of the department of environmental science at the State University of Bangladesh, laments: “It is sad that with a few exceptions, investigative reports and analyses on environment-related reports are almost non-existent in the mainstream media of Bangladesh. Consequently, the views of the general masses regarding the environment do not get much space there. On the other hand, there is scarcity of text-books on the discipline of environment. Under these circumstances, general discussions and analyses of different environmental issues carry much weight”.
Against the backdrop of growing importance attached to sustainable development, environmental conservation and climate change all over the world, the present volume would serve as a rich storehouse for the seekers of knowledge on the subject.
The reviewer is a senior civil servant and former editor of Bangladesh Quarterly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org