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BITTER TRUTH: Sustainable development a far cry?

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Md. Asadullah Khan

Saturday, March 30, 2013





EARTH Summits with regard to climate change upheavals or limiting greenhouse gas emission have yielded little result. The road to all these summits was littered with unfulfilled promises and shattered treaties.


Every year, three million people die because of air pollution — carbon emission has trebled in the last three decades; 40% of the world population now faces chronic shortage of fresh water. Although we live in a world that is 70% water only 2.5% is fresh, and only a fraction of that is accessible.


Today, 1.1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water and more than 2.4 billion lack basic sanitation. Added to this is the problem of contaminated water that kills around 3.4 million every year.


In Bangladesh, in spite of the fact that we have 4 million hectares of inland water support area, water crisis has been building up because of decreasing surface water during lean period. Water quality degradation, especially of surface water, has added to the woes. Arsenic contamination of ground water has also put the country in a critical situation. This crisis has not resulted from the natural limitations of the water supply but from our profound failures in water governance.


The message sounded by COP 15 in Copenhagen in 2009 said that climate change adaptation is mainly about better water management as water is the primary medium through which climate change influences the Earth’s ecosystems and therefore people’s livelihoods and wellbeing. It calls for parties to the UNFCC and the countries in distress to recognise the pivotal role of water in adapting to climate change in order to increase resilience and achieve sustainable development.


Water scarcity and water stress are greatly linked to human activities and run counter to sustainable development. Arguably, agriculture accounts for two-thirds of the fresh water consumed. The Johannesburg summit endorsed a proposal that envisages “more crop per drop” approach. The proposal calls for more efficient irrigation techniques, planting of drought and self-tolerant crop varieties that require less water, and better monitoring of growing conditions such as soil humidity levels. Improving water delivery system would also help reduce the amount that is lost en route to the people who use it.


The programme it envisages is WASH — water, sanitation and hygiene for alla global effort that aims to provide water services and hygiene training to everyone by 2015. To make the WASH programme a success, it must target women who must be provided with basic education and job training. We have hardly made any headway in this sector.


The West blatantly ignores the fact that up to a third of the world is in danger of starving. Two billion people lack reliable access to food and 800 million of them — including 300 million children — are chronically malnourished. Corn, wheat and rice provide 90% of he world’s food, but planting and replanting the same variety of crops strip fields of nutrients and make them vulnerable to pests. Over-reliance on pesticides has further degraded the soil.


Beset with agricultural failure, fragile ecosystem, erratic weather and other natural disasters, Bangladeshi farmers have to be extra cautious in pursuing farming activities. Land clearing for agriculture, principally through shifting agriculture in hill forests, goes apace. Forest areas are being destroyed through logging to create land for either housing or to use as fuel.


Rio 1992 started with the premise that the world’s diverse ecosystems purify the air and the water that are the basis of life, stabilise and moderate the Earth’s climate, renew soil fertility, cycle nutrients and pollinate plants. The coral in a reef or the orchid in a rainforest is a part of the ecosystem that supports as well as offers checks and balances integrating life forms into functioning communities.


The amount of crops, animals, bio-matter that we extract each year from the earth exceeds what the planet can replace by an estimated 20%. Experts say that it takes 14.4 months to replenish what we use in 12 months. Too many have put their faith solely in technological breakthroughs as the answer to any resource constraints or other vulnerabilities that might emerge. But sustainable development means equitable distribution of wealth and opportunities. It is an exceptional way to build markets and create jobs, to bring people in from the margins, and to reduce tensions over resources that could lead to violence. It gives every man and woman a voice and a choice in deciding their own lives, but not at the expense of the future generation.


In our march towards development, we have begun to recognise the perils inherent in the prevailing model of development.Noticeably, as forests have been felled, and aquifers drawn down; as the atmosphere has been filled with toxins, and oceans and water bodies have been fished to exhaustion and the climate itself has started striking back, the world has seen the dangers of doing business as usual.


The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star.
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.





Source: thedailystar






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