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Bangladesh needs to prioritize environment over industry

Sohanur Rahman
Sohanur Rahman

“We used to drink water from this river, and now not a single fish can be seen,” sighed an exasperated boatman of Narayanganj, a Bengali port in the Bangladesh Ganges delta. Once a haven for wildlife and subsistence farming, the land has been ravaged by industry. High unemployment, reduced demand for traditional products, and increased government support of manufacturing are responsible for the sudden transformation of this region southeast of Dhaka. Massive industrialization of a rural area may indicate economic growth, but the long-term impacts on the environment are yet to be realized.

The raw materials of industry come from Mother Nature. To ensure the maximum amount of manufacturing, farmers use artificial fertilizers and pesticides recklessly. The rain washes away most of the chemical fertilizers from the land, and pollutes the rivers and sea, and endangers wildlife. The region’s textile and leather-based factories discharge poisonous industrial colors and materials. A single flood pollutes once-safe drinking water with poisonous industrial wastage.

The smoke that emits from mills causes air pollution and increases the chances of lung disease. Moreover, industrial waste leaks into the soil and harms the fertility of the land. Eventually, industrialization scars the balance of the whole eco-system and advances climate change.

However, many unaware local residents often confuse the extreme weather with the signs of “Qiyāmah” — the end of days.

The resources are limited in both developing and developed countries. However, the maximum share of scarce resources, such as water, electricity and natural gas, remains confined in the industrial sector. In addition, Bangladesh’s government makes big investments through tax support to accommodate the giant industrial infrastructures. As a result, the general people and the microlevel business entrepreneurs experience discrimination in the distribution of national resources, and the industrializers establish their influential autonomy over the federal economic decisions.

With the status of elite business citizenship, industrial investors tend to please the political administration to get unfair benefits, and in return do not hesitate to politicize the needy workers. Such unfair tendencies disrupt the freedom of exercising political rights.

Interestingly, growing employment opportunity is often cited as an advantage of industrial growth. The reality is that the recruitment procedure of industrial employment is not fair. Recruiters tend to select young male workers. This results in employment discrimination for older and female candidates. On the other side, due to growing employment opportunities, people from different parts of the country start moving in the industrial areas. Consequently, the rise in population density leads a pressure on limited resources, such as road and transport congestion, and loss of the environment.

The old adage, “Everything has its own pros and cons” is a cliché which becomes unjustifiable for validating hasty industrial growth. In this particular scenario, when the pros are very visible, the slow progression of the cons will inevitably lead to natural disasters in the upcoming decades.

A sustainable eco-friendly development model is required to ensure the welfare of the next generation of Bangladeshis, and a better, more sustainable environment.

Category: Opinion