Indigenous people are the worst sufferers of the impact of climate change in the world including Bangladesh, said environmentalists and researchers at a webinar yesterday. 

They also said Bangladesh’s biodiversity is under immense threat, and the situation is similar worldwide. To solve this problem, there should be policy reformation, conservation of wildlife and greenery, regulatory use of renewable natural resources, and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before implementing any project.

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Marking International Day for Biological Diversity, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bangladesh, and Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association (Bela) organised the webinar titled “Policy Reforms for Transformative Changes for Protection of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services”.

The theme of this year is “We’re part of the solution”.

IUCN Country Representative Raquibul Amin, during a presentation said, “Climate, biodiversity, ecosystem and everything changed a lot over the years. We have seen its negative effect mostly in areas lived by the indigenous and the poor community.”

Referring to the IUCN red list of threatened species, he said 24 percent of animals and plants of Bangladesh are under threat of extinction, while globally it is 28 percent.

To mitigate the problem, proper implementation of existing laws, and funding innovations to find new ways to solve the problem were suggested.

Criticising the bad side of tourism, Bela Chief Executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan said Saint Martin’s Island has many establishments of private organisations and the government body, and this will result in the extinction of natural characteristics of the island.

“Similarly, by promoting tourism in Ratargul swamp forest, we are destroying its natural features…We have to walk towards the economy that prioritises the environment.”

Criticising the injustice against nature, researcher Pavel Partho said, “People use pesticides in fields. However, the National Organic Agriculture Policy-2016 promotes organic pesticide instead of chemical ones. Besides, people kill different birds to save their crops and fruits. This is terrible for the biodiversity and the environment as a whole.”

“There are many hotspots of biodiversity in Bangladesh. In every area, research and conservation centres are necessary, with accessibility and participation of locals,” he said, adding that biodiversity does not only mean plants or animals; human beings are also part of the biodiversity.

Referring to a Global Watch report and different newspapers, former executive director of Arannayk Foundation Farid Uddin Ahmed said during the pandemic, deforestation did not stop, and the area that suffered the most is Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

Regarding the misconception centring jhum (shifting) cultivation, he said jhum is a part of CHT’s people and culture. Without jhum cultivation, there would be no existence of many species of plants and animals.

Referring to a website of Global Environment Facility, Soil Resource Development Institute Principal Scientific Officer Ameer Md Zahid said, “Almost 3.2 billion people are affected by land degradation worldwide, and it’s 72 million in Bangladesh. One of the reasons for degradation is land erosion and landslide, and it happens mostly in hilly areas, particularly in CHT.”

Agreeing with the speakers, Standing Committee on Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Chairperson Saber Hossain Chowdhury said to solve all climate and biodiversity-related problems, the government needs a roadmap to achieve SDGs.

As the parliament passed Planetary Emergency motion, and secured improvement of the environment and preservation of biodiversity through the constitution, the country can go ahead with help from different stakeholders, he said.

Meanwhile, in another online workshop on St Martin’s and restoration of biodiversity, Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Shahab Uddin said, “All necessary steps have been taken to restore and save the environment and biodiversity of the country, including the coral island — St Martin’s.”

To preserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable development, the government is implementing an SDG action plan, while also targeting to fulfil the SDGs, he added.

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