Large-scale hunger may revisit Bangladesh if the country fails in handling the crises related to the COVID-19 outbreak and climate change, speakers observed during an online discussion on Tuesday.

The government must expand the reach of the existing safety net programme to help the poor survive the crises as well as redesign agricultural practices fit for facing challenges posed by climate change, they said.

‘Climate change alone is enough to leave a large number of people without food in the next 10 to 15 years if the government does not take it seriously into account while formulating policies,’ said M Asaduzzaman, former research director, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.

He said that the hunger may not lead to famine as had been experienced in the past but there could be a large number of people without having food or having access to food.

The online discussion was organised by Centre for Governance Studies.

Depending on studies, the coronavirus crisis already pushed between 30 and 40 per cent to poverty, he said, adding that they may find it difficult to come out of poverty in the coming days without proper planning.

The lack of proper planning is reflected in the continuous excessive use of water in agriculture, particularly in growing rice, he said.

Bangladesh grows a kilogram of rice using 3,000 litres of water while the average use of water in growing the same amount of rice in Southeast Asia is between 1200 to 1500 litres, he said.

Bangladesh is self-sufficient in growing rice but heavily dependent on import for milk, lentil, vegetables and oil seed while natural resources continued to shrink or get polluted because of unsafe agricultural practices, said speakers at the discussion.

 

Jatiya Party lawmaker Shamim Haider Patwary said that public health was exposed to many hazards because of growing and producing food in an unhealthy way.

‘The government must ensure a mechanism to get rid of intermediaries depriving farmers of minimum profit,’ said Shamim.

BNP lawmaker Md Harunur Rashid said that food became increasingly unsafe for consumption because of the use of chemicals as the packaged food industry continues to grow.

He proposed slapping tax on food containing substances that would have an adverse health impact to generate a fund to incentivise farmers.

‘Additionally, the government must ensure that the safe food law is properly implemented, not in cities only but also in villages,’ said Harun.

The discussion was also attended by CGS’s executive director Zillur Rahman among others.



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