Curbing Environmental Degradation to Build Decent Society

Photo: Collected

Over the last twenty years, Bangladesh has accelerated economic growth in order to meet the demands of fast growing population. The country has attained a consistent growth in different sectors such as industrialization, infrastructure development, tourism, food productivity, social safety net and agricultural modernization.

At the same time, she has been grappled with a series of environmental deterioration by means of deforestation, commercial cultivation in forests, destruction of wetlands and inland fisheries, surface and groundwater pollution, soil nutrient depletion and inland salinity intrusion. Apart from that natural calamity like floods, cyclones, tidal surges, landslides and tornadoes have resulted in severe socio-economic and environmental damage by a combination of natural and anthropogenic factors. Environment consideration is essential in the era of development trend of neo-liberalism. The environment is the supplier of natural resources that are used by human beings for the purpose of production and consumption.

The theory of a "Decent life system" is based on a democratic state system, which puts loyalty to nature at the front position; all socio-economic and political foundations should be built on the basis of the influence of nature. There are three foundational component of this concept. Social foundational component owns knowledge rich, free thinking and creativity promoting; solidarity rich; secular; free from all forms of superstitions; rational humans; human wel-farist science. Economic foundational component includes people’s ownership on natural resources; social ownership on production; filthy rich less; share and market less system. Political foundational component includes democracy, lord less state system, social justice, community administration and people’s responsibility to protect motherland. The fundamental objectives of the theory of decent society are accelerating the process of human enlightenment; creativity promoting knowledge system; instilling high sense of solidarity; process of making human rationality up; making people free from all forms of inequality; free from rent-seeker; making a state for 100% peoples ownership and master less civic governance.

Abul Barkat presents 11 principles to renovate decent Bangladesh from covid-19 impacts. 1. We want development-welfare-progression, but the development would be nature-environment oriented; 2. We need economic growth. We don’t need environmentally harmful, socially unjustified, human resources destructive growth; 3. Growth should be inequality reduced; 4. Growth must be employment-creation oriented; 5. Per capita income or growth domestic product is not development. It must be ensure healthy life of women-children-old-marginal-poor-deprived-isolated people; 6. We want to transform the power of youth to real resources; 7. We want positive social impact; 8. People’s ownership on natural resources (land, water body, forest, space resources, coal, gas and mineral) on behalf of nature; 9. We want to uphold human security and equal opportunity for state-society-economy’ development; 10. Promote inequality reduced home grown development philosophy; 11. We want to extract the taste global economic opportunities.

The nature of environmental resources as the air, water in the oceans and rivers, and land not privately owned, is such that people do not have to pay anything for their use. Environmental resources are characterized by the non-excludability property. It is not possible to exclude people from breathing the air that surrounds them or stop them from bathing in the river that flows past their village.

People cannot be prevented from benefiting from the use of environmental resources as it may be socially unacceptable. Most of the environmental resources are used in common by a large number of individuals. This shared use may also lead to interference of usage amongst users giving rise to externalities. These characteristics of environmental resources are largely responsible for their degradation. No matter how good the planning is and how adequate the policies and the laws are for dealing with environmental degradation and conservation of resources, these will not work unless society is free from transparency.

Environmental degradation is often the result of property rights not being clearly identified. There is no incentive in protecting resource, as nobody owns it. Sometimes conferring limited property rights of environmental assets to private individuals provides useful protection to the resource. The case of social forestry may be cited as an example. However, in other instances such as leasing out wetlands has often led to their degradation.

Creating public awareness regarding environmental degradation and their protection may not seem to give immediate results but it is a fruitful effort that pays off in the long-run. Efforts at improving the degraded physical environment without any attempt to improve the degraded social environment will not prove very fruitful.

The government may use approaches that are more direct. Setting ambient standards or emission standards have been popular methods of pollution control in many countries. Standards set physical limits, which are enforced by law. Although setting standards may lead to a positive degree of pollution control, there are debates about the efficiency and cost effectiveness of such methods.

Incentive-based methods such as charges and subsidies and transferrable permits have more advantages. The public authority may control pollution through emission charges by charging for each unit of pollutant or by giving a subsidy for each unit of emission reduced. These methods are more efficient and provide incentives for improved technologies of pollution control. Environmental inclusion is impossible without economic development; on the other hand, economic development will not be sustainable without environmental consideration.

In this context, government can ensure the public participation to build decent society from the grass root level.

Shishir Reza is an Environmental Analyst & Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association.

  • Environment
  • Climate
  • Curbing Environmental Degradation
  • to Build Decent Society

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