Bangladesh Environment Network
Bangladesh Environment Network (BEN) has been set up to facilitate communication about Bangladesh's environmental problems. It is open to all Bangladeshis who are either residing in Bangladesh or living abroad. BEN is also open to non-Bangladeshis who are interested in Bangladesh's environmental problems.
Over the last few years, Bangladesh has undergone serious environmental degradation. The lead level in air of Bangladesh's cities is several hundred times higher than the UN recommended safe level. The level of arsenic in 43 out of Bangladesh's 64 districts has been found to be more than 500 percent of the WHO recommended safe mark. The population density has reached a dangerously high level. The forests are disappearing. Rivers and other water bodies are being filled up. Unknown number of animal and plant species has become extinct. Chemical runoff from farm fields into the neighboring water bodies is damaging the country's fish stock. Disposal of solid waste has become a major problem in the urban areas. Rising use of plastic and other toxic and non-biodegradable materials is making even household waste a major threat to health and environment. As Bangladesh tries to industrialize, increasing amount of toxic and non-toxic industrial waste is being dumped into neighboring lands water bodies.
Overall, it seems that the country is headed toward an environmental disaster. Bangladesh's arsenic situation has already become a focus of international alarm. In addition to being the locale of natural disasters, Bangladesh has now also emerged as the country of man-made ecological disasters. With global warming and the possibility of rising sea level, the very long term physical existence of the country, being just a few feet above the sea-level for its most parts, has become a question.
It is clear that the government response to the environmental situation has been inadequate and often inept. Bangladesh government does not have an overall coherent plan of its own to fight environmental degradation. It is simply relying on initiative, finance, and prodding of donor agencies. The result has been an array of disconnected and often contradictory projects, which are generally failing to be effective.
BEN Administrative Entities
The problem of environmental degradation in Bangladesh is too serious to be left entirely to government initiative. It is necessary to create a broad popular movement to safeguard Bangladesh's environment. The educated civil society of the country has to take lead in creating such a movement. It is with this spirit that BEN has been set up. The concrete objectives of BEN are to:
a) Gather and
disseminate information about environmental degradation in Bangladesh.
Progress Thus Far
Since its establishment in July 1998, BEN has made considerable progress. The spread of this network now extends from Japan in the east to the US in the west, from Canada in the north to Australia in the south. BEN has spread considerably within Bangladesh. A significant number of environmental organizations and environmentally conscious individuals in Bangladesh are active members of BEN.
Using the mailing list accessed via www.ben-center.org, members of BEN are conducting lively and useful discussion on air pollution, flood control, arsenic contamination, loss of bio-diversity, and other environmental problems of Bangladesh.
BEN members have published their discussion of environmental problems in various Bangladeshi newspapers, such as the Daily Star, News from Bangladesh, and others.
Based on the discussion so far, BEN has produced a summary of Bangladesh's environmental problems and has suggested a set of solutions to these problems. This summary has been formulated in the form of a Memorandum, which BEN has presented to Bangladesh Finance Minister, Mr. S. M. A. S. Kibria during his visit to Boston on October 3, 1998.
This Memorandum has since obtained wide publicity. It has been published by various newspapers in Bangladesh, the US, and the UK.
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