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An Urgent Call to Dhaka’s Climate


Faija Tasfia


“My name is Greta Thunberg. I come from Sweden and I want you to panic. I want you to act as if your house was on fire. I have said those words before. And a lot of people have explained why that is a bad idea. A great number of politicians have told me that panic never leads to anything good. And I agree, to panic unless you have to is a terrible idea. But when your house is on fire and you want to keep your house from burning to the ground then that does require some level of panic.”

— Greta Thunberg at the European Parliament.

 

Right now, climate change is one of the biggest concerns of our generation. We can now see with our own eyes the consequences of climate change that we always wrote in our school papers and essays. Greta Thunberg is right. Now we have to panic. We must take action.

All kinds of unusual things are happening. And that requires unusual actions. On 16 August 2019, President Joko Widodo announced their plan to relocate their capital from Jakarta to Kalimantan on the Island of Borneo. Jakarta’s congested traffic, excessive pollution and population, and the city’s sinking prompted this decision. Indonesia is spending $33 billion for this relocation. The problems of Jakarta are very similar with the recent problems of Dhaka city. 

This makes you think — Are we headed that way? If we do the calculations, we will see we are.

Dhaka is one of the most populous cities in the world. The current population of Dhaka city is almost 2.1 crore. The main reason for this growing population is migration. According to the World Bank, at least 4 lakh people move to Dhaka every year. Apart from being a populous city, our capital Dhaka city is also one of the most polluted cities in the world. Dhaka’s air quality is constantly deteriorating. The reason behind this is rapid industrialisation.

The living conditions are extremely fragile. Many people are facing slum conditions while living in the city. Then, topping all other problems, comes the city’s traffic. People spend hours in traffic, ultimately causing economic loss. Our capital city and its climate are heading towards destruction. Dhaka’s climate is worse than ever. We must take action regarding this because relocation is really not an option for us. Moreover, fixing our capital city is a more sensible solution than relocating it.

Dhaka city’s motor vehicles are one of the reasons for its air pollution. The government must control the private ownership of cars. Around 6 to 8% commuters use private cars. But this 6% occupies 76% of Dhaka’s streets and causes traffic. The government should improve public transportation. A well maintained public transport system will discourage people from using private cars. The decrease in vehicles will cause a significant decrease in air pollution.

Brick kilns are the top air polluter in not only Dhaka city but also other major cities in the country. During the dry season, when these bricks are made, the air quality of these cities becomes extremely unhealthy. The Department of Environment (DoE) further blames the construction works and the poorly maintained vehicles that emit toxic gases. There are 7,707 brick kilns in the country, of which 2,295 are in Dhaka. The pollution level will fall if alternatives to bricks or modern technology to manufacture bricks are used. The government is promoting modern technologies like Hybrid Hoffman kiln (HHK) technology and Tunnel technology which will require less coal or wood, and therefore less pollution.

The growing population of Dhaka takes a toll on its climate. The carbon emission is increasing rapidly. Steps should be taken to control the migration. Dhaka’s growing opportunities attract young minds there. For higher studies, Dhaka has a good number of options. Many students migrate to Dhaka for higher studies and stay there because of its job opportunities. Dhaka is home to major industrial establishments and foreign companies. Transferring of industries or even creating branches of companies in other divisions will be helpful. Controlling migration is hard since Dhaka has much more opportunities than other divisions. But if the government can create opportunities in other divisions through new establishments, branches of old establishments and companies, then a part of Dhaka’s load can be removed. It will be a significant step in our fight against climate change.

We all know the impact of trees in addressing climate change is undeniable. We might think this is the easiest step among all. But there are some challenges actually — challenges that we created ourselves. In the past few years, Dhaka has been undertaking short-sighted beautification projects. These projects include planting wrong beautiful trees which are not suited to our country’s climate, uprooting big trees, and planting a huge number of saplings without any solid plan to take care of these saplings. These projects are solely based on adding beauty to the roads. 

In the future, these saplings and trees will continue to die and plantation will not be done in the place of the uprooted trees. A plan including the management of existing trees, planting climate-suitable trees, and balancing between development and conservation should be drafted. Another effective approach towards climate change is Proforestation. It is basically growing an existing forest intact towards its full ecological potential. Recent scientific studies show that proforestation is a more effective and low cost approach towards emission of greenhouse gases. Afforestation and reforestation have been an impactful approaches, but now face their own challenges with the shortage of land in Dhaka. Right now, proforestation, management of existing trees, and balance between development and conservation should be added to the Climate Action Plans.

We have to think beyond our conventional ideas of just planting trees, removal of vehicles etc. The Climate Action Plans should be made realistic and logical. And the most important one is that we must implement these plans. Because right now, the overall climate is getting worse each day. And we have to control it. We must realise the urgency to tackle the climate change of Dhaka and the overall country.

 


Faija considers herself to be a sleeping freak who likes to write when she’s awake.

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