Conceptual analysis of environment, eco-system & environmental degradation
The term environment has been derived from french word “environia” means to surround. It refers to both abiotic (physical or non-living) and biotic (living) environment.
Environment is surrounding atmosphere or condition for existence. It is an essential natural process or an outcome of occurrence.
An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in combination with the nonliving components of their environment (things like air, water and mineral soil), interacting as a system.
Some ecosystems are very large. For example, many bird species nest in one place and feed in a completely different area. On the other hand, some ecosystems may be physically small, such as you would find in a field at the edge of a forest, or in a coral reef in the ocean.
Environmental degradation is the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as air, water and soil; the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of wildlife.
The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction defines environmental degradation as “the reduction of the capacity of the environment to meet social and ecological objectives, and needs”.
Causes of Environmental Degradation
Population impacts on the environment primarily through the use of natural resources and production of wastes and is associated with environmental stresses like loss of biodiversity, air and water pollution and increased pressure on arable land.
World population Growth
Poverty is said to be cause and effect of environmental degradation. When people not have the basic necessities for survival. For instance, they may be starving for clean water, proper housing, sufficient clothing or medicines and be struggling to stay alive.
Lack of opportunities for gainful employment in villages and the ecological stresses is leading to an ever increasing movement of poor families to towns. Mega cities and unplanned urbanization are emerging and urban slums are expanding.
To a large extent, environmental degradation is the result of market failure, that is, the non-existent or poorly functioning markets for environmental goods and services. This context, environmental degradation is a particular case of consumption or production externalities reflected by divergence between private and social costs.
Lack of well defined property rights may be one of the reasons for such market failure. On the other hand, Market distortions created by price controls and subsidies may aggravate the achievement of environmental objectives
Impacts of Agricultural Development
Agricultural development contribute to soil erosion, land salination and loss of nutrients. For example, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies agriculture as the primary source of water pollution. Shifting cultivation has also been an important cause of land degradation. Leaching from extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers is an important source of contamination of water bodies. Intensive agriculture and irrigation contribute to land degradation also.
Transport activities have a wide variety of effects on the environment such as air pollution, noise from road traffic and oil spills from marine shipping. The World Health Organization (WHO) says vehicular air pollution is a major cause of respiratory distress in urban Bangladesh. World Bank (2007) estimated about 15,000 premature deaths due to poor air quality in Dhaka city. The total population of registered motorized vehicles in the Bangladesh stands at 1.75 millions.
The level and pattern of economic development affect the nature of environmental problems. Especially Industrialization based economic development has resulted in environmental degradation. The manufacturing technology adopted by the industries has played load on environment through intensive resource and energy use which resulted the water, air and land contamination, and degradation of natural eco-systems.
III. Political and Administrative Factors
Lack of visionary leadership quality, traditional policy making role of politicians and improper practice of environmental policy which approved by the government of Bangladesh are responsible for environmental degradation. As well as the administrative reasons are:
- Lack of expansion of regulatory activity and growing complexity
- Lack of growing environmental awareness
- Lack of growing impact of environmental law
- Lack of changing environmental problems
- Lack of changing patterns of public administration
Habitat fragmentation carries long term environmental impacts some of which can destroy entire ecosystems.
Where an ecosystem is a distinct unit and includes all the living and non-living elements that reside within it. Plants and animals are obvious members, but it will also include other components on which they rely on such as streams, lakes, and soils.
Habitats become fragmented when development breaks up solid stretches of land. Examples include roads which may cut through forests or even trails which wind through prairies. While it may not sound all bad on the surface, there are serious consequences.
Water and Air Pollution
Water and air pollution are unfortunately the common causes of environmental degradation. Pollution introduces contaminants into the environment that can maim or even kill plant and animal species. The two often go hand in hand. Water, air and soil pollution, along with other environmental factors, contribute to 40 percent of deaths worldwide each year.
Acid rain occurs when sulfur dioxide SO2 from coal plant emissions combines with moisture present in the air. A chemical reaction creates this acid rainfall. Acid rain can acidify and pollute lakes and streams. It causes similar effects to the soil. Acid rain causes acidification of lakes and streams and contributes to the damage of trees at high elevations and many sensitive forest soils.
Destruction of ozone layer
Ozone layer, a region of the atmosphere from 19 to 48 km (12 to 30 mile) above earth’s surface.Ozone concentrations of up to 10 parts per million occur in the ozone layer. The ozone forms there by the action of sunlight on oxygen.This action has been taking place for many millions of years, but naturally occurring nitrogen compounds in the atmosphere apparently have kept the ozone concentration at a fairly stable.
Major Environmental Problems in Bangladesh
Because of its geographical location, Bangladesh suffers from a range of environmental problems, arising from drought, flood and other natural hazards. Frequencies of hazards are on the increase day by day. Like other third world countries, Bangladesh is facing a number of different environmental crises such as:
- Water Pollution
- Air Pollution
- Sound Pollution
- River Pollution
- Depletion of Biodiversity
- Natural Disaster
- Soil erosion
Water and River Pollution
The increasing urbanization and industrialization have negative impacts for water quality. The pollution from industrial and urban waste effluents in some water bodies and rivers have reached alarming levels. Among the surface water, the worst polluted water are in the River Buriganga situated in Dhaka. The 2nd most polluted river is the Shitalakhya.
Groundwater was treated as the best source of safe water, before arsenic contamination. But today 54 per cent of tubewells were found to have fecal contamination.
Buriganga river in 1980’s Buriganga river in present
The incidence of sound pollution in Bangladesh is becoming a problem of far-reaching consequences. In the absence of a traffic rule curbing the use of horns, the noise problem has become acute in many parts of the cities and towns.
Motor cars, trucks, buses, trains, construction works and noises from industrial plants are sources of noise pollution.
According to the ecologists, for livable environment there should be forest on the 25% land of the total area. In Bangladesh there is 16% forest of the total land. So, if we destroy trees at random, one day Bangladesh will turn into a great desert.
5. Depletion of biodiversity
The depletion of biodiversity is the result of various kinds of human development interventions and activities, especially in the areas of agriculture, urbanization, industries, chemicals, transport and energy. Once Bangladesh had rich species diversity. The natural forests were undisturbed and used to support a heterogeneous vegetation. Due to the raising of plantations with single crops, now the floral diversity has been reduced and forests have decreased significantly over the last few decades. The annual deforestation rate is estimated to be around 3.3 percent. It was identified 12 species of wildlife as extinct in Bangladesh (Source: Husain, K.Z. 1974. An introduction to the wildlife of Bangladesh. Dhaka, Page: 78).
7. Natural disaster
Bangladesh is most vulnerable to several natural disasters and every year natural calamities upset people’s lives in some part of the country. The major disasters concerned here are the occurrences of flood, cyclone and storm surge, flash flood, drought, riverbank erosion, and landslide.
The effects of natural the calamities beggar description. Floods hits our country during the rainy season when there is excessive rainfall. Cyclone and drought occur in summer when the weather is extremely hot and dry.
And earthquakes also occasionally occur in our country. They cause heavy damage to our life and properties. Houses are destroyed, cattle are washed away, crops are greatly damaged and trees are uprooted.
Major Cyclones that hit Bangladesh Coast
|October 1960||Severe Storm||10,000 people died|
|The official death toll was 500,000|
|Severe Storm||150,000 people died|
|November 2007||Cyclone Sidr||causing over 2,000 deaths|
|Cyclone Aila||330 people died|
Source: Bangladesh Meteorological Department 1988, BBS, 1998 and Wikipedia
Initiatives for Sustainable Environment
World Environment Movement: The Stockholm conference on environment is a milestone in world environment movement. This conference held in 1972. Around 113 countries, 19 international organizations and 400 NGO took part in the conference. Following the decision, United Nation Environmental Programme (UNEP) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) were established.
Role of IPCC: The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), coming into existence in 1988, has since been in relentless in undertaking research on the various phenomena related to changes in the global climatic conditions and arousing public opinion and awareness toward undertaking required steps in confronting the potential challenges. For such an outstanding research, IPCC was honored by awarding Nobel Prize.
Role of IUCN AND Greenpeace: IUCN is working to include biodiversity concerns in adaptation and mitigation polices and practice, as well as furthering natural resource management strategies that help species and humans adapt to the impacts of climate change. On the other hand Climate change is a priority issue for Greenpeace. It inspires people to join the energy revolution by reducing energy consumption.
The Kyoto Protocol signed to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emission responsible for increasing global warming. It came into force from 16 February 2005. Till now, 137 developing countries have ratified the Kyoto protocol. On December 11, 1997, the negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol under the United Nations Convention on Climate Change Framework were completed. This Protocol put 36 industrialized nations under obligation to meet specific legally binding targets for emissions of six-greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide etc.
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Activities: The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is an important part of Kyoto Protocol. As per CDM, industries in developed countries may earn Certified Emission Reduction (CER) credit by investing in the developing countries. As a result, both developed and developing countries may be benefited.
Conference of the Parties (COP): In 2015, France will be hosting and presiding the 21st Session of the COP to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. COP21 will be a crucial conference, as it needs to achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.
Role of UN
The UN has consistently taken the lead in taking on climate change. In 2007, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to former US Vice-President Al Gore and the IPCC “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change”.
The Kyoto Protocol set standards for certain industrialized countries.
In Dec. 2010, climate change talks in Cancún concluded with a package of decisions to help countries advance towards a low-emissions future.
qIn 2011 the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa produced the Durban Platform . In Durban, governments decided to adopt a universal legal agreement on climate change as soon as possible.
UNEP has more than 20 years of experience working on climate change. UNEP has launched a major worldwide tree planting campaign – The Billion Tree Campaign. UNEP has established CN Net to assist those interested in achieving big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to reach their goals.
The following national policy documents developed by the Government of Bangladesh have addressed the issues of climate change:
- The Constitution: through its 15th amendment, considered the issue of climate change. Constitutional Amendment included the following article 18 A Protection and improvement of environment and biodiversity: The State shall Endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the natural resources, biodiversity, wetlands, forests and wild life for the present and future citizens.
- Vision 2021: Vision 2021 that provides political directions to all national policy documents states, “ All measures will be taken to protect Bangladesh, including planned migration abroad, from the adverse effects of climate change and global warming.”
- Sixth Five Year Plan : ‘Bangladesh Sixth Five Year Plan FY2011-15’ provides strategic directions and policy framework of Climate Change adaptation for accelerating growth and reducing poverty of the country.
- Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan approved by the Government in 2009 with wide consultation with Government and NGO sector, development partners, experts, academia etc. It is a one of the first landmark document among the developing countries.