Dhaka hosts global workshop on environment



Challenges of the New Millennium

A two-day global workshop of environmental journalists was held in Dhaka on December 29-30, 1999, with a call to incorporate environmental issues in the political agenda of respective countries to combat the ecological degradation around the world.

The workshop, entitled "Challenges of the New Millennium : Reversing Environmental Degradation and Role of the Media", was participated by about 100 environmental journalists and experts from across the world. The participants shared their views on different crucial issues of environment and conservation and discussed media strategies to face the challenges of the new millennium in protecting Mother Earth against the onslaughts of environmental degradation.

Environment and Forest Minister Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury inaugurated the workshop on December 29 at the CIRDAP auditorium in Dhaka. Speaking on the occasion, the Minister said: "Our government believes that setting realistic goals, with measurable results, will help us achieve sustainable development".  She also listed different national programmes and ecosystem initiatives to protect the country's environment.

Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury sought the cooperation and support of NGO , civil societies and specially the journalists, in ensuring sustain- able development. "Come forward and use your green pen in raising awareness among people in Bangladesh in particular and the world community in general", she asked the media representatives drawn from eight countries.

Environment Secretary Syed Marghub Murshed, UNDP Resident Representative Andre Klap, AFEJ Chairman Dr Dharman Wickremaratne, CEJA Secretary General Nina Ratulele and editors of different national newspapers and news agencies were present at the inaugural session of the workshop which was followed by two technical sessions covering water and air pollution.

Klap, AFEJ Chairman Dr Dharman Wickremaratne, CEJA Secretary General Nina Ratulele and editors of different national newspapers and news agencies were present at the inaugural session of the workshop which was followed by two technical sessions covering water and air pollution.

Andre Klap, the UNDP Resident Representative speaking on the occasion pointed out that environmental degradation had been increasing all over the world and a large number of people were facing environ- mental hazards. He stressed the need for strategic partnership among the government, NGOs and citizens organizations to play an effective role in addressing the burning environmental concerns Globally.

Speaking at the concluding session on December 30, AZM Enayetullah Khan , Editor-in-Chief of Holiday, the national weekend newspaper, urged the political parties, including the ruling Awami League and main opposition BNP, to incorporate the environment issues in their "political agenda".

Other speakers at the workshop also emphasized the importance of democracy and public participation as they dwelt on different critical issues of sustainable development, conflicts and balances between environment, economy, ecology and development.

"It (workshop) has underlined the need for an approach to think Globally and act locally." Quamrul Islam Chowdhury, the FEJB Chairman, told the concluding session. He added that the media should intensify the campaign for protecting the environment at national as well as Global levels.

Asia-Pacific Forum of Environment Journalists (AFEJ) and Commonwealth Environment journalists Association (CEJA) collaborated with the FEJB in organizing the workshop. Representatives from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, China, the Philippines, Jordan, Fiji, Canada, Germany, IUCN, UNDP, UNICEF, WW and The World Bank attended the workshop.

Dr Mahfuzul Haque, Programme Co-ordinator of the government's Sustainable Environment Management Programme (SEMP), said one of the major problems facing developing countries is that the West wants them to compromise their development priorities to contain pollution. "For us economic development is a necessity," Dr Haque said explaining conflicts between development and ecology and the idea of sustainable development with minimum intervention into the nature.

Chairman of Asian Forum of Environment Journalist (AFEJ) Dr Dharman Wickremaratne, Laisa Taga and Nina Raulele of Fiji, Abdur Rauf of WWF (Pakistan), Qingzi Sang of China, Elizabeth Roxas of the Philippines, Thomas Vaser of Germany, Umer Afridi of Pakistan, Nava Thakuria of India, Dinesh Weerakkody of Sri Lanka, Cameron Kennedy of Canada and Dhatri Prasad Subedi of Nepal, Ahmed Nure Alam, Md. Gaziur Rahman, Nurul Huda and Bakhtiar Rana of FEJB took part in the discussions. Chief Editor of The Financial Express Reazuddin Ahmed and National Press Club President Khandokar Manirul Alam also spoke at the concluding session. Supported by the UNDP, The World Bank, the Ministry of Environment and Forest and some other development agencies, the work shop highlighted the key environmental issues, particularly the air and water pollution problems in Bangladesh as well as other countries.

Presenting a keynote paper on air pollution, M Reazuddin, Director of the Department of Environment, mentioned that the high level of ambient air pollution due to vehicular emission was one of the worst environmental problems affecting all the ten million inhabitants of Dhaka city.

"Dhaka city's air is also polluted with carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emitted from vehicles due to improper maintenance of the engines and use of adulterated fuel and lubricants." he said adding that the number one polluter in Dhaka city was the three- wheeler taxi run by two-stroke engines. He referred to various efforts made by the government to cheek air pollution.

Speaking on the occasion Mahbubul Alam, Editor of The Independent, called for strict enforcement of laws in creating a healthy city.  He, however, regretted that the DOE and the relevant government agencies were helpless in reversing the environmental degradation due to lack of political will at the highest level.

The Director General of the DOE, AR Khan, also conceded that the polluters were much more powerful than the government agencies. Abdur Rouf, Communications Director of WWF-Pakistan focused his discussion on campaign strategy for changing human behavior towards a cleaner future. Cammeroon Kennedy of Canada and Dr M Khairy Lubbadeh of Jordan also took park in the first technical session.

At one of the technical sessions, Professor Ainun Nishat, country representative of IUCN Bangladesh, presented a keynote paper on issues and approaches to water management terming it a challenge of the new rnillenium. Another session of the workshop focused on sustainable environment management where Dr Mahfuzul Huq, Programme Coordinator of SEMP, had been the main speaker.



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