Thursday, November 7, 2013

Special conference on Environment Movement and Organization1

Organized by

Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA)
Bangladesh Environment Network (BEN)

3-4 January, 2014
Dhaka University Senate Bhaban, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Announcement & Call for Papers

The environment movement in Bangladesh arose in the 1980s. It progressed further in the 1990s. A good number of distinguished pro-environment citizens gathered under the banner of POROSH (Poribesh Rokkhya Shopoth). Abroad, non-resident Bangladesh also started to organize themselves for protection of Bangladesh environment. In 1998, they formed Bangladesh Environment Network (BEN). Porosh and BEN, together with a large number of pro-environment organizations and establishments, organized in January 2000 the first International Conference on Bangladesh Environment (ICBEN). The main purpose of the conference was to bring together all the pro-environment forces of the country. Following the conference, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) was launched in July of that year.

For more than a decade since its formation, BAPA has been working relentlessly for protection of Bangladesh environment. Working together with other pro-environment organizations, several important successes have been achieved. Among these are introduction of unleaded gasoline, ban on two-stroke engine vehicles, ban on use of plastic bags, enactment of wetland protection law, formation of the river task force, formulation of new building rules, etc.

Despite these positive steps, the environment of the country overall continues to deteriorate. Rivers continue to be encroached and polluted. Upstream withdrawal and diversion of water by India has exacerbated the plight of Bangladesh Rivers. Bangladesh has been, by and large, unsuccessful in protecting her interests in river-related negotiations with India. Industrial pollution is spreading at an alarming rate. Forests are disappearing. Wetlands are getting filled up. Bio-diversity is shrinking. Pollution resulting from use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides in agriculture continues. Traffic jam has become unbearable. Deadly work-environment in industrial enterprises is causing damage to the health of millions of workers and is causing deaths of thousands of them. Open spaces, parks, playfields are disappearing. Overall, despite the increase in per capita income, the external physical conditions for living are deteriorating sharply. Several international surveys have found Dhaka to be one of the worst cities of the world to live in. Meanwhile, the adverse effects of climate change are becoming more prominent, and yet there is little progress in confronting the climate challenge.

The above shows that achieving the goals of the environment is proving very difficult. What are the reasons for this disappointing outcome? How can these hurdles be overcome? What are the lessons from BAPA’s experience so far? What is the experience in this regard of other pro-environment forces and organizations? What has been the role of the government, state, and the administration? What role did the political parties and various professional and social organizations play in protection of environment? What has been the role of the media?

How successful have been the principles and methods that BAPA have followed so far in developing the environment movement? How successful BAPA has been in spreading environment movement and organization in various districts and upazillas? What explains the variation in the degree of success in this regard across various regions? What is the experience of increasing BAPA organizational spread in the Dhaka city? How successful has been BAPA’s activities are the centre? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the style and methods of BAPA’s work at the centre? How successful has BAPA been in joint work with other pro-environment organizations, and what is their own experience?

“Financial self-reliance” and “operational initiative” have been the two main principles of BAPA. How well informed are BAPA branches and members about these principles? How successful have they been in applying these principles and what difficulties have they encountered in doing so? How successful has BAPA been in projecting these two principles in the media and to the people of the country?
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