Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Mr. Shahab Uddin informed that the Government of Bangladesh is working to protect the Sundarban (the mangrove forest) and the coast from the negative impact of climate change. Various projects have been taken to reduce from the risks of disasters, protect the world heritage Sundarban, construction of sustainable embankments, and rainwater conservation plants – he explained during the national dialogue at Member’s Club on October 26. 2022. At the same time, effective initiatives will be in place to collect the compensation of loss and damages that were caused due to climate induced disasters from rich countries who are contributing towards climate change.

He informed these things in his speech as the Chief Guest of the National Dialogue on ‘Risks of Climate Change and Actions on the South-West Coast’ at the National Parliament Members’ Club at Jatiya Sangsad Bhavan Wednesday (October 26, 2022). Mr. Nikhil Chandra Bhadra, Coordinator of the Sundarban and Coastal Protection Movement, presided over the dialogue organized by the non-governmental development organization ‘LEDARS’ and the civic organization ‘Sundarbans and Coastal Protection Movement’. Deputy Minister of Environment Forests and Climate Change Ms Habibun Nahar, Members of Parliament Mr. Mir Mostaq Ahmed Rabi and Ms Syeda Rubina Akhter and General Secretary Mr. Sharif Jamil of Bangladesh Environment Movement (BAPA) were the special guests at the dialogue.

Mohon Kumar Mondal, Executive Director of LEDARS presented the keynote paper in the dialogue. Former President of Dhaka Reporters Unit (DRU) Mr. Rafiqul Islam Azad, Kirk in Action representative Ms Matilda Tina Baidya, Mr. Ahsan Waheed of Human for Foundation, Mr. Moniruzzaman Mukul, General Secretary of Scan Bangladesh, Mr. Sheikh Abdul Alim of CCDB, Mr. Mahbub-ul Hasan of Oxfam participated in the discussion. Swisscontact representative Md. Shahiduzzaman Pulak, Ms Mosi Mandal of World Concerns Bangladesh, Executive Director of Faith in Action Mr. Nirpen Baidya, Member of Satkhira District Climate Advocacy Forum and Convener of Civil Society Mr. Md. Anisur Rahim, Bagerhat District Climate Advocacy Forum member and Pasur River Waterkeeper Mr. Md. Noor Alam Sheikh, Ms Madhabi Rani Mandal, the beneficiary of Satkhira, Mr. Azadul Haque of Bagerhat District Climate Advocacy Forum, Ms. Meeta, have attended the program.

In the dialogue, the Environment Minister said that due to climate change, the risk of coastal areas including Sundarban has been increased. A national adaptation plan has already been taken. Various schemes have been taken up to address the risks. Monitoring has been strengthened to ensure transparency and accountability of project implementation. A specific action plan has been taken to develop the tourism industry around the Sundarban. He urged the government as well as non-governmental organizations to work to raise awareness on all these issues.

Deputy Minister, Ms Habibun Nahar called for caution in accepting projects to deal with the risk of climate change. She said that although the Government has taken various projects in the past, those projects are not able to play a role in dealing with the crisis in public life. Therefore, the project should be adopted based on the opinion of the affected people as needed. Like Bangabandhu, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is also sincere in protecting the Sundarban. However, people’s cooperation is important in this work of the government.

Member of Parliament Mr. Mir Mostak Ahmed Rabi raised allegations of manipulation in accepting Government projects. He said that even though various projects have been taken to dig the river and solve the waterlogging, they are not being implemented properly. Again DPP is given specially for the project to give the work to the particular contractor. Even the reluctance of the Government officials to implement the directions of the ministers has been observed.

Emphasizing on the proposal to form a separate board for the development of the coastal region, Member of Parliament Ms Syeda Rubina Akhter said that the major obstacle to the development of the coastal region is lack of coordination. For this, it is important to form a separate organization besides increasing inter-ministerial coordination. She said that the Government has taken a project to conserve rain water for sustainable and permanent solution of safe drinking water for the coastal people. In the dialogue, BAPA General Secretary Mr. Sharif Jamil said that to protect community people from disasters in the coastal areas, the environment and nature must be understood scientifically. A sustainable, integrated and multi-term project should be formulated and implemented with the involvement of local people. Effective initiatives should be taken to resolve bureaucratic complications. He called for increasing the capacity of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate to present a rational and strong position in the international arena to realize our justified demands.

The recommendations raised in the dialogue said that the scope of social security programs (especially cash and food assistance programs) should be increased in coastal upazilas under Khulna, Satkhira and Bagerhat districts, taking into account climate risk, poverty and vulnerability. A house-a-shelter program on the pattern of a house-a-farm project in sub-urban areas should be initiated. Cyclone shelters in the area should be renovated and made women and children friendly. Sustainable and permanent solutions for food and water supply for all coastal peoples are needed. Coastal Development Board should be constituted for inter-ministerial coordination. In order to prevent tidal surge, river erosion and land erosion, extensive tree planting programs and green belt should be taken and effective measures should be taken to protect the Sundarban.