Environment and NGOs in Bangladesh

Environment and NGOs

Introductory text

By playing an important role in development NGO sector earned its own identity in all over the world. In Bangladesh NGOs are working in different sectors – education, skill development training, health and family planning, child and human rights etcetera. Recently,
environment, climate change, conservation of nature have become areas on interest for a good number of NGOs in Bangladesh.

Following are the major environment related activities of some NGOs working in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies

Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS) is an independent, non-profit, non-government, policy, research, and implementation institute working on sustainable development at local, national, regional and global levels. BCAS addresses sustainable development through four interactive themes:
(a) environment-development integration,
(b) good governance and people’s participation,
(c) poverty alleviation and sustainable livelihoods, and
(d) economic growth and public-private partnership.

BCAS envisions to promote people-centred sustainable development by applying and advancing scientific, technical and local knowledge through research, by developing models, demonstration, policy advocacy and project implementation.
It is committed to develop southern perspectives, ensure north-south dialogue and environmental justice and access to resources and knowledge for the poor.

Field of Specialization of BCAS

Natural resource management (land, water, fisheries, forestry, agriculture and biodiversity)
Enhance resilience of natural and human systems
Livelihood analysis, poverty reduction strategy and food security Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) Clean technology and pollution management
Energy (conventional and renewable)
Environmental education and health
Public-private partnership
Global climate change, and human dimension of global change
Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs)
Trade, environment and sustainable development

BCAS work at different levels –

Local and grass-roots level
At the local level, BCAS works with communities through eco-specific participatory management processes. BCAS has established eco-specific research centres in different parts of country such as the Wetlands Research and Training Centre (WRTC) in Chanda Beel in the Modhumati Floodplain to develop natural resource management capability with active participation of local communities, initiated diffusion of renewable energy technology [solar photovoltaic (generating current or voltage when illuminated)] among the islands dwellers in the River Meghna.

National Level
At the national level, BCAS has spearheaded and initiated numerous activities, along with others, including the National Environment Management Action Plan (NEMAP), Sustainable Environment Management Programme (SEMP), National Conservation Strategy (NCS), New Fisheries Management Programmes and Bangladesh State of Environment Report 2001. It has also carried out several national level studies on climate change issues including Vulnerability Assessment for Bangladesh to Climate Change and Sea Level Rise.
It also works closely and carried out numerous studies and advisory inputs for the government, particularly with the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Department of Environment, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Agriculture, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Local Government and Engineering Department.
Along with these BCAS has also been involved in a number of
collaborative research and initiatives with leading NGOs including BRAC, Grameen Bank, Grameen Shakti, Proshika etc.

Regional Level
At the regional level, BCAS is the secretariat for the Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA) working on Climate Change related issues. BCAS is the international wing of Centre for Environment Education (CEE), it is also a member of Regional and International Networking Group (RING) in South Asia. BCAS has undertaken a number of
collaborative research and policy advocacy on sustainable livelihoods, trade and environment, climate change, civil society initiatives on sustainable development and community action, and environmental, socially responsible public-private partnership.

International Level

At the international level, BCAS is involved in a number of
collaborative research, policy analysis and advocacy including North South Dialogue (NSD) on Climate Change, Global Compact Initiative under aegis of UN. BCAS participated in all the preparatory meetings of UNCED in Rio and WSSD in Johannesburg as a NGO representative, where it also played a key role in giving advice to the government delegations. BCAS provides secretarial support to Global Forum on Environment and Poverty (GFEP) originated during the Earth Summit in Rio. As a centre of excellence from the south, BCAS has been involved in the process of formulation and reporting on all Global Environment Outlook (GEO) Reports of UNEP.

Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA)

BELA, an advocacy group of lawyers, was established in 1992 with the broad objective of promoting environmental justice and contributing to the development of sound environmental jurisprudence.
Bangladesh could have been known in the world for its rivers, coastal areas, forests, biodiversity and related culture, the country instead has been portrayed as a land of dense population, disasters. This has happened mainly due to faulty policy priorities and approaches and of course poor governance that also accounts for non-implementation of environmental laws.
Its efforts through public interest litigation have truly sensitized the concept of ‘environmental justice’ in the country that now has special courts to deal with environmental offences.

Objectives & Strategies
The broad objective of BELA is to promote environmental justice and contribute towards the development of a sound environmental
jurisprudence.
The specific objectives of the organization include:
Undertake studies on and research into the local, national and international regulatory regime on environment
Undertake legislative advocacy
Seek judicial or administrative relief to ensure implementation of existing environmental laws
Resolve environmental disputes through court cases, alternative dispute resolution, mediation and other means
Create greater awareness about environmental laws and issues Provide legal assistance and support endeavours for protection of the environment and associated human rights
Develop networks with local, national and international
groups/bodies/agencies working on environment
Develop and core group of environmental activists

For its contribution in the field of environmental education and awareness, BELA received the Environment Award 2007 from the Government of Bangladesh.

Proshika

Proshika’s one of the major activities is social forestry programme. It is a systematic intervention to enhance the plantation, protection and regeneration of the forest resources.
It also provides disaster relief during national calamities such as floods, cyclones, cold spells etc.
Crop diversification project: it has close cooperation with the Department of Agricultural Extension and RAKAB to implementation the project.

BRAC
Brac also has two environment related progrmme:
Disasters & Climate Change
The programme seeks to:
– promote better disaster preparation and management
– increase awareness about climate change and its impact
– undertake research to identify successful risk reduction and coping mechanisms
Water, Sanitation & Hygiene
To provide communities with access to safe water, Brac undertakes various activities, including development of a water safety plan, installation of deep tube wells, water quality tests and provision of loans for tube well platform construction. In arsenic and
saline-affected areas, we sink deep tube wells, construct ponds and filters and arsenic removal filters and install piped water supply systems to provide safe water.

Brac raises awareness on sanitation issues, which creates community demand for facilities such as sanitary latrines.
Brac installs water supply and sanitation facilities to improve people’s health.
Schools in rural areas either have poor sanitation facilities or none at all. To address this issue, it works with secondary school authorities to provide separate latrines that have adequate water and waste disposal facilities.

Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh

The Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh (WTB) is a non-profit organization whose aim is to conserve the country’s biological diversity.

WTB’s activities include:
Research and monitoring
Institutional and policy development
Communication and education
Wildlife-human conflict mitigation
Legislation and law enforcement

Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA)

Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon is a common forum of citizens and organizations concerned with the environment of Bangladesh. BAPA, acting as a pressure group against any kind of environment
degradation, is trying to create a broad-based citizen’s movement for protection and betterment of environment in Bangladesh.
It organizes seminars, meetings, conferences and workshops to draw attention to general and specific problems in environment and educate the public on such issues. It holds rallies and demonstrations to build up public awareness and secure wide participation of people on environmental issues.

Objectives

BAPA’s objectives are:
1. To stop the process of further environmental degradation in Bangladesh. 2. To reverse, where possible, the damage that has already been done to the environment.
3. To build up a nationwide, united, civic movement to achieve the aims of stopping and reversing environmental degradation in
Bangladesh.

Role of NGOs on environment

Bangladesh is faced with rampant poverty, high population density, recurring natural disasters and a dwindling natural recourse base. All these factors make it imperative for the country to integrate all development concerns. The role of NGOs especially those dedicated towards environmental causes are crucial towards the end. Role of these NGOs has earned more credibility and commendation as they surely play a role in raising community environment consciousness, promoting protection and the needs of sustainable development.

Role of NGOs working on environmental issues in Bangladesh can be synthesized in the following form:
Programme implementation (social forestry, crop diversification) Policy initiation or providing policy inputs (National Environment Management Action Plan)
Assistance in international negotiation
Research
Environmental movement (GM food)
Watchdog role (ship breaking)

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