Environment Ministry unable to deal with environment issues: experts
Though the environmental pollution has emerged as a major issue, the Ministry of Environment and Forests appears unable to take the lead role in dealing with the alarming incidents of pollution and enforcing the existing laws of the land, said environment experts.
They also said the ministry is yet to take the shape of a powerful and strong regulatory body to protect the environment for lack of adequate power, necessary budget, manpower, and due attention of the government.
Talking to UNB, Prof M Shahidul Islam of Dhaka University’s Geography and Environment department, environment expert Dr Atiq Rahman, ex-additional director general of the DoE Md Shahjahan, Poribesh Bachao Andolon (Poba) chairman Abu Naser Khan and Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan (BAPA) general secretary MA Matin observed that the ministry still can play a vital role in using its existence capacity to control environmental pollution with its sincerity.
Prof Shahidul Islam said the main role of the Environment Ministry is to protect the environment and ensure its development. ‘But in many cases, it can’t play an expected role in this regard. It should play a lead role in protecting the environment and check the incidents of pollution.’
He identified the ministry’s lack of manpower, competence, strong monitoring and coordination with other agencies as the main barriers towards achieving a good success in reducing pollution.
The DU professor, however, thinks the country’s existing environmental laws are enough to check environmental problems.
Dr Atiq Rahman said the Environment Ministry and the relevant agencies, including the Department of Environment (DoE) and the Forest Department, have so far could not take a coordinated policy and steps to address a number of environmental problems, including air, water, and sound pollutions.
The lack of enforcement of the Bangladesh Environmental Act and other laws and rules and regulations is aggravating the environmental problems, he added.
The renowned environment expert suggested the ministry to take integrated plans and well-managed systems alongside carrying out an awareness campaign to free every ward of the city from environmental pollution.
Md Shahjahan, said, ‘From my experience, I can say the Environment Ministry and DoE still lack the capability and skilled manpower for monitoring and controlling environmental pollution and coordinating with other ministries and agencies in this regard.’
He said the government should properly empower the ministry and DoE as a regulatory body to take proper plans and actions, and enforce the laws to safeguard the environment.
Abu Naser Khan thinks the ministry is not serious about environmental problems. ‘If it becomes serious and take proper plans it can drastically diminish the environmental pollution using its existence manpower and capacity.’
The Poba chairman also said the ministry has so far failed to work out any plan and roadmap with a specific deadline to reduce air, sound and water pollutions.
He said the ministry should work in coordination with relevant ministries, including industries and commerce ministries, and agencies like Dhaka Wasa, city corporations, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) and Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) to check pollution and enforce laws.
MA Matin thinks the Environment Ministry is of one the most neglected ministries of the government. ‘It doesn’t get enough budgetary allocation and the government’s due attention to play a strong role in controlling environmental pollution.’
He said the ministry only remains busy taking some projects in collaboration with donor agencies to protect the environment. ‘Once the project on any issue is over, the ministry forgets to deal with the same issue further.’
He said the government should strengthen the ‘Environment Court (Paribesh Adalat)’, to punish all environment offenders and thus reduce pollution.
He criticised the political parties for not talking about environmental issues. ‘No political party thinks about the environment. The environmental pollution will come down significantly if only the chiefs of two major political parties talk about it at their different programmes asking their party men not to pollute the environment.’
Contacted, Deputy Minister for Environment and Forests Abdullah Al Islam Jakob, however, said their ministry is doing very well in dealing with environmental problems despite some limitations. ‘We’re sincerely working to reduce pollution, and having success in many cases.’
He said they are also taking various steps to overcome the ministry’s shortcomings, including manpower shortage, so that it can play a stronger role in conserving environment.
Jakob said achieving major successes in the fight against pollution is not possible unless people change their habit of polluting everywhere mindlessly and become aware of bad effects of pollution.