World Wetlands Day 2003:
Restoration of wetlands essential to save environment:
Bangladesh Water Resources Minister LK Siddiqi said that filling up of wetlands and other water bodies aiming to enhance food production to meet the pressure of gradual increase of population is creating a serious natural imbalance in the country.
He said Bangladesh was very much rich on water as it has huge rivers, wetlands and various types of water bodies, which are very resourceful, but those are being ruined as there is no such water management policy in the country.
He was addressing a seminar on “No Wetlands-No Water” organised in celebration of the World Wetlands Day, he said an adverse impact on environment is being witnessed due to the filling up of wetlands.
It was jointly organised by the World Water Forum of Journalists (WWFJ), Ministry of Environment and Forest, UNDP, World Conservation Union (IUCN), Bangladesh Centre for Advance Studies (BCAS) and Forum of Environmental Journalists of Bangladesh (FEJB) at CIRDAP auditorium on February 2, 2003. WWFJ secretary general and FEJB Chairman Quamrul Islam Chowdhury chaired.
Citing examples, the Water Resources Minister said many countries around the world, who had filled up their wetlands to meet human pressure, now has realised the necessity of wetlands and started restoration of the water bodies to save environment. “Now time has come for us to recover the lost wetlands to protect our environment, He said adding “If necessary, we have to change the cropping pattern to enhance food production, but we must not ruin our wetlands.”
LK Siddiqi said Bangladesh can be benefited greatly if its wetlands and water boidies are utilised properly and under a concrete water management, but it is so unfortunate that “we have no control of water management in our hand”. He said the unspecified number of rivers and wetlands in Bangladesh can be protected and supply of water be assured in the dry season if the origin of rivers flowing over the country is managed properly through joint initiatives.
The Minister emphasised on joint initiatives among the neighbouring countries for flood control during the rainy season as well as save the rivers from siltation. He urged those who would participate in the conference of Third World Water Forum in Kyoto in March to raise the water issues prominently especially the problems of the country.
He lauded the role of non-government organisations working in the country, particularly the WWFJ and FEJB, for coming forward to create awareness about the necessity of wetlands as well as save the wetlands.
Chief Editor of Weekly Holiday Enayetullah Khan said the influential people has also looted country’s wetlands like other resources and it would not be possible to preserve the wetlands and save those from the profit-monger and land grabbers without involving the local people.
Government should be more pro-active at the local level to protect wetlands by involving the grass root people to ensure sustainable wetland management, he added.
Dr Atiq A Rahman, executive director of BCAS, in his speech said Bangladesh is the largest living wetlands in the world and suggested to link poverty and livelihood of people in the wetland management.
He said the wetlands in the country has been rendering various services like navigation, waste management, to the people for decades, but unfortunately the wetlands are being ruined due to lack of preservation.
Rahman also emphasised on sustainable management of wetlands as well as their preservation for protecting the environment in the country.
Secretary of the Rural Development and Cooperatives Hedayetul Islam Chowdhury said it is not wise to ruin the wetlands in the name of distribution of khas lands.
It is very unfortunate that roads and other establishments were constructed on haors and other water bodies without considering the future consequence on environment. “There might not face problems of flood and water logging in the country if we could preserve the wetlands intact.”
Dr Aminul Islam of UNDP stressed for full accounting of wetland values including habitats and biological diversity, and development of a strong conservation department with fully trained and motivated staffs to preserve and maintain the wetlands.
Another UNDP official, who is expert of coastal and wetland biodiversity management, Valdemar Holmgren said Bangladesh must conserve its rich coastal wetlands, which are ecologically critical areas.
SM Lutfullah of the Ministry of Environment said government has taken up a number of projects and initiatives to protect the wetlands and others water bodies.
Chief Conservator of Forest Anwar Faruque listed different measures taken by the Forest Department to conserve the Sundarbans mangrove forest and other Ramsar sites.
It was addressed, among others, by Dr Mahfuzul Haq of Ministry of Environment, Director of Department of Environment Mohammad Reazuddin, Manjurul Hannan Khan and Anisuzzaman Khan of IUCN.