By Md Zillur Rahaman
TODAY is World Earth Day. The day is celebrated worldwide each year to show support for the protection of the environment. It was first observed in 1970 and is now held globally by the Earth Day Network.
The UN-sponsored conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 3 to June 14, 1992, is known as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development or the Earth Summit. After the long-running Cold War, the main objective of the conference was for member states to work together for sustainable development and save the environment. The topics covered at the conference were: a) Regulatory screening for production, especially for toxic components, such as lead in gasoline, radioactive waste, etc b) Finding alternative sources of fossil fuels that will help mitigate the effects of climate change, c) Creating reliance on public transport to reduce vehicular pollution, air pollution and reduce congestion in urban areas, and d) Coordinating water use and sources. One of the achievements of the conference was the Agreement on Climate Change, which was later transformed into the Kyoto Protocol of Japan and the Paris Agreement. The conference also paved the way for global biodiversity agreement, framework for implementation of climate change agreement and the formulation of UN policy on desertification.
In fact, human beings constantly disrupt the environment by violating the balance and through unwanted changes of life-sustaining elements. Man-made disasters include water pollution, air pollution, noise pollution, deforestation, biodiversity loss, warfare, and the use of fossil fuel. For centuries, people have been cruelly oppressing the environment for the ‘betterment’ of life. The rapid spread of human misery, especially since the advancement of science, has led to the disappearance and destruction of countless animals, plants and natural resources. The inevitable effects of this have begun to be felt in every corner of the globe. The burning evidence of which is the increase in global warming and the threat to biodiversity.
The flora and fauna are inextricably linked and their combination is biodiversity. The ecosystem is the dynamic system of interaction between plants, animals, microorganisms and their inert environments on the surface and among themselves. The main sources of food for most animals, including humans, are trees and livestock. Various species of plants and animals are on the verge of extinction due to indiscriminate deforestation and hunting of animals. Many species of native fish and aquatic animals are on the verge of extinction too due to water pollution, reservoir problems and free hunting. The microorganisms survive by eating the organic matter of dead tree and animal cells and decomposing with these soils keeps the environment free from pollution. This flow of food energy through different organisms is called food chain, which maintains the dynamics of the ecosystem. But the ecosystem is under serious threat due to man-made disasters.
Biodiversity is essential for the overall conservation and functioning of the biosphere to prevent environmental pollution. Plants play a vital role in maintaining the supply of oxygen to the environment and in causing rainfall. Biodiversity is actually a storehouse of a huge number of genes. This gene pool of different organisms is an invaluable resource to humans. This gene pool contains a number of high quality genes, which have been collected through biotechnology and transferred to economically important plants and animals to create high yielding transgenic plants and animals of desired quality. This makes it possible to meet the growing food needs of the human race.
But one of the risks of climate change is thunderstorms, excess rainfall and floods in coastal areas, which have already become apparent. These issues came up in the 2014 evaluation of the committee formed by the governments of different countries. In most parts of Europe, Asia and Australia, the pressure is rising. Similarly, heavy rainfall has intensified in North America and Europe. Due to various man-made obstacles, the future world is becoming increasingly dangerous.
On the other hand, more than half of the world’s people still live below the poverty line. These people are deprived of basic rights and privileges including food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care. But the developed countries are spending trillions of dollars behind the development of lethal weapons, especially nuclear weapons. The world would have benefited and found peace today if the countries had spent their time, labour and money on preventing man-made disasters around the world. If even a quarter of the budget that is being spent on the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction were to be spent on improving the quality of life, the world today would be free from hunger and poverty.
The biodiversity of any country is the resource of that country. One study found that freshwater mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish have declined at an average rate of 4 per cent per year since 1970. Humans are increasing the risk of climate change and biodiversity. As a result, the risk of genetic diseases — contagious disease from other animals like COVID-19 — are increasing. At the same time, the threat of world catastrophe is increasing.
The reasons for environmental pollution and climate catastrophe include, among others, the contamination of water resources, excessive use of other materials including plastics or metals, which are not easily decomposed and destroy the water and land environment, the extinction of plant dependent animals and insects due to deforestation and change in rainfall pattern, an increase in landslides and erosion and excessive use of fossil fuels. The result of environmental pollution is an increase in carbon dioxide emission, the depletion of the earth’s protective ozone layer, the melting of icebergs an increase in temperature.
However, natural reservoirs including rivers, canals, water bodies, ponds, ditches and haors scattered in different parts of the country play a huge role in maintaining the balance of the environment and protection of biodiversity. In addition, wetlands are important for keeping the environment cool, preventing floods during the monsoon season, reducing waterlogging, meeting water demand and treating waste. But people are filling the wetlands in the absence of effective preservation and monitoring by the authorities. But wetlands are very important for maintaining the balance of the environment, the survival of plants and animals. Moreover, floods, cyclones, droughts, tidal surges, tornadoes, earthquakes, river erosion, waterlogging and rising water levels and salinity are identified as major natural hazards in the world. In order to save the world, it is necessary to remove the man-made threats, and this requires the awareness and joint efforts of all.
Md Zillur Rahaman is a banker and columnist.