Speakers at a discussion yesterday called upon the government to protect the country’s northwestern districts — a major source of agricultural products — from natural calamities triggered by climate change.
The country might face food security threat if the government fails to do so, they said at a roundtable. The Daily Star and NETZ Bangladesh, an independent organisation registered in Germany and Bangladesh, jointly arranged the discussion at The Daily Star Centre.
Speaking at the discussion, lawmaker Israfil Alam said though farmers are the worst victims of climate change, they are neglected in the country.
Giving a comparison, he said, “I’ve seen in Geneva that when the market price falls, the government of the country buys apples and other crops from farmers to support them. They always ensure that farmers’ best interests are protected, so that they are not disheartened.”
“In Bangladesh we are busy looking after loan defaulters, bank looters and money launderers. We are not looking after farmers who have been counting losses,” he added.
Israfil, who is a ruling party lawmaker of Naogaon-6, said that climate change has caused severe water crisis in the northwestern districts but locals are not responsible for it.
He underscored the need to revive waterbodies in northwestern districts to save local agriculture.
Lawmaker Fazle Hossain Badsha said Bangladesh is self-reliant when it comes to paddy because of bumper production of rice in northwestern districts whereas 80 percent of fish available in Dhaka come from the region.
“Northwestern districts are the crop heartland of Bangladesh. If it’s destroyed due to climate change, Bangladesh will not survive with its huge population,” he added.
At the event, Three women — Costantina Hasda of Godagari upzila in Rajshahi district, Arifa Khatun of Dimla upazila in Nilphamari and Kagjibala of Chilmari upazila in Kurigram — narrated their struggles.
Hasda said temperature has changed in Rajshahi in the last 10-15 years. People suffer from unbearable heat in summer and bone-chilling cold in winter, she added.
In summer, they face severe water shortage. “We have to collect water from at least 2-3km distance,” she said.
Arifa and Kagjibala are victims of river erosion.
Kagjibala said she had to move at least 22 times as her homes were destroyed by river erosion. “I urge you to do something about river erosion,” she pleaded.
Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS) presented a study titled ‘Ensure climate justice and resilient livelihoods for the poor of northwestern Bangladesh’.
While sharing their study findings, Dr Dwijen Mallick said there is disparity in regional planning and implementation of adaptation, mitigation and disaster risk reduction projects.
He said that of the allocated fund from Bangladesh Climate Change Trust, the Rangpur and Rajshahi divisions got only eight percent till February 2017, which shows a sharp regional disparity and inequality in climate fund management.
Dr Atiq Rahman, executive director, BCAS suggested giving specific attention to northwestern districts to combat climate change.