The Financial Express

Preparing for a bad deal

| Updated: October 17, 2021 12:37:41

Preparing for a bad deal

Much as it has been downplayed, the recent floods have exposed Bangladesh's vulnerability to the impact of Climate Change. It didn't come as a surprise. The monsoon overflow released by India's Farakka and other dams did the usual damage. Large chunks of land gave in to the ferocious tides and swathes of cropland went underwater along with the puny homes of many. The tears-eyed who lost everything they had will probably get crumbs of hope in the form of some immediate assistance; they won't get back their homes or land. There's nothing to reclaim.

This is just a fragment of what scientists predict will happen. Rising sea levels are almost invisibly biting in to land mass each year. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been almost alone in marshalling the voice of the most developed countries. Forum after forum she has pleaded with the world community for help in mitigation. Little, if anything has happened and she has introduced the country's own plans that haven't been publicised, probably due to strategic reasons. The worst is yet to come.

Major energy companies, mostly oil based have begun reducing or terminating investments in fossil fuel in favour of renewable. Many countries have strategised plans along similar lines, the most touted has been electric cars. There was a time when we were told that the solar power, if collected from the Sahara desert, could meet Africa's energy needs. Time has moved on. According to one group of scientists renewable energy can never fulfil the gas guzzling airline and industry requirements. Their answer is green hydrogen. Whether there's enough of that hasn't been studied yet. Before that more pleasant problem, a bigger puzzle has to be solved. With poorer infrastructures and a major need of industrialisation, countries such as China and India will continue to depend on fossil fuel-namely Coal. Bangladesh is working on the massive Coal fired power plant at Rampal close to the Sunderbans on Indian credit and expertise. It has recently binned ten further projects on the Climate Change grounds. However, as gas reserves deplete and are being diverted for industrial use Liquefied Petroleum Gas usage and production capacity building is being encouraged. In terms of electricity, the country is surplus. Transmission inadequacies has led to the government having to pay the mushrooming rapid power plants not to produce.

The debate on nuclear power continues, even with the risks it brings. Japan's plans to dump millions of gallons of nuclear waste following the disaster they had has come in for criticism. Other countries are insensible seeking destinations for their waste disposal. Bangladesh averted two such attempts. Rooppur nuclear power plant is years from completion. While Germany has stopped any further investments in nuclear power, the United Kingdom is proceeding with Chinese built installation. These are just bits of the debate that is preventing coordinated world action. With a World Summit being prepared for in November, the most damning reports, one by a UK based research team the other by the United Nations itself, has sent alarm bells ringing. In previous agreements there were majority commitments of a carbon emission control, preventing more than 2.5% global warming increase by 2050. The recent reports have calculated that at current warming levels even a 1% rise will hit the world much sooner with devastating effect.

As Bangladesh pursues foreign investments, responses for car manufacturing have been good. Sadly, that's a double edged sword. If major manufacturers are focused on producing electric cars, the plants churning out petrol driven vehicles will have to be relocated or scrapped. Savvy business suggests relocation as Sunset industries. If it's destination Bangladesh our worries will compound. Initial costs of electric cars will be high, though the reduced duty on hybrid vehicles is a good beginning. The crucial point will be the phase out period and deciding on recycling or demolition plans. The opportunity comes in two forms. A smaller size manufacturing hub that will soon achieve regional connectivity. With a vast pool of talented engineers, there's so much more that Bangladesh can offer. The scrap-plans can be combined into robust recycling plants to handle these and much more. Landfill works with bio-degradable items. More sophisticated recycling can't be expected soon. What can begins is recycling of items that hit us most-plastic and polythene top the list. Scientists and researchers can begin the process specially in inclusive university curricula. Whatever the outcome of the World Summit on Climate Change is, the chances of the annual aid plan will most likely be short-charged. As it has in the case of the Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh may well have to develop own strategies and resources.

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