Environmental governance is a concept in political ecology or environmental policy related to defining the elements needed to achieve sustainability and resilience. As one of the most susceptible countries in the world, Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to climatic manifestations as a result of its unique geographic location, hydro-geological characters like dominance of floodplains, low elevation from the sea and finally, the socio-economic characters like high population density, high level of poverty and overwhelming dependence on nature. The physical environment of Bangladesh is diverse, and there is a mix of both traditional and modern methods of land use - all very closely adapted to the heterogeneous conditions. This complexity of environment and utilisation patterns has important implications for the vulnerability and depletion of the natural resource base.
The high population density, low economic growth, lack of institutional infrastructure, an intensive dependence on agriculture and agricultural products, geographical settings, and various other factors contribute to make the country weak in its economic development and quality of life. In order to act in line with the Stockholm mandate, the government of Bangladesh, like all other developing and developed countries, actively participated in the evolutionary process of protecting global environment. As a result, the first Water Pollution Control Ordinance was promulgated in 1973, followed by the promulgation of the Environment Pollution Control Ordinance in 1977.
In 1985, the Department of Pollution Control Ordinance was established, which was subsequently renamed and structured as the Department of Environment (DoE). The idea of environmental protection through national efforts was first recognised and declared with the adoption of the Environmental Policy 1992. While formulating environmental policy, different actors and factors played some direct and indirect roles. All the actors, whether external or internal, played very pertinent roles in the formulation of the environmental policy. In the context of the environment, the government formulated an Environment Policy in 1992. Key elements of the environment policy are maintenance of the ecological balance and overall progress and development of the country through protection and improvement of the environment; protection of the country against natural disasters; identification and regulation of all types of activities, which pollute and degrade the environment.
The government has recognised climate change as an important issue and attempts are being made to incorporate potential response measures for reducing impacts of climate change into overall development planning process. It is being increasingly recognised that the adverse impacts on climate change in an already vulnerable country like Bangladesh will put additional stress on overall development of this country. The National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) is prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) in 2005 as a response to the decision of the Seventh Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The basic approach to NAPA preparation was along with the sustainable development goals and objectives of the country, where it has recognised the necessity of addressing environmental issue and natural resource management with the participation of stakeholders in bargaining over resource use, allocation and distribution. Besides, to meet the threat of climate change by undertaking adaptation measures through utilisation of internal and external resources, Bangladesh launched a Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan in 2009.
Formal responsibilities of overall environment sector are vested with the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF). However, many other institutions, directly and indirectly, are involved in managing or shaping up the field of environment. These embrace public sector, private sector and civil society institutions. The MoEF bears the responsibility for working with other ministries to ensure that environmental concerns are given due recognition in their development programme. The ministry has an active role to play in policy advice and coordination of the implementation of action plans across all sectors. MoEF is also responsible for reviewing and monitoring the impact of development initiatives on the environment across all sectors.
All in all, we should bear in mind that the NGOs and other civil society groups are not only stakeholders in governance, but also a driving force behind greater international cooperation through the active mobilisation of public support for international agreements.
Mohammad Tarikul Islam is an Assistant Professor, Department of Government & Politics,