Leaders of both the ruling Awami League and opposition parties on Monday made commitments to include the development issue in the coastal area in their respective election manifestoes ahead of the upcoming general elections likely to be held early next year.
They made the commitments while speaking at a National Coastal Dialogue organised jointly by the Local Environment Development and Agricultural Research Society (LEDARS) Participatory Research and Action Network (PRAN) and Action Aid Bangladesh at Jatiya Press Club.
Presided over by Coordinator of Sundarbans and Coastal Protection Movement Nikhil Chandra Bhadra, the dialogue was addressed, among others, by Election Manifesto Formulation Sub-committee Member of Awami League Shekhar Dutta, Jatiya Party presidium member Sunil Shubo Roy, Ganatantro Mancha leader and General Secretary of Biplobi Workers Party Saiful Haque, General Secretary of Gano Forum Advocate Subrata Chowdhury, General Secretary of Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (Basad) Bajlur Rashid Feroze, Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) central leader Manbendra Deb, Central Committee member of Bangladesh Workers Party Mostafa Alamgir Ratan and Sabbah Ali Khan Collins as guest speakers.
Prominent media personality Manjurul Ahsan Bulbul attended the dialogue as the chief discussant while General Secretary of National Press Club Shyamal Dutta, Coordinator of Waterkeepers-Bangladesh Sharif Jamil, Treasurer of Bangladesh Federal Journalist Union Khairuzzaman Kamal, President of Bangladesh Climate Change Journalists Forum Kawsar Rahman, Prof Mir Muhammad Ali of Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, former president of Dhaka Reporters Unity Rafiqul Islam Azad, Action Aid Manager Nazmul Ahsan, Principal Akmal Hossain, CUP Project Manager Mahbubul Haque, among others, spoke on the occasion.
Executive Director of LEDARS Mohan Kumar Mondal placed the keynote presentation in the dialogue while PRAN Chief Executive Nurul Alam Masood delivered the welcome speech.
The speakers demanded declaring coastal zone as the most climate vulnerable area, providing special allocation in the national budget for the protection and development of coastal areas, forming the Coastal Development Board for sustainable development, ensuring safe drinking water, introducing “One House One Shelter” project in coastal area, protecting the coastal World Heritage Sundarbans ecosystem by taking effective measures and by planting trees and building green belt on the coast and constructing and repairing permanent and strong embankments.
Manjurul Ahsan Bulbul said since the election manifesto is a written document of a political party, it would be a big achievement if the climate issue is included in the manifestoes of p9olitical parties this time. “It will also be seen how much those who will come to power have implemented the manifesto. The opposition parties must put pressure on the government to implement its promises,” he added.
Expressing his agreement with the demands raised in the dialogue, Awami League leader Shekhar Dutta said that balanced development of the whole country is the promise of the present Awami League-led government.
The entire coastal region was neglected for a long time before the Awami League came to power. After Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina-led government assumed power, special steps have been taken for the development of the region. Different projects including the construction of sustainable embankments, and clean water systems have been taken up, he mentioned.
He promised to mention a separate section for the coast in the ruling Awami League election manifesto for formulating an integrated development plan in the future.
Jatiya Party presidium member Sushil Shubo Roy said that only those who are in power implement their manifesto and they are not giving importance to the advice of the opposition parties.
He called for building a regional movement to deal with the risk of climate change.
Saiful Haque, General Secretary of Biplobi Workers Party, said that the way in which the reproductive health of girls is being disrupted due to climate change is a cause of great concern.
He described coal-based power plants as a threat to the southern region of the country saying that it would cause various problems in the environment and nature.
“Millions of people will be displaced due to climate change in the next few years. Therefore, these projects must be stopped to protect the southwestern region. Besides, the displaced people should be protected through proper planning,” he added.
General Secretary of Gano Forum Subrata Chowdhury questioned the necessity of a manifesto as he said uncertainty is looming large in holding the next elections.
“We are bringing climate funds by begging from abroad. But the funds are being plundered and looted. Today, political leaders are occupying rivers, seas, and mountains,” he regretted.
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