Thursday, February 20, 2020 | ePaper

Environmental Degradation

And Below Poverty Level Equilibrium Trap

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Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque  & Dr. M. Abul Kashem Mozumder :
Environmental degradation, according to Wikipedia " is the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as air water and soil the destruction of ecosystems habitat destruction the extinction of wildlife and pollution It is defined as any change or disturbance to the environment perceived to be deleterious or undesirable. Environmental degradation is one of the ten threats officially cautioned by the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change of the United Nations. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction defines environmental degradation as "the reduction of the capacity of the environment to meet social and ecological objectives, and needs". Environmental degradation comes in many types. When natural habitats are destroyed or natural resources are depleted, the environment is degraded. Efforts to counteract this problem include environmental protection and environmental resources management"
Approximately 47 million Bangladeshis live below poverty level equilibrium 'A poverty trap is a mechanism that makes it very difficult for people to escape poverty. A poverty trap is created when an economic system requires a significant amount of capital in order to earn enough to escape poverty. When individuals lack this capital, they may also find it difficult to acquire it, creating a self-reinforcing cycle of poverty' as has been narrated by Investipedia.
Many factors contribute to creating a poverty trap, including: limited access to credit and capital markets, extreme environmental degradation (which depletes agricultural production potential), corrupt governance, capital flight, poor education systems, disease ecology, lack of public health care, war and poor infrastructure.
In order to escape the poverty trap, it is argued that individuals in poverty must be given sufficient aid so that they can acquire the critical mass of capital necessary to raise themselves out of poverty. This theory of poverty helps to explain why certain aid programs which do not provide a high enough level of support may be ineffective at raising individuals from poverty. If those in poverty do not acquire the critical mass of capital, then they will simply remain dependent on aid indefinitely and regress if aid is ended.
Recent research has increasingly focused on the role of other factors, such as healthcare, in sustaining the poverty trap for a society. A 2013 paper by researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that countries with poorer health conditions tend to be mired in a cycle of poverty as compared to others with similar educational attainments. Researchers at the University of Gainesville in Florida collected economic and disease data from 83 of the world's least and most developed countries. They found that people living in areas with limited human, animal, and crop disease were able to lift themselves out of the poverty trap as compared to people who lived in areas with rampant disease.
In his book The End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs recommends that, as a way of combating the poverty trap, aid agencies should function as venture capitalists that fund start-up companies. Sachs proposes that, just like any other start-up, developing nations should receive the full amount of aid necessary for them to begin to reverse the poverty trap. Sachs points out that the extreme poor lack six major kinds of capital: human capital, business capital, infrastructure, natural capital, public institutional capital, and knowledge capital.
The people in monga prone areas have been finding "survival strategies and coping capacities to combat monga at household level in the northern region of Bangladesh. The agriculture based rural economy, has been in the state of poverty. As has been reported by an empirical study:
Percentages of landless, lack of sufficient caloric intake, unemployment of vast agricultural labour force etc. are the root causes of vulnerability to monga in the northern regions specifically few districts of greater Rangpur. Moreover, geographically this region is vulnerable to natural hazards such as floods and droughts. The past records of food shortages and famine reveal that the trend is still continuing in the monga-prone areas. The present study found that the most vulnerable groups in the monga-prone areas were agricultural wage labourers, landless and marginal farmers, female headed households, children, pregnant women and aged people.
The present study also found that with a view to cope with the monga, various coping strategies such as selling of labour with advance payment at cheap rate, borrowing of money, selling of assets, looking for work in other areas, dependency on relief, selling of field crops in advance at cheap rate etc. were adopted by the affected households. The present study also found that coping capacity was associated with household heads socio-economic status e.g. level of education, monthly income, types of occupation, etc. Vulnerability to monga was higher for the illiterate and low income groups than the educated and high income groups. The present study argues that the policy makers of Government and NGOs should emphasize on enhancing of coping capacities of poor and marginalized groups through rural centric development, rural employment generation, maximum utilization of agricultural land, proper credit support and agro-based industrialisation in the northern Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has been experiencing significant changes in environmental conditions over the last 30 years due to the effects of climate change and India's regulation of trans-boundary water resources. Environmental change-related risk factors such as water scarcity, drought, and river erosion pose new challenges for Bangladesh, not only in terms of adapting to shrinking resources but also in terms of facing different types of social effects. During the past several years, a number of religiously-based radical groups have emerged in Bangladesh, most notably the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) in the north. The outfit aims to establish a Shari'a-based Islamic state in Bangladesh by violent means.There can be little doubt after reviewing existing research findings that the rise of JMB militants has been attributed primarily by religious, economic and political dynamics. However, environmental factors - especially drought and seasonal food insecurity, coupled with poor coping strategies - appeared to be about equally responsible for this type of radical movement.
The northern Bangladesh has been afflicted by severe droughts.   The recurring draught has  led to 'intense food insecurity, known locally as Monga. Every year, generally from mid-September through mid-November, this crisis occurs. People call the period Mora Kartik, meaning the month of death and disaster. Too little water in the rivers during the dry seasons and less rainfall creates drought situations. Statistics show that 92% of water in Bangladesh comes via external rivers and only 8% is local rainfall. The initial watersheds of all the major rivers in the region run through neighboring India, making Bangladesh is heavily dependent on India for the availability of water resources. These rivers are the lifeline for agriculture, industry and the domestic sectors.'
Uneven distribution of rainfall is due to the effects of climate change. Drought is one of the major environmental stresses in the north that drastically limits the grain yield of rice, a staple food of Bangladeshi people. This causes a lot of people to become unemployed and fall into acute food shortage between late July and early November. During this interim period, there are no alternative agricultural activities left for people and the small non-agricultural sector cannot absorb the seasonally unemployed labour force. Hence, food insecurity in the region is associated with yield reduction in rice and non-availability of wage employment."

(Dr.Md. Shairul Mashreque  retired professor, Department of Public Administration, Chittagong  University and Dr. M. Abul Kashem Mozumder ProVC BUP)

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