Society for Bangladesh Climate Justice
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Website: www. bangladeshcalling.org
Email contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
An Open Letter to the Organizers and Participants of the Urbanization,
Traffic Jam and Environment Conference
Dear Organizers and Participants
We, the members of the Society for Bangladesh Climate Justice (SBCJ), are extremely happy for this timely conference dedicated to critical development issues such as urbanization, traffic jam and environment in Bangladesh. As expatriate Bangladeshis, we are equally concerned on these issues, particularly on the climate change impacts, urban migration and vulnerability of the displaced poor in cities as climate or environmental refugees, making millions further vulnerable to poverty and hunger.
Bangladesh is at great risk due to climate change and global warming. To enhance awareness about climate change and the impending climate “crisis” in Bangladesh, we established the SBCJ as a “non-profit” advocacy group in 2009 to (i) promote the cause of Bangladesh internationally for climate justice; (ii) focus on research and actions for prevention, mitigations and adaptation to climate change; (iii) network with governments, inter-governmental agencies, non-government organizations and community groups through community-based training and workshops for awareness and capacity building; and (iv) work with the Government of Canada to assist Bangladesh in dealing with climate disasters.
The rate of urban growth is all time high in Bangladesh. In the near future, it will be even higher with climate-related displaced families migrating to cities, nearly doubling the urban population to 50% by the year 2020, and making Dhaka number two city in the world with over 22 million people. The ever growing slums and bastees will increase manifolds. This can eventually contribute to political and socio-economic instability with added pressure to support millions of people on emergency basis annually. The poor, and the vulnerable – those living in bastees – with very limited livelihood options will be subjected to further social and economic distress and deprivation due to climate-related disasters. This is not a happy thought and a scenario, but nonetheless very real and fast approaching.
In view of the above, the conference, in our view, should address, among others, two important issues. First, the conference should underscore the need for decentralization – both from administrative and development perspectives. There must be a shift from the current focus on Dhaka as the “primal” city (i.e., Dhakaization) to other major cities and districts in the country. Decentralization will create new opportunities outside Dhaka, leading to dispersal or redistribution of population within the country, and thus reduce the current horrific and crippling traffic jam in Dhaka. This will also reduce urban pollution. A decentralized development will lead to better governance and sustainable development in the future. The people of Bangladesh living in all regions of the country – and not Dhaka alone – deserve the “best” of Bangladesh. Second, the need to deal with the climate challenges involving all aspects of life in Bangladesh, particularly the internally displaced climate “refugees” in their own homeland. The adaptation strategy adopted by the Government of Bangladesh won’t be cheap or easy from planning and development perspectives. It will involve massive relocation – to the tune of an estimated 30 million people in the next 50 years or so – with housing, shelter, alternative livelihoods, and greener and sustainable development options. The precarious situations of the hurricane Ayla victims over the last three years are a stark reminder that the current government efforts to dealing with climate impacts are inadequate and failing. We must raise awareness about “environmental” migrants or climate “refugees” in the country as well as in the region among the SAARC countries. There is a definite need to recognize environmentally-induced migration associated with climate change.
Finally, as an advocacy group, SBCJ has taken an initiative for research partnership programs between Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada) and Stamford University of Bangladesh (Dhaka, Bangladesh) through the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to explore, among others, social mobilization of stakeholders via community-led actions for a “bottom up” climate “solutions” and adjustments to climate change. May we suggest to the BEN-BAPA gathering for an expanded forum in a year or two on "Creating tomorrow's livable cities/urban planning in a climate change (global warming) environment in Bangladesh." We need a paradigm shift in our approach to future planning.
We urge you to kindly consider these issues in your discussions, deliberations, and resolutions for policy, decision-making and sustainable future of Bangladesh.
We, like Bangladeshis all over the world, wish you a very successful conference.
Executive Committee, Society for Bangladesh Climate Justice, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
26 December 2010