Bangladesh is a victim of a rather negative reputation: the country is seen as being extremely poor, under-developed, subject to devastating natural disasters and socio-political instability. However, the country has the advantage of being located in a strategic geographical position between South and South-East Asia. In addition, its domestic consumption potential and the wealth of its natural (53 million young population aged between 15 and 35 years) resources make the country a good candidate for investment manufacturing hub. Despite these advantages, the country ranks 173rd among 189 countries according to the World Bank's 2015 Doing Business ranking.
Environmental degradation in Bangladesh is pervasive. Air pollution in the urban areas is a constant reminder of the prevailing health catastrophe. Young children are mostly exposed to cadmium through inhalation of smoke and contaminated soils and dust from industrial emissions and sewage sludge. In fact, environmental scientists believe that the high lead in the environment from gasoline, paints, ceramics, batteries, etc are factors in the increased risk of polluted air. The UN revealed that blood lead levels were very high and at toxic levels in children presenting with psycho motor delay and behavioural problems, indicating lead poisoning.
An estimated 15,000 premature deaths, as well as several million cases of pulmonary, respiratory and neurological illness are attributed to poor air quality in Dhaka, according to the Air Quality Management Project (AQMP) funded by the government and the World Bank.
The rivers of Bangladesh are the worst victim of pollution, especially the rivers which flow the neighbourhood of Dhaka city are being polluted tremendously. It is clear that rapid and unplanned urbanization and industrialization, brick fields, dyeing factories, tanneries are grabbing up rivers. Slum dwellers use unhygienic latrines, wash clothes, take bath and even cows and goats bathe in the river. Untreated wastes are thrown into the rivers as most of the manufacturing industries have no Effluent Treatment Plan (ETP).
Therefore, it is imperative for the government to compel these industries by enacting and executing the laws that encourage the protection of the environment at all times. The BDTDC is at the forefront of ensuring the preservation, prevention and mitigation of the environment and it strongly believes that the world will be a better place for all inhabitants if we all become vigilant.
The BDTDC serves as a platform to creating a One-Stop-Shop for investors (Bangladesh manufacturers and suppliers) to participate fully in the production, manufacturing and transaction process and ensure compliance with strict environmental standards in the factors of production; thereby protecting the earth as well as eliminating the greed and cumbersome activities of those who exploit the common citizens of Bangladesh.
The BDTDC is geared towards achieving higher living standards, full employment and sustainable development in Bangladesh through the investment of about $300 million into the economy as well as immediate employment of 200 workers who will be mostly stationed in Dhaka. Open economies tend to grow faster and more steadily than closed economies and economic growth is an important factor in job creation. Profitable companies tend to hire more workers than those posting a loss. Trade can also be a catalyst for greater efficiency and productivity. We have access to a wider range of high-quality, affordable inputs, technology and know-how that could not be obtained in a closed economy. Access to technology and quality inputs can boost innovation and creativity in the Bangladeshi workplace. Moreover, competition in the marketplace can be a powerful stimulus to companies seeking new ways of making things better and more cheaply.
The people (factory owners and manufacturers) are hereby offered a leeway to attaining real wealth creators and owners by direct involvement with the exportation and sale of their goods as well as guaranteed access to Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) by sticking to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) agenda which applies to all countries, promotes peaceful and inclusive societies, creates better jobs and tackles the environmental challenges of our time-particularly climate change.
The BDTDC is committed to propelling, promoting and pursuing an environmentally friendly situation through education and empowerment of all to entrench the dictates of the UN goals for sustainable development and in the production of goods for international consumption. That indeed is the point of departure from old endangering habits to new and enduring sustainability for Bangladesh. It is hoped that with these intervention policies, Bangladesh will become more competitive, and perhaps gain comparative advantages in the production of garments, shoes, frozen shrimps, software, leather, tea and jute products.
The future of the Bangladeshi people will ultimately be dependent on the Made-in-Bangladesh factory owners and suppliers who will be in tandem with the production and exportation of their goods in total compliance and adherence to the new Green Environmental Sustainability (GES) initiative; thereby ensuring the survival of sea life, smog-free atmosphere and indeed a glorious and expanding future for this and the unborn generation.
Kazi Ahmed is with Bangladesh Trade Development Council (BDTDC).
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