Awareness shapes the way we choose to create our future. BGreen is an initiative that not only realizes this fact, but thrives to deliver that awareness among the generation that hold the promise of that future, the youth.
In our introductory article on BGreen, we were introduced to the name Fadia Hasan, proprietor of the initiative, and the various programs she and her colleagues have developed in an endeavor to integrate youth for environmental sustainability. Their workshop on the 10th of May 2015 was a benchmark in that endeavor.
Organized by BGreen and hosted by Edward M. Kennedy Center at Dhanmondi the event was a day long workshop under the banner “Youth Engagement and the Future of Sundarbans: Why Your Action Matters!” It saw the collaboration of two major organizations in the sector: Wildlife Conservation Society Bangladesh (WCS Bangladesh) -the regional wing of the international organization working for global conservation- and Jagrata Juba Sangha, an organization working for environment, social development and awareness with the youth of the country.
The workshop focused on the present environmental conditions of the Sundarbans and the significance of small and individual contribution in shaping a sustainable future for this habitat and the livelihood it provides. Besides being the largest contiguous mangrove forest, Sundarbans is globally recognized as a reservoir for biodiversity. It is home to 334 species and 375 species of fauna (Source: Wikipedia 2010), along with the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger and the recently discovered, rare and endangered species of freshwater dolphins. Global warming and changing climate affect the ecological factor which in turn affects the very existence of these species. Elizabeth Fahrni Mansur and Farhana Akthar from WCSB led the first session of workshop discussing the effective approaches to conservation and sustainable natural resource management in the Sundarbans. They creatively explored this natural treasure ‘through the lens’ of threatened freshwater dolphins and investigated how choices made here in Dhaka can affect the delicate mangrove forest.
According to WCS website, 6000 Irrawady dolphins-marine mammals related to killer whales, have been reported to be found in 2009 in the freshwater regions of Bangladesh’s Sundarbans and adjacent areas, making it an important sanctuary for the species. The Yangtze river dolphin have already gone extinct while the Ganges River dolphins are at the verge of it. A study concludes the threat is due to declining freshwater supplies caused by upstream water diversion in India, coupled with sea-level rise due to climate change. The conditions of the dolphins, to a great extent, represent the threats that the species of Sundarbans face due to climate change and anthropogenic activities brought upon by human.
The two hour session was aimed to empower its participants, to develop feasible threat reduction strategies targeting changes in knowledge, attitudes and behavior in Dhaka’s urban youth.
While the first session was from the perspectives of wildlife, the second focused on the livelihoods of people in the local communities of Sundarbans. Approximately 2.5 million people live around the Sundarbans and, in certain seasons, the habitat provides work for around 300,000 people who work as woodcutters, fishermen, honey collectors, leaf collectors (UNESCO 2010). If the habitat dies so does this livelihood. Rapid population, infrastructural development, and human activities are causing ecological disturbances that cause degradation of this biodiversity. In certain case the ignorance and over dependence of locals on the resources are causing irreparable damage.
ATM Zakir from the Jagrata Juba Sangha (JJS) led an interactive session on introduction and discussions on this interdependent relation of the Sundarbans and its people. He highlighted the activities of JJS through presentation, video and documentary to enhance the knowledge of the participants.
The event was as much about know-hows as it was about integrating youth action on the topic. The workshop opened a candid and organized platform for its participants to think on the discussions. It held on-spot presentations from groups created from among them. The presentations suggested different small and programmed actions, starting from the thought of reducing individual carbon footprint to the suggestion of developing alternative and eco-friendly livelihoods for the locals at Sundarbans. Everything aimed to building a better future for the Sundarbans and thus a better life for the people.
At the end of the day the workshop had a group of aware and enthusiastic minds that could bring the promise of environmental sustainability.