Statement by Hon’ble Foreign Minister at the High Level Meeting on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought in the context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication to be held in New York on 20 September 2011
Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to speak before this august gathering on a critical issue at a time of unprecedented awareness on environment and sustainable development. The journey we started in Rio in 1992 to protect Mother Nature and to seek sustainable development has given us concrete frameworks for action in the area of climate change, biodiversity and desertification. Yet, we have not been able to make desired level of progress. This forum gives us an opportunity to take stock, review our actions and renew our commitment. I am happy that UN has organized this event as we enter the UN Decade of Desertification.
Desertification is a global problem, not limited to any particular region. It affects a large majority of countries in differing degrees and processes. Bangladesh faces not only frequent floods and cyclones, we also encounter prolonged droughts and erratic rainfall. Some parts of the country face land-degradation. In the coastal areas, rising sea level is causing increased intrusion of salinity and degrading land. In some coastal areas, land has lost fertility owing to salinity and can no more support agriculture and livelihood.
In Bangladesh, agricultural land is depleting rapidly due to urbanization. Non-agricultural use of agricultural land and pollution from industries are our major challenges. Population pressure is causing over exploitation of soil and natural resources that is also affecting productivity and biodiversity. Situation is becoming further complex for reduced availability of water. Our challenges are thus formidable.
Climate change induced disasters are causing huge loss to life, resources and
infrastructures. Ever since our independence in 1971, we have already spent over US $ 10 billion to rebuild the infrastructural losses diverting resources from other sectors. Such constant diversion of resources is impacting our development process. Increased river bank erosion, land-slides, soil degradation and deforestation are also changing our ecosystem and impacting productivity. Salinity intrusion in coastal areas caused degradation of 25% of agricultural land. New pockets of poverty are being created in those areas. The greatest challenge for Bangladesh thus is to sustain the development gains achieved so far and maintain the progress in social areas.
Though the challenges are formidable, Bangladesh has taken up a number of measures to contain the damages caused by climate change in spite of resource constraints. We believe that development must not be at the expense of our ecology and environment. We have already taken up a large number of adaptation and mitigation programs to contain the effects of climate change. The government has mobilized US $ 300 million from its own resources to fund these programs. Our programs include extensive capital dredging of major rivers to stabilize them and to contain erosion, afforestation to increase forest cover to 20%, preservation of country’s ecosystem, and development of large carbon sink. We are also undertaking bold steps voluntarily to contain emissions of green-house-gasses within our means.
Some of our countries, in particular the countries at risks, are already bearing the burden of global warming. Therefore, the world must come forward to help countries like Bangladesh, the Maldives and such other countries that are most vulnerable to climate change. We are worried to see that some of our partners think that their obligations stop at offering developmental assistance voluntarily. We urge upon them not to confuse ODA with compensatory funds in the context of mitigation and adaptation. The support for such climate finance should be over and above the ODA committed. What we most importantly need is easier access to green technology. We call upon the development partners to come forward with appropriate technology reclamation of degraded land as well as for treatment of medical and hazardous waste,
and effluents from industrial facilities.
The imperative for effective regional and international collaboration needs no elaboration as we face global warming, desertification and loss of biodiversity. We believe that desertification and land degradation in our region can be contained through collective programmes to judiciously utilize our natural endowments. We may all benefit from the Himalayas and its rivers by following water-shed approach. We are working towards developing common regional approaches to protect the Himalayas and examine responsible ways to exploit its natural resources. Such regional initiatives may enhance water and energy security while protecting biodiversity and ecology. The huge untapped potential of renewable energy may reduce emissions significantly.
Desertification and land degradation are not only causing loss of agricultural land, it is also causing internal migration. About one quarter of our land in coastal areas have lost total fertility due to salinity and thus can no more sustain livelihood. Estimates suggest that with one meter rise of sea level, 17% of the coastal land will be lost which will displace about 20 million people in Bangladesh. Such out-bound migration puts pressures on already stressed facilities and infrastructures in the city areas. If not addressed, it may assume external migration dimensions. It is perhaps timely to consider examining an international regime to address climate change-induced displacement.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Since the vicious cycle of unsustainable utilization of natural resources, consequent degradation and spiraling poverty must be reversed, we need concrete and united action. Agreements in Rio two decades ago gave us hope and led to concrete and concerted actions in the 3 tracks on desertification, biodiversity and climate change. As
we meet in Durban for the climate talks this winter and then in Rio on sustainable development in 2012, we must respond collectively based on both equity and historical responsibility to save our planet.
I thank you.