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Dhaka City and the Environment Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Shahjahan Siraj, Bangladesh Jun 25, 2004
Environment , Education , Child & Youth Rights   Interviews
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Dhaka City and the Environment Dhaka, the capital, is in the heart of Bangladesh, is the largest and historical city of the country. More than twelve million people live in this busy city. The rickshaws with their ornate decorations and imaginative hand paintings have a special place in Dhaka city’s transport. It is known not only as “the city of rickshaw” and “city of Mosque” but also known for its population density, flood, crime, and pollution, like as other historical cities of the world.

It was established in the 10th century. It was Mughal capital of Bengal from 1608 to 1704. Pre – colonial period, it was a trading center for British French, and Dutch merchants. In 1905 it became capital of Bengal, and in 1956 it became the capital of East Pakistan. During the Bangladesh independence war in 1971 the city endured a catastrophic destruction. The Maga city is located in one of the world's leading rice- and jute-growing deltaic region of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. During Mughal rule, the finest fabric ‘Dhakaie Muslim’ was famous worldwide, until it was completely destroyed by colonies. The Muslim influence is reflected in the more than 700 mosques, historic architectures, life, food, and traditions of the city.


ESDO (http://www.esdobd.org): The nationwide environmental activist organization ESDO (Environment and Social Development Organization), promotes environmental development, social welfare at the grassroots and communal levels to solve social and environmental problems on a large scale through education, advocacy and lobbying. It works also to ensure the conservation of bio-diversity and arriving at an ecological equilibrium with inputs for self-management in socio-economic strengthening programs.
Since 1991, ESDO has been working with people from the grassroots level, the urban youth population, the urban lower income group, and government and non-governmental organizations, such as Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and the UNDP. It has 48 networking partners both national and international, with whom ESDO shares information and involvement in programs.


Shahjahan Siraj, a TakingITGlobal member, interviewed Dr. Hossain Shahriar and Siddika Sultana of ESDO on 13 June, 2004. Hossain Shahriar, is an urban ecologist, environmental journalist and Executive Director, ESDO; Siddika Sultana, is the Program Director of ESDO. Present at the interview too was Matsuzaki Misuzu, a Japanese social worker who is based in Bangladesh and helped ESDO translate a documentary Japanese broadcaster NHK made.



Siraj: What is your program in Dhaka?

Hossain Shahriar: We have regularly organized mass awareness, children & youth educational programs on different environmental issues on Dhaka city’s. More over our program focused on environmental education, awareness campaign, policy advocacy & lobbying, linking with human rights & governance using mass media and ICTs.

Siraj: Why are you focusing on Dhaka? What have been your findings? Could you please tell us briefly?

Hossain Shahriar: Due to urbanization the environment’s harmony and balance is facing a critical phase worldwide, strained trying to fulfil the demands of city life. Dhaka is not beyond this status, so we need to work more to protect our city from environmental degradation and create the natural balance.

Because Dhaka is the capital of the country, in our present governance system, national policy formation/reformation and for media campaign, it is very important to initiate the ground work at Dhaka first. If the program becomes streamlined at this city, it can easily expand to another divisional headquarters and other towns as well as influence the whole country.

Siraj: Please tell us about your background and activities.

Hossain Shahriar: We initiated a campaign against the plastic bag use at early 1990s. ESDO was formed with the anti-plastic campaign program. Gradually we moved to educate the young generation on environmental issues. Our main target is building effective and responsible young leadership through environmental education. The full- fledged educational program “creating environmental awareness through education for youth and children” started at early 1995, based in Dhaka.

We have started the comprehensive educational curriculum, which is unique but alternative. The educational process is not conventional, and is practical, following the participatory education method. We focussed on using ICTs for education, skills, learning and policy-intervening processes.

Siraj: Why did you choose environmental (especially plastic usage) issues?

Hossain Shahriar: Initially I was not an expert in environmental issues. My career started in journalism after graduation from Dhaka University in political sciences and a Masters in international relationship from Nehru University at New Delhi. I worked as journalist in weekly Shondani, Bechitra and the Daily Janata. I was encouraged on the environmental issues when I learned ‘Film Direction’ at 1986 at Australia, Melbourne.

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Shahjahan Siraj

Shahjahan Siraj is a multiemdia designer, film maker and development practitioner (http://www.machizo.com/siraj) in Bangladesh. He is the founder of Machizo Multimedia Communication, however editor and publisher of 'Climate Radio', 'UnnayanTV' and 'UnnayanNews'. (http://www.machizo.com)
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