Cutting down trees and Dhaka’s slow, gruelling death
Dhaka is the city I call home. It is the city where I was born and raised. I'm not going to gloss over the shortcomings of the city in the name of love and emotions, because this city is far from perfect. However, at the end of the day it is home. Having spent four years in two different countries, I still yearn to come back to the city's familiarity.
No, this is not where I try to convince you that Dhaka is still the "Jadur Shohor". I intend to discuss one of the many problems plaguing this dusty concrete jungle. Our beloved Dhaka has lost almost all of its greenery. The soothing green has been slowly taken away from us for as long as I can remember.
This year, the whole of Bangladesh is experiencing unprecedented heat waves. The intense heat has reached a point where opening the windows makes the situation worse instead of bringing in relief in the form of a soothing breeze. Millions around the country, especially the lower middle class, day labourers, farmers, and people who work outside are suffering greatly.
Climate change is to blame for the dire situation. The tree felling over the years has also contributed massively to today's situation. A recent study by the Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) has revealed that Dhaka only has 7.09 per cent green space and 2.9 per cent of wetlands. Ideally, every city should have a minimum of 15 per cent green space and 10-12 per cent wetland.
Recently, there have been protests by local citizens in the Dhanmondi area as Dhaka South City Corporation has been felling trees on the road dividers of Sat Masjid Road for developmental work. Protesters claim that hundreds of trees have been felled in the area.
A lot of Gen Z folks (myself included) will find it hard to believe that Dhanmondi used to be known for its greenery. People went to the area back in the day because of the cool breeze and the green serenity. For us Gen Z folks and younger children, Dhanmondi invokes memories very different from its green past. Dhanmondi for us meant beautiful apartment buildings, reputed English medium schools, and nice restaurants. For the past decade, the whole of Sat Masjid Road has been the go-to hangout place due to the overwhelming number of restaurants on both sides.
The reason I bring this up is to show the extent of tree felling in Dhaka and how long it has been going on. The overall deforestation, the propping of buildings anywhere and everywhere, and the disturbing air pollution have all taken away the colour of my city. The atmosphere now is not that different from the colour grading seen on "Extraction". I like to call it Dhaka's natural Instagram filter.
Putting aside the humour, the overall situation deeply concerns and aches me. The slow death of Dhaka surely brings pain and destruction to many. The extremely poor air quality and the unbearable heat bring immense misery to the residents.
Can the situation not be improved? I am sure it can be. But how do we put a stop to our own destructive behaviour? How do we take off the rose-coloured illusory glasses which promise us more prosperity and social currency that comes with the destruction of nature? While our vigilant citizens have taken to the streets to protest tree felling, it has proven to be insufficient. So, what can we do as citizens? Seems like we have no escape.
But even in this hopelessness, we cannot stop undertaking initiatives at our own level. For we need to defend our home despite the challenges. We owe it to the city to act on its well-being. No matter how small the effort or how ineffective our cries seem, it is important to protest and stand up for what is right and fair.