'Green technologies' and 'green growth' have emerged as buzzwords in these days of climate change. It is often argued that since Bangladesh is facing the fallout of climate change, the country needs to go for green technologies to make sure that the situation does not become intolerable. But it is a stark reality that most Bangladeshis are not aware of what these really mean to common people.
Environmentalist Dr Atiq Rahman thinks that people in our country have a vague understanding of sustainable growth and suggests defining it in clear terms. He points out that industries are rampantly discharging wastes into rivers and other harmful elements as they do not have knowledge about the impact.
Experts define green technology as a technology that is energy efficient and environment-friendly while green economy seeks to reduce environment risk while achieving sustainable development. What is really crucial is the role of the private sector in promoting green technologies. For example, as the global trade regime is getting stringent on compliance issues every now and then, many Bangladeshi readymade garments factories have either already implemented or are in the process of implementing green technologies in their factories. The leather industry also plans to follow suit. However, for smaller factories, this is an additional burden. These will need government's support.
The 2013 National Economic Census said there are 7.81 million economic entities. While 88 per cent of these economic entities are cottage enterprises, 11 per cent are SMEs. But in reality, about 99 per cent of Bangladeshi formal business enterprises are SMEs. These constitute about 75 per cent of non-agricultural employment and contribute about 25 per cent to the national GDP. This 25 per cent is contributed by only the manufacturing SMEs which are now outside the purview of any monitoring of pollution that they cause. None is taking note of the wastes most of these units dump in nearby canals and rivers. Even most of them are not aware of what great damage they are causing to the environment. But then awareness programmes and adoption of green technologies by these small firms are very expensive in terms of returns.
Even Finance Minister AMA Muhith considers it a difficult task. He said the government has touched the issue in the industrial policy but that is not enough. "Now we need to define the term first and then measures will be taken on that", he said.
Private sector can play a pivotal role in this regard. In order to attract private sector investment in this field, the government has to provide fiscal incentives in the form of tax rebates for investments on energy efficient buildings, support for energy efficient bulbs or fiscal benefits for installation of solar panels in private buildings. Additionally, low interest rate for loans to support low carbon technologies, tax rebate for environmentally friendly cars, measures to increase energy efficiency in industry and agriculture and allocation for protected areas and cultural heritage could also be provided to encourage adoption of a greener development path.
Entrepreneurs should be encouraged to get loans from a Bangladesh Bank fund at 9 per cent interest, which is lower than market rate, for setting up environment-friendly industries. But, the rate is still high for such industries as their cost of operation is higher than traditional industries. Small factories are more responsible for pollution. Referring to a study report, one entrepreneur said small factories around the Taj Mahal in India were found to be more damaging to the world heritage than big industries.