World Water Day: Alumni successfully lobby for environmental reforms

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Friday, March 22, 2019 - 13:00
  • Australia Awards
  • Bangladesh

To mark World Water Day 2019 (March 22), Australia Awards is highlighting the story of the winning alumni team of the 2018 Regional Alumni Workshop in South and West Asia, who has successfully lobbied an initiative to prevent pollution of water sources in Bangladesh.

In the last month, the winning team of the Regional Alumni Workshop 2018 has successfully lobbied for legal reforms in Bangladesh, securing a court verdict to stop illegal stone extraction which was polluting local water sources in Bandarban. In addition to addressing the challenge local indigenous peoples had been facing in accessing clean drinking water, their actions will also help prevent further environmental hazards.

Bangladeshi alumni Pallab Chakma, Janet Naco, Shohel Chandra Hajang and Lelung Khumi, as champions for the environment and climate action, initiated the project on ‘Community empowerment and action against illegal stone extraction to preserve the natural environment in Bangladesh’ through an Australia Awards alumni grant. Nearly 10 months since the project initiation, their efforts have shown results and now the Bangladeshi High Court has directed the concerned authorities to immediately stop extraction of stone from Sangu and Matamuhri rivers in Bandarban.

The project aimed to find solutions to the environmental threats and health hazards faced by the indigenous people of Bandarban due to illegal stone extraction and water pollution from natural water bodies. The team pointed out that this problem has prevailed in the area for nearly a decade and there was a strong need to address the issue. To support this movement against stone extraction practices, the team identified the need for strong community mobilisation and advocated with local government agencies and civil society platforms to find a legal solution to the problem. They have facilitated community dialogue, developed and promoted an awareness-raising video, nurtured ‘environment defenders’, and developed a lawyer’s platform to strengthen and amplify a collective voice among people.

The team acknowledges that this outcome would not have been possible without the efforts of social organisations also involved in the lobbying, supporting their cause. Commenting on achieving one of the main objectives of their project, the team members said ‘This is a significant achievement so far of our collective efforts. We are delighted with this outcome. We thank each and every organisation and individuals who supported and helped us to work with the community to address the illegal stone extraction issue in the hills. We also thank the honourable High Court for issuing this important directive’.

The Australia Awards alumni were funded in the lead up to the Regional Alumni Workshop 2018 and they also received a second grant as part of their win. This additional funding helped expand their project on environmental protection and climate action.

‘We don’t consider our work about the environment as a standalone project, we think beyond. We will keep our fighting spirit alive to save Mother Earth’. says Pallab Chakma. 

‘We believe that, if we stand together and fight together, we could bring positive change to our society’  adds Chakma.

Janet Vanpar Naco says she sees the project as a great example of how the power of collective actions and community voices can make a significant positive difference in the lives of indigenous peoples and the natural environment.

Among the project outcomes, the team has ensured the people in the community are well informed about the issue and impact and are engaged with local government; they took steps to initiate legal action with the community, starting with a writ petition. The team extended their collaboration to the Kapaeeng Foundation, an indigenous organisation working for the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples in Bangladesh to file the writ petition.

More on this story on: Australia Awards - South West Asia website 

Other information

Regional Women's Leadership Initiative_Brochure.pdf