Everyone, these days, is busy pretending who is going to win in the coming election. The election is always exciting and full of suspense. But there is one more thing that is related to elections, campaigning, and promotional activities, which pollute the environment. It has become very evident that during the campaign phase of an election, various kinds of pollution proliferate.
Let’s begin with sound, which is almost everywhere now. Whether it is for promotion, speeches or for briefing of election manifesto, everything is announced, for the day, using loudspeakers. But there is a limit to the amount of sound the human ears can take. Loud speakers can produce sound at the volume of 90 to 100 decibels. If a sound reaches 85 or more decibels or more, then it can cause permanent damage to hearing. This affects infants and small children far more than adults since they are still in the growing stage.
Another source of sound pollution is the additional traffic jam because of the 11th general election on December 30, 2018. Around 1841 candidates have been selected from 300 constituencies, meaning there are at least 6 contenders fighting for each seat. This makes it very obvious that the roads are not only blocked by vehicles moving slowly, but also due to the campaigning rallies and other promotional events. Sounds from the horns and bells of different transportation and the emission of harmful gases from motor vehicles makes the environment more unbearable. It does not require to explain how bad these emitted gases can be for the environment. Traffic jam also causes the common people a lot of problems sometimes. If someone arrives late for an interview or an exam, then there are bad consequences.
The promotion works actually started 3 to 4 months ago, when some of those aspiring to be candidates started printing up to 20,000 posters. According to sources, in 2008, in the 9th general election more than 3 crore posters were printed. This cost almost BDT 10 crore. Imagine how much more posters, leaflets, banners and festoons, are made this year. And only printed but laminated too in order to save them from rain and fog. Though paper is degradable but poly (plastic) is not perishable. According to a calculation of the Department of Environmental Science at Stamford University Bangladesh, minimum 9 gm of polyethylene is used for the lamination of each 23×18-inch size posters. The study found a differences up to 19 gm between paper and limited poster. According to this calculation, there are approximately 300 tons’ polyethylene needed for 3 million posters where plastic of any thickness is harmful for the environment and it takes 200 years for plastic of any thickness to degrade. This plastic environmentally hazardous as plastic is not degradable. It is likely that these posters will remain scattered on the streets after election and later create water logging by blocking drains. So much paper is being used only for one election. Those papers cannot be reused.
Apart from plastic use for the poster lamination huge volume of poster also an environmental issue. The amount of tree-cutting done, to obtain that much paper, is a huge environmental hazard in itself. Surely, we all know and accept the benefits we get from trees and also the loss due to their cutting. After the elections, when the posters, banners, etc. are not of use anymore, they get dumped in the inappropriate places. The papers get thrown away around the streets and thus from there they make their way to the manholes and drains. The drains can get clogged up and waterlogging issues can emerge. Moreover, the laminated posters, etc. do not degrade easily due to their coating. And since degradation process is slow, they are often burned, leaving pollutants in the air.
Use of plastics is against several laws and rules related to environmental conservation and solid waste management. The environmental activists group are worried that, there will be violated at least of 5 important law during the elections. The laws are – 1. Environmental Conservation Act (1995); 2. Sound Pollution (Regulation) Rules 2006; 3. Bangladesh Environment Conservation Rules (Revised) 2010; 4. Solid Waste Management Rules (Draft) 2018; 5. And another important law for Plastic which mentioned that- “prohibition of transportation and use of commercial goods for the production, import, marketing, sale, sale and distribution of all types of plastic shopping bags” – Bangladesh Environment Protection Act, 1995 (amended by Act 9 of 2002).
Democracy is the spine of our country. The right to vote and elect by wish, gives a citizen her or his say in the matter of development of the country. But we, as citizens, should also understand, accept, and alter the negative traits of our beloved country. The promotion and campaigning started from December 11. Candidates are promoting themselves with great joy and spirit and it is their right. There is no doubt in that. But it is also every citizen’s duty to think about her or his country and its environment. If we could be a little conscious and innovative with everything we do, then it will benefit us as well as the environment.