On Achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Bangladesh (Part 1)

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Being a devotee to the Baul tradition (a simplistic lifestyle based on spirituality and philanthropic activism) of Bangladesh and at the same time a student of sustainability management, a blueprint of sustainable Bangladesh intrinsically remains engrafted in my spirituality – thoughts, words, actions and values. At the dawn of this century I intermittently posted 22 discourses on sustainable development issues of Bangladesh with the heading : I’M HARUN BAUL SPEAKING in the News From Bangladesh - NFB (www.newsfrombangladesh.com). The discourses reveal Baul philosophers’ views on the ways and means to nurture sustainability of Bangladesh amidst emerging unsustainability and anti-sustainability phenomena that are, in the name of development, encouraging social disintegration, facilitating corruption and socioeconomic disparity, and triggering environmental retaliation. The discourses are still available through Google search.

However, since the UN promulgation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015, I voluntarily organized a research team at Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute (CUSP) under the guidance of the Institute’s Director Professor Dora Marinova, in collaboration with the Prime Minister’s Office of the Government of Bangladesh, to pursue applied research for achieving the SDGs in Bangladesh. The team has so far developed several primary research objectives and primary research questions (PRQs) with regards to achieving the SDGs; and in the mean time we have gathered the required knowledge and experience to address the research questions in terms of viability, practicability and sustainability of the SDGs to be achieved. A number of fellows with Bangladeshi background are pursuing higher degree by research focusing on achieving SDGs in Bangladesh perspectives.

In this discourse, I am revealing the PRQs with short and simple remarks. In future, I hope to focus on the 17 SDGs in the context of their implementation potential through Model Pilot Projects (MPPs) and their sustainability and self-sustaining perspectives in different topographies of Bangladesh

Some Urgently Pressing Primary Research Questions:

What is the root or lineage of Sustainable Development Goals - SDGs?

Natural Nature, Humans’ Sustainable Co-existence with Nature,  Rampant Over-exploitation of Natural Resources by Humans in the name of Development, Failed Natural Resource Management through Technological Fix, Partially Comprehended Sustainable Development, Newly Emerged SDGs.

How Modern Development differs from Sustainable Development?

In terms of nature management, it is, as if, the difference between Destruction and Conservation of Natural Resources; and in human term – as a greedy person differs from a steady person. Therefore, in sustainable development, the conservation of nature and its resources receive priority so that the future generation enjoy the advantages of nature as much as the posterity.

What the 17 SDGs stand for?

The 17 SDGs are the various aspects of Sustainable Development (SD) comprised of sustainable social, economic and ecological goals including  normalizing climate change.

Why the UN asks for achieving the SDGs?

Because most people cannot comprehend the totality of SD as a single whole - the story of describing an elephant by the blinds is an example.

Why most people cannot comprehend SD?

Because, most educated people are detached from nature; so they are ignorant of their inherent survival relationship with nature.

Are all the 17 SDGs achievable globally?

Yes, except in the developed West.

What is wrong with the West?

Most people of the West utterly lack basic spiritual integrity for SD.

What is spiritual integrity?

It is comprised of 5 spiritual components: strong belief in regenerative family and social systems, contentment with meeting basic needs, simple lifestyle, attachment to nature, and resilience.

Are the SDGs achievable in Bangladesh?

More easily achievable in the rural areas than in the cities.

Why easier in the rural areas?

Because of the nation’s One Goal i.e. (re-achieving) Self-reliance, government’s mission “Putting Citizens First”, favourable natural conditions, and rural people’s strong spirituality – simple lifestyle, happiness with less, regenerative interest, respect to nature, perseverance and resilience.

Why difficult in the cities?

Due to unplanned urbanization, lack of urbanization with rural face i.e. Rurbanization, increasing consumerism, vanishing sociality and cultural sustainability, and  spiritual integrity.

Can the achievement of distinguishable SDGs happen quickly in rural Bangladesh?

Highly unlikely because most people in policymaking, planning, governance, and implementation are far off from understanding SD in its true meaning and context for Bangladesh, and a lack of conceiving a blueprint of sustainably developed Bangladesh.

What is the true meaning of SD?

It is clearly indicated in its generic definition.

What is the generic definition of SD?

“Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (Brundtland Commission 1987).

What does the definition indicate?

This clearly indicates that humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

What can Bangladesh government do for educating the civil servants in order to improve their knowledge for comprehending the true meaning of SD?

The government can organize various SDGs centric training programs on capacity building through education for ecologically sustainable development.

What education is required to improve skills for implementing the SDGs?

Values intensive education for sustainability management that can transform pupils’ mindset as well as develop skills for showcasing Model Pilot Projects in 5 topographies of Bangladesh – The Barind (8%), Hill Tracts (12%), Coastal (25%), Char Land (5%), Floodplain (50).

What actions are required for implementing the SDGs?

Government can start with capacity building education and training programs to implement some Model Pilot Projects (MPPs) in topographically different areas for demonstration and applied research for replication elsewhere.

Is there any other ways of achieving the SDGs in REALITY?

Considering the socioeconomic, cultural, ecological and geo-environmental

conditions, implementing MPPs is the ONLY, QUICKEST and SUSTAINABLE option.

Why applied research?

Applied research can earn higher degrees for the researchers as well as it can produce well-articulated guidelines for replication of MPPs in areas with similar topographical situation.

Why MPPs are required for demonstration in different topographies?

Because of cultural, occupational, climatic and resource variations exist from one topography to another topography in Bangladesh.

What are the purposes of the MPPs for demonstration?

To show to the interested people how to achieve a particular goal or a group of targeted goals such as sustainable surface water resource management, ecological agriculture, sustainable consumption and production, social peace and justice, cultural integrity, beneficial tourism etc.

What is the indicator of sustainable surface water in Bangladesh?

The best indicator with regards to re-excavation of a degraded water body is to ensure that it does not dry out in the summer. Tagore found that:

আমােদর েছাট নদী চেল বােক বােক

ৈবশাখ মােস তার হাটু জল থােক

(Our small rivers run along with curves and bends.

Knee level water exists there in the month of Boishakh (i.e. summer))

How to select a site for MPP?

To select a site where the processes of achieving several SDGs can be demonstrated.

Who can select an inclusive MPP in each of the topographies at the onset of implementing SDGs in Bangladesh?

A person with adequate applied research on sustainability management such as the members of the SDGs research team at Curtin University, Western Australia,  in conjunction with senior government representatives at the Prime Minister’s Office who are assigned for directing SDGs implementation.

Who will select the MPPs for replication?

Adequately educated and trained up civil servants with values intensive naturalistic mindset should be able to select a comprehensive MPP.

What are the basic requirements for MPPs sites?

Presence of households around the sites, degraded water bodies with fishery and irrigation potential, good communication with main road, diverse landscape with various agricultural and horticultural produces, tourism and Rurbanization prospect.

What is Rurbanization?

In the case of city development, Rurbanization is urbanization with rural face.

In the case of rural development,  Rurbanization is rural development with urban face.

Rurbanizationa is a sustainable solution to growing liveability problems both in the cities and villages.

Who can initiate processing for timely implementation of the concept of MPPs?

The Prime Minister’s Office.

What would be the starting point?

Selection of appropriate civil servants for capacity building with sustainability education, training and applied research.

What is the next step?

Formation of Ward or Mahalla SDG Committee in the MPPs areas with equal number of male and female members taking from each social clan or Gosthi of a Mahalla.

What human qualities should SDG Committee Members possess?

The members – literate or self-educated – must be non-aligned and hard working people including activists directly related to socio-economic and environmental activities such as education, agriculture, social welfare, fisheries etc. They must possess the values such as patriotism, simplicity, content with less, courage, counselling skill, responsibility, and trustworthiness

Who will work for the formation of Mahalla SDG Committee?

The trained civil servants working at the Union Council level such as Block Supervisors, Union Council Secretary, Female Family Planning and Social Welfare Workers will perform selection procedures in consultation with and inclusion of wise local elders and the elected Union Parishad members of the concerned Mahalla/Ward.

Who will train up the workers for the formation of SDG Committee?

The trained civil servant who will be nominated as the Project Director (PD) of the MPP will train up the SDGs Committee members.

What is the concept of Mahalla SDG committee?

The concept of Mahalla SDG Committee is to empower the people in development at the grassroots. It is the main driver of holistic SD of the Mahalla, reflecting “People First”.

What are the objectives of a Mahalla SDG Committee?

To achieve economic self-reliance, social harmony and occupational perfection; remove harmful social phenomena and generate ecological splendour.

What is Economic Self-reliance of a Mahalla?

A socioeconomic situation when the Mahalla people can get the essential goods and services from within the Mahalla resources on their own accord – education, health services, conflict resolution, and daily household and occupational necessities.

What is Social Harmony?

No disparity between rich and poor, no religious or occupational conflicts in the society, and people are respectful to each other.

What is Occupational Perfection?

Goods and services provided by the occupational individuals must be pure and perfect – there shall not be any fake or adulterated commodities or fraudulent services.

What are the socially destructive phenomena currently pervasive in Bangladesh? Dowry, gender oppression, eve teasing, illegal love or marriage, drugs, gambling, cheat, visionless politics that often lack philanthropic principles etc.

What can constitute Ecological Splendour?

Sustainable water bodies, organic soil nutrients, poison free fruits and vegetable, undisturbed biodiversity – in a word: ‘healthy ecosystems’.

What are the major functions of a Mahalla SDG Committee?

To prepare annual work program including Mahalla and MPP development plan, run the MPP, prepare 2 yearly budget, attract tourists, train up newly formed SDG Committees, demonstrate the methods and outcomes of the Committee functionality, repay refundable loans (if any), report Committee performance to the concerned bodies, help researchers, visitors and tourists in all possible ways.

What to be included in the Mahalla Annual Development Plan?

Social development targets, road works, water, agriculture, poverty reduction, and environmental protection; training needs and programs etc. etc.

What to be included in the Annual Budget?

2 sets of Budgets – one for the Mahalla’s SD, and the other for the MPP matters. In both the cases head-wise estimated income and expenditure, sources of funding, and payment of borrowed money, if any, needs to be clearly stated.

What capital investment is required for an MPP?

SDGs office, re-excavation of degraded water bodies, formal tourist accommodation, one bari one khamar with informal tourist accommodation, training and entertainment centre, growth/sales centre, solar energy installation, tourism supplies, and road work if required.

What are the sources of recoupable capital investment?

Government, banks, foreign grants.

What are the sources of income from an MPP?

Levy from fishery and surface water irrigation; income from tourism and entertainment facilities, services and supplies; income from training facilities and services; income from SDGs related shows (jatra, natok, pala gaan) and fairs; rental income from the growth centre etc.

What will be the source of revenue of the Mahalla SDG Committee?

Mahalla Cooperative SD fund, a portion of net income from MMP as the Mahalla SDGs Committee will be responsible for sustainable management of MPP.

Will SDG Committee be a permanent body or temporary body under the project?

A permanent body with required replacement of members.

What will be its statutory status?

To be approved by the Government.

Who will demonstrate the functional methods of the project?

The local SDG committee, local occupational people working in the project area, trained Upzilla officers and action-researchers.

How an MPP project proposal will be made?

According to SDGs project proposal format as designed by the research team.

Should an MPP project be self-sustaining?

It must be self-sustaining; otherwise, it won’t be recognized as MPP.

Who will administer an MPP?

The PD/Chief Researcher in conjunction with the approved SDG Committee.

How researchers will be selected?

By open question values test as designed by the research team.

What are the distinguished characteristics of the Values Test Questions?

It is an open question test for identifying potential sites and information with regards to the MPPs. The participants will get a week or more to answer the questions. The questions are also designed to assess the participants’ spiritual as well as intellectual integrity i.e. level of attachment to natural world, patriotism, wisdom, farsightedness, vanity, simplicity and responsibility.

How long it would take to achieve SDGs in rural Bangladesh?

Under the guidance and leadership of the Principal SDG Coordinator’s Office, Prime Minister’s Office Bangladesh, it will take 1/2 years to succeed in implementing MPPs in each topography; and in next 4 years more MPPs will be established in each upazila of Bangladesh. Gradually, it will take subsequent 4 years to achieve most of the SDGs all over the country that might be implemented through local resources and capacity.

Why Bangladesh needs SD?

Because of the present development philosophy and practices are largely unsustainable, in some cases they are conducive to anti-sustainability.

Which developments are currently unsustainable?

Agriculture, water for irrigation, energy intensive industries, energy production and distribution systems are, amongst others, unsustainable.

What current phenomena can be considered as anti-sustainability?

Uncontrolled Internet Access Facilities, degradation of General Education, Alien Cultural Aggression, Roads and Transport Systems, Changing Lifestyle and Mindset.

Where can we get the sustainable practices to be adopted in the MPPs?

Sustainability wisdom from the scriptures including Khonar Bochon and Proverbs, Values education for SD, Folk and Baul songs, Success story around us, Literature including History

What are the indicators of achieved SDGs for Bangladesh?

Nadi vora jol Waters in river,

math vora sashay fields full of crops,

pukur vora maas ponds full of fish,

gohal vora garu cows in the cowshed,

bari vora gaas homesteads with trees,

pakhir kolotan melodious tune of the birds,

shisur kolahol uproar of children,

bauler o majheer gaan songs of Bauls and boatmen,

Rathe banya jantu O vuther voy.” fear of wild animals and                                                                                            ghosts at night.

What should be our Motto for SDGs implementation and management?

“Putting People First”.

How can Bangladesh earn global championship with respect to achieving the SDGs?

By way of showcasing Bangladesh as the Hub of achieving the SDGs in the regional as well as in the global context.

Can Bangladesh do it?

Of course, Bangladesh can be made the Hub for SDGs transmission in collaboration with International Partnership (Goal 17).

(To be continued)


Md. Amzad Hossain

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Perth, Western Australia

Comments (1)Add Comment
Its worth embracing the challenge
written by Ehsan, June 10, 2017
"Implementing MPPs is the ONLY, QUICKEST and SUSTAINABLE option"- a brave challenge proposed by the author. Lets see if the Government of Bangladesh is courageous enough to embrace it. In my opinion, if implemented with care it will only bring good to the future of Bangladesh.

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