Improving public health naturally by sustaining biodiversity

11 April, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Bangladesh is one of the mega biodiversity countries in this present world. A wide variety of animal diversity is found in the wilderness of this country. Article 18A of the Constitution of Bangladesh deals with the protection and improvement of environment and biodiversity declaring, “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to preserve and safeguard the natural resources, bio-diversity, wetlands, forests and wildlife for the present and future citizens''.

The air we breathe is a product of photosynthesis by green plants. Insects, worms, bacteria and other tiny organisms break down wastes and aid in the decomposition of dead plants and animals to enrich soils. More than 90 per cent of the calories consumed by people in this world are produced from 80 plant species; almost 30 per cent of medicines are developed from plants and animals. Some ecosystem services that benefit society are climate security, water purification, pollination and prevention of soil erosion. To feed such a large population, more land is being transformed from wilderness for agriculture, mining, lumbering and living areas for humans. Many people around the world depend on these species for their food, shelter and clothing. About 80 per cent of our food supply comes from just 20 kinds of plant species. Some of the health issues affected by depleted bio-diversity are dietary health and nutrition security, infectious disease, medical science and medical resources, social and physiological health and spiritual well being. A wide range of industrial materials are derived directly from biological resources. These include building materials, fibers, dyes, rubber and oil. It plays a part in regulating the chemistry of our atmosphere and water supply.

In general, for human progress and humane development three conditions are important:

1. Ensuring healthy longevity,

2. Enlightening human and

3. Permanent increase in real income.

Prof. Abul Barkat deeply analyses the health inequalities (health outcomes, health seeking behavior, economic burden of ill health). He mentions different dimensions of health – physical health, mental health, emotional health, intellectual health, social health, spiritual health and environmental health and their interconnection. The relationship between social and environmental health sometimes affects our physical (Cardiovascular, respiratory, reproductive and nervous system) and mental health (feelings, behaviour, psychological challenges of life).

 Eminent economist Abul Barkat estimates the healthcare status in Bangladesh. Out of 170 million people, 80 million people are deprived of access to primary healthcare; every year 50 per cent children die out of every 9 lakh people; 70 million people are deprived of pure potable drinking water; 50 per cent people suffer from hypertension; 10 per cent people are diabetic in Bangladesh; 14 per cent affected from chronic kidney diseases; 18-20 lakh people suffer from hearing disorders; 1.5 crore people suffers from thyroid problem; 1.7 million people suffer from cancer; 23 lakh women are affected from breast cancer; 2.5 to 3 crore people suffer from osteoarthritis and 1.5 crore people are affected by COPD Asthma. 

Public health must be seen as real public goods and should be addressed accordingly by the State. This is an issue of compliance with the Constitutional rights. The government must see investing in people’s health as not just a social sector investment but also as investment towards accelerated economic development and poverty eradication. This is an issue of respecting people’s life and dignity with fully informed concern and commitment. The people – especially the poor and marginalised people – must know about their health rights and must be adequately empowered to exercise and assert those rights.

Sustainable conservation of forest requires an entirely inclusive approach, combining modern skill and art, government policies and the attachment of local communities, whose lives depend on biodiversity. Sustainable development goals include good health and wellbeing for all by 2030. We need proper strategies, financial support and public participation to achieve this goal. To ensure health facilities for all, Barkat suggests forming a 'Health Protection Department' and to allocate as much as Tk 40,000 crore for it.


Shishir Reza is an Environmental Analyst & Economist