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JPIC Staff Visits Bangladesh May 3rd, 2013
Christina Herman, JPIC Office Associate Director, visited Bangladesh in late March/early April. Her daughter, Emma, accompanied her, taking thousands of photos and copious notes. Fr. Joseph Gomes, OMI graciously hosted a ten day trip around the Sylhet region of NE Bangladesh, which provided a fascinating look at the lives of the indigenous Khasi people and the issues confronting their villages. The Oblate mission in Bangladesh started in the Sylhet region, and there are a number of parishes among the indigenous peoples of the area.
Frequent national strikes (or hartals) called by a political opposition determined to undermine the government made the trip challenging, but the group covered a lot of ground.
In Dhaka, Christina teamed up with the Bangladesh WaterKeeper, Sharif Jamil, in an examination of environmental and labor issues related to the leather and garment export industries. They visited the Buriganga River, leather tanneries north of the city, a massive garment factory, and had a number of informative meetings with factory owners and managers, labor union organizers, and environmentalists.
The tanneries are a large source of pollution for the main river flowing through Dhaka, a megacity of an estimated 18 million people. Millions depend on the rivers for bathing, washing clothes, and transportation, yet they are heavily polluted with industrial and human waste. Human Rights Watch recently issued a study of the health impacts of the tanneries, which matched the findings of this trip. Untreated industrial waste flowing from the garment factories is common. A huge factor in the pollution is the lack of adequate sewage treatment for the city’s burgeoning population.
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Environmental activists on Saturday demanded immediate execution of an earlier High Court order to save the River Buriganga from pollution and encroachment. The High Court in 2011 issued a three-point directive to the government to save the river.
Among those demanding action to reverse the severe pollution of the Buriganga was Sharif Jamil, a close collaborator of the Oblates in Bangladesh. Sharif is the Buriganga Riverkeeper, and part of the international Waterkeeper Alliance.
Sharif Jamil, Bangladeshi Environmentalist: Video Interview June 30th, 2011
“Saving the Indigenous people’s environment in Bangladesh” is a story which highlights the collaborative work of the Missionary Oblates in Bangladesh with one of the country’s environmental leaders in responding to the efforts of indigenous peoples in Bangladesh to preserve their traditional lifestyle and culture.
Sharif Jamil is a Bangladeshi environmental activist who works closely with the Oblate JPIC Coordinator in Bangladesh, Fr. Joseph Gomes, OMI. Sharif is National Coordinator of APRA (Adibasi Poribesh Roskhya Andolon or Save Indigenous Environment Movement), Joint Secretary of BAPA (Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon or Bangladesh Environment Movement), and the Buriganga Riverkeeper. BAPA is the largest national environmental movement in Bangladesh.
Sharif, Fr. Joseph and others have been working with the Garo and Khasi communities to prevent illegal logging in their forests, on which they depend for their survival.
Victory after Long Fight to Save Bangladeshi Indigenous Villages and Forest January 20th, 2010
The indigenous Khasi people of Bangladesh have won a significant victory after a long struggle to protect the forest on which they depend for their survival. The indigenous community organized against rampant logging from a local tea estate owner who had secured permission to log the forest allegedly through his political connections. Thousands of trees and many Khasi villages will be saved as a result.
The Oblates have been supportive of the efforts to protect the forest, with Fr. Joseph Gomes, OMI working closely with the Khasi people. APRA (Adibasi Poribesh Roskhya Andolon or Save Indigenous Environment Movement) of BAPA (Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon or Bangladesh Environment Movement). Fr. Gomes was joined by Sharif Jamil, National Coordinator, APRA, Joint Secretary, BAPA in successfully arguing on behalf of the Khasi people before a government panel charged with investigating the logging controversy.