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Renewable Energy in BangladeshAccess to electricity addresses symptoms of world poverty. The World Bank describes access to electricity as at the “heart of development” and the United Nations recognizes access to reliable and clean electricity as a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). For Bangladesh, achieving full energy accessibility by 2022 is a major goal. However, the specific source of energy production influences the effectiveness of energy development. As a result, the implementation of renewable energy in Bangladesh could help the country reach its goal.

Bangladesh significantly increased access to electricity by utilizing non-renewable sources of energy. However, working toward Bangladesh’s energy accessibility goal through non-renewable sources alleviates certain symptoms of poverty and exacerbates others. These circumstances leave room for the growth of renewable energy in Bangladesh. Renewable energy in Bangladesh can address poverty along with the unintended consequences of non-renewable sources of energy.

The Paradox of Energy in Bangladesh

Citizens are receiving the power they need while their neighborhoods suffer from harmful pollution. Government policy allowed for substantial increases in Bangladesh’s access to reliable energy. Between 2000 and 2019, access to electricity in Bangladesh rose from 32% of its population to 92.2%. Regardless, Bangladesh’s government invested in non-renewable power stations to power its most populous settings. This means those in urban settings are gaining energy access while sacrificing their health.

Natural gas has been leading Bangladesh’s surge in energy production. Other non-renewable sources of energy in Bangladesh such as coal and diesel are responsible for producing the majority of Bangladesh’s pollutive energy. Both release harmful pollutants that can cause various health problems. These consequences disproportionately affect those living in poverty. Impoverished citizens in Bangladesh who face pollution are more subject to illness and are less likely to receive treatment for it.

Bangladesh has recently rejected coal plant plans. The move is evidence that the Bangladesh government understands the health and environmental implications of certain forms of energy. According to a 2009 report, Bangladesh could save an estimated 10,000 lives per year if it reduces air pollution in four of its largest cities. In the decade following, Bangladesh increased its energy production through pollutive means. This means energy production, a contributor to such air pollution, is responsible for the deaths of Bangladeshi citizens. Renewable energy in Bangladesh presents an opportunity for Bangladesh to address this issue.

Energy in Comparison

Investing in renewable energy in Bangladesh is a matter of scale. Despite having the world’s largest rural solar installment and investing in wind power, renewable energy in Bangladesh only accounts for 3.3% of the total energy that the country generates. Renewable energy in Bangladesh has the potential to address the remaining energy needs without the pollution of non-renewable energy. This is a major advantage of renewable energy in Bangladesh. Improvements are occurring through more than one main source of renewable energy in Bangladesh: solar and wind.

Nearly 62% of Bangladeshis live in rural areas. This is where the Bangladesh government is working to provide more energy. Solar and wind are increasing the renewable share of Bangladesh’s energy market. Starting in 2003, the Bangladeshi government began the world’s largest rural solar installment. Today, the installment provides clean and reliable power to more than 20 million rural Bangladeshi citizens. Bangladesh also approved the country’s first major wind installment in 2020. Both provide alternatives to Bangladesh’s non-renewable grid.

Solar has a major advantage over other forms of renewable energy in Bangladesh. Solar can be easier to install than fossil-fueled power plants and wind power, especially in rural areas where Bangladesh’s lack of energy currently concentrates. Natural-gas-fueled power plants require significant investment in both finances and physical location and wind installments require similar investments. One can install solar nearly anywhere. This means solar energy in Bangladesh can be effective in its rural areas where large power plants are infeasible. For these reasons, small-scale renewables are growing in popularity.

Alleviating Poverty Through Renewables in Bangladesh

Communities that have access to electricity do better. Small-scale solar installments in similar rural areas to Bangladesh, such as villages in India, give households access to other necessities. Solar energy can more reliably and safely fuel pumps that provide potable water to villages. Bangladesh’s solar installment reduced the consumption of kerosene by 4.4 million liters. In addition, the installment of small-scale solar can provide energy for refrigeration and cooking. This means providing solar energy to remote villages can be effective for the Bangladesh government to ensure electricity is provided for every citizen. The installment of small-scale renewable energy in Bangladesh can mediate two crises: poverty and energy accessibility.

Bangladesh has significantly increased its electricity access. However, past development largely left renewables out. This means renewable energy in Bangladesh can address the remaining accessibility gaps in the electric grid. Future investments in renewables provide a viable pathway for Bangladesh to sustainably develop its most impoverished communities.

– Harrison Vogt
Photo: Flickr

Health of Rohingya Muslims
Beginning in August 2017 and continuing to the present day, an estimated 24,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim ethnoreligious group have been murdered by Myanmar militia forces for cleansing purposes. Members of Myanmar’s army and police forces have raped around 18,000 girls and women. A total of approximately 225,000 homes have burned down or undergone vandalism since the beginning of this crackdown on the Muslim minority group of Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Since then, an influx of Rohingya Muslims has entered the Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh in attempts to escape the inhumane living circumstances of the Rakhine State. By February 2018, around 688,000 Rohingyas had entered Bangladesh. They joined close to 212,000 Rohingyas that settled in Bangladesh before the exodus that began six months prior. One area of concern is the health of Rohingya Muslims.

Even after leaving the region where they experienced persecution, the quality of health of Rohingya Muslims has not been ideal. This is due to the frequency in which they travel into Bangladesh, as well as the large groups they move within.

Health Concerns for Refugees

One major, ongoing concern for the health of Rohingya Muslims is the fact that they have limited access to preventative health care services. These services become necessary when a mass group of individuals resides in a singular location, like a refugee camp, for an extended period. According to an Intersector Coordination group situation report, rape survivors among Rohingya Muslims have not received adequate clinical treatment for harms and diseases they may now carry.

There is also a lack of preventative and diagnostic services for blood-borne diseases like HIV and tuberculosis. The World Health Organization found in 2017 that, though both Bangladesh and Myanmar had comparatively low rates of HIV cases, Rakhine state in 2015 had an exceptionally large number in comparison to the rest of Myanmar. This, paired with the fact that Myanmar armed forces raped a large number of women and girls, illustrates a need for more thorough diagnostic procedures for blood-borne and sexually transmitted diseases.

Around 42,000 pregnant women and 72,000 lactating mothers require quality care assistance, as of October 22, 2018. Around 3,000 of those women had entered health facilities to receive treatment for their symptoms of malnourishment.

Medical Advancements and Humanitarian Aid

While refugees have limited access to health care, medical advancements have occurred to address as many of these refugees’ needs as possible. The World Health Organization reported on March 18, 2019, that a new software known as Go.Data will now allow for more efficient investigations into disease outbreaks, “including field data collection, contact tracing and visualization of disease chains of transmission.” On February 28, 2018, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre donated $2 million to the Sadar District Hospital in Cox’s Bazar. This will help strengthen the medical facility in the region of Bangladesh that includes a dense population of Rohingya refugees.

One more great stride in improving the health of the Rohingya Muslims: In the year following the August 2017 mass migration,  155 new health posts emerged, supplying for around 7,700 individuals per location. This could not have been possible without the partnership of the Bangladesh government, the World Health Organization and other groups supporting the rights of the Rohingya.

Continued support for and increased awareness of the persisting struggles of the Rohingya Muslims will do incredible things in ensuring improvement to their quality of life.

– Fatemeh-Zahra Yarali
Photo: Flickr