Effects of Cultural Transformation on Biodiversity in Bangladesh « Khabarhub
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Effects of Cultural Transformation on Biodiversity in Bangladesh



From the sociological perspective, culture is defined as the way people live in a society that includes codes of manners, dress, language, religious practices, social customs, and rituals that are passed down from generation to generation.

Anthropologists define culture as the shared set of values, norms, ideas, concepts, and codes of behavior – either explicit or implicit- that guides the fraternity of a particular society to functionalize.

Generally, culture is the way people live, eat, and perform activities in a day-to-day way that largely depends on the use and extraction of natural resources.

Since society is intertwined with many factors, and actors, and influenced by multiple issues, culture is not a static identity rather it changes, adopts, reshapes, and modifies in different time dimensions.

Food habit denotes food consumption, variation of intake, and meal timing. For example, rice is a staple food in Bangladesh because of the abundance of rice production in this area while fish and chips in England, pizza in Italy, and Escargot in France.

The most important reason is the availability of modern and scientific medicine. There are many pharmaceuticals along with international brands producing medicines that are being prescribed by physicians which means the globalization and market economy dwarf the traditional treatment sector.

It shows the cultural richness and describes the identity of a society. However, in the name of modernization, there has been a remarkable change in the food habit in Bangladesh.

The need of ensuring staple food for mass people expedited the adoption of such technology to produce more in the quantity that forces Bangladesh to adopt high-yielding paddy namely irri (named after the International Rice Research Institute-IRRI).

However, this paddy and irrigation brought tremendous negative consequences for the environment deteriorating the quality of soil and due to that various species of insects and various types of fish are on the verge of extinction.

There are 401 species of fish and 251 inland fishes, which were abundant, and are now becoming rare. There were more than 8000 types of paddy in Bangladesh, but only a few are cultivated now.

It is worth mentioning that traditionally cultivated paddy, which is environmentally fit, is now rarely produced. After the adoption of high-yielding paddy, the use of agricultural pesticides is reportedly found rising which causes widespread harm to soil health and threatens biodiversity.

A recent study conducted on pesticide impacts on soil finds harm to beneficial invertebrates like beetles and earthworms in over 70% of cases.

Interestingly, once Bangladeshi people used to have rice as a staple food, they increasingly have more wheat and potatoes which are exported from other countries.

High-yielding potato which is known as the ‘potato of Holland’ because of its Dutch origin replaces the traditionally produced potatoes.

Likewise, high-yielding paddy cultivation depends on more groundwater that results in the depletion of water level, and the potential of problem arsenic contamination.

Since Bangladesh is a tropical country, the taste of grown foods varies compared to food grown in cold weather. For example, cauliflower in winter is tastier than those produced in other seasons.

Although the demand for food and vegetables forces researchers to produce year-round, the taste of these vegetables is not as similar as those that are originally produced in the specific period.

So people of Bangladesh prefer traditional crops which are tastier but costlier and less produced. People prefer buying small red potatoes to ‘potato of Holland’, fishes of the river to fishes imported from Myanmar or cultivated on large scale, because of taste and quality.

It means traditionally cultivated crops have different types of qualities suitable for this environment and the country’s people.

The cultural transformation of food habits enhances the establishment of MNCs and chain shops like KFC, Mcdonald’s, and Pizza Hut, which reportedly helps create a spoon-fed young generation who can hardly think of having traditional food and fruits.

The fast-food generation as seen with a higher obesity rate is a concern for not only parents but also public health specialists.

New food culture, as it enhances economic activities, dictates farming to maintain the supply to chain shops without thinking whether these are environmentally viable or not.

Affluent people prefer having imported fruits namely apples, oranges, and grapes to local fruits. Having fruits imported from others symbolizes the upper class whereas people can easily get food and can get a higher level of food value from the local fruit that they usually do not want to accept.

These various types of fruits produced in the country carry rich ingredients important and useful for the health of the people of the region. Local fruits are called natural healers.

Traditional medicine prepared with medicinal plants and herbs (MPH) was very common in rural Bangladesh. It is now almost extinct and hardly encouraged to use treating it unscientific.

Local trees are essential for the country to maintain the natural balance and biodiversity. The study found that cutting down palm/ palmyra trees ( Borassus flabellifer) is probably the potential reason for an increasing number of recent thunderstorms and lightning.

The most important reason is the availability of modern and scientific medicine. There are many pharmaceuticals along with international brands producing medicines that are being prescribed by physicians which means the globalization and market economy dwarf the traditional treatment sector.

This situation forces traditional medicine to become extinct in society. People who practice traditional medicine as a profession are called Kabiraj.

They had/know MPH for treatment. As MPH is treated as unscientific and modern medical facilities are quite available, MPH is about to disappear because of the paucity of nurture and cultivation.

These plants i.e. Neem (Azadirachta indica), Bohera (​​Terminalia bellirica), Haritaki (chebulic myrobalan), Thankuni (Centella Asiatica), Tulsi/Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) are some of the mentionable plants and herbs to maintain biodiversity in Bangladesh.

Planting foreign trees has also an adverse effect on the environment proves by the plantation of Eucalyptus plants, originally from Australia.

There is a pivotal role to be played by the researchers to produce research-based findings so that people can rethink while they will be adopting foreign cultures. It is a must when the consequences are likely to severely impact public health and the environment, biodiversity in particular.

These are abundantly planted in Bangladesh because of the fast-growing trees and economic benefits.

However, researchers found that eucalyptus plants contribute to drying through transpiring water 18-times more than any other normal tree in the country. It also found in the research that these are planted to grow around a natural reservoir for about 10 years at several 10 percent of total trees, the water level is likely to reduce by 20 percent.

The leaves of these trees are not easily decomposable which causes harm to the soil. Even the pollen emission from the eucalyptus flowers is so high that is the potential cause of respiratory problems for humans.

Adoption of foreign trees without doing much scientific research can cause harm to biodiversity.

Local trees are essential for the country to maintain the natural balance and biodiversity. The study found that cutting down palm/ palmyra trees ( Borassus flabellifer) is probably the potential reason for an increasing number of recent thunderstorms and lightning.

A study identified 3,086 fatalities and 2,382 injuries from 1990 to mid-2016 due to thunderstorms. The death of at least 17 members of a wedding party on 4 August 2021 after being stuck by lightning indicates that it is a great concern.

People are encouraged to plant palm trees along with other measures as suggested by the researchers as well as the government.

There is a pivotal role to be played by the researchers to produce research-based findings so that people can rethink while they will be adopting foreign cultures. It is a must when the consequences are likely to severely impact public health and the environment, biodiversity in particular.

Publish Date : 28 October 2022 08:00 AM

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