The use of posters, banners, and festoons is a widespread practice throughout the year in both urban and rural areas. FILE PHOTO: RASHED SHUMON

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It’s time for election campaigns to go green

The use of posters, banners, and festoons is a widespread practice throughout the year in both urban and rural areas. FILE PHOTO: RASHED SHUMON

The application of “green” concepts holds significant importance across various sectors, including in production and manufacturing, supply chain management, technology, e-commerce, engineering, environment, healthcare, and governance, and others. Bangladesh is considered to be among the nations most susceptible to the impacts of climate change. In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, the country has already adopted environment-friendly practices in various sectors, particularly in the areas of eco-housing projects, renewable energy, and the readymade garments (RMG) industry. 

But while the national election holds significant importance within Bangladesh, our current election campaign practices remain largely traditional. They include the use of banners, posters, festoons, and loudspeakers, and are not environmentally sustainable. While citizens dream of a clean and healthy country, the posters, banners, and festoons (made with paper or plastic) affect not only the appearance of our surroundings and public health but are also in conflict with the SDGs. So, is it not imperative to think of implementing environmentally conscious election campaign strategies using technology (like telecommunication and social media) in order to safeguard public health and social well-being? This will surely move Bangladesh one step closer to achieving the SDGs and the government’s vision of a Smart Bangladesh.

The use of posters, banners, and festoons is a widespread practice throughout the year in both urban and rural areas. However, it is crucial to consider the consequences of this from an environmental standpoint. I sweetly recall my time spent in Wuhan, China, walking and cycling under the green-adorned flyovers. But, after returning to Dhaka, I find myself seldom exploring the city’s roads due to the endless noise of vehicles and the unnecessary use of posters, banners, and festoons along the roadside. 

Although the cost of these materials during campaigns is not known with absolute certainty, the figure can be guessed to not be insignificant. A substantial amount of funds is probably expended by the candidates for these posters and banners, which is not only ecologically irresponsible but there is also no societal benefit derived from the utilisation of these materials. Similarly, the use of loudspeakers is another major issue. Although regulatory agencies point to several restrictions, such as the fact that the use of loudspeakers is strictly prohibited in front of schools, hospitals, and places of prayers, the reality is that these restrictions are usually violated, thus adversely impacting public health.

The global landscape now is predominantly symbolised by a technologically-driven atmosphere, with a particular emphasis on telecommunication and social media platforms. A report released by DataReportal on “Digital 2023: Bangladesh” states that, at the beginning of 2023, the number of internet users in Bangladesh totalled 66.94 million, while the number of social media users reached 44.70 million. The latter figure corresponds to approximately 26 percent of the overall population. In early 2023, the number of active cellular network connections in Bangladesh amounted to 179.9 million, representing 104.6 percent of the country’s total population. Hence, the utilisation of technology within the context of green election campaigns has the potential to greatly augment the nation’s scope, engagement, effectiveness, and overall efficacy in relation to the SDGs and the concept of Digital Bangladesh.

To reach voters, political parties and candidates can embrace digital strategies and enhance their online presence in the digital age. They may make use of live-streaming to interact with citizens, initiate email campaigns, advertise through social media and text messaging, conduct virtual events, and more. Moreover, by broadcasting events, speeches, and development activities, parties and candidates can reach a wider audience and allow citizens to participate remotely. This interactive approach fosters a sense of inclusivity and enables individuals to actively engage with the green election process.

Despite the merits of this approach, the possibility of a breach in cybersecurity cannot be neglected. A data breach might have severe consequences if the relevant stakeholders are unable to adequately safeguard their data. Incidences of hacking and data breaches can be avoided if political parties and candidates take precautions to protect voter information and election campaign data.

However, a green election campaign that prioritises protecting the environment can yield numerous benefits for society. It can result in a cleaner environment and a peaceful community without noise pollution. The prevalence of clean spaces has been shown to have a positive impact on the psychological and physical well-being of citizens. It promotes sustainable living, recycling, waste reduction, and responsible resource consumption. All in all, a green election campaign may boost societal, monetary, and environmental benefits, promoting a more resilient and environmentally conscious society. Ahead of the upcoming national election in Bangladesh, each political party and candidate is accountable to the country to uphold social welfare.  

Dr Najmul Hasan is an assistant professor and researcher of Information Systems at Brac Business School, Brac University.



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