Globally, Bangladesh is one of the countries most affected by pollution and environmental risks. To achieve upper-middle income status, Bangladesh must act now to tackle environmental degradation and pollution, especially in its cities, says a new World Bank report.
The report released today, Enhancing Opportunities for Clean and Resilient Growth in Urban Bangladesh: Country Environmental Analysis 2018, says that every year, the country loses about $6.5 billion, which is about 3.4 percent of 2015 Gross Domestic Product (GDP), due to pollution and environmental degradation in urban areas. Pollution has reached an alarming level; in 2015, it caused about 80,000 deaths in cities. Across Bangladesh, 28 percent of all deaths are from diseases caused by pollution, compared to a 16 percent global average.
“Bangladesh pays a high price from environment degradation and pollution in its urban areas. This puts its strong growth at risk,” said Rajashree Paralkar, World Bank Acting Country Director for Bangladesh. “The country must act to put in place the right policies and institutions for green growth and to ensure its industries adopt clean technologies.”
Pollution and environmental degradation, including wetland encroachment and unregulated disposal of hazardous wastes, especially harm women, children and the poor. Nearly 1 million people in Bangladesh, mostly poor, are at risk of lead contamination. This can lead to IQ loss and neurological damage, especially for children, and can increase the risk of miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. In greater Dhaka, the sites contaminated by heavy metals are mostly in poorer neighborhoods.
The report focuses on three areas: cost of environmental degradation, clean and resilient cities, and institutions for clean industrial growth. It suggests that the country requires effective policies, a sound legal framework, and stronger institutions at the national and local levels. The country also needs to scale up green financing, promote clean technologies, improve hazardous waste management, and raise awareness for environmental protection.
Unplanned urbanization and industrialization are affecting both big and small cities. In the last 40 years, Dhaka lost about 75 percent of its wetlands. Due to filling of wetland and now, with high-rise buildings built on sand-filled areas, parts of the city are more susceptible to flood inundation. Smaller cities, like Pabna, see a similar toll from unplanned urbanization. Since 1990, Pabna lost half of its wetlands, and its lifeline, the Ichamoti River, is dying.
Dhaka and other cities can and must do far more to prevent encroachment, as well as invest in and sustainably manage their wetlands and canals. “This is doable. We have seen an environmental management success story in Madhabdi, a small town, that short-term investments in town planning, a clear vision, and strong-willed local leadership can turn the tide of unplanned urbanization and pollution,” said Kseniya Lvovsky, World Bank Practice Manager of Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice.
“Over the last decade, Bangladesh has improved its policy and legal framework and has taken concrete steps to save the environment. We have introduced clean technologies in brick kilns and other polluting industries and have set up Continuous Air Quality Monitoring Stations in major cities,” said Anisul Islam Mahmud, Honorable Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then, the World Bank has committed more than $29 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country.