BD loses $6.5b to urban pollution a year, says WB

2015 saw 80,000 lives lost

FE Report | Monday, 17 September 2018

Bangladesh loses about US$ 6.5 billion due to pollution and environmental degradation in its urban areas every year, according to a World Bank (WB) report.
The amount is equivalent to 3.4 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015, said the WB report.
The economic cost of mortality in terms of foregone labour output is estimated at $ 1.40 billion in the urban areas, which is equivalent to 0.7 per cent of Bangladesh's GDP in that year.
Of the foregone labour output, $ 310 million, equivalent to 0.2 per cent of GDP, is estimated to have incurred in Dhaka alone, it revealed.
The report - 'Enhancing Opportunities for Clean and Resilient Growth in Urban Bangladesh: Country Environmental Analysis 2018' - was released at a city hotel on Sunday.
Environment and Forest Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud was the chief guest of the programme.
The WB report said pollution, which has reached an alarming level, caused about 80,000 deaths in the cities in 2015. Twenty eight per cent of all deaths were from diseases caused by pollution across the country, compared to the global average of 16 per cent.
Although textile sector plays an important role in driving the national economy forward, the report revealed that the sector produces 2.81 million tonnes of wastes annually as of 2012.
Bangladesh's regime for environmental protection is less strict than most other countries in Asia, and along with low fines it is only one notch ahead of Vietnam, it opined.
WB acting country director for Bangladesh Rajashree Paralkar said that Bangladesh has been paying a high price due to environmental degradation and pollution.
The mortality rate from diseases caused by pollution here is the highest in South Asia, she added.
Urbanisation and industrial growth have come with high environmental costs that are increasingly harming the country's prospects for continued strong economic progress, according to the WB report.
Nearly one million people in Bangladesh, mostly poor, are at risk of lead contamination. Besides, in the last 40 years, Dhaka lost about 75 per cent of its wetlands.
WB particularly focused on conservation of the country's wetlands and rivers, and scaling up efforts to conserve the mangroves and other forest resources.
Sustained unplanned urbanisation, infilling and delinking of perennial wetlands and rivers, and shrinking of many link canals across Dhaka have exacerbated urban flooding and contributed to various recurring environmental problems, the WB report said.
It suggested that Bangladesh should act now to tackle environmental degradation and pollution, especially in the cities, to achieve upper-middle income status.
The study, carried out in three cities - Dhaka, Cox's Bazar and Pabna - called for using improved technology and practices in different industries, especially in textile, power and infrastructure sectors.
It also stressed for more collaboration between the public and the private sectors in this regard.
The WB report observed that weak institutional capacity of the enforcement agencies concerned, such as Department of Environment (DoE), and insufficient engagement of other key players are largely responsible for the unabated environmental pollution in Bangladesh.
It focuses on three areas - cost of environmental degradation, clean and resilient cities, and institutions for clean industrial growth.
The report suggested that the country requires effective policies, a sound legal framework, and stronger institutions at national and local level.
Here growth has featured uncontrolled urbanisation and industrialisation in the context of inadequate pollution control and poor management of natural resources that provide critical eco-system services, the report added.
Some 18,000 deaths from environmental pollution occurred in 2015 in Dhaka, the second least liveable city in the world.
In addition, 578,000 life years were lost in the capital in that year alone, showing the urgency to immediately fix its environment, noted the report.
Since the participation of women workers is significantly higher compared to men in the country's RMG sector, the former tend to be more exposed to wastes produced.
In his speech, Anisul Islam Mahmud said that the rivers are already getting destroyed, as the manufacturers do not think what will happen in future due to their actions.
They only think that they are earning money, generating employment and exporting goods, he added.
Regarding the weak enforcement of law, the minister opined that Bangladesh is at a low level due to some compulsions and complications.
Besides, development has some cost, and it is not anything unique for Bangladesh, he added.

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