A new World Bank report has urged Bangladesh to tackle urban pollution and environmental degradation in order to achieve the upper-middle class income status, and revealed the information about the financial loss and deaths caused by these issues. The report, titled ‘Enhancing Opportunities for Clean and Resilient Growth in Urban Bangladesh: Country Environmental Analysis 2018’ was released on Sunday at a World Bank programme in capital’s Pan Pacific Sonargoan Hotel.
“Urban pollution costs Bangladesh about $6.5 billion a year, which is about 3.4 percent of the 2015 Gross Domestic Product or GDP”, according to the report.
“It has caused about 80,000 deaths a year. Across Bangladesh, 28 percent of all deaths are from diseases caused by pollution, compared to a 16 percent global average.”
Environment and Forest Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud was the chief guest at the programme.
World Bank environmental experts Suiko Yoshijima, Nadia Sharmin and Lynne Farrell presented the report.
To achieve its target of becoming an upper-middle income country Bangladesh needs regulations and institutional reform, the report says.
"It also needs to raise awareness of green funding, clean technology development, hazardous waste management systems and environmental protection for the country."
The report also focused on both large and small types of unplanned urbanisation and the effects of industrialisation.
Over the past 40 years, Bangladesh has lost about 75 percent of its wetlands. Numerous houses in various cities are living at risk of floods during the rainy season due to this destruction of wetland, the report said. Unplanned urbanisation in small cities has also caused significant damage.
As example, Pabna, a north central district of Bangladesh, lost about half of its wetland since 1990 and the Ichamati River has nearly died out.
“Bangladesh pays a high price from environment degradation and pollution in its urban areas. The country must put in place proper policies and institutions for green growth and ensure its industries adopt clean technologies,” said Rajashree Paralkar, World Bank acting country director for Bangladesh.
According to the report, wetland encroachment and unregulated disposal of hazardous wastes has damaged the environment and has had negative health effects that fall especially on women, children and the poor. Nearly 1 million people in Bangladesh, mostly poor, are at risk of lead contamination.
Lead contamination can result in 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 neighbourhoods.
The report focuses on three areas: cost of environmental degradation, clean and resilient cities, and institutions for clean industrial growth.
“It is possible to do. We have already succeeded at ecological management [rpkect in Madhabdi. It has been proved that shot-term investment, clear views, mental strength, and local leadership can change the trends of unplanned urbanisation and pollution,” said Kseniya Lvovsky, practice manager of environment and natural resources sector of World Bank.