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World Bank: Urban pollution costs Bangladesh $6.5 billion a year

  • Published at 08:39 pm September 16th, 2018
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Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud and World Bank's Acting Country Director Rajashree Paralkar, centre, unveil a new World Bank report, titled 'Enhancing Opportunities for Clean and Resilient Growth in Urban Bangladesh: Country Environmental Analysis 2018,' along with other dignitaries during an event at a hotel in Dhaka on Sunday, September 16, 2018 Courtesy

To achieve the upper-middle income status, the report says, Bangladesh must act now to tackle environmental degradation and pollution, especially in its cities

Every year Bangladesh loses about $6.5 billion, which is about 3.4% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 2015, due to pollution and environmental degradation in urban areas, says a new World Bank report.

The report titled “Enhancing Opportunities for Clean and Resilient Growth in Urban Bangladesh: Country Environmental Analysis 2018” was released during an event at a hotel in Dhaka on Sunday.

It revealed that the cost is $1.44 billion in Dhaka alone, which is 0.72% of the national GDP.

To achieve the upper-middle income status, the report says, Bangladesh must act now to tackle environmental degradation and pollution, especially in its cities.

Globally, Bangladesh is one of the countries that are most affected by pollution and environmental risks.

Pollution has reached an alarming level; in 2015, it caused about 80,000 deaths in cities, the report said.

Across Bangladesh, 28% of all deaths are from diseases caused by pollution, compared to a 16% global average.

Admitting the economic losses, Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud told the function that the government was going to frame a new Environment Policy, the draft of which was ready for placing before the Cabinet.

"The draft policy has already been examined and will be sent to the Cabinet for green light soon. We will enact a new law to punish the polluters," he added, reports UNB.

He said the government would introduce an online monitoring system to oversee the operation of the effluent treatment plants (ETP) at the industries to enforce the law effectively.

The function was also addressed by World Bank's Acting Country Director Rajashree Paralkar, Environment Ministry’s Additional Secretary Manjurul Hannan Khan, Department of Environment Director General Dr Sultan Ahmed and World Bank project leader Sanjoy Srivastava.

World Bank's environment and natural resources global practice manager Kseniya Lvovsky had presented the highlights of the report at the program. 

Growth at risk

"Bangladesh pays a high price from environment degradation and pollution in its urban areas. This puts its strong growth at risk," Rajashree Paralkar said at Sunday’s event.

"The country must act to put in place the right policies and institutions for green growth and ensure its industries adopt clean technologies," she added.

Pollution and environmental degradation, including wetland encroachment and unregulated disposal of hazardous wastes, especially harm women, children and the poor. Nearly one million people in Bangladesh, mostly poor, are at risk of lead contamination, says the report.

This can lead to IQ loss and neurological damage, especially for children, and can increase the risk of miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women, it added. 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.

Of the total economic losses, the ambient air pollution cost $2.42 billion while household air pollution cost $1.27 billion, according to the environmental country analysis.

Inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene have a direct impact of $0.43 billion while the indirect impact is $ 0.08 billion, arsenic in drinking water cost $0.80 billion while occupational pollution costs $1.52 billion in the economy.

The World Bank observed that unplanned urbanisation and industrialization are affecting both big and small cities. In the last 40 years, Dhaka lost about 75% 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 urbanisation. 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, says the report.

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