DHAKA, December 10, 2017 — Dhaka and other cities face severe air and water pollution due to rapid and unplanned urbanization. To achieve an upper-middle income status, Bangladesh must check environmental degradation, particularly in the urban areas and become climate resilient, says a new World Bank analysis.
The preliminary findings of the report ‘Country Environment Assessment for Bangladesh’ discussed today at a workshop say that the country is losing one percent GDP every year due to air pollution. Noncompliant industries and inadequate waste management of hazardous and nonhazardous materials are polluting the cities’ air as well as surface and ground water. For one ton of fabric, the dyeing and finishing factories discharge 200 metric tons of wastewater to rivers leading to health hazards in the capital’s poorer neighborhood.
“When growth comes at the cost of environment, it cannot sustain. The good news is that we have seen it is possible to grow cleaner and greener without growing slower,” said Zahid Hussain, World Bank Acting Country Director for Bangladesh. “To sustain its strong growth performance, Bangladesh simply cannot afford to ignore the environment. It must plan and act now to prevent environmental degradation and ensure climate resilience.”
The draft report focused on four areas: cost of environmental degradation, urban wetlands, cleaner technologies, and institutions. The analysis suggests that the country needs to manage its urbanization and industrialization process in an environmentally sustainable way.
To enforce environment policies, the government must strengthen the institutions and regulatory framework. It should provide incentives to industries to adopt green and clean technologies and should enforce polluter’s pay principle.
Due to unplanned development, unabated pollution is affecting both the big and small cities. For example, in Dhaka, around 600,000 residents are exposed to lead contamination, which can lead to IQ loss and neurological damage, especially among children.
The cities also suffer from waterlogging due to heavy rainfall. They are vulnerable to floods due to wetland encroachments and lack of waste management systems. For instance, Pabna has lost nearly half of its wetlands since 1990. Now it faces prolonged waterlogging. To improve the cities’ resilience, the government needs to incorporate wetlands into urban planning, enforce zoning, and invest in waste management.
Climate change further aggravates industrial pollution as some industrial belts are exposed to sea level rise. About 5.3 million poor people will be vulnerable to the effects of climate change in 2050. Climate change will likely to reduce agricultural productivity, increase malnutrition, and decrease water availability in many areas.
Honorable Minister of Environment and Forests, Anwar Hossain Manju delivered the keynote speech. The policy makers, government officials, environmentalists, urban planners, civil society representatives, and private sector leaders were present and discussed the findings of the draft, which will be launched in early next year.
The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then the World Bank has committed nearly $26 billion in grants and interest-free credits to Bangladesh. In recent years, Bangladesh has been the largest recipient of the World Bank’s interest-free credits.