Every year Bangladesh 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, 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 on Sunday at a city hotel.
The report revealed that the cost is 1.44 billion in Dhaka alone which is 0.72 percent 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 most affected by pollution and environmental risks. Pollution has reached an alarming level; in 2015, it caused about 80,000 deaths in cities, it said.
Across Bangladesh, 28 percent of all deaths are from diseases caused by pollution, compared to a 16 percent global average.
Admitting the economic losses, Environment and Forest Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud said the government is going to frame a new ‘Environment Policy 2018’ the draft of which is ready for placing before the Cabinet.
“We’re going to frame a new policy which has already been examined and shortly be placed in the Cabinet. We’ll enact a new law to punish the polluters,” he told the function.
He said the government will introduce 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 S Paralkar, additional secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forest Manjurul Hannan Khan, director general of Department of Environment Dr Sultan Ahmed and World Bank project leader Sanjoy Srivastava.
World Bank’s environment global practice manager Kseniya Lvovsky presented the highlights of the report at the function.
“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 ensure its industries adopt clean technologies,” he said.
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.
Of the total economic losses, the ambient air pollution cost $2.42 billion while household air pollution cost $1.27billion, 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 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 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.