Vol. 5 Num 989 Mon. March 12, 2007  
Front Page

Loss on environmental damage 4pc of GDP
Says World Bank report

Environmental damage accounts for economic losses equivalent to more than 4 percent of Bangladesh's GDP, says a World Bank (WB) report.

The report titled 'Bangladesh Country Environment Analysis' also estimates that environmental factors cause as much as 22 percent of deaths and diseases that cost high in terms of the nation's health.

Launched at a city hotel yesterday, the report was jointly prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Forest and WB.

It also said that the largest share of the economic losses is attributed to a lack of basic infrastructure services, such as water, sanitation and energy.

The report identified three sources of environmental degradation that need priority attention, which are indoor and urban air pollution, degradation of water quality in Dhaka and over-fishing.

Bangladesh's achievement of steady economic growth of more than 5 percent over the last decade has been key to reducing poverty, but at the same time it created many environmental challenges, particularly in the urban and industrialised areas, it noted.

"The challenge, therefore, is to identify policies and interventions that foster economic growth without damaging the environment and people's lives," the country environment analysis suggested.

Linking air pollution to health, the WB Senior Environment Specialist Paul Jonathan Martin in the presentation said the respiratory infections and diseases caused by poor air quality, both indoor and urban, contribute up to 10 percent of the nation's total burden of diseases.

Inhaling smokes generated from cooking with biomass fuel can cause both temporary and permanent damage to human health, he said suggesting public education campaigns as short-term measures and promotion and commercialisation of cleaner fuels and cooking technologies as long-term steps.

Highlighting deterioration of air quality of Dhaka despite banning two-stroke three-wheelers, Adriana Jordanova Damianova of WB said that further efforts are required to control gross diesel polluters.

Total economic cost of poor water quality and drainage in the capital is about $400 million annually, where 80 percent sewage is untreated and 330,000 kilograms of untreated industrial effluent is discharged in the water bodies every day.

The fisheries, which provide two-thirds of the country's animal protein needs, are in decline, the report said, adding that threats to fisheries include losses of floodplain habitat due to agriculture and urbanisation, loss of connections along fish migration paths, reduction in dry season river flows, over-fishing and rapidly increasing pollution.

It suggested establishment of fish sanctuaries, implementations of fisheries management and reduction of barriers in importing fish to reduce pressure on the country's fish resource.

Speaking as the chief guest, Adviser to the Ministry of Environment and Forest Dr CS Karim said effective steps must be taken to stop environmental degradation, which is being caused by various economic activities of the present day.

"The next generation otherwise will raise serious questions on what we did," he said adding that global warming is causing serious climate change, which is very evident.

Stressing the need for strengthening of the Department of Environment with skilled human resources and logistics, he said, "We conduct studies, plan projects, complete those, but finally do not re-visit."

Clean drinking water and fresh air are the components where "we must put more importance," he said.

Suggesting good environmental governance, the WB Country Director Xian Zhu said, "Bangladeshis need access to environmental information if good policies are to be formulated and applied. There should be transparency and consultation, as well as institutions that are able to enforce environmental rules."

"There is a need for economic policies that promote improved environment performance," the WB report recommended.