Balancing economic growth and clean environment | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 20, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 20, 2018

Fact File

Balancing economic growth and clean environment

Bangladesh has sustained vigorous economic growth, 6.7 percent of GDP per year on average, by massive industrial development and urbanisation. The country aspires to become an upper-middle income country by raising its gross domestic product (GDP) at 7 to 8 percent per year in the next decade. As recognition to its relentless journey towards being a developed country, in July 2015, Bangladesh officially graduated to the level of lower-middle income country with a gross national income (GNI) per capita of over US$1,046.

In parallel with its economic prosperity, the entire country has been increasingly urbanising — led by the enormous growth of Dhaka. The national urban population grew at an average annual rate of 3.5 percent, and according to the World Bank Report of 2015, is expected to increase from 28 percent of Bangladesh's total population today to 40 percent by 2025. However, at the sametime, the population living in slums within the urban areas is growing at double the average urban rate — around 7 percent annually.

As a result of massive urbanisation and industrial growth, we have to accept environmental costs as well. The increasing environmental costs associated with the enormous development are increasingly harming Bangladesh's prospects for continued strong economic progress. Unfortunately, the economic growth has showed uncontrolled urbanisation and industrialisation in a context of insufficient pollution control and poor management of natural resources that provide critical ecosystem services. The urban environmental pollution is already imposing a significant cost on Bangladesh's economy. In 2015, the total annual number of deaths and disability adjusted life years (DALYs) attributable to airpollution, inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), arsenic in drinking water, and occupationalpollutants in urban areas is estimated at some 80,000 and 2.6 million, respectively in 2015.

Over the last decade, Bangladesh has improved its policy regime and systems for environmental and pollution management. Since 2006, when the World Bank's first Country Environmental Analysis (CEA) for Bangladesh was published, the country has made tangible progress in further developing environmental policies, guidelines, and legislation. This progress toward mainstreaming the environmental agenda across government is especially apparent in the country's national development, environment, and climate change strategies, as well as in specific enhancements to the legal framework for pollution control, management, and accountability. Some industry-specific initiatives for scaling up cleaner production practices have also gained momentum.

However, we have so much to do to arrest the blatant effects of pollution and environmental degradationon people's health and economic productivity. Achieving Bangladesh's objective to reach uppermiddle-income status through cleaner and more resilient growth will depend on further developing and strengthening a range of complementary policies and systems for environmental protection, urban development, and industrial management. This is even more critical and urgent for Bangladesh than for most other countries at a similar income level due to its uniquely high population density and vulnerability to climate risks. Moreover, institutional reforms and capacity building will be key in all areas to ensure effective implementation of adopted strategies andpolicies. Based on the analysis in this CEA, priorities for reform and investment should include the following: enhancing environmental policy and institutions at the national level, enhancing environmental management at the local/city level, strengthen the enforcement and accountability regime, leveraging market-based instruments to protect the environment and unlock green financing, promoting resource-efficient and cleaner production (RECP) as a tool for reconciling environmental performance with competitiveness and lastly harness the power of public pressure.

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