Polluted air and water: Environmental hazards hack 2.72 lakh prematurely

Addressing environmental pollution is critical for Bangladesh’s growth and dev: WB

Special Correspondent :
In a poignant revelation, the World Bank unveiled a sobering report on Thursday, highlighting Bangladesh’s stark reality of grappling with alarming levels of pollution and environmental health hazards.

These afflictions disproportionately afflict society’s most vulnerable segments: the impoverished, tender children under 5, venerable elders, and women.

This disconcerting narrative unfolds against a backdrop where air pollution, precarious water conditions, and insidious lead exposure converge to claim a staggering toll of over 272,000 lives prematurely each year, as articulated in a newly minted report by the World Bank.

This comprehensive study, encapsulated in the Bangladesh Country Environmental Analysis, unveils a harrowing panorama where the specters of air pollution, unsafe water sources, deficient sanitation and hygiene infrastructure, and insidious lead contamination coalesce to exact a grievous toll of 272,000 premature departures and a staggering 5.2 billion days shrouded in illness annually.

Emanating from these dire circumstances are environmental costs that, by virtue of their magnitude, evoke a profound economic reverberation, amounting to a staggering 17.6 percent of Bangladesh’s GDP in the year 2019 alone.

Among the myriad of environmental burdens, household and ambient air pollution emerge as the chief antagonists of public health, singularly responsible for nearly 55 percent of premature demises.

This deleterious toll on human health exacts an economic toll of 8.32 percent of GDP in the same year.


“For Bangladesh, addressing environmental risks is both a development and an economic priority. We have seen around the world that when economic growth comes at the cost of the environment, it cannot sustain.

But it is possible to grow cleaner and greener without growing slower,” said Abdoulaye Seck, Country Director for Bhutan and Bangladesh.

He said, “To sustain its strong growth path and improve the livability of cities and the countryside, Bangladesh simply cannot afford to ignore the environment.

Preventing environmental degradation and ensuring climate resilience is critical to stay on a strong growth path and for achieving the country’s vision of becoming an upper-middle-income country.”

According to the WB report, environmental pollution is taking a heavy toll on children. Lead poisoning is causing irreversible damage to children’s brain development, resulting in an estimated annual loss of nearly 20 million IQ points.

Household emissions from cooking with solid fuels are a major source of air pollution and affect women and children. Major rivers in Bangladesh have experienced a severe decline in water quality due to industrial discharge and unmanaged waste, including plastics and untreated sewage, among other sources, the report said.

Timely and urgent interventions for air pollution control; improved water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); and control of lead exposure could prevent over 133,000 premature deaths per year. Investments in cleaner power generation, clean cooking fuels, and stricter controls on industrial emissions can help reduce air pollution.