Bangladesh’s economy has been growing at more than 5 per cent a year over the last decade, but

in doing so many new environmental challenges have been created, especially in urban and industrialized areas. While steady economic growth has aided poverty reduction, poor households remain heavily dependent on natural resources that are now under threat. The poor are also vulnerable to environmental health risks caused by air and water pollution. At the same time, its rate of population growth has on the whole been less than half of its rate of growth of GDP and the environment sustainability is becoming the major issue. This is followed by an outline of economic change in Bangladesh and the possible role of Bangladesh economic reforms in promoting its economic growth and in enhancing the state of its environment. Major issues and trends in sustaining the productivity and value of Bangladesh’s natural resources, such as its water and soils are considered, in the light of its economic policies and proposed development path. Most mainstream economists seem relatively confident that sustained economic growth is the main pathway for achieving environmental improvement. This suggests that if Bangladesh continues to experience economic growth and rising income per capita, the state of its environment will eventually improve. Although the state of its environment might actually worsen at first with increasing per capita incomes, the expectation is that an eventual improvement will occur. This ‘conventional wisdom’ is summarized by the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC). This curve indicates that pollution intensities bear a reversed-U relationship to the level of per capita income in a country. Such a relationship is illustrated by curve ABCD in Figure 1.

Bangladesh is likely to be on the left branch of its EKC, and probably during its economic growth in recent decades, has moved from a situation corresponding to A to one corresponding to B. Thus, this curve would suggest that the intensity of pollution in Bangladesh has risen in recent decades. Bangladesh’s environmental problems are likely to become worse before they improve. The discussion of Figure 1 assumes that Bangladesh’s macro-EKC did not shift in recent decades. Economic development should help reduce poverty and improve the environment. But the unplanned development activities contribute to severe environmental degradation in developing countries. A significant problem in environmental regulation in Bangladesh arises from difficulties in controlling small scale enterprises, because of their limited financial and human resources, and low-level of technology. The vulnerable are often the users of marginal resources and also dependent on the common resources of the community in which they live. The relationship between economic growth and the environment is controversial. Traditional economic theory posits a trade-off between economic growth and environmental quality. The EKC depicts the empirical pattern that at relatively low levels of income per capita, pollution level (and intensity) initially increases with rising

income, but then reaches a maximum and falls thereafter. The dominant theoretical explanation is that when GDP increases, the greater scale of production leads directly to more pollution, but, at a higher level of income per capita, the demand for health and environmental quality rises with income which can translate into environmental regulation, in which case there tend to be favorable shifts in the composition of output and in the techniques of production. The fundamental measures of environmental sustainability are those related with the endowed environmental carrying capacity and the eco-efficiency, which cannot be changed unless a society changes the way it produces and consumes. Therefore, for the environment to be sustainable, Bangladesh needs not only to limit the level of pollution but also to improve the eco-efficiency of a society as a whole. Being directed by IMF and the World Bank, Government of Bangladesh has finally produced the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) in October 2005 to make a sustainable environment. Although Government declared that the PRSP has been finalized in a participatory way, many believe that such participation was restricted to bureaucratic dependency. The non-participation of politicians in the process has been identified as one of the major weaknesses. Because poverty has been identified as a Political issue, the non-participation of political leaders and of people in finalizing PRSP makes Government’s good wills questionable. However, the discussion on environment in the PRSP has been done under the ‘Supporting Strategy IV: Caring for the Environment and Sustainable Development’. PRSP has been emphasized on the achievements in reducing poverty and way forward through different activities. The issues included in PRSP on environment are: Conservation of Nature, Agricultural Land Degradation and Salinity, Biodiversity, Public Commons (resources), Rural Energy and Afforestation (including tree plantation) and Urbanization Related Environmental Issues. To combat pollution PRSP also included discussion on air pollution, water pollution, rural water and arsenic pollution, noise pollution and International aspects of environment.

Economic development should help reduce poverty and improve the environment. But the unplanned development activities contribute to severe environmental degradation in Bangladesh. A significant problem in environmental regulation in bangladesh arises from difficulties in controlling small scale enterprises, because of their limited financial and human resources, and low-level of technology. We can consider a silent feature of economic growth such as infrastructure development activities like construction of roads, railways, set-up of modern industrial units, massive industrial plantation, plantation of exotic trees, tea plantation, construction of office buildings, settlement of people in the hilly areas, unplanned and haphazard urban and industrial development process, modern agricultural production system and trade and commerce and business etc. that created tremendous ecological imbalance due to indiscriminate utilization and destruction of natural resources. Environmental issues that are associated with economic growth need to be dealt with the participation of all concerned, with the government and citizens at the relevant levels. This, unfortunately, is almost absent in Bangladesh. Although poverty alleviation in Bangladesh has been considered as necessary, it must be mentioned that unplanned poverty reduction and development strategy becomes less effective and less sustainable.

Bibliography 1. Clem Tisdell , Will Bangladesh’s Economic Growth Solve its Environmental Problems? Retrieved on December 20, 2011, 2. Environmental Policies Needed for Sustainable Economic Growth,
3. Amin, R. 1997, Development Strategies and Socio-Demographic Impact of Non-Governmental Organizations: Evidence from Rural Bangladesh: University Press Limited, Dhaka, Bangladesh. 4. Amin. R. and Pierre. M. St. Giving Voice to The Poor: Poverty Alleviation in West Bengal and Bangladesh, Dhaka: The University Press Limited, 2002. 5. Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.2003.Statistical Pocket Book of Bangladesh:2003. Dhaka: Ministry of Planning. 6. Frederic T.Temple and Zaidi Sattar, Approaches to Poverty Reduction in Bangladesh. Source: 7. Khan A.R., and M. Hossain. The Strategy of Development in Bangladesh (London: The Macmillan press Ltd., 1989)

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