Alarming pollution levels in Bangladesh are hindering developmental and economic growth

Bangladesh is facing alarming pollution, which is heavily affecting its population and environment. The Bangladeshi GDP has also taken a hit from the number of deaths, diseases, and developmental problems caused by pollution. The newly appointed environmental minister, Saber-Hossain Chowdry, has highlighted his plan to tackle this issue.

Alarming pollution levels in Bangladesh are hindering developmental and economic growth
A factory with smokes coming out of its stacks in Dhaka, by Simon Reza


Dara Masita

Human Rights Researcher 

Global Human Rights Defence

The pollution levels in Bangladesh have made it difficult for its citizens and the country to prosper. In the Bangladesh Country Environmental Analysis of 2023, it is shown that there are over 272,000 deaths and 5.2 billion days of illness every year. This is caused by air pollution, unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene, and lead exposure.

Dhaka is the city with one of the poorest air quality. The reason for this is because of the existence of industrial-scale coal and wood-burning kilns, diesel-powered vehicles, and household-generated pollution from using solid fuels to fire cooking. Other environmental problems such as decreasing potable water due to industrial dumping and saltwater intrusion due to rising sea levels also worsen the nation’s ecological condition.

These environmental and health issues are putting a dent in Bangladesh’s GDP. In 2019, these issues cost 17.6 percent of the nation’s GDP, with household and outdoor pollution being the most problematic issue. The air pollution problem caused 55 percent of premature deaths and was responsible for 8.32 percent of GDP loss. On top of that, lead pollution is detrimental to child development. It is said that 20 million IQ points are lost because of the extensive presence of lead pollution.

The newly appointed Minister of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change – Saber Hossain Chowdry – has laid down his plans to alleviate his country of the environmental burdens. In his “100-day program”, he highlighted his priority in tackling air pollution. In doing so, he plans to remove 500 brick kilns as they deteriorate the top soils of arable land and produce air pollution. Additionally, he aims to achieve clean energy by 40 percent by 2040 in his Integrated Energy Master Plan. This is quite ambitious because Bangladesh has yet to achieve a 5 percent clean energy transition for its Nationally Determined Contributions target of 20 percent by 2030. Chowdry’s master plan includes employing offshore wind and solar energy and converting diesel-run irrigation pumps to solar-run irrigation pumps.

In regards to potable water, his solution for this is stricter laws regulating industries to arrange their dumping to avoid the rivers. Additionally, he aims to reduce single-use plastic by 90 percent in 2026, to combat plastic pollution in the rivers. On the other hand, the salinity problem in Southwestern Bangladesh caused by saltwater intrusion will be fixed with its National Adaptation Plan, in which the United Nations is also involved. This includes costly adaptation measures such as building embankments.

Overall, the pollution problem in Bangladesh is very serious because it has dramatic effects on its citizens, economy, and development. The new environment minister, Chowdry, has taken a motivated approach to tackling these issues. It would be relieving from an environmental and economic perspective if the 100-day program turns out to be a success.


Sources and further reading:

Abu Siddique, ‘Expediting environmental policy: Interview with Bangladesh minister Saber Hossain Chowdhury’ (Mongabay, 2024) <> accessed 4 April 2024.

‘Addressing Environmental Pollution is Critical for Bangladesh’s Growth and Development’ (World Bank, 2024) <> accessed 4 April 2024.

‘Building Back A Greener Bangladesh: Country Environmental Analysis’ (World Bank, 2023) <> accessed 4 April 2024.