Causes of South Asian environmental degradation embedded in social and economic patterns

The root causes of environmental degradation are deeply embedded in social and economic patterns, such as pervasive poverty, wasteful production and consumption, unequal wealth distribution and debt burden on developing countries, say four new reports into the state of South Asia’s environment.


The State of the Environment reports, by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), have identified five priority environmental issues in each of four countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka, and are intended to contribute to the UNEP’s Global Environment Outlook-3 report due to be published prior to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg during September next year.

“We are just one year away from a major reassessment of the links between environment and development, and we must pay special attention to the dynamics of globalisation,” said Deputy Executive Director of the UNEP Shafqat Kakakhel.

All four countries suffer from land degradation, the reports reveal, with air pollution a problem in Bangladesh, India and Bhutan, and the former two countries as well as Sri Lanka also suffering from biodiversity loss. In Bangladesh the key environmental issues also include water pollution and scarcity, and the threat of natural disasters. Water issues are also of concern in Bhutan, as well as environmental effects of rural-urban migration, and solid waste management. In India the issues also include freshwater resource management and hazardous waste management. Finally, Sri Lanka suffers from waste disposal issues, pollution of inland water, and depletion of coastal resources.

“The agenda for sustainable development will require a new level of integration between social, economic an environmental policies,” said Kakakhel. “The choices that South Asian countries are able to make in regard to population growth, levels of consumption and technology investment will be a major factor in whether the sustainable development goal is achieved both regionally and globally.”

Hundreds of people from government agencies, NGOs and academic institutions were involved in the compilation of the reports. “This involvement and ownership by so many in the preparation of these analyses will make the job of developing solutions a much easier task,” added Kakakhel.

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