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Strategies for water pollution control in Dhaka, Bangladesh: an institutional and economic analysis

Common Ground Publishing
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  • Ge Environmental Sciences
  • Ecology
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Medicine


This paper presents primary data based on research carried out as part of a large World Bank project. Results from our survey show that water pollution in Dhaka watershed has reached alarming levels and is posing significant threats to health and economic activity, particularly among the poor and vulnerable. Rice productivity in the watershed area, for example, has declined by 40% in recent years and vegetable cultivation in the riverbeds has been severely damaged. We also found significant correlation between water pollution and diseases such as jaundice, diarrhoea and skin problems. It was reported that the cost of treatment of skin diseases for one episode could be as high as 29% of the weekly earnings of poor households. Given the magnitude of the contamination problem, a multi-agent stakeholder approach was necessary to analyse the institutional and economic constraints that would need to be addressed in order to improve environmental management. This approach, in turn, enabled core strategies to be developed. The strategies were better understood around three types of actors in industrial pollution, i.e. (1) principal actors, who contribute directly to industrial pollution; (2) stakeholders, who exacerbate the situation by inaction; and (3) the potential actors in mitigation of water contamination. Within a carrot-and-stick framework, nine strategies leading to the strengthening of environmental management were explored. They aim at improving governance and transparency within public agencies and private industry through the setting up of incentive structures to advance compliance and enforcement of environmental standards. Civil society and the population at large are, on the other hand, encouraged to contribute actively to the mitigation of water pollution by improving the management of environmental information and by raising public awareness.

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