The relationship between poverty and the environment

Three children run over a dumpsite.
Children play outside their home that has been turned into a large dumpsite by waste from leather industries in Bangladesh.

On 25th September 2015, 193 countries of the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development which contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The first and the foremost Sustainable Development goal is to “End Poverty in all forms everywhere”. Each and every country of the world is looking forward to eradicating poverty so that even the poor and vulnerable people also enjoy equal rights to economic resources, healthy living conditions as well as access to basic infrastructure and technology. Moreover, there should not be any doubt that poor nations and poor people are more severely vulnerable to effects of environmental damage than the rich.

Over the past few decades, average living standards have risen and the gap between the very rich and the very poor has broadened. But the question here arises “Why is poverty still prevailing in the world?”

There can be many reasons but I think two biggest factors contributing to poverty are: Lack of education and improper implementation of poverty eradication policies at the grass-root level. More often than not, many international reports claim that poverty contributes to environmental degradation. Due to lack of sufficient resources and improper knowledge poverty-stricken people tend to overuse every resource available to them when their survival is at stake. But generally, we tend to forget that poor people are the most undefended ones when it comes to the effects of environmental pollution, climate change and global warming.

In my viewpoint, it is very important for everyone to recognize that poverty and environmental issues are interrelated. Poverty among people puts stress on the environment whereas environmental problems cause severe suffering to the poor. People, whether they be rich or poor, consume water, food, and natural resources in order to remain alive. All economic activities are directly, indirectly or remotely based on natural resources and any pressure on natural resources can cause environmental stress. Environmental damage can prevent people, especially the poor, from having good and hygienic living standards. As poor people rely more directly on the environment than the rich for their survival, they are mostly on the receiving end of environmental problems

Poverty often causes people to put relatively more pressure on the environment which results in larger families (due to high death rates and insecurity), improper human waste disposal leading to unhealthy living conditions, more pressure on fragile land to meet their needs, overexploitation of natural resources and more deforestation. Insufficient knowledge about agricultural practices can also lead to a decline in crop yield and productivity etc.

On the other hand environmental problems add more to the miseries of poor people. Environmental problems cause more suffering among them as environmental damage increases the impact of floods and other environmental catastrophes. Soil erosion, land degradation and deforestation lead to a decline in food production along with a shortage of wood for fuel contribute to inflation. In short, the worst consequences of environmental deterioration, whether they be economical, social, or related to mental or physical wellbeing, are experienced by poor people.

More rigorous efforts should be undertaken by the governments of all countries to eradicate poverty and in turn, to save deprived people from the dreadful implications of environmental damage. There should be more collaborative partnerships among all sections of the society so that even the people living in poverty are linked to the world through their participation in social, political, and economical spheres along with their active participation in environmental regeneration.

I strongly believe that there cannot be any environmental solution without alleviating poverty from the world.