Environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources are often observed in Bangladesh due to poverty, over-population and lack of awareness on the subject. It is manifested by deforestation, destruction of wetlands, depletion of soil nutrients, etc. Natural calamities like floods, cyclones and tidal-bores also result in severe socio-economic and environmental damage.
Waterborne diseases such as cholera are a serious threat to public health in Bangladesh. Until the 1970s, many of Bangladesh's people became sick from drinking polluted water drawn from surface rivers. Aid agencies such as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) built shallow wells throughout the country to help provide a safe source of drinking water to Bangladesh's poor.
In the 1990s, however, it was discovered that many of these wells were contaminated by arsenic, a poison that occurs naturally in Bangladesh's alluvial soils. The World Bank estimates that 25 percent of the country's 4 million wells may be contaminated by arsenic. In 1998 the World Bank granted Bangladesh a $32.4 million credit to identify contaminated wells and develop alternative sources of safe drinking water.
In recent years, the government has taken some important steps towards protection of the environment, environmentally sound use of natural resources and pollution control, Adoption of National Environment Policy and formulation of National Conservation Strategy and the National Environment Management Action Plan are some of the measures undertaken by the government to integrate environment with development in a policy framework.
To take prompt legal action against environmental pollution, the government has recently set up Environment courts. The Environment Conservation Rules 1997 has also been passed by the Parliament. The Department of Environment is taking measures to carry out surveys on identification and control of polluting industries, river pollution and automobile pollution.