skip to primary navigationskip to content

MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

 

Philip Lake

Environmental hazards and well-being in Bangladesh: Understanding the response to continuous stresses through a systems thinking mindset in order to reduce vulnerability and enhance resilience

The arsenic problem in Bangladesh has been described as the world’s largest mass population poisoning in history and air pollution is considered the leading environmental risk to human health. These environmental hazards are significant stresses for the population of Bangladesh, and along with many others, contribute to increasing morbidity and mortality through the growing prevalence of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). The detrimental impact on the well-being of the Bangladeshi population must be addressed and mitigation solutions found. This is imperative for public health outcomes but also important in the context of building future resilience. Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and eliminating the burden of these stresses works to reduce overall vulnerability and enhances the population’s response capacity.

Recognising the inherent complexity of these stresses the research employs a systems thinking mindset to identify key factors and potential intervention points in the mitigation efforts. By way of a systematic literature review, four exposure pathways have been analysed with an adapted framework that has brought structure to the findings. The adoption of the framework has enabled a comparison between the stresses to deliver insight to the underlying system characteristics of continuous environmental hazard mitigation.

The role of the behaviour network and factors such as risk awareness and perception of the hazard have been identified as central to successful mitigation solutions. The core factors do not sit in isolation and hence along with behavioural change there are many interdependencies associated with the knowledge network, especially relating to the need for enhanced understanding for decision makers. The delay in the onset of serious health impacts and the magnitude of the hazards are core characteristics that have shown to be barriers to effective action from institutions. Further, improved knowledge of the hazards, public awareness and government accountability are focus points to reduce population exposure and enhance response capacity.