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Pollution and development are inextricably linked. In the process of developing, nations often rely on the exploitation of natural resources in order to build up revenue. While such options present an economic advantage, considering that costs are restricted while the output is boosted, an environmental disadvantage often comes in the form of pollution.

For example, within the Niger Delta in Nigeria, the capitalization of oil by various companies has resulted in innumerable spills and leaks. Nigerian villagers have noted that these spills kill their fish, ruin their skin, and destroys their water supplies. Similar situations can be seen in other developing nations, such as Venezuela.

Even if developing nations do not exploit natural resources for profit, they may still contribute to pollution by consuming energy from fossil fuels. In comparison to renewable sources of energy such as solar power, fossil fuels provide cheaper energy to developing nations, helping to advance the economy by encouraging industrialization.

The building of mass infrastructure, another key part of development, often utilizes energy from fossil fuels as well, serving to further pollution. At a time when nations are mainly concerned with advancing their economies, the issue of the environment is unlikely to be on the political agenda.

Furthermore, energy use from fossil fuels is likely to increase in the future. As the United States Energy Information Administration reports, developing nations will collectively account for 65 percent of the world’s energy consumption by the year 2040, compared to 54 percent in 2010. Because these countries use mainly fossil fuels for energy, it follows that pollution will increase as well.

Inevitably, such an increase in pollution, in regard to that of air, water and soil, will lead to increased sickness and even death. Diseases caused by air pollution include asthma, pulmonary cancer and cardiovascular issues, among others. For water pollution, the list includes typhoid, diarrhea, cancer and liver damage. For soil pollution, adverse consequences include cancer, nerve and brain damage and liver and kidney disease.

Once the connection between pollution and development is known, the issue then comes in preventing pollution without hindering development. As Oluwasola Omoju of the organization Breaking Energy argues, compelling developing countries to pursue environmental goals will require compensation for the economic losses taken, probably including substantial economic, technological and financial support from the international community.

Regardless of which solutions are pursued, global leaders must soon rectify the adverse correlation between pollution and development in order to counter a worldwide spread of disease.

Genevieve DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr