Environments of the Poor

Poverty of opportunities, bad living conditions, and insecurity are often related to environmental degradation. The poor - both urban and rural - are often the biggest victims of environmental degradation. At the same time, poverty exacerbates ecological problems. Environment related poverty is often also closely related to regional and cross-border (particularly water) issues.

A major portion of Asia's core poor can be found

  • living in remote forest areas (the upland poor, often also indigenous people),
  • among the fisherfolk communities (the coastal poor),
  • on marginal land areas (the dryland poor),
  • among flood-prone locations (the wetland poor), and
  • in congested cities and towns with bad shelter conditions (the slum poor).

In addition, natural hazards, such as earthquakes, tsunami, and major storms, make the poor particularly vulnerable to external shocks.

Poverty-environment linkages

The linkages between the environment and poverty reduction are highlighted in the Asia-wide conference on the Environments of the Poor. The conference discussed the spatial dimensions of poverty, what makes green growth pro-poor, and climate change adaptation for poverty reduction.

ADB's approach to environment related poverty considers the immediate needs of the poor affected by a degraded, hazardous, and marginal environment. Other more long-term approaches to environmental sustainability that benefit the poor comprise ADB's clean energy and urban transport initiatives. Through its Poverty and Environment Program (PEP), ADB aims at accelerating learning about poverty-environment linkages.

In addition, ADB is currently enhancing its poverty reduction operations through sound environmental management in the areas of soil conservation, flood management, urban environmental improvement, sustainable ecosystem management, and disaster protection and emergency support for the vulnerable poor.

Mapping the environments of the poor

In 2008, ADB started knowledge work on the environments of the poor. Using a Geographical Information Systems (GIS), a geodata browser was developed to show—by country—the spatial distribution of poverty and vulnerability in coastal, dryland, wetland, upland, slum areas, as well as in pro-poor growth potential regions. Viewing the distribution of poverty and vulnerability from a geographical perspective provides new policy options for addressing inclusive growth in the environments of the poor.

The Environments of the Poor geodata browser is an interactive tool that allows users to view numbers and percentages of the $1.25- and $2-poor in countries of Asia and the Pacific. Projections through 2020 are also available. The data are a combination of GIS information on population and EnvPoor areas, with poverty and vulnerability numbers from the World Bank’s PovCalNet and ADB estimates. The next data update is on January 2012.

The Environments of the Poor data are overlaid on an interactive map, which requires a one-time installation of the Google Earth Plugin. If you do not yet have the Google-earth plugin, you will be prompted to install it upon accessing the EnvPoor GeoDataBrowser.

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