Kampala — Uganda is one of four least developed countries identified by a UN agency as having at least a third of its population poor due to environmental degradation.
The 2011 Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Programme, which was launched worldwide on Wednesday under the theme, 'Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All,' warns that development in the world's poorest countries could be halted or even reversed by mid-century unless bold steps are taken now to slow climate change, prevent further environmental damage, and reduce deep inequalities within and among nations.
According to the report, which was launched ahead of crucial global climate change talks to be held in Durban, South Africa in December, runaway growth in consumption among the best-off people in the world is putting unprecedented pressure on the environment.
"Today, there are more than 900 cars per 1,000 people of driving age in the US and more than 600 in western Europe, but fewer than 10 in India. US households on average have more than two television sets, whereas in Liberia and Uganda less than 1 household in 10 has a television set. Domestic per capita water consumption in the very high Human Development Index (HDI) countries, at 425 litres a day, is more than 6 times that in the low HDI countries, where it averages 67 litres a day," says the report.
While consumption is high in countries with the highest human development indices, low developed countries face high "household-level deprivations due to the degradation of the environment that contributes to multidimensional poverty.
The UNDP measures multidimensional poverty using an index (MPI), by assessing deficits in health, education, and living standards. The agency combines both the number of deprived people and the intensity of their deprivations to measure the MPI.
"Overall, environmental deprivations disproportionately contribute to multidimensional poverty, accounting for 20 per cent of the MPI-- above their 17 per cent weight in the index. In rural areas, the average is 22 per cent of poverty, compared with 13 per cent in urban areas. In Mongolia, Peru, Swaziland and Uganda such deprivations account for more than 30 per cent of multidimensional poverty," says the report.
UNDP representative in Uganda Theophane Nikyema said they hoped that the report's findings and recommendations would help inform national debates on sustainable development in Uganda.