Socio-Environmental Development Index
for the State of Bahía
Leonardo Araújo*, Elaine Fernandes** and Patrícia Rosado***
Date submitted: April 10, 2011. Date accepted: September 1, 2011.

This paper analyzes how environmental conditions have influenced the level of development in the local population of the State of Bahía, given the growing importance of environmental issues and the lack of information on these in the State. To this end, the Index of Socio-Environmental Development —idsa in Spanish— is innovative in introducing the Human Development Index —hdi —, variables representing the environmental quality of the State municipalities. The idsa average was 0.26, a value 0.4 points below the hdi average. Thus the study concludes that environmental quality is a significant factor in reducing the level of human development in Bahía. This has occurred principally as a result of the poor quality and availability of sanitation services provided by the State.

Keywords: environment, indicator, ica , idsa , Bahía

Development, according to Sen (2008), may be seen as removing barriers that limit people’s options and opportunities. The terms liberty, security and guarantee of basic social rights play a prominent part in his work. In their search for information in 1990 on levels of development in countries, Sen and Mahbud ul Haq devised the Human Development Index (hdi) still used today by the un to rank nations as more or less developed. This index is a comparative measure of the level of development in countries and comprises the following variables: life expectancy, education and gdp per capita.

The hdi (and its variations)1 has limited scope in that it does not take environmental issues into account. It is therefore insufficient for measuring the development of a particular location in economic, social and environmental terms. Based on this observation, the present study seeks to progress beyond the scope of the Index: to establish interrelationships between environmental quality and the population’s quality of life, by including new, essentially environmental variables, among the hdi structure. It is worth noting that among the new variables, environmental variables are considered extremely important for determining the hdi, for according to Sachs (2007) they affect and are affected by the population’s quality of life.

The State of Bahía was selected as a focus for study owing to the particular physiographic characteristics it possesses in terms of location and infrastructure, and the availability of natural resources and raw materials. The State also has a highly dense population and concentration of economic activity within the area (the coastal region) leading to environmental pressures and changes in the environmental conditions of the municipalities located there. Little importance has been given to the effect of this issue on the population’s quality of life. According to Ross, extensive mono cultures have proved a significant factor in environmental degradation, causing soil corrosion and sedimentation to water courses, affecting the quality of stream and river water (Ross, 2001). These environmental pressures negatively affect environmental quality and the population’s quality of life owing to the development model adopted, one based on natural resources being exploited at a higher rate than their capacity to regenerate naturally and on raw materials and waste being inadequately managed (seplan, 2009).

In this context, this paper analyzes in general socioeconomic and environmental conditions for the State of Bahía and seeks to reveal how the phenomenon of environmental quality is linked to the population’s quality of life. The aim is specifically the following: (a) assess which indicators best explain environmental quality; (b) construct Environmental Condition Indices (eci ) for the municipalities of Bahía; and (c) construct Human Environmental Development Indices for the municipalities of Bahía.

*     Economist at Empresa Brasileña de Pesquisa Agropecuaria [Brazilian Agricultural Research Company] rondônia.
          Email address:

**  Associate Professor at the Federal University of Viçosa, Brazil. Email address:

***Associate Professor at the Federal University of São João del-Rei, Brazil. Email

1 Called third generation indices. Such as the Life Condition Index (icv in Spanish) devised for mining communities by the João Pinheiro Foundation; the iprs (São Paulo’s Social Responsibility Index) devised by the Seade Foundation for São Paulo’s municipalities; the idg (Development Index adjusted for gender); the hpi (Human Poverty Index), also developed by the United Nations Program for Development (undp) (Braga et al., 2003).