Minister vows tough fight against air pollution in Dhaka

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Dhaka, Dec 23: As the air quality in Dhaka has deteriorated with the advent of winter, the government has decided to conduct mobile court drives to curb the level of air pollution.

Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Md Shahabuddin has disclosed this in an interview with UNB over the government’s steps to reduce the air pollution in the mega city.

“Letters have been sent to the two Dhaka city corporations with some directives to bring down the level of air pollution caused by construction works of roads, buildings and metro rail projects,” he said.

Shahabuddin said the government asked the two city corporations to spray water on a regular basis on the city roads.

Construction of big infrastructures in Dhaka has been the main culprit behind the air pollution, the minister said, adding that brick kilns, road construction, black fumes from vehicles, construction work and wastes of the city corporations are also contributing to air pollution.

“Many buildings are being built keeping the construction materials uncovered alongside roads which is one of the main sources of dust. In the developed countries, construction works are done with necessary protective measures to reduce pollution. The same rule also exists in Bangladesh but nobody cares for lack of proper monitoring,” said Shahabuddin.

He said construction works across the city are responsible for producing both outdoor and indoor air pollution.

The chaotic system of dumping domestic wastes and mismanagement in sewerage waste also contribute to the air quality fall, said the minister.

Shahabuddin stressed the need for coordinated measures for combating the air pollution in the city.

“We should abide by the environmental rules in every small and big construction work for avoiding air pollution. We’re much stricter this time and stringent measures will be taken in this regard, if needed,” the minister said.

Though the government has taken steps to conduct mobile courts to prevent air pollution, it is likely to be hampered for lack of manpower, he added.

In an effort to extend the activities of the Department of Environment (DoE), the government has recently approved a proposal for setting up DoE offices in 43 districts, including Rangpur and Mymensingh divisional offices.

The authorities concerned are involved in measuring the air quality round the clock and it is found that the air quality worsens during September to March.

Brick kilns around the Dhaka city caused most air pollution and the government has started work to convert the existing brick kilns in the country into energy-saving and environment-friendly ones with advanced technologies.

To make the plan a success, the government has made block brick mandatory in different government and private construction work, he said.

The cent percent use of block bricks will be ensured in all private infrastructure constructions in phases after 2025, he said.

The DoE has been conducting drives against the illegal brick kilns for months and also slapping fines.

Air pollution in Dhaka

Bangladesh, known as one of the most densely-populated countries in the world, has been struggling with air pollution for a long time.

In many cases, Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, often found most polluted cities in the world in global indices.

The smoke emitted from the local brick kilns around Dhaka city, the construction work of many development activities including the metro rail project, black fog coming from unfit vehicles have been identified as the major sources of air pollution in the country.

A research report by the DoE and the World Bank published in March last year on the sources of air pollution in Bangladesh identified three main sources — brick kilns, fumes of vehicles and dust from construction sites.

Consequences of Air Pollution

The constant air pollution has very negative effects both on nature and on human health.  It causes, as expert say, cardiovascular problems, allergies, asthma attacks, conjunctivitis, bronchial diseases, lung or skin cancers, vision problems, blood problems in the mental development of the child, among others.  Pregnant women, children and elderly ones are always the most vulnerable in addition to those who are sick.