Experts suggest winter plan to combat Dhaka’s air pollution

Friday, 22 October 2021

Authorities need to work out a special action plan to control Dhaka’s terrible dust pollution as it turns worse in every winter, particularly from November to February, posing a serious health hazard to city dwellers, said environmental experts.

With the advent of winter, the city’s air quality starts deteriorating sharply due to the massive discharge of pollutant particles from construction works, rundown roads, brick kilns, and other sources, they said.

To control the dust pollution, the experts suggested sweeping the city’s roads with water regularly, covering construction sites and materials, and stopping the movement of overloaded and unfit motor vehicles in the city, reports UNB.

Ainun Nishat, Professor Emeritus at BRAC University, told UNB that dust particles from construction sites, earth filing and roads, black smoke from overloaded motor vehicles, and traditional brick kilns located surrounding Dhaka are largely responsible for making the city’s air quality in winter even worse.

He said brick kilns remain in operation in the winter season, badly polluting the city’s air with the discharge of thick black smoke. “So, the brick kilns should be modernised as soon as possible,” he added.

City roads in the developed countries are regularly washed with river water to control air pollution, Prof Nishat said, adding that the Dhaka roads should also be swept with water every day, especially during the dry season.

“Dust pollution is there in almost every country and they’ve their own plans to minimize it. But we make no effort to control it in our country,” said Prof Nishat.

The environmental expert suggested covering construction sites, spraying water on construction materials, and checking overloaded motor vehicles, which are mainly responsible for emitting black smoke.

Prof Dr Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, the founder and director of Centre for Atmospheric Pollution Studies (CAPS) of Stamford University Bangladesh, said the Dhaka city dwellers witness 70 percent air pollution in five months from October to February every year due to the rise in dust particles in its air amid the absence of rains.

“But no initiative from the government is seen to check the pollution in the dry season, which causes serious health hazards to the city’s dwellers,” he said.

Prof Majumder said 12 per cent air pollution is seen from June to August, while 17 per cent from March to May.

“The government should have a specific plan to control the dust pollution during the winter,” he said, adding that the pollution can be minimized by covering construction sites and materials, preventing the movement of unfit motor vehicles, controlling the number of motor vehicles in the city and spraying waters to the roads and roadside trees.

Noting that some 5.60 out of 1.50 million vehicles that ply the city’s roads are unfit, he said the mobile court operation should be conducted against the unfit vehicles.

MA Matin, Executive Vice president of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa), said industries and construction works are primarily responsible for Dhaka's air pollution, while the city corporations, Dhaka Wasa and even the city dwellers are also polluters.

“So, it’s essential for the government to regulate both public and private industries so that they don’t discharge untreated wastes to control the dust pollution particularly in the winter,” he said.

Among various pollutants and pollution, water pollution was the leading cause for death even till the 1980s, but now air pollution is the major concern for public health, said Matin.

Mentioning that almost 10,000 brick kilns are located surrounding Dhaka city, he said the government should modernise these quickly.

“As development activities marked a sharp rise, the air quality has deteriorated sharply. We’re not against development, but it has to be done protecting the environment,” he said.

Breathing polluted air increases one's chances of developing heart diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, lung infections and cancer, according to several studies.

As per the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year, largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.